Hi, I just purchased the book "small, smart and practical track
plans", and was thinking of trying to start building the "Hollow Run
Railroad" 4x8 this weekend.
Last night, I sat down to sketch it out on my track planning software,
and was really disappointed to find out the turnouts are all MUCH
tighter radius' then commercially available ones. I use PECO, and the
smallest turnout they have is way too big (as are the smallest Atlas,
I bought this book hoping to find a good beginner's layout (have a 2
year old son and want to get something up and running for him). Is
there anything I can do to salvage the plan? I do NOT (ever) want to
have to lay my own turnouts.
Thanks in advance,
p.s. why do they design "starter" layouts that don't use commonly
p.p.s. is it possible to "trim" the tracks on a PECO turnout enough to
make it fit better?
Does the plan give an inventory of track components? If it does, whose
components do they specify? Usually Atlas is the normal.
All the plans are usually assembled by someone before the book is published.
Please support the following train meets if you can
Actually, your problem is that your track planning software uses track
pieces, while Iain Rice used turnout dimensions that conform to NMRA and
NEM standards. His turnouts are shorter than commercial ones, is all.
The turnouts are #4, #6 and #3 wyes. Those are frog numbers, not turnout
radii. Frog number == run/spread. EG, a #4 frog spreads 1 unit for 4
units of length.
Um, er, Scott, Iain's book isn't for beginners... :-)
Yes, you can adapt Iain's plan to use Atlas or Peco turnouts, but the
track won't flow as nicely, and you may also have to cut the turnouts to
make them shorter. You may also have to reduce the number of sidings, or
orient them differently.
Anyhow, it's the scheme of the plan that matters, not the precise
placement of every track piece. So study the scheme: Iain's plan is a
single track oval with a passing track at one end, a fan of stub sidings
at the same end, and a fan of stub sidings coming off that fan facing
the other end. Play around with this idea, using your software. You'll
probably come up with something that works just fine for you.
Note that Iain assumes the builder will use flextrack, not sectional
track. He also assumes that the builder will cut commercial turnouts to fit.
Um, er, Iain's plans aren't starter layouts. They aren't intended for
sectional track. If you want track plans with sectional track, I
recommend Atlas's plan book. Model Railroader has also published a
number of nice small starter layout plans for sectional track, complete
with nicely done scenery suggestions, structures etc. If you mail me off
list, I can send you photocopies of a couple of them that will suit you
and your son very nicely.
A google search on "small layout plans" will yield an evening's worth of
Well, I would not advise you to do this just to follow a specific track
plan: it's more important to follow the general scheme of the plan than
to try for precise placement of every item shown on it.
But, if you insist, yes, you can cut the rails at both ends of the
turnout. You can reduce the overall length by an inch or so, and more if
you are careful. You need a minimum of 1/2" of track beyond the points,
or two ties worth. The frog can be as short as an inch. When placing
turnouts end to end, the points can be located about an inch from the
nose of the frog. I've done this successfully, with some surgery on the
plastic tie strip as well as one the rails. NB: you _must_ do this on
the work bench. Make sure there are no kinks or bends by sighting down
the rail at a low angle, and solder the rail joiners.
Soldering track with plastic ties: You need a large, hot iron, as speed
is of the essence: 100 watts minimum! Don't use a soldering gun - their
tips aren't large enough to hold enough heat.
Place a chunk of metal across the track on each side of the joint, about
1-1/2" apart. These will soak up heat that travels along the rails, and
so reduce the odds that the plastic will get hot enough to melt. Use
pins to hold the tracks in place on a piece of soft pine. Heat the iron
to its maximum temperature. Unwind the solder, and hold it to the web of
the rail next to the rail joiner. Touch the tip of the iron to the rail
joiner, and watch the solder melt, As soon as the solder melts, remove
both iron and solder, and let the joint cool. The solder will have
flowed into the rail joiner, and you will have a good solid joint. Do
not leave the iron on or near the rail any longer than to achieve
melting of the solder - about a second, if it's a good large one.
Oh, yeah, wear eye protection, just in case the solder spits at you. Not
likely, but safe than sorry.
All of Wolf's thoughts are very good ones. I used the same book with the
layout on page 50 in mind. I have a spare bedroom that is 10 x 12, not 8 x
12 like the layout. I tested by cutting out card stock to match the design
and trimmed and changed until I had something that resembles Iain's track
plan but works in my available space. Granted, I have been doing model
railroading for over 10 years and experience does play a part in making
something like this work.
I first started with a 4 x 8 plywood layout and found that the Atlas book
was an excellent way to make such a layout. I agree with Wolf that using
flex track will be better than sectional pieces, for a lot of reasons. Look
at the Atlas book and see if one of those 4 x8 layouts will fit the bill.
P.s. I personally prefer the layout on page 22 - where Iain takes a
4x8 and splits it (with nice curves) down the middle to make an L
shaped layout. Unfortunately, I need to entertain a 2 year old with
this...and this layout doesn't have a quick way to turn trains. He
doesn't have much patience for switching!
Everyone, thanks very much for the great suggestions. Just to be
clear, I'm not a "beginner" - have no problems soldering flex track,
etc. Just didn't want to get into the whole "hand laying track and
Also - just to be clear - the reason I vented frustrations is because
I absolutely LOVE Iain's layouts. Something in his layouts just
"flows" exactly the way I think they should (after I get this one up
and running, I've got another Iain layout in mind for "my" layout (vs.
Now that I've learned you can trim turnouts, I'll give that a try and
see if I can get "close enough". Its hard to do too much
"re-arranging" on this particular layout - being 4x8, not much wiggle
Thanks again to everyone for the great solutions!
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