Author Topic: How do you handle flat terrain?  (Read 6096 times)

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daniel_leavitt2000

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How do you handle flat terrain?
« on: October 09, 2020, 06:27:12 AM »
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OK hear me out...

Starting on bench work for the Boston line. The area of focus will be Framingham to Grafton, about 20 miles away. This will let me model three yards, a short line interchange and a few branch-lines. I will also be able to model my beloved Saxonville branch, with it's Wonder Bread factory. That branch, set to one end of the layout, will be very close to zero compression.

But I have two issues. First, I am much better at visualizing the layout than planning in software. I plan to build out the bench work, then lay the track as I see fit. I know this is a bit backwards from what is normally done, but I can see this in my head than I could ever put to paper.

But this means that I won't be doing a wood sub-board for the track. It will be placed on cork roadbed mounted directly to the foam core.

The area I model is pretty damn flat. There are a few small hills and lakes, but the elevation difference from one end to the other is less than 300' in real life.

So my concern is - do I try and make extremely gentle grade differences in the track? Or should I just keep it level and sculpt the scenery around it? And if I do add a very slight grade, how would I go about doing that on foam board? We are talking something less than a .5% grade here.

Also, how are you guys adding switch machines to switches mounted over foam core? Any ideas for low cost slow motion machines? I will need about 100 of them.
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sd45elect2000

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #1 on: October 09, 2020, 07:21:02 AM »
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The rai line may be pretty flat but the terrain is not. I also do not think there is any straight track. Gluing wood blocks to the bottom of the foam to mount the switch machines is what most people do.

If you're in the area stop by the new G&U shop in N Grafton, we like to show off our new work area.
« Last Edit: October 10, 2020, 08:22:17 AM by sd45elect2000 »

MDW

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #2 on: October 09, 2020, 08:02:35 AM »
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Seems like keeping the track level and building up and carving down the surrounding terrain would be the most simple way to go unless an undulating right of way is a defining characteristic of the line your modeling. 

Looking forward to following your progress.

Michel

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #3 on: October 09, 2020, 10:46:48 AM »
+1
I think it depends. Would undulation of the track improve or degrade the experience of operating the layout?

Improvements could mean additional challenges to train handling (ie, having to implement hand brakes when making pickups or set outs and leaving a train on the main).

The flip side is that the same "play value improvement" could also mean "frustration increase" if it's not subtle enough or doesn't work consistently.

Cajonpassfan

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #4 on: October 09, 2020, 11:06:50 AM »
+4
Personally, I wouldn’t bother with <.5% grade; it’s barely distinguishable. As for the terrain, the only truly flat ground is at the bottom of a dry lake. Elsewhere, there are undulations, however gentle, and multiple drainage courses. I find it challenging to model this effectively on a flat board because the roadbed needs to be slightly elevated above the natural grade, and most of the board surface should be sculpted to be either lower or higher. That’s a lot of carving. Also important I believe is the front edge.... it shouldn’t be a straight horizontal line but follow the land contours.
Pic below is from the “flat” part of my layout.
Just my two cents, have fun!
Otto

davefoxx

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #5 on: October 09, 2020, 11:49:39 AM »
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Personally, I wouldn’t bother with <.5% grade; it’s barely distinguishable.
Otto

^ This, because most model trains don't have brakes and rolling stock is mostly free-rolling in this day and age.  You won't be able to see the <0.5% grade, but it will quickly become very irritating every time you attempt to couple up to a car and it rolls away.  Or, you will be annoyed while switching and cuts not staying in place.  Go level on the track and create undulations in the scenery.

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CRL

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #6 on: October 09, 2020, 02:22:32 PM »
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Personally, I wouldn’t bother with <.5% grade; it’s barely distinguishable. As for the terrain, the only truly flat ground is at the bottom of a dry lake. Elsewhere, there are undulations, however gentle, and multiple drainage courses. I find it challenging to model this effectively on a flat board because the roadbed needs to be slightly elevated above the natural grade, and most of the board surface should be sculpted to be either lower or higher. That’s a lot of carving. Also important I believe is the front edge.... it shouldn’t be a straight horizontal line but follow the land contours.
Pic below is from the “flat” part of my layout.
Just my two cents, have fun!
Otto

Yep... this.

peteski

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #7 on: October 09, 2020, 09:48:58 PM »
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The only think I want to mention is that I would try to sway you away from using just foam as the layouts base.  It needs to be more substantial. Friend of mine build a layout like the one you are planning and he regretted that later.  I worked on it and later operated some trains and it was really flimsy.
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nuno81291

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #8 on: October 09, 2020, 11:39:34 PM »
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I would go plywood spline, cut it to your roadbed width once happy with track layout. Fill in around with foam or wire grid and make the terrain undulate as you see fit. Personally I would go for level track work if not modeling a mountain railroad or something where grade is a key feature like Claremont concord old street trackage
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MoPac

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #9 on: October 10, 2020, 07:36:43 AM »
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The rai line may be pretty flat but the terrain is not. I also do not think there is any straight track. Gluing wood blocks to the bottom of the foam to mount the switch machines is what most people do.

