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Going large - building large layouts - Layout Design, Trackwork & Operation. - Getting You Started. - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 10:35 am
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Barry Miltenburg
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So, the time will soon arrive when a move of house will yield a purpose-built railway room and a new "Yarslow" layout will take life.  (see Personal layouts section for details of the existing Yarslow).

The room will be about 26ft x 16ft.  Apologies for the vagueness but it has yet to be built and whilst I want that space, full site surveys etc will be needed to determine what is possible.

My question is this - how big is too big?

Designed in Enrail, here is the plan (about version 25!!)



I am still in BR(NE) Region in the early 1960's but I fancy a bit of LMR invasion because I love the latest range of ex-LMS and ex-MR locomotives that have recently emerged.  It is, of course, 4mm scale, Peco code 75.

The top right hand corner leads down to low level storage for about 50 trains on a large return loop so trains going down come back up facing the same way.  The storage loops are sectioned to hold 3, 4 or 5 trains each and sit along the central spine and the lower wall.  A train going to storage goes down the gradient moving right-to-left along the top wall and then swings round to run under the branch through station where the loops begins.  The loops then bend around under Trinity Square and then end under the pink section bottom right.  The up gradient runs back up to the top right hand corner and is therefore much longer than the down gradient.  Calculations suggest about 1 in 80.  Tests have proved that the loco fleet will handle 8 coach trains or 40 wagons on this without difficulty.

This is really a small plan built big with the addition of a city terminus (Freezer's "Minories" slighty modified).  The main station at the top started life as Lincoln Central but has been trimmed.  It still has a Lincoln/Boston feel to it which I like.

Operation is analogue, cab control, with just 4 controllers - main1, main2, Yarslow/branch and Trinity Square.  The timetable is, in essence, a number of events (stopping freight shunts, local passenger halts, branch train runs etc) surrounded by a load of trains that run up, round and down again.  These include a range of C, D, E, F, H, J and K class freights, through and stopping passengers, suburban passenger trains (Trinity Square - Maidstone Lane - storage), parcels and engineering services.

Stopping freight and the branch freight move wagons around.  The parcels service will generate traffic for Trinity Square and a C class "vans" train runs from storage to TSq.  See my YouTube video on the Yarslow channel for the way I run my stopping freights.

The layout has been designed in terms of layout, control and operation as a one-man-show.  A lot of the ground work like signals, point motor wiring, scenic bits, buildings has been tried out on the existing Yarslow layout and I have 42 of the trains already, albeit in shortened format to fit the space I have now.

I am seeking advice from those who have built large layouts on the good/bad/ugly aspects of a project of this size.  What are the pitfalls?  Where is it all going to go wrong?

Within reason, cost is not a factor as I have a lot of the trains, I am collecting ordanance for the project and the timber will be absorbed into the cost of the room.  (9mm surfaces supported every 12 inches by 2x1 softwood.  Baseboard height about 40 inches for a lovely "lineside" eye level viewing position).

If you think that I'm just plain mad, do let me know before they start digging foundations...........

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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 02:24 pm
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Dorsetmike
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Back in the 1980s I had an N gauge loft layout 25'x17' in an "L" shape, a continuous loop round the outer edge, with an almost scale Bournemouth west terminus in the long "leg" Platforms could take 12 coaches plus loco, had to reduce the carriage sidings somewhat though. Used 7 controllers. Never got finished though, I got made redundant and had to move house.

I mostly used kitchen base units, cupboards and drawers as support so plenty of storage space under. Over those I had 2" square timbers supporting fibreboard. Nowadays  I tend to use insulation foam (e.g. Celotex) as a surface, lightweight but rigid.

It was generally referred to as "Up Aloft" or "Upper Loft".

Verdict:- not mad, just ambitious.



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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 02:29 pm
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BCDR
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Hi Barry,

I don't build big ones as I don't have the space, but I operate on some really big ones as an operating guest, and have recently been on a number of layout tours to see some basement empires and listen to some of the issues the owners have identified. The club I have just joined has a fixed layout about double what you are proposing.

With an approximate 26 feet x 16 feet you have around 100 linear feet of operations (eyeballed from the diagram).

One man operation then. With DC. If you went to 36 x 20 feet it would be lot more accommodating.

With that much space I'd go for a dumbbell (with return loops top and bottom right) and a central peninsula on the left hand side to eliminate any duck-unders. I'd also not have any scenic partitions, and go DCC radio control. With a layout height of 40" your storage tracks will be at around 28". Go big and they can be at the same height as the layout. There is also something to be said for a separate room for the storage tracks and workshop with access through a wall.

