We are trying to chase down a large HO scale trackplan approx 10m x 4m
european outline to run approx 15 trains at once all digital.
We have had no luck for a couple of months, nothing worthwhile.
Must have approx min. 18 stall round house, we will be using all Fleischmann
trackwork and rolling stock.
Any help in design would be greatfuuly received.
For a plan book that may help, look for Kalmbach Publishing's 101 Track
Plans. The layouts are based on N. American prototypes, but most track
arrangements can be used for any prototype. The book includes a fair
number of plans in your size range.
I take it you want a quick course in layout design? Well, the following
comments will get you started. You won't like some of the things I say,
but my opinions are based both on personal experience and on extensive
reading and discussions with people who have built layouts in your size
range (and larger.) These comments will probably raise more questions
than they answer, but that's a good start. :-) I'm assuming that this
will be a home based layout, not a one for public exhibition in a
museum, for example (for such a layout, 4m x10m is too small IMO).
1st Preliminary comment: you won't be able to run 15 trains at once in
the space you have, unless you build several groups of more or less
concentric ovals, which you may or may not connect so a train can
traverse all of them if desired. Concentric ovals get pretty boring
pretty quickly. OTOH, you will be able to run about 6 to 10 trains at a
time with DCC. What's more, with a suitably designed fiddle or staging
yard, you will be able to run many more than 15 trains in total. You'll
need a crew of friends to play trains with you, but that just increases
the fun. :-)
2nd preliminary comment: How many layouts have you built? If this is
your first, you have taken on more than you can easily manage. I
strongly advise you to think in terms of stages. Start with a layout in
the 2m x 4m range (or smaller), to test different methods and hone your
skills. If designed properly, it can be be expanded to fill the room. If
not, it won't be a major loss of time and and minimal loss of material
to tear it down and restart (You will be able to reuse most of it.)
Actually, you should design the layout for staged building, so you can
get to running some trains quickly.
First off, do not tie yourself to a particular brand of trains. It
limits the rolling stock, since no brand provides all the models you
will want -- trust me! OTOH, different brands of HO trains do generally
play well together, so you can buy any models that suit your concept, if
necessary changing couplings and wheels.
Second, rethink your choice of using sectional track. The limited range
of curves etc severely limits design options. Until you do it, it looks
as if joining sections of track will be the easy way to build, but
laying track is a very small part of the overall building effort on a
layout your size. Go with flex track and matching turnouts. Sectional
track works very well for small or temporary layouts, but on a larger
layout like yours its disadvantages begin to show. It takes a bit of
learning to use flex track, but IMO it's worth the learning curve.
Third, and this is the really important point, think about the following
aspects of design:
a) What prototype railroad(s) do you want to represent on your layout?
You say you want "European outline" - that covers a _very_ wide range of
possibilities. If you focus on one or two lines, and a specific era, a
lot of design decisions will have been made for you. This focus also
helps resist the temptation to buy locos and rolling stock that don't
really fit. :-)
b) What era and geographical region are you interested in? If you want
to have mountains, for example, you can loop track around the layout
space at several levels, resulting in a longer main line and more
possibilities for operation.
c) What operating scheme do you have in mind? Do you want to operate
like the real thing, or do you want watch the trains run? Or both? This
choice affects the mainline scheme (see next question.)
d) Mainline schemes: A single large loop of track (possibly folded over
itself) with a major station/yard/terminal is good for prototypical
operation. Several loops of track, with or without connections between
them, is good for watching trains run. A major station can be included
on one of the loops. There are other schemes. A staging (fiddle) yard is
essential for running many trains during an operating session.
e) Layout benchwork (table) arrangement: For a layout your size, you
should consider a "walk-in" plan. You should have most of the layout
within easy reach, or about 50-75cm from the edge. An E or U shaped
layout will permit that. (BTW, the benchwork should be about waist high.)
f) What is the largest locomotive and rolling stock you will be running?
That determines whether you will be using medium (ca. 60cm radius) or
broad (ca 90cm + radius) curves. That in turn determine the general
arrangement of the mainline. (Fleischmann's smaller radius sectional
track curves are too tight.)
g) That 18-stall roundhouse will take up a very large space, about 1m x
2m including approach tracks. For both ease of construction and
maintenance, it should be on a peninsula accessible from three sides,
which means it will limit the shape and location of the rest of the
layout. Think hard about where you want to put it: for example, you may
want it to be the first thing that visitors see.
