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How do you go about designing a large layout?


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1 minute ago, RobinofLoxley said:

Doh, completely overlooked the OO/HO complication.

 

To be fair, a train of 00 British stock passing a train of H0 Continental stock doesn't look too bad, and with care the scenery can be made to work (even more so in the narrow gauge scales where the variety in size of NG stock makes the difference between 3.5mm and 4mm less noticeable).

 

What was problematic for my idea of a moveable train ferry would have been that somewhere in the process 00 wagons would have ended up being coupled to H0 locos or vice versa, which would have looked strange.

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Rereading this topic one thing that is missing is, how is the layout going to be planned - Anyrail or similar? Asking because Andy that I referenced has never had a track plan, he just builds and trusts his instincts and craftsmanship, pretty amazing actually. He has a whiteboard in the dedicated layout room.

 

After that, I am with James, the major fixed element is the station and being a through station according to the pencil plan, start there. If its a monster, in terms of track approaches required at both ends, it will probably determine/control a lot of other layout features. Can a higher level track be run behind it while allowing access (not a complete other level, just grade separated at that point.

 

The second major feature sounds to me like a viaduct or similar. OP, did you have in mind one of those North American timber viaducts that look like they would fall down if anyone coughed on them? The space can disappear quite quickly with such large features.

 

FWIW, I think building one helix would be enough for most people. If it was me, which it isnt, I would have one because if you are building your ultimate layout, and didnt incorporate a helix you would be forever saying 'I should have put a helix in'. I wanted to in my loft but I couldnt plot a route through all the beams and stuff in the way. Helixes also consume space!!

 

Finally, would I be right in thinking that you have to finalise the dimensions of the space before planning further as you could waste a lot of time otherwise, however, the station approaches can probably be planned as they will be the same come what may.

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Hi Robin,

Thanks for your reply. I do have Anyrail on my big PC but that isn’t set up at the moment. I think it’s V5 as I couldn’t get on with V6! Also, it’s the paid for version so I’m not limited to how many pieces of track I can use.

In terms of through station, the German section has to include my full Trix model of Dammtor station, Hamburg, the two kits that make up this model give you a building with an integral overall roof of some 1.4 metres length.

That’s a big building! Only four tracks and platform faces though but on the prototype, the platforms extend a long way out of one end and hardly anything out of the other end.

Maybe a grade separated return would be good, I don’t know.

 I would like a viaduct of some kind but stone, brick or concrete - we had one of those timber trestles on an old club layout and yes, it did eat up room and also looked quite wrong with large steam locomotives and modern diesels running over it.

I am sure I will have a helix, maybe I can go with one only, I know they are quite something to construct and they eat up a lot of track too. I’m thinking around 6 foot diameter to keep grades and curvature down as much as possible.

 

The point to this exercise is to help me decide how to actually go about planning such a project.

Whenever I’ve embarked on a project previously, I had a specific space to fill but this is different as the whole house is being designed by me and my wife. We have professional help with this but if I can establish the basis for what my layout should be, I can make any changes to the house plans if necessary.

Cheers,

John

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To my mind, a "small" layout is one where one person can run the whole model, and there isn't room for a second operator. A "medium" layout supports a second operator (but one person can enjoy the whole thing with perhaps a wireless controller); and a "large" layout needs more than one operator or some element of automation to help. My own wall-hugger will thus be "medium size" when I finish it, but I know in my heart I really want more i.e. a "large layout".

 

I would look to a roundy-roundy with a double track main line and storage loops, with crossovers to let trains arrive in the loops and stop and go back the way they came. Some simple route-setting to let you choose the loop and then have the layout set up all of the points to suit.

 

Then have a third loop inside of the main line, and call this the branch. This line will have its own storage loops beside the loops for the main line, and crossovers to let trains reach the main line.

 

On the opposite side of the layout, build a motive power depot with a connection to the branch.

