Author Topic: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0  (Read 5454 times)

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Dave V

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Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« on: July 13, 2020, 11:42:47 AM »
+1
Well, after musing about HO standard gauge I thought the better of it and decided that I still enjoy modeling the Colorado Midland in N scale.  However, the layout as it stands has problems.  I've been asked to make bringing the Midland to our local show (outside of pandemics it's usually a 3-time-a-year gig) a regular thing.  So for familiarity, here's the current 2.5 x 5 foot Colorado Midland:





At first glance it doesn't look too bad.  Maybe a little cartoonish but I was OK with that...at least at the beginning:



The twin bridges on the back side certainly attract viewer attention, as unrealistic as their proximity to one another is:



So, maybe it's best to start by explaining what's wrong with the current layout:

1)  In an attempt to make the tight curves on this layout consistent I used sectional Atlas code 55 track.  In spite of having soldered joints and dropping a lot of feeders, I still have dead spots.  It seems that each time I solve one dead spot I find another.

2)  I had to replace some track sections that were causing problems and in doing so have lost some of the curvature consistency and I now have some slight vertical deflections where--in my rush--I didn't sand the roadbed down sufficiently.

3)  The Atlas code 55 switches are sh!t.  Just gonna say it.  I trusted those little metal tabs for powering frogs and the Chinese mystery metal bit me on the a$$ in almost every instance.  So...even powered frogs act unpowered.  In several cases I wired the frog directly and still have problems.  And I'm also having problems with my slide toggle switches keeping the points aligned, although that's more a Dave issue than an Atlas issue.

4)  The passing siding in Basalt has a pinch point due to my poor planning and lack of testing whereby longer cars like passenger cars will side-swipe a car or loco on the adjacent track.

5)  The branchline has its own list of problems:
   a)  It also needs an almost complete re-wire.
   b)  The guardrails on Hagerman Trestle (the wooden one) like to lift up and catch locomotives.  I've even Dremel-ed them back down again and
   yet...problems remain.
   c)  The branch itself is operationally useless.  The passing siding at Aspen is absurdly short, the mining tracks to the Smuggler mine and the stamp
   mill are so short as to handle only one car each.  Then there's the fact that I have to run all the way to Basalt at the bottom for the other passing
   siding, which--see above--is worthless.
   d)  The two percent grade and 10" radius curves on the branch don't exactly welcome little steam locomotives and wooden passenger cars.
   e)  At shows, everyone wants to see the train on the big wooden trestle...meaning my most dramatic scene is essentially a static display.

6)  Scenically it has some real problem areas:





...although to be honest I do kinda like this scene even though the upper track goes to nowhere:



So, what do I want in a Colorado Midland v2.0?

I dunno.  I'm kinda lost at the moment.   So let's start with givens/druthers:

Givens:

1)  Has to be transported in a Honda Pilot with the seats folded down.  This means a maximum length of 6 feet, although with sufficiently vertical scenery fouling the tailgate, perhaps 5' 10" is better.  Width probably shouldn't exceed 3' both for transport and for the room it will be in most of the time.

2)  Motive power is going to be a fleet of these:



..which are wonderfully smooth running but have limited pulling power on steep grades and sharp curves.

3)  Track will be code 55...although I'm torn between Peco and Micro Engineering (with Atlas when I have no other choice).  While Unitrack would probably solve all of my operational ills, I'm not convinced the tall rail and rigid geometry would speak to a hastily constructed high mountain railroad at the turn of the century.

4)  Power will be DC rather than DCC.  Although it can be done, I have no desire to try to squeeze decoders and speakers into those little Roundhouse 2-8-0s.  These means I'll need to have a few places where I can power track off.

5)  There will be at least one complete loop for continuous running

Druthers

1)  A practical small yard for storing locomotives and cars. 

2)  At least one passing track.

3)  At least two mine structures.

4)  One or more decent-sized bridges of the Colorado Midland style...these would include wooden trestles, wooden trusses, steel deck girders, or through plate girders.

5)  A scenic divider with scenic running on one side and the yard and mining town on the other.

Additional thoughts

Once upon a time I built the Atlas Scenic & Relaxed plan:





I had built it on a 36"-wide HCD which made it 80 inches long.  However, the actual Atlas plan is meant for 3' x 6':



It has a nice long run that's twice around plus places for a yard and mine structures along with a little town.  The negatives of course are the grades (I think I built mine with 3%...which was fine for a pair of ER Baldwin Sharks but potentially a deal-breaker for a 2-8-0) and the 9.75" radius curves all over it.  So while my original attempt worked well enough for shows:



...it might be trading one set of problems for another.  I don't know.  If I could do it with 2% I'd be OK, but then again the 2% on a 9.75" curve is really asking for trouble.

So, I'm crowdsourcing this dilemma.  I'll post my ideas as they flow but I'd love any input you guys have.  Having been working in HOn3 I've been spoiled...but I've also gotten much better at Colorado high country scenery, so a new Colorado Midland would benefit greatly from my experience with the HOn3 Rio Grande Southern.

For reference, version 1.0's engineering thread is here.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 11:46:05 AM by Dave V »
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MK

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #1 on: July 13, 2020, 12:04:53 PM »
0
I don't know Dave, if that was my layout I would be ecstatic about it and be telling my neighbors and the mailman.  Cartoonish is probably the furthest word I would use to describe it.  I know we here at TRW tend to be perfectionists  :ashat: but I would just leave everything alone.  Maybe do a v2.0 if you REALLY have the urge to correct things.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 12:06:49 PM by MK »

Dave V

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #2 on: July 13, 2020, 12:07:01 PM »
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I don't know, if that was my layout I would be ecstatic about and be telling my neighbors and the mailman.  I know we here at TRW tend to be perfectionists  :ashat: but I would just leave everything alone.  Maybe do a v2.0 if you REALLY have the urge to correct things.

