Need help with an HO layout sarting from scratch

gorilla33 Oct 9, 2009

  1. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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    Need help with an HO layout starting from scratch

    Hello everyone,

    I'm new to all of this, and I'm trying to design and build a layout for my autistic nephew. He loves trains, and spends hours playing with his trains.

    I'm in the process of designing a 9ft by 9ft layout that will be 3ft deep from the wall to the front edge. It will be L shaped along two walls of my sisters basement. I am looking at the mod-u-rail system by Woodland Scenics, because I need to build it in sections and ship it to him in New York. Will 3ft by 3ft sections ship safely, or are these layouts too fragile? Mod-u-rail is expensive, so any suggestions on what would ship better, and be just as good for cheaper, please advise. Any photos or links you can provide would be much appreciated.

    I would appreciate any help with the design you would be willing to offer. In exchange I will post news and pics on a regular basis, and you can watch your ideas grow.

    Anyone with rail layout software who would like to propose a layout, your input would be greatly appreciated.

    Please keep in mind that my nephew is autistic. He loves tunnels, trestles, bridges, mountains. But the track, or tracks, would have to be continuous loops, because he is unable to work complicated switches. If there are automatic switches out there that would make the layout more dynamic, that would be great to know about.

    Thanks in advance for your input, and support on this. I know he's going to love it.
    Cheers,
    JB
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Nov 20, 2009
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Welcome to TrainBoard!

    Your thought of three feet in depth is a point to consider. If against a wall, anything from the front, beyond arms length, will be a difficult proposition. I realize that depth allows for more tack and scenery, but it could otherwise pose an access problem.

    Boxcab E50
     
  3. Trucklover

    Trucklover TrainBoard Member

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    Hi JB, and welcome to the forum!!

    I think that is a great thing to do for your nephew!! But, you may find it difficult to ship modules to him. Shipping is also going to be expensive, and most likely you will have to hire a trucking company, so you might want to ship them all at the same time. UPS or FedEx might take them, but i dont think they would fit in their smaller delivery trucks so they would have to send one of their big trucks out, unless of coarse you drop them off at your nearest UPS or FedEx warehouse. But im thinking that it would be even more expensive to use UPS or FedEx. I dont know though, you will have to do some research and and get rates on various different companies to see who has the lowest price. Im thinking it would be best and cheapest to send them all at once though thats for sure.

    How far from NY do you live? That will also play a role in the shipping cost for the modules. Building or buying wood crates will also cost a pretty penny as well. Not trying to discourage you from this project for your nephew, just trying to make you aware that it is not going to be cheap to ship to his house.

    I also have a track planning program called Empire Express that i may be able to come up with a trackplan for the layout, but i will have to see how much spare time i have after dealing with all the hobby shop stuff for the day
     
  4. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks guys for the rapid response!!! Shipping expenses aside. Do you think built up sections would survive being shipped? I live in Jackson Mississippi. I could drive the layout up there if neccessary.

    Thanks again for all your help. I need all i can get!!
     
  5. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

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    I second the approval of your good will toward your nephew.

    Just thinking in general terms, the information you have provided so far does not lend itself to what you wish to do. For example, an L-shaped bench design in the HO scale with bench depth of only 36" does not provide sufficient area for a suitable looped track plan. The curvature you would need in the ends of the loop would have to be in the order of 15-16" radius in order to provide a safety catchment zone outboard of the curves if an engine or item of rolling stock derails and tips over.

    Acess will be critical to this young person. Any frustrating defects or omissions will render the effort a failure for him. So, think of a suitable height, and think of how far he should reasonably be expected to reach. You would want, realistically, a minimum of 18" radius, and then only for smaller engines and rolling stock...no 80' heavyweight passenger cars from the War era, for example.

    If you would like this to be easy on you, and not so much a steep learning curve where you actually build competition-level details and scenery, including topography, I would make it what we call a "plywood pacific", or just a sheet of plywood, perhaps cut up to get some better access or track configuration.

