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Thread: Small Southwestern Layout

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    Default Small Southwestern Layout

    Evening all!
    With my practice diorama getting dang close to completion, I'm thinking about options for a small layout to practice track laying and full operations on, rather than just landscaping. With my basement still getting rented to a friend, I'm forced to think small anyway!

    My thought is to do something based in New Mexico, ATSF. I'm generally a North Eastern modeler, but I'd like the opportunity to do a different kind of terrain. On top of that, my wife is from New Mexico and has already built the Walthers Santa Fe Depot, which I'd like to work in. She'll probably also get involved in some of the construction too!

    My space is 2' x 7.5', although I'm only planning 7' at the moment to keep from crowding the door. I'm inclined to do something mostly for display at this point, rather than full on operations, possibly with automation. I've roughed out a plan for a small town on a siding with a spur for a stockyard, a climb up to a coal mine on the West end, and some type of appropriate desert landscaping on the East end. Given that the left and lower sides will be against walls, though, I might be looking for reach problems here. Landscape-wise, I'd love to get some curved trestles in on the East side, but it seems incompatible with the grade change.

    Or I could scrap it all and go with a straight up switching layout. Most of the building stock I have is much more north eastern, although maybe that's a good thing, letting me save it for a future big layout.

    Thoughts appreciated. Thanks all!

    Study Town.bmp

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    hey @Distantantennas. Its a simple layout but it all depends what you are going to be after. The other thing i can see is you are going to have a fairly small tight curves which will leave you limited to what locomotives you can run from my understanding. In saying that, having the track parralel to the table edge, i would change it and mix it up a bit. Give it some character lack of a better word i could say. Will give you also a chance to add scenery differently to the layout and give it life.

    hope this helps
    Shannon

    1100 x 2100 (3'7" x 6'10") layout under construction

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    I'd echo what Shannon said about tight curves, especially that double tracked curve. 11" radius is somewhat arbitrary, but does seem to be a common threshold for problems. If you can stay at or above that it's probably a good idea. Most diesels will go through fine (even big ones) but will often derail the first car behind them because of the amount of swing out away from the tracks, and large steam would have trouble. At 24" wide you can just barely fit 11" curves if you go right up to the edge. If you want to keep the double track curve on the right, can you make that a tad wider?

    As for the curved trestle, there's no reason you can't have that on a grade. The smallest little trickle of water can carve a pretty big canyon in the desert, especially since a lot of the rainfall tends to be all at once. I think you could work a bridge or trestle in if you wanted to, and have it blend with the other scenery just fine.

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    nice simple design. the outer loop radius will be 11" max. that means the inner curve on the right will need to be 10". these will work but you need to keep your rolling stock short like 40 ft cars and small locos.
    It can be done and a small layout will be much more fun than no layout!
    Yours,

    Gene

    Turtle Creek Industrial RR

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    actually the standard curve (in code 80 track anyway) smaller than 11" is 9.75 inches. most everything under 60 scale feet long will negotiate that curve just fine

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    Reposting the track plan as a PNG in case some folks (like me) can't see the BMP version:

    Study Town.png

    I agree, nice simple, classic layout... echo the advice above, you don't really want to go below 11" unless you are running short rolling stock and locos all the time. If you can squeeze even a few more inches of width, you could go 11" and 13.5" (requiring a 30" table depth) and have better operations.

    That said, if you have some of the rolling stock you plan to use, and are OK with limiting that stock to what will work, set up a 9.75" curve and test your gear. if it works, you're OK. Smaller 4-axle Diesel or short wheelbase steam should be OK (though there are exceptions -- short stuff that won't work and big stuff that will), as would most 50' or shorter cars. Not mixing body-mount and truck-mount couplers will help.
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    Love the layout design and I think it is very functional and will be loads of fun !!!

    Mike
    “When I was 5 years old, my mother always told me that happiness was the key to life.
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    I would say the same thing as the comments from above. A decent sized passenger car will overhang the rails on 10" (9.3/4"?) & 11.25" curves. It can look tacky, if you know what I mean. Not "prototypical".