Nigel




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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 03:02 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Nigel - you should really meet my wife!!

I would love to get to 36ft x 20ft but I have so concede that there is a point where, for the sake of domestic harmony,  I think it might be just too big.  That's half of her Alpaca field gone and no room for the chickens!!!

At my time of life and with the age/size of the loco fleet, DCC is out of reach although I have costed conversion to chip & sound for the whole lot.  This is not a budget project but by the same token, I am not Pete Waterman.

Removing the duck-unders is an idea I toyed with given that none of us is getting any younger but the height chosen will mitigate some of this.

Essentially, I am happy with the plan, the concept of the layout in terms of levels, storage, stations, technology, operational potential etc - all I really don't know is what I don't know.  All my layouts have been 12 x 8 max so this really is unknown territory.  I have been involved with huge club layouts which created problems regarding maintenance but to be fair, they were pulled out and put away every week so I might be worrying over nothing.

All advice is very welcome.

Barry

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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 05:02 pm
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BCDR
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Hi Barry,

You're constrained by the chikins then.

26 by 16 feet still gives you room for return loops (or even a helix) in the corners and a 3 foot doorway (I just tried it in Corelscribble). So, 3 and a half concerns:

1. Getting from one side to the other in case of an emergency (derailments, shorts, chikins on the track, etc), as the area around the traverser is very tight.  3 foot minium between All the big layouts I'm involved with have an elevated section rather than a duck-under to get inside, or do not have them, but use loops at the ends (and peninsulas with loops).

2. Dropping down to 28" or even less to access the storage yard means a stool or chair. How about having the storage on an upper level at 50" or so? Or even having an upper level with scenery? Or have you got too much stock for that? Using a reasonable gradient of say 2% (1:50) and a 10" space between upper and lower levels would mean around 500" of run, 42 feet. Your calculation is 1:80, which means 67 feet of gradient.

3. I'd also go modular, at least for the baseboards. I was at a large basement empire last week where the owner had very recently built a fixed layout (with the framing done while the house was being built) after he and his wife had decided that this was definitely their last move. They are now moving after being in the house for 2 years, and the layout is being demolition-dismantled as it cannot be taken out in usable sections, and the estate agent (realtor over here) is somewhat dubious about selling a layout with attached house..

3.5. Sight lines. From wherever you are controlling, you need to be able to see all the track (unless you use cameras). Which means a dividing backdrop on the peninsular could be an issue.

I wasn't sure whether the traverser was on the upper or lower level. Looks like the upper level.

I still think this could be too big for the room as is.

DCC - I personally wouldn't bother with sound, just go with regular decoders. Especially as it looks like you will be buying some DCC ready LMR stock. DC with 4 controllers (is that 8 blocks?) and one man and the chikins...where are you planning on having the control panel(s)? Make it hybrid - DCC for the locomotives, analog for the points, signals, etc. That way you use what you have. And you can always get decoders for those anyway.

Nigel



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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 05:14 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Thanks Nigel

You make some very good points that will go into my mixer for consideration.  Luckily, we are still a little way ahead of Day 1 so changes are not out of the question.

Your point about sight llines is interesting and not one I had spent a lot of time worrying about but I can see where you are coming from.

Despite being DC, I will have a number of "all stop" buttons around the place for the reasons you highlight.

The planning goes on........

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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 06:11 pm
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Petermac
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Thast's going to be big Barry !!!  :shock: :shock: :shock: :shock:

I have around 30ft x 8ft available and it's daunting.  You may well be lucky enough to be able to allocate some "proper" time to it rather than grabbing the odd half hour now and again but, on your own, it's still a big hurdle.

My plan was to have a roundy-roundy with "offshoots" where I could play at shunting etc.  I could sit and watch the trains go round if that fitted my current mood or I could leave something trundling round whilst I did a bit of shunting in the yards.

"Mice and Men" springs to mind.....................the "end" will never be in sight.  It's a constant battle with dust and dirt before I can "play" and the investment in wire is enough to make a banker cry.

If that's "your thing" - good luck to you but,  for me, big layouts need manpower and there's not too much of that in rural France .............................



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 Posted: Mon May 15th, 2017 08:42 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Peter

Thanks for your warning.  The project cost is a real consideration - notsomuch the obvious numbers but the "hidden" ones.  I have budgets for the 50 odd trains and the rolling stock but, as you say, wire, ballast, cork sheeting, point rodding, static grass...  and so the list rolls on.  There is only so much I can do now.  I will have a very large crate of stuff to move into the room with, collected over the last few years - like 100 hand-made trees from Woodland Scenic kits (although I think I am going to be another 100 short???)

