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Plan for a busy but small N Gauge Layout (from around 1980)


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Regular contributors to this Forum may recall I’ve had numerous attempts at getting a layout up and running.  Some very interesting and informative discussions and plenty of ideas have been shared, but I just can’t keep up with changing family needs when it comes to finding space for even a portable layout.

 

I did finally get started by reawakening an interest in NG modelling and have finished a small sceniced H0e test circuit :D:

 

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(Picture from my NG layout thread)

 

I’ve now been given a couple of boards that together measure 26” x 44”, which just happens to be exactly the same size as a board I had forty years ago when I first tried railway modelling in N Gauge.  While track spacing (and size of buildings) means I can’t simply recreate that layout in H0e / 009, I thought it might still be interesting to redraw the plan I had then, to help visualise the possibilities:

 

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(Plan also copied from my NG layout thread: 2’2” x 3’8”)

 

Looking at it now through 21st Century eyes (and with the help of Anyrail :)) some aspects of it may be of interest, hence the post:

 

In terms of building and storage:

  • It is all on one level, so easy to build (unfortunately I never progressed to ballasting or scenery, so it was never finished).
  • When not in use the baseboard could be easily stored in a wardrobe due to being flat.
  • It could be developed progressively as each birthday / Christmas saw more being added - the track wasn’t all bought at once.
  • Standard N-gauge minimum 1st radius 9” and most points standard Peco Setrack.

 

In terms of operation:

  • The operating schematic reflects one of the concepts popularised by CJ Freezer in his plans for small layouts at the time: a branch line terminus to junction station, feeding into a continuous run mainline circuit (no fiddle yard).
  • The branch line terminus run-round would take two bogie coaches, which also fitted into the kickback carriage siding at the terminus (I’ve re-drawn it a bit shorter than it was).
  • The terminus goods yard had plenty of room for shunting - most wagons were 10’ wheelbase Peco models.
  • The junction station carriage siding could take four bogie coaches, and there were three more goods sidings and two engine sidings there.  All the stock needed could therefore be accommodated on the layout - two coach branch line passenger, four coach main line passenger, mixed goods and three locomotives (branch engine, mainline engine and shunter).  I didn’t have any tender steam locomotives, so turning them was not an issue.

 

In terms of overall effect:

  • Although the mainline was really a single track circuit, it had the appearance of being double track, with a genuine branch line.
  • There wasn’t much visual separation between the station areas, but using an island platform at the junction helped disguise this a bit - it was planned to build a road over bridge for a station building there.

 

Things that didn’t work:

  • The original idea was for a twice around main line using a crossing (shown), but locomotives kept stalling on the Insulfrogs.  Removing this improved reliability and made for more realistic operation, particularly on the branch.
  • Early N-Gauge mechanisms weren’t up to today’s standards, and I didn’t know where to begin with locomotive maintenance.

 

What finally saw off the layout however wasn’t the usual teenage diversion into other things, rather that my ambitions and ideas grew faster than my skills and I decided to scrap the layout and rebuild it to look like an exhibition layout I’d seen - but turned out to be beyond me.  In that sense perhaps the layout exceeded expectations: as my primary interest was operation, I think it gave me the impression that I was more advanced than I really was when it came to building layouts (a lesson I’m still learning today).

 

As a track plan however, once I’ve allowed for the visual compromises imposed by the size of the board, I’d say it worked, Keith.

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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Looks like a lot of fun.  A tunnel where its marked LC would be good to hide trains in but that would quadruple the depth.

I like full double track or two loops as I haven't grown up yet and like having races between trains during a lull in the timetable, for a prototype see the IOM railway.  

 

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2 hours ago, DCB said:

Looks like a lot of fun.  A tunnel where its marked LC would be good to hide trains in but that would quadruple the depth.

I like full double track or two loops as I haven't grown up yet and like having races between trains during a lull in the timetable, for a prototype see the IOM railway.  