 

This lot will let you have three trains running while you concentrate on the operations in the depot; or you might ignore the depot, let a railcar amble around the branch, and use the main lines to send a train out, do one lap, then reverse. In other words, you have a large layout where you can get some enjoyment on your own, and there is room to add up to two more operators and everyone can have something interesting to do.

 

My own layout is supposedly set in Britain in 2012. A mate looked at my current project last Monday, he is the first railway modeller to see it. I asked him whether he thought my model looked like somewhere in Britain and he said an emphatic yes. But when pressed, he cited only the church tower on the backdrop. Many of my buildings are modern, and not particularly British.

 

For the period, he felt trains would not look out of place from the present day back to the mid-1970s. This was better than I hoped for. I pointed out a model wheelie bin, which would mean 1990s onwards, and I removed the wheelie bin today.

 

My layout is supposedly to 1:87 scale, for British H0, but built to the Continental loading gauge. This gives me the width and height to run trains of Continental origin (like the MaK Di-8) and British 00 models too, though of course not at the same time. I have just bought two Hornby 6-wheel coaches to put behind a Beattie well tank, and this 1930s-style train does not look especially out of place in its rather underscale surroundings. At least, as long as I tell myself this is a preservation working. Edit 1: These are physically small models; I am sure a mainline loco or Mk3 coach would look completely out of place.

 

So I am happy enough, with a small layout able to become part of a medium layout, and accept many kinds of trains.

 

This is fine for me, but I wonder how well it can translate to a "large" scheme. I think, a pleasant if generic landscape is possible as long as you keep it fairly modest. The backdrop will be ok if it shows a modern cityscape or maybe some wasteland or reclaimed land. But you will have to rule out a lot of the character of a real locations to make the surroundings generic for the selection of trains. I would want to make sure the roads have no road markings, and I could swap cars and lorries from one side of the road to another.

 

The Trix model station seems a big sticking point because it has such a clear prototype. So perhaps, you could have the three circuits I have described with some scenic breaks dividing them into different scenes. These scenes to have their own lighting and backdrops, with the lighting controllable. So for example, when you are running a British or American train, the Trix station is barely visible and all you can see is the train itself passing through a darkened space.

 

The mate who looked at my layout does not have a layout of his own. He has some tracks arranged around the walls of a double garage, but refuses all suggestions at scenic treatments. He runs long trains (say, fifty 4-wheel wagons), and gets pleasure from simply watching the trains go by.

 

Perhaps it would be possible to build a very basic layout, without scenery, to get the trains up and running. And then tackle a series of scenes, one each for Britain, Germany and somewhere in North America. Each scene giving a pleasing setting to enjoy the train(s) you have on the layout at the time; and being ignored and treated as a bit of connecting track when you are running other trains.

 

Edit 2: I can visualise a British/European scheme, especially if it is a freight operation with no signalling and no passenger platforms. I struggle with incorporating North America. Perhaps my postulated 'branch' circuit could be the place where the American trains stretch their legs.

 

- Richard.

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On 26/06/2021 at 15:25, Allegheny1600 said:

The point to this exercise is to help me decide how to actually go about planning such a project.

Whenever I’ve embarked on a project previously, I had a specific space to fill but this is different as the whole house is being designed by me and my wife. We have professional help with this but if I can establish the basis for what my layout should be, I can make any changes to the house plans if necessary.

Cheers,

John

I was about to say, this is probably the first time that a house has been designed and built around a pre-existing model railway design, but it almost certainly isnt.

 

With a helix you have to be sure you can reach the back/corner. if anything derails and falls off....

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I've a feeling the late Dave Shakespeare designed his final house having already had a layout plan in mind. Sadly as he was taken ill shortly after the house was completed, the layout never progressed beyond baseboard stage.

 

I used to help operate a layout with a helix at shows. Derailments were accessed by standing up inside the helix! Personally, I wouldn't recommend one if any other options are available.

