Author Topic: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout  (Read 625 times)

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flight2000

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(HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« on: March 23, 2024, 09:17:29 AM »
+14
Hey All,

I have been an occasional, but mostly silent member, for a few years as my military career started winding down and we made our final journey to our new home in NW Ohio.  After making 19 moves in 28 years, I finally can lay some roots and not worry about moving again after a short 2-3 years.  What this has allowed me to do is finally start construction on a permanent layout in our basement.  For years, some might remember that I was doing custom painting and detailing in N Scale and had a huge collection that I built and pretty much moved around the world a few times...lol!  It was a well traveled collection.  :D 

Well, father time has not been nice to me and has slowly degraded my eyesight to the point that it was getting frustrating to work in N and Z scales to the level I wanted.  I ended up reverting back to HO and things are a lot better.  Not perfect, but at least I can work without reading glasses or a magnifying glass/lamp at the bench and I can see the details a lot better.

Anyway, last time I posted was sometime last year in one of the weekend updates when I had a pretty decent layout started with the basic idea that I just love to railfan my trains while still having a few minor industries along the way to provide some switching if I was interested in doing that.  I don't have a club or modular group within 2 hours drive, so you all get to be my sounding board and inspiration for ongoing projects....and there has been a lot of that since I still follow the forum regularly - just not posting that much.... :facepalm:

Here's some photos from that previous layout:

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My intent with starting this thread is 1.) to show where I'm at with the current layout (and how I got to this point); 2.) provide motivation for me to continue updating and working on scenery; and 3.) get the collective thoughts on improvements and/or ideas from everyone out there that is interested in following along.  I hope to provide updates at least weekly or as I have time between my flight rotations (I'm flying corporate jets now that I'm retired from the military).  I need to start to learn how to kitbash/scratch build stuff and not rely so much on commercial buildings.

The overall theme is pretty much anything that can be found in the NW OH/NE IN area without being locked into a specific area.  Norfolk Southern and CSX are the dominant railroads with NS having the double mainline running right through the area (former Conrail mains) that essentially follows I-80/90 from here to Chicago.  CN also has a yard in Toledo that services the Jeep production plant along with the others, so colorful consists are seen daily.  With interchange and run through power agreements, I've seen just about everything running the mains around here.  My time period is obviously modern day because of that, but I have, umm, a few "older" Conrail units form the mid to late 90's just because I still love Big Blue.  :D 

That's about all I have for the intro and background.  Next will be the specifics for the layout space itself. 

Cheers,
Brian

 
I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

LIRR

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #1 on: March 23, 2024, 10:01:13 AM »
+1
Nice work…..

After modeling in N scale since Postage Stamp Trains, I switched to HO about 5 years ago for other reasons.

No regrets

flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #2 on: March 23, 2024, 10:14:01 AM »
+3
The basement itself is L shaped because the garage is halfway tucked into the front of the house and they obviously can't excavate under that.  So that left me an area about 30' by 27' to work with along the outside walls.  Before construction began on the first layout, i had to finish adding the drywall to the framing, add new electrical outlets, paint the ceiling black (huge improvement and great way to hide the ductwork), add carpet, and finally the baseboard.  It took me about 6 weeks to get all of that completed. I was waiting on training with the airline I was working at, so had plenty of time on my hands.  I was going to post some photos of that process, but apparently they are on a different hard drive that I don't have with me on the road. 

The original layout was just a double mainline that went in a full ciurcle around the basement.  There were a couple of industries, and a fairly large yard along the longest wall.  It was great for watching trains, but there were a few problem areas that started to annoy me:

1.) There were two duckunders.  Even though the layout height was 54", it was still a pain to enter the main layout area and it was even more so to get back to the utility area.  I had more than a few instances where I stood up to fast and either whacked my head or scrapped my back.  Foam covering the edges helped, but not enough...
2.) While I had a yard capable of holding roughly 75 freight cars, it was a pain to constantly change out trains if I wanted the variety I was looking for.  I had a storage solution under the layout as trains were removed and placed back into the yard (mostly the unit trains), but it was getting old after awhile.  I wanted a place to store full trains.
3.) Running long trains (up to 50 cars) just wasn't possible without the front end chasing the tail.  At 35 scale mph, it only took about 5 minutes to get around the entire layout and I could only really run 2 trains at a time.  Three if you wanted to build and break down trains in the yard.

