New Layout Questions

After many fits and false starts, I am about to move into a new home (crossing fingers nothing happens again) that has a building in back
that will be a dedicated train room. It is about 12 x 20 with electricity YEAH ! and not too many windows. Not the biggest of buildings but not too small either. Anyway, I now have a couple of questions as I begin to plan out this new layout.
1. This railroad will be set in northern New Mexico. I am thinking that it will be a bridge line of sorts from either Santa Fe or Espanola to Durango, Colorado. Was there ever a real world railroad that used this route ?
2. If not, has this been modeled before ? I have vague memories of a similar layout idea but I'm not sure where I saw it.
3. I am thinking about purchasing CadRail to help in designing this layout. How steep is the learning curve with this program ? I've been messing about with computers since 1975 but I haven't done much CAD work.
Thanks in advance for any help.
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Michael Perry wrote:

OK, before you saw a single stick of lumber for the layout, upgrade that building. (See the latest Model Railroader for an article on a layout built with all the following features). Insulate the building, for both heating and cooling efficiency. Exceed code on this: energy costs will only go up, and extra insualtion will pay back the extra cost much faster than current energy prices indicate. (I doubled the required insulation values on my house when I built it 25 years ago, and have saved thosuands of dollars over the years compared to my previous home, which was insulated to 1950s standards, and was less than half the size. I'd go to three times the values now.)
Close up some of the windows, repair the walls as needed, and paint them a nice sky-blue, darker at the ceiling and lighter towards waist level (around 36"), which will probably be the lowest level on your layout. Put in a good quality carpet - as you age, your legs and knees will thank you. If the building has a concrete floor, consdier putting in a false wood floor - much easier on the feet. Also allows for a layer of insulation, improving efficiency of heating/cooling.
Upgrade the general room lighting, and plan the layout lighting on a separate circuit (see below.) Make sure the electrical service can handle the load (you may need a couple thousand watts for layout lighting alone, plus heating and/or cooling, general lighting and other amenities).
Plan the general arrangement of the main line, location of staging yard(s) (one of these could be "open staging" in the form of a yard and engine terminal), etc. If you want a two-lobed U-shaped layout, you'll be limited to about 24" radius on the lobes (where the loops of track will be), as you need _at least_ 30" between them for entry into the U. An around the wall layout, with the layout shelf 18-24" wide, and maximum of 30" (it's a real hassle reaching over anything wider than 24") will fit your space nicely. But you should think about a moveable bridge -- duck-unders are OK when you're young, but get to be a real pain in thye back as you age.
This general arrangement planning is IMO essential, since it affects layout-lighting locations. Once you have a good idea of where the benchwork will be, arrange the layout lighting to follow the edge of the benchwork. And arrange for crew comfort.
Crew comfort? Youbetcha. In a 20' length, you have room for a small crew lounge at one end, next to the door (which should be at one end - relocate it if necessary.) Perhaps a bar-style counter and stools at that end of the layout will fit in best, since it shouldn't take more than 4ft. The counter top could be partly recessed into the layout.
Don't forget workshop space: you need about 18x36" or larger for a workbench top. You may be able to place a roll-out workbench underneath the layout, if your lowest track height is around 42" above the floor (recommended).

Boyoboyoboyoboy! There have been oodles of layouts built around Colorado/New Mexico railroading, both freelance and following one of the many protoypes. If you like historical research as a basis for your modelling, you're in for treat. Google on the railroads and towns of that area, go to your library and check out some histories of the area, etc. (Libraries can get books they don't have through Interlibrary Loan.) Kalmbach published a couple of books, now out of print, about HO layouts on related themes; you may be able to find one on e-bay.
The general arrangement of the mainline is what matters most, since it determines the size and shape of the benchwork. Get Track Planning For Realistic Operation, by John Armstrong (publ. by Kalmbach). Study the chapter on "squares". Armstrong pointed out that the minimum radius governs or affects every other aspect of track planning. He devised a square into which you can fit a minimum-radius quarter circle. Make a scale drawing of your space (allowing for entrance area/crew lounge), make a few photocopies, and subdivide with squares, a different size for each copy. Label and photocopy these, and sketch main lines. A quarter circle is easy to sketch freehand, and anyhow you know that a quarter circle will fit into the square. This way you'll get a feel for what fits your space, and what you might be able to do operationally and scenically. Your general scheme of a bridge line is IMO a good one for your space: it allows a good deal of train watching if that's your mood, as well as operation as intricate as you want to make it. I would construct the end points of the line as staging yards under or behind the scenery, but you may want to make one of them an classification yard so you can make up trains.