But...it doesn't run well.  That's the overriding problem.  So at a minimum I have to relay all the track and at that point it's a new layout.
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LIRR

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #3 on: July 13, 2020, 12:15:05 PM »
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the Atlas Scenic & Relaxed plan was the first model RR I built...a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away...

johnb

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #4 on: July 13, 2020, 12:42:11 PM »
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Maybe consider making a level track layout and use scenery to make it look like a grade?

Take an existing 4x8 HO layout, make it 75% of the original plan size, 3x6 with 12" radius curves.


Dave V

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #5 on: July 13, 2020, 12:47:09 PM »
0
Maybe consider making a level track layout and use scenery to make it look like a grade?

Take an existing 4x8 HO layout, make it 75% of the original plan size, 3x6 with 12" radius curves.

That's kinda what I'm thinking.  The over-under bit is tempting from a show perspective but causes problems.  And...long branches are not exactly show-friendly.

One exception...  Years ago Model Railroader did a western-style 4 x 8 that was also based on the Laurel Highlands trackplan (which is the genesis of the current Midland).  What they did that was unique was to have an auto-reverser so that the branchline train ran up and down the branch automatically.  I like that idea if I could build the branch to operate reliably.  That suggests minimal grades and reasonable curvature and the most bullet-proof track I can build.
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Chris333

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #6 on: July 13, 2020, 01:10:54 PM »
+1
Not the first person to scrap a layout due to Atlas C55 turnouts  :D

Dave V

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #7 on: July 13, 2020, 01:15:23 PM »
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Not the first person to scrap a layout due to Atlas C55 turnouts  :D

Nope.   :D
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DKS

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #8 on: July 13, 2020, 01:26:18 PM »
0
You might also consider two independent loops on two levels. And if you really want to get "clever," have tunnels on both loops, and set up an automatic track power swapping circuit so the loops are alternately powered, with two identical trains running. Might mess with a few heads...
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Point353

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #9 on: July 13, 2020, 01:50:31 PM »
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3)  Track will be code 55...although I'm torn between Peco and Micro Engineering (with Atlas when I have no other choice).  While Unitrack would probably solve all of my operational ills, I'm not convinced the tall rail and rigid geometry would speak to a hastily constructed high mountain railroad at the turn of the century.

4)  Power will be DC rather than DCC.  Although it can be done, I have no desire to try to squeeze decoders and speakers into those little Roundhouse 2-8-0s.  These means I'll need to have a few places where I can power track off.

5)  There will be at least one complete loop for continuous running
If you're happy with the PECO track on your HO layout, then go with that brand for this new layout.

An MRC Tech 7 Ampac 780 with take care of the power.

Second the DKS suggestion for two complete loops for continuous running - especially since this is intended to be a public display layout.

Dave V

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #10 on: July 13, 2020, 01:51:35 PM »
+1
You might also consider two independent loops on two levels. And if you really want to get "clever," have tunnels on both loops, and set up an automatic track power swapping circuit so the loops are alternately powered, with two identical trains running. Might mess with a few heads...

The independent level thing...maybe.   Hmm.

EDIT:  I think I'd want them connected with a track, even if I never use the connection during shows.  Don't know why I feel compelled in such a way but I am.

I'm liking the idea.  Two independent trains.  Perfect for shows.
« Last Edit: July 13, 2020, 01:58:40 PM by Dave V »
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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #11 on: July 13, 2020, 03:12:07 PM »
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I also had the same thought as DKS, to do two loops. Bottom loop is yard/town, top loop is the two mines. You could even pop a mine on the lower loop if you wanted to. Then have the dramatic bridge scenes like you want and you can take that favorite scene of the two lines crossing over each other and have it animated.
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Dave V

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #12 on: July 13, 2020, 04:12:53 PM »
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Now I need to figure out what this will look like.  I'm struggling to envision a two-level layout and whether or not the upper level should cross over the lower level.  If it does, it'll need to happen twice obviously.

I do still want some kind of track to connect the two, but since it won't be part of regular operations I can go to 3%.

And then...  Do I do a backdrop divider down the whole length?  That would be awesome at shows, but 98% of the time the layout sits in a corner of a room where a backdrop might be obtrusive.

I'm going Peco 55 almost for sure.  I'm not going to go through this again where it looks great but turnouts start failing.  And as much as I appreciate everyone who would like to convince me to hand lay turnouts, I'm 100% sure I won't be doing that.

Once I figure out the track plan and the curve radii I can order sweepsticks from Fast Tracks.  No more sectional nonsense for me!
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DKS

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #13 on: July 13, 2020, 04:19:04 PM »
+4
OK, so here's a starting point. Now before you go, "What kind of crazy-a$$ spaghetti bowl is this???", hear me out. I started with all of your givens, and druthers, then added on all of the subsequent discussion elements. Yeah, tons of track, lots of tunnels (which would require all sorts of removable scenery, etc. for access). But it's easier to pick and choose what to keep, and back the rest out.



Green track is lower loop, at 0". Blue is upper loop, at 2". Aqua is a connection between the two loops. Grade is 3.3%. Minimum radius is ~11". Track is all Peco Code 55. As a possible bonus, the connector between loops reverses normal loop travel direction.

OK, have at it.
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Chris333

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Re: Colorado Midland in N scale 2.0
« Reply #14 on: July 13, 2020, 04:22:06 PM »
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Fire up the saw!