    But the big thing you need to remember is that the trains must actually be able to negotiate curves reliably and repeat their circuit endlessly. So the young lad's current limitations physically and cognitively must be synergistically meshed with what is readily available to you that will actually work. In HO, curves that actually work are almost always (with some modelling exceptions, such as wobbly logging railroads of a temporary nature) at the lower limit recommended by the National Model Railroad Association, and that is 18". Take the diameter for a 180 degree turnabout to start back to the other end of the curve, and you now have 36". That is where the centerline runs...36", which means half of your roadbed and ties will be hanging out over space if you build the bench 3' deep. Follow?

    Atlas and Kato have, at their websites, examples of track plans that work in confined spaces. I would pick something relatively simple, and maybe use either Kato Uni-track or Bachmann's EZ-Track. It is a bit costly, but it works really well, is easily assembled and disassembled, reliable, etc. The only caveat is with EZ-Track's turnouts, their #5, or longer turnout. It often needs some gauging at the points rails, the ones that slide sideways, and the points often need to be shaped so that the wheel flanges don't pick the points and derail. They have to be sharpened with a needle file and sometimes bent very slightly to sit flush with the stock outer rails.

    We can cover that later, but right now, first things first....
     
  6. Trucklover

    Trucklover TrainBoard Member

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    if you can take the time and drive them their yourself once there all completed, i think that may be the best way to insure the best delivery possible. You gotta expect some damage to something, but with yourself driving, it should be much safer for the modules. You may have to rent a U-Haul, but it will still be cheaper then hiring a trucking company to move them for sure. I would still however crate the modules and use tiedowns to strap them to the inside walls of the truck, it would be the safest thing to do with the modules. And whatever you do, try to avoid big bumps at high speeds LOL

    so i would say, if you can take time off and drive them their yourself, thats going to be your best bet. Plus when you get their, you can set them up in the basement and see his first reaction to the layout.

    Another thing to think about building and crating 3x3 modules is will you be able to move them around easily? I mean does the basement have a large door that you will be able to get a 3x3 module through? You may have to uncrate them before you take them down to the basement...

    The reach comment pointed out above is also something that needs to be thought about a little more. Trains will derail, no layout is perfect, and when it happens you need to reach to where ever the derailment occurred to put them back on the rails, and well if you can reach that spot, it puts you in a bind. i recently designed a layout for a buddy that lives near me, he is doing the same basic thing, only his layout is 17' long on the top part of the L. Here is a pic of the layout i designed for him, centered around the Steel Industry.

    [​IMG]

    The Red Line is the mainline loop that allows him to run a train in a loop when he is operating with his kids. Now keep in mind, his layout is alot larger, and he insisted i do it 4' wide (hes tall and can reach back that far to the back wall), but the main thing i want to point out is the corner of the L where the 2 sections combine. It would be best to something like i did in the plan, where it goes from 3' wide to maybe 2 or 2-1/2' wide in the corner of the L. This will give you more reach room to the very back corner of the L

    (NOTE! i realize the track comes off the L corner, that was later fixed lol)
     
  7. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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    Great info!!! I've obviously come to the right place!! Just to clarify, my nephew is 16, about 6 feet tall, so would that change your thoughts about the 36" depth? I understand the turnarounds will need to be 36" to make the 180, and again, this is exactly the kind of information I need. Thanks again guys, keep it coming!!

    Josh that layout plan is awesome!! I would be interested to see what you come up with for a 9ft by 9ft L, no rush, I appreciate all the time you've taken to respond so far.

    Thanks again guys!
     
  8. BarstowRick

    BarstowRick TrainBoard Supporter

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    You'd be better off keeping it extremely simple and small. A 9 ft is simply to large.

    Try a door layout with a simple roundy round.

    Shipping it? I don't think so because someone has to assemble it. You should deliver it and set it up.

    A door layout with a simple roundy round can be enlarged or expanded as time goes on. This may be difficult to find a wide enough door but you should be able to put 15" radius on a 33" wide door.

    Just my two cents. Take what you can and leave the rest behind.
     
    Last edited by a moderator: Oct 9, 2009
  9. Trucklover

    Trucklover TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks for the comments on the plan, that took me the better half of a month to complete LOL. We kept changing it and re-arranging the structures to better fit.

