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Track Layout & Design Help with designing your track work

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Old 14-08-2018, 10:20 PM   #1
Mountain Goat
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Default End to End or an Oval?

This is a very personal choice and one I learned the hard way of what I liked and didnt like. (I'm not saying you are the same as me as we are all different in our likes and dislikes. This is more a personal account on how II found out the hard way on what I personally preferred in a layout).
While I've had a couple of layouts over the years, I will describe the last layout I had which took a few forms.
My dad being a carpenter made most of the woodwork for it. He made four beautiful angled brackets and the layout was in an L shape screwed to the walls and also supported on these four angled brackets. The room is 10ft x 12ft. Now at either end of the L shape was made wider to take two loops. At one end it could take first and second radius curves and my bed fit under this. The other end I could get first, second and third radius curves. The straight bits were 2ft wide, and the centre of the L had a lovely curve so it was wider at this point. The layout had no legs whatsoever and my cupboard and table fit under the layout.
Now my first design was to have an end to end with track weaving in and out of tunnels on a multi level layout to maximise its running length. At either end was a station with a run round loop and could accommodate four GWR bogie coaches (Mk1 length),and I had a larger station with a shunting yard in the middle of the track plan. It took about a minute and a half for trains to go from the one end to the other. I had some nice scenery as well. The only issue that I had was that I'd often set trains to go from the one end and forget, and the number of collisions into the buffers at the other end...
It was time for plan two. This was all on one level and was a double track figure of 8, and at the centre hidden under a hill was the first piece of track I'd ever made. (I was optimistic and no one told me not to!) It was a 90 double track crossing which was rails glued onto a square of hardboard using UHU glue and soldered links for electrical collection. I was a teenager then so track was crudely cut using pliers... The result actually worked though I did get the occasional derailment. I enjoyed this for a couple of years when I had the idea of converting the layout into a type of end to end....
Plan 3. The idea was to convert the one loop about e the bed into a traverser, and retain a return loop at the other. Trains would leave the traversed, go through a station and return to the station and back to the traverser. Now not long after I had cut the board over the bed down and started to lay track that I discovered I'd made a big mistake. I realised how much I would miss allowing trains to run. Somehow, a small end to end (Actually out and back) design was just not for me. The first end to end had a decent multilevel run so it wasn't so much of an issue. But to have trains leave and come back so soon just wasn't for me.
Downhearted, I got some first radius curves and found they would just fit on the board I had left over the bed. I was so relieved tears came to my eyes, and I was able to make a fantastic layout with ended up with 46 points including a double slip, 3 way point, 3 diamond crossings all on this layout! I had two control panels which were built into duck under areas so were behind the scenes. Each panel had unbiased full control of all track sections and each operator was able to clearly see who was operating which section via clearly positioned panel indication lights set in mimic track plans in each panel.(DC back in those days and back then it was rare to find something that did t work round first radius curves!) along with all points. I ended up with about 500 wires on the layout in all, and it took me a month and a half of evenings and weekends to wire it all up!
Eventually the layout was pulled down when I bought my own house and had plans for larger layouts, which never materialized and I sold the house, paid off the mortgage and broke even to the penny and I'm back living with mum.
I'm not resurrecting the layout as we are not planning to stay here, hence my current layout is small and portable.
But I learned that I personally am much happier if whatever track plan I use, that trains can run continually. I do admire small end to end layouts but I know for me, I'd not be satisfied unless I had at least a small oval incorporated in the design!

Last edited by Mountain Goat; 14-08-2018 at 10:34 PM.
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Old 14-08-2018, 11:14 PM   #2
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I'm with you MG. I know there are supporters of each type and, as with everything each to their own but, for me, I want my trains to 'go' somewhere in a way that an end to end layout simply cannot achieve. My layout will eventually consist of three main interconnecting loops with all the interesting bits and pieces taken off the inner one. That way I can play with stations and shunting etc on the inner most loop while trains circle on the two main outside loops on their own.
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Old 15-08-2018, 08:43 AM   #3
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It may indeed depend upon the space at your disposal. An oval layout can take up a lot of room and if placed against a wall will have areas difficult to reach. My own oval layout actually runs round the outside wall inside of a 8 x 16 feet shed on 2 foot wide boards, and even then reaching the outer track to uncouple and re-rail can be a bit of a stretch as the boards are four and a half feet above the floor.