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Chris Ellis writes about what he calls "multi-moding" in his book Next Steps in Railway Modelling, Midland Publishing / Ian Allan 2004. @Ian Simpson has lent me his copy.

 

In essence, you build structures on lift-out bases so for example you can drop in a British, German or American building. Ellis describes this for an inglenook but I imagine it would work fine for a larger layout, as long as the removable models are a manageable size.

 

It has got me thinking to allow a wider range of dates for the setting of my own layout.

 

- Richard.

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On 02/07/2021 at 18:46, RobinofLoxley said:

 

With a helix you have to be sure you can reach the back/corner. if anything derails and falls off....

 

4 hours ago, RJS1977 said:

I used to help operate a layout with a helix at shows. Derailments were accessed by standing up inside the helix!

That was my understanding of how to access a helix. It does mean the radii have to be quite generous!!

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8 minutes ago, F-UnitMad said:

 

That was my understanding of how to access a helix. It does mean the radii have to be quite generous!!

8 minutes ago, F-UnitMad said:

 

That was my understanding of how to access a helix. It does mean the radii have to be quite generous!!

You still have to get inside it - how does that happen?

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4 minutes ago, RobinofLoxley said:

You still have to get inside it - how does that happen?

A duck-under, I presume :scratchhead: It's not like it goes all the way down to the floor? 

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3 minutes ago, F-UnitMad said:

A duck-under, I presume :scratchhead: It's not like it goes all the way down to the floor? 

I'm thinking a helix is used to change levels between 2 sections so it depends how low the lower level is positioned. 

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Hi there.  I’ve been reading some stuff recently that has made me curious about larger home layouts again, including rereading as an adult about some of the awesome US basement empires that used to enthrall me when reading Model Railroader as a kid.  On top of the obvious things of money and time that I would blissfully overlook when daydreaming as a child, three more strike me these days, and I wonder if they may be helpful:

 

1.  Good health as we get older.  I’ve seen some designs that allow for us becoming less agile in the prime and prime+ stages of life by avoiding narrow aisles, excessive reaches and contortionist-only access spaces.  I’d make this a design criteria.

 

2.  At the risk of appearing to pour cold water on the grand plan, which is not my intention, I note that references are often made in the write-ups of big solo projects noting how far back the work actually began - collecting / making appropriate rolling stock, buildings and sometimes even scenic features or sections sometimes began years beforehand, simply to be ready when the time came.  In a similar vein perhaps, I read recently of a Canadian layout builder who paused his project for 5 years when interest waned, before picking up the build again.

 

So…if starting from scratch (and with a house to build first), my suggestion here would be to have a simple, basic plan that can be up and running fairly quickly, with plenty of options for future details and additions - which I probably wouldn’t even try and design at this stage.  It wouldn’t matter if some of it never gets built - you could still enjoy the bits that are done anyway.  In other words, there can be a difference between a “layout of a lifetime” and a “layout that takes a lifetime.”

 

(And, as a strange plus point perhaps, a train running across plywood can be wherever in the world you imagine it to be.)

 

3.  With apologies for being rather sombre at this point perhaps, but noting the observation earlier that the only dismantling will be left for others to do, it might be wise to design in and document a process for dismantling such that those items that can be salvaged and passed on and / or sold don’t get damaged or thrown out by accident.  It’s the ultimate future proofing perhaps.

 

Don’t know if this helps, but a few thoughts.  Would I start with ‘Continental’ HO?  Absolutely definitely.  Keith.

 

 

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On 03/07/2021 at 21:27, RobinofLoxley said:

You still have to get inside it - how does that happen?

I guess that any lower level storage yard is going to be around 2’ above the floor and possibly higher as there’s no way I could fill the entire area beneath the main benchwork with storage tracks.

Therefore, it would be awkward or very difficult to physically get into the helix but possible, even if it’s not me doing it.