See above.

For a one-time project such as yours, I doubt that using CAD to design the layout is worth the learning time or the money. Unless of course you _like_ using CAD. :-) Some people have been known to get sidetracked into layout design as a hobby in itself, so be warned. :-)

You're welcome.
Here's some you didn't ask for:
Don't try to build your dream layout all at once. Start small. Build a small shelf layout to test out new methods and learn and sharpen your skills. Maybe build a small oval on a 4x6 or slightly larger base. The famed John Allen began with such a small layout, which he later fitted into his larger one (The Gorre and Daphetid.) If it worked for him, it'll work for you. Plan a layout that can be built in stages, so you will always have some some trains to run. Besides, it will give you time to mull over what you really want, and refine your plans and goals. You certainly have some goals now, but I assure you these tend to change when you start actual construction.
Get as much help as you can. If you find a compatible group, they will not only provide advice, they will also provide labour, a precious commodity. Your layout space is large enough to build a layout that will require a nice-sized crew to operate, too, so having a crew of compatible people will simply add to your fun.
HTH&GL
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Can't hadly beat that post for some very good advice! A road from Santa Fe to Durango will be an interesting one not going through Raton Pass. Lots of interesting grades and so forth. Putting a part of the layout over the other (probably the end loops) will make an impressive layout - don't forget that Durango is above Santa Fe in altitude. I'd get rid of any windows that may exist as they will be severe limiters in the layout design. The entrance will be a nice place to put a mountain and a drop down section of track inside the tunnel to gain access to the room. A light duckdown, on the order of 5' clearance won't hurt you later on but something low should be discouraged unless you're really young as things such as this tend to get rather old quickly. The shorter the duckdown is, the better it will be in addition. Putting a foot in a certain place and rotating the body is a lot easier than walking bent over!
-- Why isn't there an Ozone Hole at the NORTH Pole?
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Bob May wrote:

Having recently bumped my head on one of the local duckunders[1] has made me resolve that any layout I build will either have *no* duckunder, or one much higher than that one (48" to the track -- and obviously the subterranean clearance is several inches lower than that). Painful, and damned embarassing. I have an idea (and I've seen the same in mag articles) that a small office chair should let one scoot under with minimum risk ;-)
[1] This one: http://ovar.ca/Mike%20Hamer/Hamer.htm Yes, friends: I have personally bruised my noggin on a Great Model Railroad. Locks of my hair will be available on Ebay shortly.....
-- Kizhe
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Padding the roof of a duckunder makes the problem of hittiiig your head a lot less painful than hitting hard wood. Unfortunately, that often means that you lose 2" or more of clearance. Even just finishing the roof and upper sides with plywood will make things less painful.
-- Why isn't there an Ozone Hole at the NORTH Pole?
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Bob May wrote:

Exactly: it's another one of those tradeoffs. My friend's duckunder is basically just a thick board (no doubt, again, to maximize clearance beneath). But that means it's also vulnerable to the earthquake effect when you do hit it (I knocked over a suprising amount of loose stuff -- that's the embarassing part).
So my design criteria have become: high up AND structurally rigid AND padded. If I can't pull all that off, then I'll go for a strict walk-in. As it happens, the current Delusions Of Grandeur Railway is double-deck: lower level walk-in at ~3ft; upper at ~5ft, w/ duckunder. I think that will allow for a beefy substructure + padding, and still have good clearance.

-- Kizhe
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Wolf Kirchmeir wrote:

First, many thanks for the very thoughtful reply. I will probably be about a year or so just planning this new railroad. It's my fifth, or sixth layout, depending upon how you count things and I have learned a lot at each step. Improving the room is a given for me. Already have the insulation and most of what I need to upgrade the electricity. Not sure if I want a drop ceiling this time, though I most likely will install one. Living in So. California I get regular reminders of the need for energy efficiency each month. :(

One of the parts of this that my wife is looking forward to is helping me to paint the backdrop. She likes to paint lots more than I do.