Some practical advice:
Make a scale drawing of your layout space. Decide on your design radius
and subdivide the space into squares. Each square should be R + C + D,
where R is the design radius, C is the center-to-centre spacing of
double track, and D is the minimum clearance between track and edge of
layout. For example:
Design radius R=60cm
C-C distance C = 5.5cm
D = approx. 10cm (This allows for a thin layer of "rock face" or small
structure between tack and wall or table edge, if needed.)
Square will be 75.5cm, round it down 75cm.
NB that if you want to have a four track mainline, your square will have
to be larger by 2 x C, ie, 86cm total.
Make photocopies of your drawing, and sketch in various mainline
arrangements. It's fairly easy to draw a quarter circle in a square,
which is one reason for them. The more important reason is that you
won't be tempted to squeeze in a curve where it won't fit.
After you've made a few dozen sketches, you will find your ideas
crystallising, and when you've arrived at a "final" sketch, make a scale
drawing, paying especial attention to the location of turnouts. Use the
drawing as a guide - you will find your ideas changing as you convert
the two-dimensional drawing into a three-dimensional layout.
Actually, it's based on HO. The elevations, radii, etc. are all for HO
and must be adjusted for smaller or larger scales.
I agree, it contains many good ideas for layouts of all sizes and is a
good starting point.
-- Bill McC.
Does "digital" mean "automatically controlled" or does it mean "DCC"?
And how much local switching do you want, versus having the trains
going around loops, or a loop, contunuously?
And (questions, questions) where do you expect operators to be, if the
railroad isn't going to be robotic? Allowing room for 15 operators is
going to take a lot of the room's space--especially if the layout is
walkaround (Is it? Another question.)
I think you actually could have 15 trains in that space, but there
would be 3 each in 2 separate yards, maybe another smaller yard, a few
way frieghts out servicing local industries off the main line, and a
mix of through frieghts and fast and slow passenger trains, and there
would certainly have to be a timetable. But the operators would be
constantly bumping into each other, even if the trains didn't!
You might consider a professional layout designer. It costs some money, but
they generally have seen and done a great many layouts (design and
implementation) and can ask you the right questions.
I used Cardiff (dctrains.com) back in 2000 and they did a good job, both
with design and implementation. I recommend them.
(they did not do the layout on my web site: that's another one which I
in article firstname.lastname@example.org,
email@example.com at firstname.lastname@example.org wrote on 2/10/06 10:50 AM:
US track design is near useless for European operation.
Around 50% of train movements will be passenger, including making and
breaking trains en-route.
Goods trains are limited in length and many interesting train types are
subject to geographical location.
Well, a year or so ago I saw a German MRR magazine, it included some
trackplans, and one in a series of articles on developing a track plan.
The trackplans could be used for any US prototype RR, just change the
buildings and it's done.
I mean, there really aren't that many mainline schemas - 1/2 a dozen or
so. Very large layouts may combine several of these, is all, but OP's
layout space is medium, not large (about 12ft x 30ft, or half a medium
size basement.) Layout design is mostly the art of deciding on a schema
that will operate as you want, then draping and twisting and shoehorning
it into the available space, then adding the signature details that
identify locale and era. The "outline" you're modelling affects some
details (surprisingly few, actually) in the design of a station or yard,
but most of all the scenery and buildings. The fact that in Europe there
will be more passenger trains has little effect. The fact that freights
are short has no effect - the longer passenger trains mean passing
tracks as long as or longer than on a N. American layout. In any case,
a couple of the plans in 101 Trackplans assume lots of passenger trains
and heavy commuter traffic.
OP was unclear whether he wanted a trackplan to build from, or some
advice on how to devise one of his own. I assumed the latter, and
suggested 101 Trackplans because it shows the range of trackplans
possible, and as such is inspiration as much as a guide.
Isn't it amazing that we two always seem to disagree, even though we are
both apparently experienced modellers! ;-)
Sure, mainlines are mainlines, it's the stations etc that differ but
mostly they take up a disproportionate percentage of the route length on
layouts designed for operation.
Good, a point I can disagree on!
True, trains arrive and trains depart, but more tracks in European
stations have platform access.
The fact that freights
Again I can disagree!
Shorter trains require shorter arrival/departure tracks than longer
trains so a European ladder can have many more tracks.