The new solution: 

1.) No more duckunders... :D
2.) I now have 10 staging tracks on the lower level.
3.) Multi-deck operations (one staging, and two main levels): I can run up to 5-6 trains (I'm not that good yet) and at 35 scale mph, it takes roughly 23 minutes to complete a full circuit. 

- The staging level is 24" above the floor, the second level is 42" and the third level is between 56" and 60" depending on where you are. 
- The width ages from 24" to 70" (upper level turn around/grain facility above helix #1).
- All of staging and the main level along the walls is constructed with box girders and 7/16" plywood. 
- The main level extension away from the primary wall is box girder with 2" pink foam.
- The upper level is all 2" foam on top of 9" heavy duty shelf brackets bolted to each stud every 16".  It is surprisingly strong, but lightweight.
- Both helix are constructed out of plywood with 32" inside and 35" outside radius.
- Track is Peco Code 83
- Minimum radius is 36" on the visible portions (staging runs from 38" down to 26" at the most inside curve. 
- Old layout deconstruction started around August 1st of 2023. 
- New Layout construction started around October 1st.
- "Golden Spike" on the mainline occurred mid to late December 2023.
- Minimum width between the helix and level 2 is a comfortable 36"   

Rough sketch of the benchwork (I need to work on a layout diagram at some point):

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Photo's of the old layout coming down:

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This wall became my new Aviation themed display area and freight car storage.  It also eliminated a duckunder and allowed direct access to the utilities in the back.

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Next up, construction phase.

Cheers,
Brian





   



I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #3 on: March 23, 2024, 10:21:03 AM »
0
Nice work…..

After modeling in N scale since Postage Stamp Trains, I switched to HO about 5 years ago for other reasons.

No regrets

I didn't have any of the postage stamp trains as a kid, but got my first Atlas/Kato engine sometime around 1984ish.  Spent a good 35 years in N with a side dabble in Z and G scales along the way.  O scale was just to big for the basement, although it might have limited how much I've collected.... :facepalm:

No regrets on this end either...so far.   :D
I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #4 on: March 23, 2024, 10:53:14 AM »
+4
First phase began with construction of the first helix that would allow trains to move from staging to the main level. 

I had a template made from Gator board that allowed me to test fit and make sure the base was going to support the helix.  It is designed for an outside radius of 35" and inside radius of 32".  This gives me enough room to comfortably run 89' autoracks and Superliner passenger cars.  The grade worked out to just under 1.8% grade.   

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I used curved templates from Fast Tracks to lay the track and also used the screw and washer method to attach the track directly to the plywood.  This allowed me to make adjustments and it was an extremely fast and efficient method for getting track down. 

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The additional turns went up pretty quickly.  I think it took about 3 days of cutting, laying, testing, and adjusting everything.

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From there, it was on to the rest of the staging yard.  I used the same method (screw and washer method) down there since it is hidden and not visible.  It's actually pretty quiet, even without cork roadbed. 

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Once everything was wired and tested for smooth ops, it was on to the main level.

Cheers,
Brian


I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

Scott1984

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #5 on: March 23, 2024, 11:09:21 AM »
+1
First of all, let me say thank you for your service Brian!!!! Your layout looks like it will be a lot of fun. Great work sir!!  :)

flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #6 on: March 23, 2024, 11:25:07 AM »
+3
The main level and second helix were pretty simple and straight forward to build out and went up pretty quick as well.

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The second level was up next and just continued to build on the lower base.

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Here is a good view of the brackets and 1x3's I used to secure the 2" foam on the second level.

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From here, it was just a matter of figuring out the final track plan and getting it done.  This process took my son and I about 8 weeks to complete. 

