Planning A Model Train Layout (Part Four)

Drawing Turnouts That Are Accurate

Another challenge which you’ll face when drawing your track plans is in making sure that you leave adequate space for turnouts.  A relatively easy solution to this problem is to purchase a few samples and then make a measuring guide with your samples. 

As with curves, creating a template to use as a guide will allow you to maintain correct turnout lengths as you draw your track plans and will aid in the process equally well.  One thing you’ll want to keep in mind when cutting the correct angle, is to extend the line for the diverging route well beyond the turnout because a template for ½ inch scale turnouts is somewhat small.

How To Draw Easements

If you’re new to model railroading you may not be familiar with the term easement and the following should clarify its definition:  On a prototype railroad, straight track which is also referred to as a tangent, will typically connect to curves with a gradual transition and this is known as an easement.  The easement is actually a curve whose radius gradually decreases and this helps ease the train into the arc of the circular curve.

When you add easements to your model railroad, this aids in making your layouts trackwork appear much more realistic and this is the ultimate goal of  all model railroaders. 

Also, adding easements contributes to insuring that your trains will run smoothly and operate better.  When designing your layout you’ll also discover that easements allow you to make smaller radius curves, and in so doing create the illusion that the curves are larger than they really are.

Here are the two most typical measurements for calculating an easement:  As can be seen in the image X equals the offset measurement and 1/2L equals the length of the easement from where the curve and the straight section of track meet. 

Since the X measurement for N scale is ¼ inch and in HO it is ½ inch, drawing an easement is pretty easy….just offset the curve from your straight track by a pencil lead width and continue drawing.  The ½ inch measurement is more important to remember…you can’t place a straight turnout in that length because it will be built with a curve.

What Is A Super Elevation?

If you want to take things to another level you may want to try building something called a super elevation.  A super elevation is a method that can be employed to reduce the natural tendency for things being pulled to the center.  In this case, your trains when they enter and travel through a curve.  A super elevation combats against this problem and is another way to prevent derailments….a super elevation will also allow your trains to travel around a radius at a much higher rate of speed which is another step in making the operation of your trains look all the more realistic.

Here’s how you make a super elevation:  Firstly, it’s important to note that most prototype railroads have curves that use super elevations, and what this means is that the outside rails are higher than the inside rails.  This results in trains being able to take curves at much higher speeds and also results in less wear and tear on equipment. 

Super elevations are easily constructed on a model railroad by using strips of styrene.  The styrene strips you use should be of the same length and placed under the ties beneath the outer rail of the curve.  Simple as that!  Better yet, the styrene strips will not swell or shrink when ballast is laid and when you apply glue.  Also, when you lay your ballast it will conceal the styrene so that it cannot be seen.

Other Things To Consider When Planning Your Layout

At the top of your list should be access.  Clearly if you can’t reach into your layout to work on your track or other components of your layout this is undesirable.  Easy access will play a major role in the actual size of your layout which is another reason to spend time in pre-planning your layout.  When you’re thinking about access give some thought to access for tunnels, long stretches of track, electrical components and any other accessories which are vital to running your trains.

The actual height of your layout plays an important role as well.  Certainly you’ll want to think of the height of your layout in relation to your own height, but there are other issues to consider as well. 

For example, you’ll want to plan your layout’s height to make it easy to access those components which are underneath the layout.  By considering this, you’ll make future maintenance or repair jobs much easier.

One of the great things about building a model train layout is that it doesn’t have to be built all at once.  Given that most model railroaders have a budget which has to be considered, you can build your layout over a period of time.  With that said, this is where pre-planning your layout take on one more level of importance. 

Additionally, make sure that you also plan for upgrading the way you power your trains.  It may be okay to start out with a beginner transformer to run your trains, but sometime in the future you may want to upgrade to a Digital Command Control system.  So, plan for this, and life will be much simpler!

One of the more important things about planning a model train layout is to not be reluctant to start over with your planning.  It’s okay to doodle!  The more you re-work your plans, the better the final result will be and the more enjoyable your model trains will be to operate. 

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