This is one of the things that I have really learned to appreciate. I have one lift-out hatch on my present layout. Never again. I'm only 45 but my knees complain every time I use the hatch. Good advice on the curve radius. I have conciously limited myself to 40' boxcars. It helps create the illusion of greater train length and makes tighter curves seem less toy like.

Thank you for the leads on the track planning advice. I was hoping that somewhere a RL railroad had considered building in this area. Even if never constructed, I was thinking it might give me ideas for a track plan/route.

I was thinking about CadRail mostly because I've been wanting to try a CAD program. It would kill two birds, so to speak.
Once again, thank you to all that replied.
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Subject: Re: New Layout Questions
Michael Perry wrote:
After many fits and false starts, I am about to move into a new home (crossing fingers nothing happens again) that has a building in back that will be a dedicated train room. It is about 12 x 20 with electricity YEAH ! and not too many windows. Not the biggest of buildings but not too small either. Anyway, I now have a couple of questions as I begin to plan out this new layout. <snip> First, many thanks for the very thoughtful reply. I will probably be about a year or so just planning this new railroad. It's my fifth, or sixth layout, depending upon how you count things and I have learned a lot at each step. Improving the room is a given for me. Already have the insulation and most of what I need to upgrade the electricity. Not sure if I want a drop ceiling this time, though I most likely will install one. Living in So. California I get regular reminders of the need for energy efficiency each month. :(
```````` Michael,
Since you live in So. Cal. and have limited yourself to 40' max. car lengths, perhaps the following Yahoo Group would be of interest to you:
http://groups.yahoo.com/group/citrusmodeling /
This is the home page of the So. Cal. Citrus Industry Modeling Group.
Enjoy!
-- Paul - "The CB&Q Guy" Modeling 1969 In HO.
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Michael Perry wrote: [...]>

Aw, gee, a pleasure. It was a great opportunity for me to put my thoughts in order, especially after reading that article in the current MR. So, thank you!
[...]

That's my thinking, too.
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I use Cadrail. The Sandia Software web site has an excellent tutorial. I copied it to my hard disk, which is good since I have an older version. Once through the tutorial and I was able to easily use the program. I revisit the tutorial occasionally for features I rarely use.
Cadrail has also been very useful for other projects since it is not limited to railroad layouts.
The Cadrail web site is: http://www.sandiasoftware.com /
--
Ken Rice -=:=- kennrice (AT) erols (DOT) com
http://users.erols.com/kennrice - Lego Compatible Flex Track,
  Click to see the full signature.
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Michael, Wolf just about said it all. Having several electrical circuits is a very, very good thing. In my building I have a circuit for the trains, and one for the lights, work shop and storage area. And soon a third. Since my AC unit went out I decided run a 220 line for a combo AC/Heating unit that will be installed in a wall. Even if you use a small AC window unit put it on a separate circuit from your trains and lights too if possible. I have a building that is 12 x 40 but the layout room is 12 x 18. The work shop is about 6 x 7. The rest is a storage room. The layout is a walk in with no duckunders. The arrangement may not suit your needs but I'd be happy to send you the plan and a few construction pictures since your space is almost the same dimensions as mine. It may give you some ideas to kick around. Somewhat unconventional the bench work and valance are structural. This solved some problems that came with an aging building and wiring lights with unexposed wires because of a ceiling that would be a pain to remove and re-install............or was even sagging like mine. Hopefully your building is in better repair or has a drop ceiling. You might download XTrkCad. Its open source, free, easy to learn and works very well. I still like pencil and paper. Layout planning is a lot of fun no matter how you do it. Its really fuels the enthusiasm when designing for a space you actually have. You picked a great local for your layout. Search the web for the D&RG or D&RGW Narrow Gauge. The D&RGW's Chile Line ran into Santa Fe from the north and the railroad came down out of Colorado to Chama and on to Durango. It then branched out to Farmington and up to Silverton to connect with the various shortlines built by Otto Mears. If your going to model in the steam era you might consider narrow gauge as the area you are talking about is Narrow Gauge County of the highest order. Narrow gauge also makes the tighter curves we some times have to suffer with much more tolerable. Have Fun, Bruce

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I would really appreciate the chance to see your plan and pictures. Just remove the nospam from my e-mail address to reply. And thank you.
