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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Yannis Posted - 11/23/2020 : 10:08:33 AM
Hello everyone,

New member here from Greece, and I thought of starting up a layout thread for a project that I hope to start as soon as possible (lockdown here so… no ability to get raw materials).

It is a small island type layout, with it’s dimensions dictated by the empty space I have in the middle of my HO scale (around the walls) layout. Dimensions are circa 5.5' by 3.3' with a 1.5' extension for the steamboat landing scene.

Theme: Freelance RR, set in 1870s somewhere in the American Southwest, inspired to a great extent by Frontier Land in Disneyland Paris. (I have a long list of proto-locations that inspired me, like Canyonlands, Chelly Canyon, Nine Mile ...Marble Canyon, Silver Reef etc…).

Concept: The main idea is to have a small freight/ore train serving 3 mines and connecting the mines of Olympus (at a higher level on the larger future layout) with a stamp mill* (*to be modelled in a future module… see large layout track plan). A 2nd mixed train, will bring in supplies to the mines, merchandise and passengers to/from a steamboat landing at Rocktown, practically connecting Rocktown with Olympus. I haven’t finalized on the ops yet so this is work in progress and your advice is more than welcome.

Ops plan: The current small layout will model a large part of Rocktown (where the steamboat landing is) as well as 1 mine. If I opt for the plan on the left (most probable), I ll have the Porter locomotive serving the mine (and going to staging inside the tunnel to unload ore), and the mixed train with a Mogul, going the other way around to bring passengers to/from Rocktown and serve the riverside merchant.

Some specs:
Peco Code83 HO tracks, converted to On30, #5 and #6 turnouts, minimum radius 40cm (something like 15.75”).
DCC (Z21 Roco system).

This small layout in the following track-plan will be a module (with removal of the left side 180 degree curve), to be added to other modules in making a much longer island type layout for a future house. I will post a track plan of the future layout for the sake of completeness and in order to put things in context.

I originally thought of not having a passing siding, but then I thought that having one might give me an excuse to have a 2nd train with a Mogul (backdated) hauling a single coach and a freight car. I currently have just 1x 0-4-2 Porter and 2 gons and 1 coach….

So apologies for the long intro, here are the track-plans, and soon I hope that I will be able to start working on some projects in order to be able to post actual modelling work.

Many thanks in advance for your time and replies!

This is the currently proposed small layout track-plan. I ll opt for the one on the left most probably.

The larger extended layout is like a loop to loop design, there is a thought of eliminating the lower loop and having a helix for lower level staging but nothing is set in stone yet. This larger layout has been designed in order to provide a better guide for how to build the smaller one...

Download Attachment: On30LayoutPlanCompFinal.jpg
72.08 KB

Download Attachment: RocktownOlympusOn30.jpg
44.34 KB
15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
thayer Posted - 12/09/2020 : 2:29:49 PM
Well, give them a try, and see how they go. I would stay away from sappelle and walnut. I would expect them to split, as they are both a bit splintery.

If you can put your hands on the pine or basswood ones before purchase, check to see if you can put a small dent in them easily with your fingernail. That is a good sign that splitting is unlikely. You should be able to do so even through a poly bag.

Yannis Posted - 12/09/2020 : 12:00:46 PM
Kyle interesting method!
Bill thanks for the details. Unfortunately Homasote is not available here. I only have EPS boards (i use 2" ones typically), 5mm EPS sheets for underfloor insulation (soundproof), and cork sheets (5mm typically is what i use).
On the HO scale layout i have 15 or 20mm birch plywood + 5mm cork and then flextracks caulked into place. The problem is that I cannot follow the same construction layering for the On30 due to the nails problem, so i am wondering if
A. 10mm cork + plywood or
B. 5mm cork + 2" foam or
C. 5mm cork + 5mm foam + plywood
will be better.

As for the ties (Thayer), they do not state what kind of pine is used for the strips at the hobby/crafts shop, just pine/balsa/basswood etc... or the more (exotic?) varieties for ship models (sappelle, walnut etc...)
Bill Gill Posted - 12/08/2020 : 8:25:41 PM
Yannis, my C&V RR has plywood cookie cutter subroadbed with 0.5in Homasote roadbed glued to the plywood. The Homasote was given two coats of matte waterbased urethane varnish to seal it. My track is flextrack, so wood ties are outside my experience, but the track was temporarily nailed to the Homasote then Woodland Scenics (ground walnut shell) ballast and dilute acrylic matte medium dripped on the ballast secured it and the track to the roadbed. The nails were rmoved and the holes filled with a variety of things before the ties were weathered and painted. The track has been down for years with no problems. in one area where I ham-handedly broke some molded plastic spikes while tuning a turnout, small holes were drilled in a few ties and longish old Life-Like spikes were pushed through into the Homasote with forceps. The spikes are easy to push into the Homasote and they hold really well.
kyle creel Posted - 12/08/2020 : 5:23:18 PM
Just a thought... my railroad is about 90% hand laid. I used old flextrack rail and it worked out fine. For ties I went to Hobby Lobby and purchased several bags of little sticks that look like matchsticks from a company called WOOD PILE. They make several different items, one of which is the 'coffee stirrers' that work so well for 2x12's. Each bag of 'crossties' has about 300 inside for about 5.00 . You can do as I did with them, which was to glue them in place, sand them, color them,(watered down acrylic craft paint) and then use your dremel cut-off disk to cut them to length and spike the rail down. I cut lengths of heavy paper and acc-glued the cork bedroad to each one and ran a bead of ACC to the cork about 6" long and applied the ties, then sprayed with accelerator, repeat this for the whole length. When done, this gave me a 3' long section of roadbed w/ ties ready for rail. After laying the rail, you have a 3' long section of trackwork ready to be installed on your layout. You simply glue the finished section of track, curved or straight, turnout, grade crossing or whatever down on the layout. It's easy "production line" type of work, I sometimes made several at a time. I laid almost 200' of track in no time at all. Just a thought