    EDIT: Have you considered trying to hinge the backside of the layout, so it can be moved out of the way for access to the room? Maybe, come out from the wall 1 foot, and make your layout deeper? Not sure if the actual room you have there? But if it can moved out of the way (up & locked) you might be able to gain and extra foot or two? Just a thought...
    Last edited by Tred; 21st Jan 2015 at 05:41 PM. Reason: ADD IDEA
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    I can sy from experience that most passenger cars will sccefully negotiate a 9-3/4 curve, but the overhang looks AWFUL

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    There's a simple cure for passenger car overhangs. Don't stand on the layout and look down. If you look from the side you don't see the "problem"

    I think the layout will be much better if you add one or two sidings on the back and have a viewblock hide those tracks. That way the trains disappear and a different one can appear. If fact you could even have them go in different directions.

    Here's some sketches…
    Gfx_Dstant Antenna ATSF.jpg
    Dstant Antenna ATSF 3D.jpg
    The mine building should be close to the switches. The empty cars would be filled as they are pulled out. Because of the size of the layout you might shrink the building to cover only two tracks but keep the third track.

    I guessed you used Atlas Code 80. The rerailers are the streets on either side of the station and freight house. over the river you'd have two single track bridges. The on on the inside would be on a grade. The lead up to the mine is 2%, the curves give it a little more distance.

    If I got the walls wrong the layout could just be mirrored.
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    CNW's suggestions are terrific - pretty much the same as what I would say. The long branch to the mine just begs to be pulled away from the main line. And adding a staging track can make this layout operate so much better! The visible passing siding in town, where the branch line joins to the main, is there presumably so that the mine turn local can get out of the way of mainline traffic. But, without the passing siding, you'll have a hard time actually having any other mainline traffic to stay clear of. With the staging, though, you can have a second train ready to roll, and right after the mine turn gets to town to start its switching, you can roll out the second train to pass it by (in either direction). Once train 2 has cleared, the mine turn can go about its business, using the siding as a runaround to get behind the cars it is going to shove into place up at the mine.

    The hints at topography in CNW's sketch are just that - hints - constrained by the limits of the software used. But they do a good job of showing what a few well-placed view blocks can do, to help give the branch line its own identity, and a sense of remoteness.

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    I can picture several great trains to run on the layout. They may not be real runs but I feel they'd capture the spirit of the classic Santa Fe.
    • A pair of classic Warbonnet Fa&Fb pulling four gleaming streamline passenger cars. The big Bachmann full dome is almost required.
    • One or two blue and yellow GP7s or GP9s pulling and pushing the hoppers up to the mine. Maybe it should be copper instead of coal.
    • A local NW2 switcher with a couple of cattle cars and mining supply cars
    • A fast through freight pulled by dark blue FT-abba units pulling a string of almost identical refers bound for the Chicago fruit market from the California groves. The Bachmann version is cheap and plentiful. With weight, MT trucks and a little weathering they make a great unit train.

    OK, that's four trains I guess we need some more storage tracks on the back.
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    Agree with Chicago NW about car overhangs. I'm a tad over 6ft. tall, and my layout is nearly 5 feet off the floor. This not only helps with an overhang issue, but gives a much better perspective to the layout in general. Use of topography in selective instances will also help. Also agree with Shannon about possibly putting the table width at 27, 28, or 30 inches, beyond appearances, it is a blessing in times of a derailment. However, I can testify from experience; you can run 6 axle diesels, as well as 60 ft. freight cars. Just have your "heavyweights" up front, and limit your body mount couplers to your locos. I like the plan, good luck with it.

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    Chicago, man, sometimes you just hit it out of the park.
    Never mistake a guy who talks a lot for a guy who has something to say...

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    Wow, that looks great, @ChicagoNW. What did you do that in? SCARM? I think you do have it mirrored - I should post some room photos for context. This would be replacing some bookshelves I have in my study, and the footprint is strictly 2'x7', since most of the rest of the room has desk/computer/exercise bike and stuff, so there's not a lot of space to expand into. I don't want to block the room's windows, and ideally this would be something that could be moved. And as I've learned from my practice diorama, biting off smaller pieces makes things more achievable! The walls would be on the bottom and left side of my plan, so I'm inclined to mirror your plan, putting the river towards the most exposed corner.