Ideally, any derailments will be quite accessible from the outside of the helix though. With a large radius (1m) helix, I plan to have greater hand access between the levels and also a shallow wall both inside and outside the trackbed to retain stock should the worst happen.

 

All good points, chaps, thanks for your contributions.

John

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On 26/07/2021 at 13:13, Keith Addenbrooke said:

Hi there.  I’ve been reading some stuff recently that has made me curious about larger home layouts again, including rereading as an adult about some of the awesome US basement empires that used to enthrall me when reading Model Railroader as a kid.  On top of the obvious things of money and time that I would blissfully overlook when daydreaming as a child, three more strike me these days, and I wonder if they may be helpful:

 

1.  Good health as we get older.  I’ve seen some designs that allow for us becoming less agile in the prime and prime+ stages of life by avoiding narrow aisles, excessive reaches and contortionist-only access spaces.  I’d make this a design criteria.

 

2.  At the risk of appearing to pour cold water on the grand plan, which is not my intention, I note that references are often made in the write-ups of big solo projects noting how far back the work actually began - collecting / making appropriate rolling stock, buildings and sometimes even scenic features or sections sometimes began years beforehand, simply to be ready when the time came.  In a similar vein perhaps, I read recently of a Canadian layout builder who paused his project for 5 years when interest waned, before picking up the build again.

 

So…if starting from scratch (and with a house to build first), my suggestion here would be to have a simple, basic plan that can be up and running fairly quickly, with plenty of options for future details and additions - which I probably wouldn’t even try and design at this stage.  It wouldn’t matter if some of it never gets built - you could still enjoy the bits that are done anyway.  In other words, there can be a difference between a “layout of a lifetime” and a “layout that takes a lifetime.”

 

(And, as a strange plus point perhaps, a train running across plywood can be wherever in the world you imagine it to be.)

 

3.  With apologies for being rather sombre at this point perhaps, but noting the observation earlier that the only dismantling will be left for others to do, it might be wise to design in and document a process for dismantling such that those items that can be salvaged and passed on and / or sold don’t get damaged or thrown out by accident.  It’s the ultimate future proofing perhaps.

 

Don’t know if this helps, but a few thoughts.  Would I start with ‘Continental’ HO?  Absolutely definitely.  Keith.

 

 

Many thanks indeed, Keith this is much appreciated.

1. A very good point indeed and I will follow this up. See above post for brief ideas on dealing with potentially the worst situation.

2. Yes, I’ve been working towards this project for many years! I can’t say that this project was what I had in mind but I always knew I wanted a “big layout” one day. I will be quite happy to simply have a “plywood central” for several years, in all honesty. I simply need to know that I’m working towards my own ultimate layout - that is sufficient.

3. Bang on!

Although this layout is for me, it would be very nice to at least share it with others, maybe here, maybe visitors from elsewhere and there is a complete stock list so my better half will have some idea of the value of it all when I’m not around. She is reasonably involved anyway, not that she’s passionate about any trains themselves but is interested in my philosophy and aims. Also, she won’t accept the plywood central for too long! 
Cheers and thanks again,

John

 

PS My initial passion for a forthcoming British outline 00 gauge loco was only temporary. Compare that with my passion for German H0 trains: 15 years fairly continuously, British H0: similar and US H0: roughly 30 years now! Before this, I was staunchly European H0 with only temporary excursions into 4mm, 7mm, 1/48th etc.

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I think its OK to have a slow burning project, and the actual size isnt itself an issue. I know i will stop building every summer for 4 months while my allotment and plant breeding hobby take precedence, then from Sept to Xmas I will enjoy whatever layout building I can fit in. What I would strongly recommend is that from the word go, the first piece of track laid is powered up and that any accessories are installed immediately and also powered up. I have tended to build sections of track without doing this, never again. Its always relaxing to know that if you dont feel like carpentry you can always trot a train up and down a couple of feet of track.

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