 


Hi DCB, thanks for the response.  Tunnels on small layouts can be a mixed blessing - a later OO layout I started (and also never sceniced or finished) was based on a plan that did include a tunnel at one end of an 8’ x 4’ design, but in that case there was more room for the hillside to look like it was there before the railway, as the only Station was at the other end of the layout.   One of the most famous small table top OO layouts from the early 1980s, ‘Bredon’, also used a tunnel to disguise a tight end curve into a fiddle yard.

 

The emphasis in this plan was very much on trying to replicate sequence operation on a branch / secondary line, so the challenge for me was more about achieving reliable slow running with 1970s N Gauge technology, and only one engine was in motion at a time.  Scenically, the level crossing would have provided road access to the branch terminus and goods yard, while the farm (and a Church my Dad built) would have been accessed via the road over bridge serving the Junction Station.  It was definitely a lot of fun - and was the layout that sparked the interest I still enjoy today.

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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There is a weakness operationally in the plan I don’t remember spotting at the time - there is nowhere at the branch terminus to stable the locomotive overnight.  The carriage siding suggests the branch set was intended to be kept there, but that would involve a light engine movement back to the only E.S. at the junction.

 

Why did I never spot this?  Aside from the fact I was only about 11 years old, at the end of each (real) day all the rolling stock got put away anyway, so I guess it didn’t arise.  As I never wired up the carriage siding either, it wasn’t actually used other than by the 0-5-0.  But worth noting as a design point perhaps.

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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Hi Keith.

Would it be possible to put the two baseboards end-to-end? With 26" width you could get a continuous run. Maybe a FY at the rear and a through junction station at the front. Or, even, instead of a traditional FY, you could have a backscene down the middle and two different styles of layout, one on each side?

Andy

 

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31 minutes ago, AndyB said:

Hi Keith.

Would it be possible to put the two baseboards end-to-end? With 26" width you could get a continuous run. Maybe a FY at the rear and a through junction station at the front. Or, even, instead of a traditional FY, you could have a backscene down the middle and two different styles of layout, one on each side?

Andy

 

 

Hi Andy, my initial post may have been misleading, sorry: each new board is 13” x 44”, giving me 26” x 44” when joined together, same as the original N Gauge layout (which was built as one board with a Sundeala top - standard in those days).

 

An end-to-end would be possible at 13” x 88”, certainly in N Gauge or H0e / 009 (or a switching / shunting plank in HO or OO), and I played around with cutting them up to see if there was a benefit arranging them in different ways, but not enough to be worth it (for me at least).  Keith.

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Ah-ha. Understood. 

I think you'd settled on achieving a continuous run, so the 88"x 13" obviously wouldn't give you that.

 

If it were me I'd go for the end-to-end version and create a fairly busy terminus with lots of operational interest. Could be fun...and you could do that in N or OO.

 

 

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1 hour ago, AndyB said:

Ah-ha. Understood. 

I think you'd settled on achieving a continuous run, so the 88"x 13" obviously wouldn't give you that.

 

If it were me I'd go for the end-to-end version and create a fairly busy terminus with lots of operational interest. Could be fun...and you could do that in N or OO.

 

 

 

Hi Andy, I saw a wonderfully proportioned 009 Terminus to Fiddle Yard layout using almost exactly that type of space at the weekend - with short trains there was room for a scenic run to be included too. It really was excellent.

 

If I go back to what the original c.1980 N-Gauge layout offered however, with the emphasis on operation, it was possible to do any of the following:

  1. Branch Line operation: Terminus to Junction
  2. Branch Line to Through Line inter-connections (goods or passenger) at the Junction
  3. Continuous running (secondary) Main Line operation
  4. Planned Sequence Operation (I called it a ‘Timetable’ though that required some flexibility of imagination)
  5. With enough room ‘on stage’ to store all the rolling stock, the length and composition of passenger trains on the mainline could be varied, treating the main station like a terminating destination.

In that sense it was a very small ‘system layout’ - all of this was achievable without a Fiddle Yard or Staging Loops.

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If you're going for H0e with a generic European feel, I'd suggest seeing if the following works:

 

- remove the long crossover from section 2 to section 4 at top left;

- remove the loop and siding from the branch;

- add another loop to the upper station.

