Build #06: Track Laying Visualisation

We had good weather this weekend in Frankfurt. So it was worthwhile to go out and enjoyed the sun for one day. Strictly no construction. I was sure my neighbours enjoyed the peace and quiet Saturday that they did not have for 3 weekends. Despite no sawing and hammering, work still goes on in germaN160. In fact, it was back to the drawing board. I took out my track plans and examined the track arrangements and configurations at Segment A and its adjacent Segment H.

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I am now working on the bottom level aka Ground Minus 1, which is 110cm from the floor. Tracks at this level were marked in red and mainly consisted of hidden tracks. To be exact, the part that I am focussing on is the tracks in Segment H leading up to the diamond crossings at Segment A. The picture below shows the tracks at bottom level.

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The set of turnouts and double slip at the end of Segment H would be moved further to the right to avoid having turnouts between modules. It was a small error during the track planning that was brought to my attention. What looks nice on paper does not necessarily translate into practicality. Thus, despite all the blueprints that one have, nothing beats testing them with real tracks. Thus, this was what this weekend was all about. Test and feel how things fit together.

I started by marking the track centres (CL) and  track boundaries (or what is known as permanent right of way). The tracks spacing would be 30mm, slightly wider than the NEM recommended 25mm (on open tracks)/28mm (at stations) (Peco turnouts/crossings have track spacing 26.5mm), to allow for overhangs at smaller radius. The width of right of way would be 80mm, allowing space for overhead catenary masts. Even though at hidden tracks, there would be no overhead catenary masts, I am considering adding overhead wires using rails or thick wires so that electric trains could have their pantographs at “operating” positions all the time (more about in future posts). It might be a bit too extreme do have such luxurious permanent right of way in hidden tracks but I wanted to be consistent and made sure I did not forget about extra spaces for masts once the tracks enter the visible tracks zone.

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Sometime back I posted about using turnout templates in place of real turnouts. Peco has them. In fact I highly recommended them as a planning aid, when you move from computer planning to actual layout planning and testing. This is called prototyping 🙂

I tested the position of the first set of turnouts at Segment H. It was placed just before the mid section of the module. You do not want to place any turnouts where the points and switch motors could be hindered by any obstructions below. Thus, carefully noting the positions of likely “invisible” obstructions is one part of planning and construction.

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A thin piece of flexible wood or rod would be helpful too. I am only using flexible tracks to connect turnouts or any two points. I started by determining the position of each turnout and then connecting them with flex tracks. A thin rod, such as the one I have below, helped with marking the track centre and easements. Furthermore, I discovered Peco flex tracks were rather “rigid”, in the sense that the tracks stay in position after you bent them. You do in fact want such rigidity since you shape the tracks to the position that you want (versus sectional tracks which could not bend or flex at all). Peco code 55 flex tracks were in fact code 80 with the base of the rail embedded into the sleepers/ties. This gave Peco code 55 tracks more strength.

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In fact, I had 12 pieces of Atlas code 55 flex tracks too, which were bought 10 years ago. Currently, there is a huge shortage of Atlas code 55 tracks; thus, I count my blessing to have some of them in stock. I would not be using Atlas tracks (sorry I am not selling them) as they do not fit into my German/European track system. Atlas tracks have narrow ties spacing compared to Peco’s (6 ties on Atlas per every 4 ties on Peco) (see below). On the other hand, Atlas tracks are really flexible, just like a whip. You could bend them and then would return the their straight position.

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Which, makes Atlas flex tracks good tracks for initial planning. And, lots of pins. You can never have enough of them!

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By temporarily pinning flex tracks and paper turnouts, it helped me to visualise my track arrangements as I would nail them on my layout and where to adjust them (I am a visual person, if you have not noticed thus far). I checked for overhangs especially for long rolling stocks. I will model Era V and VI and rolling stocks of these eras are about 27m long (Wagon C) or about 17cm scale. The overhangs were pretty obvious when I use the RDC (Rail Diesel Cars) as stand-in for long wagons, and especially so at this part of the Segment A. And since this section would be hidden, the overhang would not be visible. Some form of compromises have to be made. Most importantly, the track spacing must be sufficient to compensate for the tight radii so that the wagons would not collide or rub each other side by side.

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Visually, I am pleased with the outcomes. The next step is to mark the track centres and track boundaries. I am using cookie cutter method for my layout. The far left 2 tracks would stay level but the last 4 tracks would begin elevating from Segment A to Segment E. The permanent right of ways would be marked and cut accordingly and with risers and joists, must reach 104.5cm at end of Segment H. This is about 4.5cm rise over a 120-150cm run; translating to a gradient between 3.0% and 3.75%. A recommended practice is not to exceed 3.0% gradient; thus, the 4 tracks originating from Segment H would be at 102.5cm level once they are at Segment A. This would then allowed me to reduce the gradient to between 1.7% and 2.1%, a more acceptable range.

In addition, to build elevated tracks on modular/segment layout adds additional construction challenge. That would be mine to solve. Looking forward to realise my plan.

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