Cheers,
Brian
I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #7 on: March 23, 2024, 11:37:04 AM »
+3
In the last couple of weeks, we've installed the fascia (not painted yet) on the upper deck as well as the lighting and backdrops for both levels.  Still need to finish sanding and filling in some gaps before I can continue adding the actual backdrops (that I need to order them too...).  The island has the backdrops in and I've started doing some initial scenery in that area on both the upper and main deck.

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Cheers,
Brian

I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #8 on: March 23, 2024, 11:44:30 AM »
0
Here's where I could use some help and ideas for hiding/blending both of those helix.  Everything is running smoothly, so I could encase everything in masonite, leaving access via the center of the helix for cleaning, getting at trains that have a misshap, etc.  My wife likes the open feel/visual of seeing the trains climb the grade, but the way I did the track doesn't lend itself to being seen.  I have tunnel portals available, so using them to transition into a hill is feasible.   

Thoughts?

Cheers,
Brian

I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #9 on: March 23, 2024, 11:51:50 AM »
+4
Some more photos that I accidentally got out of sequence...should be much easier to manage going forward.   :scared: :facepalm:

You can also see in the last photo that the track is being painted/weathered before the ballast goes down.  I thought I had a better shot of that, but will take another photo of the yard area when I get back home next week.

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All in all, this is about 6 months of work to get to the point it's at now.  There was a brief time after the track was laid that we just sat back and watched trains run.  It was also a good way to test everything before starting the scenery, but I'll admit I was getting a little burned out. 

Starting the scenery has helped jump start my work again though.  Sometimes, to big can be overwhelming as there were days I sat and wondered where do I start??? Then I remembered you just have to eat the elephant one small bite at a time and pick a spot to start.... :P
« Last Edit: March 23, 2024, 12:00:21 PM by flight2000 »
I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

Dave V

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #10 on: March 23, 2024, 02:13:30 PM »
0
Hey, Brian, welcome back! I still remember your visit to the Juniata Division way back when...I think when I was stationed in Nebraska? Or was it the Florida panhandle? Anyway, love the layout and I can't wait to see more of it!

flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #11 on: March 23, 2024, 04:03:27 PM »
0
Hey, Brian, welcome back! I still remember your visit to the Juniata Division way back when...I think when I was stationed in Nebraska? Or was it the Florida panhandle? Anyway, love the layout and I can't wait to see more of it!

Hey Dave,

I still remember it as well.  :D  Certainly been awhile since that trip from Leavenworth up to NE when you were at Offutt all those years ago. 

Now, I'm a retired Army ground pounder flying corporate jets.  Go figure...lol!   :D

Cheers,
Brian
I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742

Dave V

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #12 on: March 23, 2024, 04:28:51 PM »
0
Hey Dave,

I still remember it as well.  :D  Certainly been awhile since that trip from Leavenworth up to NE when you were at Offutt all those years ago. 

Now, I'm a retired Army ground pounder flying corporate jets.  Go figure...lol!   :D

Cheers,
Brian

And I'm a retired Air Force Lt Col who's now a research scientist for the Army Corps of Engineers ERDC/GRL. Small world!

Philip H

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #13 on: March 25, 2024, 09:34:06 AM »
0
Welcome back Brian!  The new layout looks really well executed to date, and i have no doubt it will keep getting better.

As to the Helix? I'd say leave it open.  If the wife wants to see the trains climb, that's a great sign of universal karma or some such, and I would NOT mess with that.
Philip H.
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Baton Rouge Southern RR - Mount Rainier Division.

"Yes there are somethings that are "off;" but hey, so what." ~ Wyatt

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flight2000

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Re: (HO) NW Ohio Freelance Layout
« Reply #14 on: March 25, 2024, 10:19:41 AM »
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Welcome back Brian!  The new layout looks really well executed to date, and i have no doubt it will keep getting better.

As to the Helix? I'd say leave it open.  If the wife wants to see the trains climb, that's a great sign of universal karma or some such, and I would NOT mess with that.

Thanks Philip!  I like your train of thought on that.  By keeping it open, it saves me a ton of work too...   :D   
I've never met a covered hopper I didn't like.... :)
My (HO) NW Ohio Layout Feed: https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=57633.msg793742#msg793742