I am hoping that a dedicated room and track-cleaning engineers trains will do a lot of the onging cleaning, especially as I image that I will have a fair bit of time to dedicate to the project.  I may be wrong.

Keep the comments coming guys - this is all grist for old grey cells to work on.

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 Posted: Tue May 16th, 2017 06:30 am
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allan downes
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Hi Barry.

From experience as a professional model maker who has started many an epic for customers but never finished them because either the money run out, or the interest run out, or wifey stepped in or all three together.


Large layouts are all very well on paper because they don't take up any room neither do they break the bank so. I've always believed that anything up to 20 ft long is just fine where the light at the end of the tunnel is never that far away and encouraging progress can be seen at the end of each day.


Also, operating is less complicated and quite manageable for just one operator and, when thinks go wrong, which they do and which they will, then it's usually quite simple to track it down and get it fixed without the loss of hair !


However, I do like your scheme of things to come so take no bloody notice of me Barry and go ahead and build it  anyway!



Allan

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 Posted: Tue May 16th, 2017 08:29 am
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Barry Miltenburg
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Allan

Many thanks for your professional input.

This thing will get built because I'm that sort of bloody minded chap but I am very mindful of the David Jenkinson's Little Long Drag story - both the planning stages and the final outcome.  He had everything sorted but seemed to get to a point where it just overwelmed him.

I acknowlegde that I am not DJ, will not scratchbuilt the entire wagon/coach fleet, nor will this layout rival Pendon (indeed the buildings will not be to your standard!!) but I like what I have achieved so far and as every layout has been a progression on the previous one, I am confident that this will work.

The plan has been on the workbench for about 5 years and has a working timetable from which I refined the length and style of trains, the track sectioning to allow trains to do what I want them to do (I am DC analogue), gradient profiles (with copious testing of locomotives and loads), wiring diagrams etc.  I have built a load of little test rigs to try out point motors, switching ideas, ballast colours, static grass applicators and......

Your comment regarding fault finding is a very real concern hence the "plan it to death" approach.  I will be using known technologies for cab control - DPDT, rotary selectors etc - and I have built a much smaller version of this style of layout before in a 12 x 8 shed.  That showed, for example, that the polarity of the inner and outer main circuits should be opposite.  That makes the transition through the return "loop" (i.e. throough Maidstone Lane) easier to manage when using one controller.  Diamond crossing frogs are then controlled through manual switches - crude but effective.

It is tempting to go for a train detection system in the storage areas but I am not comfortable with the technology yet so this is still pending.  The present plan is use plain old 12v lamps across isolator sections.  Very Cyril Freezer and inefficient but I know it works and that's just your point!!

Barry

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 Posted: Tue May 16th, 2017 09:09 am
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The Q
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I agree with those that say, try to avoid duck unders, saying that I could have 4 in the way, which is why I'm working on lift up hinged bridge sections.
 Here's how I'm building my large layout, hopefully it may give you some ideas, most of mine are nicked from others...

My own Layout of a lifetime is 53ft by up to 16 ft in EM gauge. As so far no track has been laid, but there is 300yards of it stacked up (it's gone up by over 25 % since I bought it).

Although my layout is large, thats because it's of a real place and uncompressed. So the main station will be around 34ft long and even the small country station is 18ft long down the other side of the shed. The layout is actually fairly simple, the actual signal cabins had 16, 28, and 11 levers not all used.

I have no worries of me not completing it, it is meant to be my retirement bad weather hobby, there is have another 6 years till I retire and since my parents are still alive, so a probable 30years+ after that. I've already spent 10 + years getting this far...

Even then a railway is never finished, I'm sure the first build of anything will not be to my final satisfaction, I'm sure I'll be going back to improve sections later.

My own personal approach will be to get the circle / oval  / odd shape of track installed so something can run, then pick an area and develop that. So you get a sense of acheivement as a section is finished..

 I have one board in a bare scenic ( all white plaster) condition so far, which is the start point and gives me the level the rest of the layout will work from. Once the final units are built for the layout to sit on. It's all cupboards and shelves underneath, points  / electrics will be brought to the front or back  so I don't have to get under, I intend to model in comfort.

I too am a cellotex builder, each section of scenic railway will be removeable to be put on the building bench, a large area would be too far to reach over, Again I intend to model in comfort. Once an area is completed, I'll "scenic" over the joins to hide them for a better appearance knowing it could be removed later with minimal damage.


hopefully that' ll give you a few Ideas.
  good luck with your railway ...