KYLE, have fun!!!!
P.S. photos if needed
thayer Posted - 12/08/2020 : 12:54:13 PM
Pine will work as well, though there is a wide range in that family. The Eastern White Pine we have in the northeastern corner of the US works great, and is much like bass and poplar, if not slightly softer. Some of our southern pines are much harder, and I expect would be more challenging to spike.

Yannis Posted - 12/08/2020 : 12:40:18 PM
Yes if i go with 3x3 wooden ties, the stock plastic ones are 2mm high so I can push them down.
Nice table saw there, unfortunately i do not have a friend with one. I ll just get pre-cut strips, i also found some from wooden ship construction but i don't know how well they take nails. Basswood and pine are more regular choices i guess. Truth be told, the balsa i have, is too soft, i can easily compress it with light pressure.
thayer Posted - 12/08/2020 : 12:23:30 PM
Are the wood ties taller than the plastic? Can you just push down on them to break them free, and then slide them out?

As for sourcing ties, do you have a friend with a table saw? I cut all my ties using the small table saw made by Jim Byrnes and it went quite quickly. I have found the Byrnes table saw to be the most used power tool in my shop.


A new blade and zero clearance plate, along with suitable safety precautions, will do the job nicely.

Yannis Posted - 12/08/2020 : 12:01:12 PM

I did some tests just a bit earlier on, and indeed balsa is too soft (or at least the balsa i had). Foam will make things cheaper/faster/lighter for me for sure, so if foam + cork is good enough then i got no quarrel against using it (vs plywood).

I think i can get pine or basswood strips (3mm x 3mm or 3mm x 2mm).

The plastic ties acting as spacers are good advice from another fellow modeller. After fixing the tracks in place (ie nailing them down to the wooden ties), you remove the plastic ties.
thayer Posted - 12/08/2020 : 11:52:14 AM
I used Micro Engineering 1/4" small spikes, and driving them was quite easy. I did not predrill holes, and did not split any ties. I used a pair of needle nose pliers that I notched with my dremel. The Poplar ties are glued to the cork, and hold the spikes, and thus the rail, very securely.

And yes, I do wish I had weathered the ties before spiking. I am actually considering pulling 1000 spikes, as I think removing the rail would make it easier to distress them.
thayer Posted - 12/08/2020 : 11:46:09 AM
I used 2-in foam and (nominally) 3mm cork, on my latest effort though cut my ties from Poplar instead of balsa. My gut says balsa will be too soft, and fuzzy, for satisfactory ties. I would recommend a harder, fine grain wood, such as Poplar or Bass/Linden.

For what it is worth, I stripped this rail stock from Atlas flex track, and used a few shop made track gauges to hold the rail while I spiked it. I like the idea of using the factory ties though. Can you talk about your plan to remove the "spacer ties" after the fact? That sounds like it could be a bit of a struggle.


Yannis Posted - 12/08/2020 : 11:29:54 AM
Thanks Mike,

I would rather have plywood cookie cutter subroadbed but as I said i cannot drive nails into it. Maybe 5mm cork + 5mm foam insulation (the underfloor soundproofing type) and then the plywood? So that the track nails hold on to the cork/foam and not the plywood.
Michael Hohn Posted - 12/08/2020 : 10:30:40 AM
Seems to me either option would work and it depends on which materials you prefer to work with. For example, I don’t like working with foam board except for scenery.

Yannis Posted - 12/08/2020 : 09:23:56 AM
Out of curiosity so that i do not start a separate thread on this, (or should I?), for subroadbed, if I plan on installing semi-handlaid tracks (peco code 83 flextrack but with spiked wooden ties from balsa, and then subsequent removal of the plastic "spacer" ties), would 5mm cork + 2" foamboard work?

I find it difficult to drive SL14 track nails into plywood given my experience from my HO layout. Maybe I could use two layers of 5mm cork so that the nails never reach the plywood.
Yannis Posted - 12/04/2020 : 12:40:25 PM
Thayer: The mine on the west side (mine number 2 theoretically) will be connected via a small road to Olympus. Any supplies can be unloaded using the ore car track i guess right? Same thing for the other two mines. Now I could add one extra spur for general supplies for Olympus near the depot. Both mines are close enough to Olympus by the way.

If I have not mentioned it, the layout will be accessible from all sides. Getting back to the present time, this is the currently proposed small layout as it will look like in the middle of my HO scale layout. Heh a chance to see what my HO layout looks like but OT here :) (Maybe I should start an HO thread for it in the middle scale forum)

Tyson I am with you on the hidden tracks. I had them in my previous layout and I did not enjoy having them, so most probably they are going to be either open or semi-open staging.

Download Attachment: HOandON30layouts.jpg
84.6 KB
Tyson Rayles Posted - 12/04/2020 : 08:42:45 AM
I'd be careful about hidden trackage. It has a way of coming back to bite you. I have some on my layout
and if I ever build another layout it will have zero hidden trackage.

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