An end to end layout needs a longish run if it is going to be interesting. Using an 'L' shape sometimes will help this but the terminus to fiddle yard usually ends up with more than a third is non-scenic, and gets a bit untidy. A 'U' shape round three sides of the room avoids a bridge or duck-under across the door but is no good if you like to see the trains running continuously.
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Old 15-08-2018, 10:04 AM   #4
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This is the issue I've been battling with since moving in to our new house and my 8' x8' study. The door opens into the room, so the only real way to have an oval is to have a U shape with a bridge across the middle, which I did have for a time... I then switched to end to end and i've not spent half as much time in there as I did when I could just have trains running continuously!

There is no way the door can be hung the other way as it would open outwards straight into the main entrance hallway (anyone coming in/out the kitchen or front door could end up with a sore head, toe or worse!).

I'm seriously contemplating putting the more permanent section back in down one side of the U and putting the bridge section back - maybe a bit wider, would have to sacrifice the operating area in the middle but will consider that carefully before doing anything...

It really is THE issue when it comes to designing a layout in a smaller space...

If I swap back to an Oval type layout in my study, I may try to make an 8' x 1.5' portable layout I can erect in the conservatory for some simple shunting action...

Thanks for your perspective MG - it's helped me decide on my next move and what I really need to do for MY satisfaction


Slowly slowly catchy monkey...

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Old 15-08-2018, 10:26 AM   #5
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Steve. What about a sliding door? Actually, if the room is dedicated to trains only, why have a door at all? Some sort of child gate for if children come? Just a few thoughts.
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Old 15-08-2018, 12:00 PM   #6
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Originally Posted by Mountain Goat View Post
................. Some sort of child gate for if children come? .................
I have a child gate to my train room. No children in the house but a nosy dog!
If I agreed with you, we'd both be wrong
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Old 15-08-2018, 12:21 PM   #7
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There's also the concertina type sliding doors. The ones that have many folds to them. They may be the solution.
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Old 16-08-2018, 04:58 AM   #8
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Interesting topic.

My layout started life as a squared circuit approximately 5 feet to a side with internal yards for shunting wagons etc. Pretty standard and beginner's fare in fact. The reason for the size was that because I had models on shelves around the walls of my modelling room the only place I could build a layout was the centre of the room and the external dimensions were dictated by that.

I would have preferred a U shape with run round capabilities at each end but the existing shelving of models meant that option was a non starter. But over the last four years or so and several rearrangements of track later the layout is now in the form of a basic run around loop but the main line now runs more or less diagonally so that a small siding that was initially on the inside is now on the outside of the circuit. This has enabled a better station design and rationalized the scenery aspects which are basic urban, with a minimum of grass etc. Bucolic it isn't. In fact the major scenery building I am doing is buildings like houses and a couple of factories and shops and a pub.

The actual operating scenic part of the layout is really only 2/3rds of the space - the remaining third is a three track fiddle yard in which I can store particular train formations depending upon what I want to run. I can still run a train in a continuous circuit if I feel like just watching a train go around, but the part of the circuit that allows the continuous run lies at the outer edge of the fiddle yard so it will eventually disappear from view once the back scene etc. hiding the fiddle yard is in place.

It's the best use I could make of the available space I had while still maintaining realistic train lengths. Fortunately I prefer goods trains to passenger trains, and the buildings etc. are sufficiently commonplace to allow me to alternate between early BR and one of the four post grouping companies as I feel. It's sort of freelance in that respect but it's my train set and I'll do what I want, so there.
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Old 16-08-2018, 09:00 AM   #9
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As always its often the art of compromise. I started with an 8 foot by 20 inch board area and soon realised that this would not do it for me. After some new arrangements in the house (i.e. moving the computer and discarding a large desk and going wireless and putting the new computer on the landing) I freed up the room to allow a U shaped layout. However, doors remain a problem - I took the entrance door to the room off but still have a door that leads to the back garden. However, I have a lot more room, but its still end to end. I feel that an oval needs plenty of room to avoid the loco almost catching up with the last wagon/coach/break van.
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Old 16-08-2018, 09:11 AM   #10
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I have a dedicated 10x7 room for my layout, with boards running around three sides - hence a "U" shape end-to-end. I have now re-hung the door to open outwards onto the landing. There is a lift-up section across the door, but at the moment I am still fit enough to crawl underneath. An oval would be nice, but unless you have a large amount of room, you can only run very short trains. BB
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