    I'm also a bit over 6', and my previous layout was up at 5.5-ish feet, partly because of that, and partly so it could run over my desk. Given that my wife is shorter, I may put it more down at her eye level. I also found the high shelves last time were a bit difficult to reach to.

    I have hardly any ATSF equipment on hand, so I'd planned on shorter equipment, as discussed, and sticking with the mid-50s era of my North Eastern equipment. I have a long-range fantasy of some day doing a two-room or two-deck layout, one NYC and one ATSF with interchange between them. But that's down the road!

    Again, thanks for the advice. This is way more than I expected. I think I owe people beers. :-)

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    Did you mean more like this?
    Dstant Antenna ATSF copy 2D.jpg
    Gfx_Dstant Antenna ATSF copy.jpg

    I use RailModeller which is a program for Macs similar to SCARM.

    You would not have to run Santa Fe, but is is some of the most common equipment out there. That plus I grew up drooling on the ATSF&MSI layout at the Museum of Science and Industry. Those were the kinds of trains they ran but much longer. Imagine a 15 car Stainless Steel Super Chief in O scale. The old O scale ATSF layout has morphed into HO and BNSF. But it's still a cool layout. http://www.msichicago.org/whats-here...y/the-exhibit/

    A bit of advice on the actual build. Make the mountain backdrop not so tall or easy to remove. This will help access the hidden track in case of problems back there.
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    Yup, that's it exactly! I think orienting it that way will make a nice visual anchor. I'll try to replicate this in XTrakCad tonight so I have something I can print out and use full-scale. I also need to design a bench for his, and I'm thinking of a removable backdrop that allows just the access you discuss. I'm also considering putting the whole thing on castors so it can be accessed for more serious maintenance.
    This seems to have a pretty heavy-duty base underneath it? Are those thickness numbers on purpose, or just the way the software spits it out?

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    I don't think you need anything that thick, probably just the way the software spits out the plan, I think a hollow core door and some foam on top should do.
    Yours,

    Gene

    Turtle Creek Industrial RR

    Link to my Flickr account: https://www.flickr.com/photos/epumph/

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    My one comment with the (now mirrored) plan is that the spur in front should maybe be shifted over a bit, so that it is not right in front of the mine. That way, you can help reinforce the sense of distance between the antennas... er, between the branch and main.

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    I just raised the base track up twelve inches so that the canyon could have a lot of depth. The program can't handle negative numbers.

    The only place the track is raised is the lead to and the mine, itself. The mine is only two inches above the surface. A Woodland Scenics 2% riser will make building it easy. It stars right after the switch. To get the real height subtract twelve. But if you use the WS 2% riser the numbers don't matter. The mine area is on a 2 inch slab.

    I wouldn't use a door It would be a pain to cut the canyon out. Plus you'd have to fill the gap between the panels to add the strength back. I'd start with a thin plywood and build above and below it. The canyon goes down as far as you want it to be. For drama it's six inches below the surface on the drawing. Remember to make it wide enough at the surface. Everything else is built on top. The 2% riser takes the tracks to the mine. The mine sits on a 2 inch slab. Sculpt the mountains/buttes/hills/mesas to your own taste. Depending on viewing angle they could be as small as two inches tall. But somewhere between six and twelve will really sell it.

    If you are putting the layout on casters there's no need to make the scenery removable.

    The track layout is extremely simple. It's the scenery that makes it special.

    Here on the 4'x13' Greater Salt Lake Layout I did the same thing as yours but for three canyons

    The actual track has no elevation change


    Besides features that are below the surface I'll often raise the track up high, to show off the shape of the table. Here's Chicagoland Dreams…

    The gray and red track is 18 inches above the floor. The orange L tracks are 22 because the area under them is two inches higher and the L tracks two more. The rivers are two inches below the main surface.
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