The European model station/yard can be deeper and shorter than a US
- the longer passenger trains mean passing
Current European trains run to about 15 coaches - that's only 25-30 US
goods cars, which to me seems short to run behind a couple of Big Boys!
In any case,
Fair enough! It's a long time since I looked at that publication, but I
onsold it because it offered no help to me in designing European
layouts. It may just have been the stage I was at at the time.
Yeah, but I get the impression that I'm old enough to be your daddy, so
show some respect for the old fart, eh. :-)
Precisely. IOW, the theme of the layout coupled with the space narrows
down the choice of mainline schemas. The chosen prototype defines the
signature details to be added to that basic schema. It's those details
that say "Midwestern USA", or "Urban Austrian" or "English branchline", etc.
Well, sure that's a "signature detail", which I specifically included as
one of the steps in the design process. It doesn't affect the mainline
schematic at all. Besides, "platform access" is a predominantly
English, not a European style. Only major stations in Europe have
platforms. Many small town and country stations have paved or gravelled
areas between the tracks for passenger access to trains.*** Also, the
height of platforms varies, so that's another signature detail that's
dependent on the prototype chosen.
*** It's more complicated than that, actually. Attnang Puchheim, a major
junction on the Wien-Salzburg line, has no platforms at all - yet at
peak times trains arrive and depart at 3 to 5 minute headways. OTOH,
Villach, which was a major station in Royal-Imperial days (on the
Wien-Triest line), has platforms and subway access between them, even
though it now handles only about 1/4 as many trains as Attnang Puchheim.
The two lines were originally built by different companies to different
standards. So platforms may be more clue to the railway's history than
to the actual traffic patterns.
But model yards and stations are "selectively compressed" in both length
and depth anyhow, so I really see little difference. The typical model
yard is less compressed for a European prototype, is all -- an
advantage, I guess.
Um, er, Big Boys weren't double-headed very often. A single Big Boy
could handle 50 to 100 cars at about 30mph up the hills in Wyoming
(which is what they were built for). And at 60mph plus on the flat.
Most layouts, even basement sized ones, have passing tracks around 6-8
feet. Partly to get more of them into the space available, and partly
because from the normal viewing distance, a train around 6 to 8 feet
can't be seen all at once without turning your head. So it seems much
longer than it really is.
Also, most modern N. American freight cars are 60 to 90ft long....
You like to disagree, eh?
I've been in the hobby 47 years and was a serious train watcher for most
of the previous 9 years.
Sure - but I've never yet had enough space for my stations, let alone
open main line!
Do you use 10" radius turnouts??? ;-)
By the time you've got 3 parallel tracks the turnouts have taken up 6
feet of your space and that's only a minor branchline station.
My minimalist 5 track mainline through/commuter station with just two
goods lines has used up 12 feet in turnouts before I start to push track
length between them. I want the effect of a long straggly station but
it's chewed up much of my main line space.
Besides, "platform access" is a predominantly
I was trying not to overshoot the language barrier.
Only major stations in Europe have
Sure, my three "platform tracks consist of the station building/platform
at rail top height, cross track boarding and two sleeper edged gravelled
platforms at rail top height. That's correct practice on a mainline
through station after WWI.
Since the 1960s almost all European mainline platforms have been built
up by around 450mm. Where ICEs and other high speed trains run the
platform height is almost carriage floor height.
I used "platform" as I though "track" or "Gleise" might confuse the
The yard has to be in proportion to the length (and number) of trains
If you're going to run long US freights then you need long yards or at
least long arrival tracks.
On my layout I can get away with relatively short arrival tracks with
longer loading/storage tracks.
My _l_o_n_g_ 20-25 wagon goods trains (half prototype length) would only
take a 10-12 car US goods train.
If I lengthened the arrival road then the storage fan would be reduced
by the same length.
I have several WWII photos of Big Boys double headed!
Sure, I've built a fair number of layouts - my 20 wagon trains use that
effect and I've ensured that one can't step back more than 4' from each
scene. At mid-point of a train passing both ends are lost from sight.
6-8 feet seems to me to be a very short US train!
Thats 6-12 freight cars per train, less space for any loco! =8^O
My German four wheel wagons manage 20-25 in the same length (105mm
standard length) :-)
I was immagining representing a US freight train extending into the
distance as per photographs of prototypes.