 

This disconnects the branch even further from the main line, with a full circuit between the junction and the teminus.  The main station needs some rearranging to maintain operation and  I envisage it in the continental style (from the top):

 

goods loop - platform line - low narrow island platform -  platform line - low narrow platform (with buildings)

 

The dedicated carriage siding is lost but the branch set can occupy one of the platform roads between runs without blocking the station.

 

Not sure this can be done in the space even with short trains andtight curves.

 

 

 

 

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11 hours ago, Flying Pig said:

If you're going for H0e with a generic European feel, I'd suggest seeing if the following works:

 

- remove the long crossover from section 2 to section 4 at top left;

- remove the loop and siding from the branch;

- add another loop to the upper station.

 

This disconnects the branch even further from the main line, with a full circuit between the junction and the teminus.  The main station needs some rearranging to maintain operation and  I envisage it in the continental style (from the top):

 

goods loop - platform line - low narrow island platform -  platform line - low narrow platform (with buildings)

 

The dedicated carriage siding is lost but the branch set can occupy one of the platform roads between runs without blocking the station.

 

Not sure this can be done in the space even with short trains andtight curves.

 

 

 

 

 

Thank you - that all makes a lot of sense and I think it could work, though it would need everything checking very carefully.  Short 4-wheel carriages (ie: with no overhang) might work, and can get round sub-9” radii if needed (I don’t want to do that).

 

I’m thinking of something simpler, with the branch taken out and replaced with just a diagonal industrial siding or two coming from the bottom and a simpler top station.  That way I think I can fit in the extra loop at the top station as you suggest - it is very typical of the examples I’ve looked at (with fewer ‘stub’ sidings).  It won’t be a ‘system layout’, but a slice of a NG line instead.

 

For a Swiss option, the Kato 1:150 RhB range uses 9mm track for metre-gauge and carries it off very well, but trains are longer than this layout would accommodate, and the track plan would again need major surgery.

 

Thanks again - I hadn’t tried to convert the plan: I was more intrigued by the reminder of what fitted into the same space.

 

 

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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I'm not sold on the idea of something that looks like a double track line until you see trains moving wrong line .... so I think maybe I'd completely lose the inner track bottom left, feeding the branch platform at the junction off the outer track using a curved point, and get as much separation as possible between the main and branch lines bottom right.  And possibly swap over the goods yard and station at the terminus to get more distance between the platforms at the two stations.

 

But lots of operational fun.  And even allowing for the fact that in HOe things are going to be more cramped than they would have been in N, I think it may actually look rather better that way ......

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1 hour ago, Chimer said:

I'm not sold on the idea of something that looks like a double track line until you see trains moving wrong line .... so I think maybe I'd completely lose the inner track bottom left, feeding the branch platform at the junction off the outer track using a curved point, and get as much separation as possible between the main and branch lines bottom right.  And possibly swap over the goods yard and station at the terminus to get more distance between the platforms at the two stations.

 

But lots of operational fun.  And even allowing for the fact that in HOe things are going to be more cramped than they would have been in N, I think it may actually look rather better that way ......


Thanks Chris, some good suggestions as always, and different to the other ideas.  Three different approaches.  In summary:

  • Put the two new boards end to end for a Terminus to Fiddle Yard (AndyB)
  • Make the branch line as long as possible so it does a complete lap before reaching the junction (Flying Pig)
  • Shorten the branch line to avoid ‘fake double track’ (Chimer)

Whether in N-Gauge or Narrow Gauge, all would be ways to update a track plan like this for possible use today using the same ‘floor space.’

____________________

 

PS:  Although there aren’t many examples of NG double track railways, the Austrian Zillertalbahn that most of my rolling stock is liveried for does have some.  As for curved points, I’ve seen N-Gauge curved points carefully ballasted for use on 009 layouts, as there are no Peco curved points in their Narrow Gauge ranges.  As we often say, nothing is impossible :).

Edited by Keith Addenbrooke
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