-- Michael Perry
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WRT: wall outlets: for each outlet at baseboard level, put one at 3 or 4 feet up (layout level) on the same circuit if you want. You can paint the cover plates (and even the actual outlet sockets) to match a backdrop if you need to. I've used the flat Lutron sockets and plates. Having waist level electrical sockets saves a lot of bending and stooping especially while building. But is also means that I don't have a bunch of thick electrical wires hanging down to the floor. You might even consider one of those long plug strips (from sears, OSH, wherever) if you can conceal it where necessary.
Oh, yes, and keep the AC and other utility outlets (like for you vacuum cleaner, etc.) on separate circuits from your DCC or other computers, or even your DC power supplies if you go that way. Power flucuations and spikes are not good for any computer, and DCC is no exception. I would even suggest, if your budget allows, that you purchase a UPC designed for computers from APC or the like. I use an APC BACK-UPS 700LS which prevents spikes and dips in power using its batteries. It has plenty of power: 700VA. I use an identical unit for my Mac G5/2.5DP, external disk drives, and LCD monitor which draw a great deal MORE power than any likely railroad scenario.
Ed
in article 0cmBe.1074$ snipped-for-privacy@newssvr30.news.prodigy.com, Bruce Favinger at snipped-for-privacy@swbell.net wrote on 7/13/05 9:52 PM:

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suggest, if your budget allows, that you purchase a UPC designed for computers from APC or the like.
I use Furman RP-8 power conditioners, available for about $30 from The Musician's Friend. They are not a UPC, but they are very effective at protecting electronics from spikes and surges.
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wrote: 2000

No one can tell you how steep the learning curve is for YOU. It is not a difficult program to get started with but you have to play with it for a while to get comfortable. It is fairly straightforward but takes effort. I have been using it since version 3 and still learn an occasional new trick.
That said, I think it is a great design tool. The best thing about it is that when you draw your layout you are pretty sure it will fit. In CadRail you create a layer that defines the walls and whatever other restrictive items you have. Although CadRail has some track libraries I always draw my own turnouts (based on a few simple measurements) in CadRail's turnout builder. That way they fit properly when I actually build the trackwork. From this point on you can start to draw your layout and you will quickly see what works and what doesn't. I have seen paper and pencil sketches that used #2 and #3 turnouts because someone wasn't careful. Of course it wouldn't work. The first plus is that you can see what works and what constraints you have, i.e. curve radii and switch angles.
The bigger plus is that you can draw many versions of your track plan. The first version will be a b**** because you are designing the plan and learning CadRail. The second version will be easier because you take your first plan (assuming it has some good parts) and change chunks of it. The more you do this the easier it becomes and you will find your track plan getting better (or sometimes worse). As you get closer to the end you will appreciate how easy it is to move a building or spur. Remember if it fits on paper it will fit in the real world unless you cheated on your constraints.
When you finally achieve perfection print out the plan and hang it on the wall at work or somewhere you spend time at home. Just look at the plan and imagine running on it. You will be amazed at what little changes you will make. I knew one fellow who used his trackplan as the wallpaper on his work computer.
--
ernie fisch


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Ernie Fisch wrote:

[snip much sage advice and comment]
Ernie, you've just about convinced my that I, um, er, well, ah, really _need_ CADRail... Just for the fun of it. :-)
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Wolf Kirchmeir wrote:

Hehe. I'm trying to convince my long suffering wife that I could use to plan things for the house. I do love trying new things for the computer.
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On Fri, 15 Jul 2005 20:34:16 -0700, Michael Perry

You could try Xtrakcad from <http://www.sillub.com/ , it does this layout design business just fine and its free. Keith
Make friends in the hobby. Visit <http://www.grovenor.dsl.pipex.com/ Garratt photos for the big steam lovers.
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Keith Norgrove wrote:

[Wolf K:]

Aw gee, Keith, this isn't about a _practical_ decision. :-)
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I have tried the Cadrail demo and the Xtrakcad demo (both free) off the web and I found Xtrakcad easier to use, with better live help. Do yourself a favor and try both before you commit.
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