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 Posted: Wed May 17th, 2017 03:15 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Q

Thank you for your contribution.  Comfort is a good word and one that I had only taken into account for operating and moving around.  During construction, I too will try to keep everything within reach.  I guess I am the poor s*d having to go and fix it if it breaks - and the point motor/connection/soldered joint furthest from comfortable reach will be the one to go first!!

The twin levels I have adopted will make lift-up sections tricky but I fully understand your point and, as I have said earlier, none of us are getting any younger!  I have a habit of building llittle test rigs for things to practice on (rather than layouts like some people) and I have RM from Jan 72 to date fully indexed so I cannot believe that I can't nick an idea or two from others on lift-ups.  The curved sections on the approaches to Upton and Maidstone Lane would be a good location perhaps.

The height of the boards mentioned earlier is not cast in stone so I could just go for a few inches more and then buy higher bar stools for operation...........

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 Posted: Thu May 18th, 2017 06:41 am
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The Q
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Barry Miltenburg wrote:









The height of the boards mentioned earlier is not cast in stone so I could just go for a few inches more and then buy higher bar stools for operation...........




As long as you have the bar to go with the stools, When SWMBO opened the main fridge in our Model railway shed she wasn't amused to see it alread filled with cider!!!

Oh, for a twin layer layout, a horizontal swing out section may be easier, I saw one somewhere the other day on one of the forums, it looke very efficient,  but which forum I can't remember.




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 Posted: Thu May 18th, 2017 08:15 am
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Loads of videos about swing out sections/gates, but I remember seeing this one a while back when I was considering something similar.

Rather like the way he uses a pin/tree to secure the section and switch the power.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h6zXdDS02Gg


Ed



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 Posted: Mon May 22nd, 2017 10:55 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Thanks Ed, I found this an interesting idea.

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 Posted: Wed Jun 7th, 2017 08:16 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Following on from previous posts, I thought that I would share the proposed storage area with you.  The above should be looked at along with the original plan in the early posts.  The trains join/leave the main circuit in the top right hand corner of the original plan (via Summit Junction).  The storage area sits about 5 inches below the upper level so the double track along the top of the plan is a on a gradient.  Note that the inner track (down to the lower level) is shorter than the outer line.  This makes the down grade steeper, or the up grade easier if you prefer.

Each of the storage tracks is divided into sections - each section on a track is the same length and each holds one train.  Each section comprises an isolated stretch to hold the locomotive and a length to hold the train with a margin of error. This margin is required because tests have shown that different locomotives under power and running into an isolator section have different stopping distances depending on weight, flywheels, load, speed etc.  Some storage tracks hold 3 or 4 trains whilst others hold up to 7 shorter trains.

The key to storage of this kind is to match up trains that share characteristics rather than type.  It is not a good idea to stack a daily parcels train with a once-a-week freight.  This means that the storage design is based on the operational design - part of which is the timetable/schedule.  A lot of time has gone into the types and lengths of trains proposed - all 40-odd of them!!

I can share the tables of train lengths if people find that useful but to be honest, its very specific to this project.

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 Posted: Sat Jul 15th, 2017 01:49 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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I put this table on the Operations forum but it probably works here as well.  Please excuse the Excel spreadsheet wrapper.  This is the list of trains that will appear on each of the 11 tracks in storage.  The plan may only show 10 but the 11th was added recently.  Max train length is 8 coaches and 30 wagons - mostly to ensure that the locomotives can haul the loads up the 1 in 80 gradient to the upper level.  Note that a 30-wagon freight is over 10ft long!!
On a practical note, on a steam/diesel era layout, note that there is a huge difference between the diesels and the steamers.  My Class 24s or 25s will outhaul the entire steam fleet!!



The expresses on track 5 are 6-coach Weekday workings whilst those on track 2 are each 8 coaches and represent the Saturday Only trains.  Note that on Saturdays, expresses were strengthened so the 8 coaches will comprise a standard 6-set with 2 through coaches or a strengthener.  The "Boys" train serves the local boarding school and features in a photo on the Yarslow page of Members Layouts.  The Blasford Trip working is a short freight whilst TSq trains run from storage to the terminus.  The Coastal is a stopping service from TSq to Northborough so will run through Marystone and Yarslow.

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 Posted: Tue Aug 22nd, 2017 06:17 pm
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Barry Miltenburg
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Hi guys

I thought that I would just share a few more thoughts with you in response to a comment made by a friend to whom I was chatting at the weekend.  He is a modeller of a modest layout in N and did that "whistle through your teeth" thing when I outlined my Final Grand Plan ideas with him.  He admitted to a certain level of jealousy but added the caveat that he thought I was mad!!