    I forgot to ask, what scale do you want to do this in? Also what era do you want to build the layout in? This will be important in determining how wide the L ends need to be. If you want to go no wider then 36" on the ends, then this will mean you will be limited to about a 16" radius, which will not go well with much HO scale equipment. N scale you could get away with a 16" radius and run some of the longer equipment, but i would suggest doing a 4x4 L ends. Ill draw up a quick benchwork sketch to show you what im thinking.
     
  10. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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    Thanks Rick, but he has some buildings and tunnels set up and loves the detail. So I'm going to go big! I appreciate the input though.
     
  11. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Josh, If you suggest 4x4 ends, that works for me!! I am open to all ideas, because when it comes to raiuds' needed etc. I'm at a loss!! I want to do HO scale. He has just about every scale, including G. But for this layout, which will be permanent, I want his mother to be able to afford new trains and rolling stock. I also buy him the Woodlands Scenics Built up buildings, so I was thinking half would be Small town, so he could use the Woodland scenics buildings I've bought him already. I would also like to do and industrial area, because he found a brewery in a Model Railroader magazine, and he wants that in his layout bad!! I could find out what issue it was in if you'd like to see what I'm talking about.

    Do you have a DVD you recommend that talks about building layouts, and using the different materilas?
     
  12. Trucklover

    Trucklover TrainBoard Member

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    Okay here is a quick sketch of my idea for a 9x9' L-shaped layout

    [​IMG]


    Now i can shorten the reach if need be. A 42" reach could pose some problems, but if its lower to the ground and you said your nephew is nearly 6' tall, then it would be doable, especially if there is minimal track back in the corner...

    **EDIT**

    Another question i have in addition to scale and era being modeled is when its in the basement, will you be able to walk on the sides where the 48" are labeled or is there a wall right there?
     
  13. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    We usually try to have everything within an easy arms reach. I am that height. I try to not go much beyond 24 inches. For maintenance, you'll end up leaning over the front edge, stretching, and being atop anything close to the front. Sometimes doing a bit of damage. It's just not easy to stretch both arms out that far, and work.

    Boxcab E50
     
  14. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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    Hi Josh,

    Yes we will be able to walk around the ends. As far as era, he already has Woodland Scenics Ice house, and gas station. So I'm thinking those are pretty generic and we could go with any era? Suggestions?
     
  15. Trucklover

    Trucklover TrainBoard Member

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    What scale are the Woodland Scenics Buildings?
     
  16. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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    The buildings are HO scale
     
  17. Trucklover

    Trucklover TrainBoard Member

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    Okay so im assuming that you are going to want to do the layout in HO scale Correct? now just trying to understand what buildings your nephew has. Are you sure their Woodland Scenics Buildings and not Walthers buildings?

    I cant find a Ice Platform in the Woodland Scenics Products. They do have a Gas Station which is designed to be from the 1930's: http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/785-223

    Walthers has the Ice Platform: http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/933-3049

    and Gas Station: http://www.walthers.com/exec/productinfo/933-3035

    Are any of those 3 the buildings he already has?
     
  18. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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  19. Trucklover

    Trucklover TrainBoard Member

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    Ahhh okay thanks for the link, i know which ones they are now, i musta missed them on the Woodland Scenics Site when i was browsing a couple mins ago lol

    Now you said you wanted to have mostly scenery and tunnels correct? Do you want to put anymore structures on the layout? I think you said you wanted to stay away from Track Switches correct? So just a loop through some scenery with maybe a town or something?
     
  20. gorilla33

    gorilla33 TrainBoard Member

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    That's about right. A little town would be great based on those woodland scenics buildings, and then like I said may a little industrial area as well, so I could build his brewery. But if it's mostly mountains, with tunnels and trestle bridges, that's cool. I can always adjust it/change it later. Thanks again Josh.

    And as far as switches, if they are simple, so that if he switches the track, the train can still go around if he doesn't switch it back, that would be fine. I would also like to have two or three autonomous tracks on the layout, so that he can run more than one train. I think he will eventually learn how to use turn tables and stuff, but for now I would like to keep it simple for him.
     

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