If you're in the are stop by the new G&U shop in N Grafton, we like to show off our new work area.

Do y'all still have the F7 and CF7?  Last time I was there in 2016. I still have some photos of the old work area.

CBQ Fan

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #10 on: October 10, 2020, 07:43:42 AM »
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I use foam base to provide contours above my track level. Gives the allusion of depth that works for me. I have never been happy with my layout when I have had elevation changes to my track level.
Brian

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nickelplate759

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #11 on: October 10, 2020, 09:39:02 AM »
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The only think I want to mention is that I would try to sway you away from using just foam as the layouts base.  It needs to be more substantial. Friend of mine build a layout like the one you are planning and he regretted that later.  I worked on it and later operated some trains and it was really flimsy.
I used 2" foam over a 1x3-ish plywood frame.  It's plenty sturdy.   It's important to glue the foam to the frame.  In my case I was careful to make sure that the foam was supported about every 18" or less.   That said, I did run into a problem that will make me think twice next time - the foam is not dimensionally consistent - there are small but significant variations in the thickness of the foam that mean the surface is not flat.  I've had to shim my roadbed in quite a few places.
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DKS

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #12 on: October 10, 2020, 10:14:21 AM »
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The only think I want to mention is that I would try to sway you away from using just foam as the layouts base.  It needs to be more substantial. Friend of mine build a layout like the one you are planning and he regretted that later.  I worked on it and later operated some trains and it was really flimsy.

Talk to Ed K about that...

Starting on bench work for the Boston line. The area of focus will be Framingham to Grafton, about 20 miles away. This will let me model three yards, a short line interchange and a few branch-lines. I will also be able to model my beloved Saxonville branch, with it's Wonder Bread factory. That branch, set to one end of the layout, will be very close to zero compression.

But I have two issues. First, I am much better at visualizing the layout than planning in software. I plan to build out the bench work, then lay the track as I see fit. I know this is a bit backwards from what is normally done, but I can see this in my head than I could ever put to paper.

But this means that I won't be doing a wood sub-board for the track. It will be placed on cork roadbed mounted directly to the foam core.

The area I model is pretty damn flat. There are a few small hills and lakes, but the elevation difference from one end to the other is less than 300' in real life.

So my concern is - do I try and make extremely gentle grade differences in the track? Or should I just keep it level and sculpt the scenery around it? And if I do add a very slight grade, how would I go about doing that on foam board? We are talking something less than a .5% grade here.

Also, how are you guys adding switch machines to switches mounted over foam core? Any ideas for low cost slow motion machines? I will need about 100 of them.

I dealt with "flat terrain" (which is a very rare thing, especially in the Northeast) by using 2" foam insulation sheet as the layout base resting on a 1x4 framework. The foam and frame were not bonded, so as to allow the wooden frame to expand and contract without causing issues with the foam. I made the very gentle grades I needed by sawing foam edgewise to create roadbed vaguely similar to the prefab stuff, but much gentler grades. Then I filled in the spaces between and around the roadbed with more 2" foam panels, carved with a homemade hot-wire carving tool to create the gentle undulations in the scenery.

As for mounting switch machines, I simply chopped holes in the foam under the turnouts, mounted the Tortoise machines to squares of thick sheet styrene, and bonded that to the foam roadbed with ordinary caulk (Liquid Nails for Foam would also work, along with a bunch of other products).
« Last Edit: October 10, 2020, 10:30:48 AM by DKS »

sirenwerks

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #13 on: October 10, 2020, 03:40:23 PM »
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Not far from my house is the Portland & Western, which operates old SP trackage.  It's got plenty of grade on it. as well as cuts and fills, as it heads into the Coast Range.  That being said, it's funny that the straightest runs in the Willamette Valley are where I notice grades in the line the most, because the highway and rail line rise and fall in different waves, largely depending on how old or new the road is - older road building stuck to the land with sharper grades and turns, newer road sections are more flat and eased.  My plan has been to, on relatively straight shots, include some grade dip next to road sections to represent this, though it won't be much, just enough for effect. and roll the scenery around the track too.
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sd45elect2000

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Re: How do you handle flat terrain?
« Reply #14 on: October 10, 2020, 05:08:22 PM »
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Do y'all still have the F7 and CF7?  Last time I was there in 2016. I still have some photos of the old work area.


Yes, those engines are still there. The F-7 is on the project list, the CF-7 is not.