The layout will occupy a 24 x 16ft space on two levels but I have built this layout before using Peco Set-track in 12x8ft.  The point is that the plan represents a simple, yet large, model railway.  It would be easy to have masses of track, sidings all over, multiple stations and all sorts of stuff but there are a few key factors that MUST be obeyed (and have been obeyed in all of my previous layouts)

1.  4mm OO gauge code 75 proprietary trackwork - it works and looks good enough for me
2.  Double track main line to maximise train running with options for shunting.
3.  No odd looking split level stations - it should look as if it could have existed
4.  BR(NE) Region in the early 1960's with a degree of flexibility if I like something.
5.  Schedule not timetable - its meant to be fun not a source of stress.
6.  Uses my existing loco and stock.  RTR with kits where required.
7.  DC with basic cab control - simple electrics

KEY RULES

1.  This is a one-man operation - me.  The layout must be built, run and maintained by one person
2.  It's my railway and if I think its OK, then its OK
3.  Keep it simple
4.  Use known techniques or learn techniques before the project starts
5.  This layout is a progression from the last one

Over the last 6 or 7 years, I have built up a range of skills and have a clear list of those things I still need to learn.  I will build a small test rig to try things out if I am not sure about something.



Ballast testing for the existing layout with a colour photo for reference.



The green one's connected to the, red one........
I have since decided to use SEEP point motors with the integral crossing polarity switch - another small rig.



Kit built rolling stock + if I think it's OK, it's OK = happy

You get the idea. 

The existing layout uses storage cartridges for locos and stock so it is not difficult to create a whole load of cartridges and loads of train variety.  At present, about 80% of the trains for the Final Grand Plan exist on the existing layout albeit in a shorter format.  I can only handle 6 coaches and 20 wagons at the moment so I have maxed out at these lengths.  When the new layout comes, the financial impact is reduced bcause I already have the loco, brake van and bulk of the train.  Adding another 10 wagons is a softer landing than adding a loco and 38 wagons!!  Some of the shorter trains (Ordinary Passenger, milk, oil tanks etc) exist in a format that will transfer directly to the new layout.  This is important to know - it avoids the problem of owning too many specialist items of stock.

This approach works because I have a very clear idea in my head of where I am going.  The LMR idea mentioned earlier as a possible nice-to-have has been abandoned.  It was off beam from the original plan and became an excuse for more trains that I didn't need.  I have a list of the 42 trains that will be in storage and I know the consist of the passenger trains for example - this allows me to compare existing stock with required stock and only buy the coaches I need.  However nice a vehicle looks, if it doesn't fit, I won't buy it.  I know that puts a demand on research and being focussed but without this, the project could just run totally out of control!!

The real trick is the balance between clarity & flexibility, known techniques & new technology etc.

Am I mad, maybe but I'm gonna have a good go at producing this layout to prove it one way or the other.  I have no other vices or expensive tastes, watch very little telly and am happy to do my bit around the house - I do all the cooking and know how to wash/iron laundry.  Happy marriage is about what you put in, not what you get out  :doublethumb

Oh and BTW, my wife is fully supportive.  Am I the luckiest man alive to have a georgeous wife who supports my meglamaniac tendancies?????  :cheers

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 Posted: Tue Aug 22nd, 2017 07:58 pm
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Petermac
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That sounds like an excellent and well thought out plan Barry - not unlike that I adopted for Maxmill - except I jumped in feet first with everything in my head.  I now wish I'd taken your, more methodical, approach.

I'm also very pleased it's NER - BR rather than pre nationalisation maybe but one can't have everything .................. :roll: :roll:  Also, the BR period is better served in RTR than the LNER period.  Because I have similar ideas - "if I like it I'll buy it", Maxmill does have a fairly large period spread - it even has a tube line !!!! :shock: :shock: :shock:

The track plan is pretty ambitious but I'm looking forward to watching it develop and - "bon chance" as we Froggies say .......... :thumbs



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amdaley
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Hi Barry.


I think your plan is an the upper level of what one person can handle but If you're not in a hurry then go for it.
The main thing with a big layout is to get a circuit of track down which will keep you going at times when all you want to do is watch trains go around.
Treat it as a hobby which it is of course. That way you're never under pressure to get it finished because unless you put in serious time or have friends who can help it will take a while to get built.
Its also going to be expensive  :shock:
Its a serious plan so good luck with it.


Tony.



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