Interesting track plan, Tupper Lake & Faust Junction

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Balloon Loops at Helix End of Layout

To clarify, I am concentrating at this time on the helix end of the layout, and the associated balloon loops of the double track mains,....NOT the rest of the layout, NOR tracks other than the mainlines, and NOT the 'configuration' of the mainlines in the other portions of the layout.

As Dave has posted,...

The layout would be two laps of double track around the room , one on each level. At the bump out one end on each level would go into a balloon loop, and the other end would go into a double track helix.

Since its a glorified dogbone, once the trains are speed matched, they can run forever around the loop. Since it's a dogbone, every train will appear to operate in both directions, so I could constantly have the trains passing each other.
With only a double track main around the room, the benchwork can be as wide or as narrow as I liked. It will leave a lot of room for scenery or buildings.
The balloon loops would go above and below the helix track, (BE notes: both inside the same 'external housing' I will build for the helix)
In this particular first iteration, the balloon loop is shown in a blue color, and it is a simple level loop of track that connects the 2 mainlines running down the left side of the layout. Note there is also one turnout on this loop that feeds a track running to the center peninsula (similar to the original Tupper Lake design)

On the other side (right side) of the layout these 2 mainlines become elevated to subsequently fly over some tracks below, and to enter their double-track helix phase. Note here that there is a track bearing off of one of these mainlines that subsequently joins back into the one of the mainlines on the left side. This track will provide for an 'escape' for a train to avoid the helix, and simply run continuously around the lower level.
DSCF1974, lower deck balloon loop, helix end.jpg

The upper deck is generally about 20” above the lower deck. It's balloon loop here is shown in red. It was purposefully brought back thru that shed back wall as far to the left as possible so it might have good 'exposed' track on the interior for a 'reason' (undefined at this moment). It also is provided with a 'connection track' so that trains might avoid the helix, and run continuously around this top level.
Note that 2 mainline tracks arrive to this top deck at a 16” high height, then rise up to the 20” height of the top level in general.
DSCF1974, upper deck balloon loop, helix end.jpg

Summary: The two balloon loops are at 0” & 20” respectively. The helix track itself rises 12” in 3 turns. The first 4”, and the last 4”, (8” total) is taken care of by the 'approaching tracks' on the 2 decks themselves.
Within the helix portion the trains will climb counter clockwise, and descend clockwise, regardless of which double-track they are on.


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Accessing My Staging Tracks, Problem that needs Solving

This is a dilemma that has been bugging me for quite some time. Suggestions would be welcomed.

I want a staging track area of at least 8 tracks wide (maybe more for multiple train consist I have), and my thoughts were to place those 8+ tracks under the long, lower shelf on the right hand side of my layout. The tracks would be mounted on a firm piece of plywood shelf that would be supported by the metal wall brackets as shown in this photo and sketch. I figure I can get away with at minimum an 8” clearance under the bottom top deck plywood subroadbed down to that staging shelf., and particularly since my shelf right above the staging will not be real deep.
8 track stagging sketch.jpg

Staging Tracks.jpg

My dilemma is how to get an access track to that staging area? At first I thought just make an addition to the helix that would drop down in some manner to that staging level. But what I don't like about that is it puts my helix circles too close to the ground. My helix structure is an 'outdoor affair' and I don't fancy getting that low to the lawn/dirt/whatever to have a look up inside the 'cylinder'. In fact, even if it was an indoor helix I would not fancy playing 'limbo' to go up inside the helix to fix things.

So I began to think of numerous ways I might drop an access track down along the opposite long side (left side) of the layout, or down along that helix end of the shed. I can't make use of the other end wall of the shed, as that is my doorway into the layout, and will be bridged by 2 removable bridges (upper and lower) across that opening.

So lets assume I try to drop a single access track down along one of the walls of the shed. It needs to drop at a minimum, the 3/4” thickness of the plywood subroadbed plus the 3/16” thickness of the metal bracket supporting that plywood, plus 3.5” to clear the tallest cars that would be staged, plus the 3/16” height of the Atlas track, approx 4.6”.

If I were to accept a 4% grade in this access track that means I need 115” of horizontal trackage to get that 4.6 inch drop in the access track (4% grade).
My metal shelf brackets are spaced every 24 inches along the walls (stud spacing), so I need to 'interupt' 4 of them (create 5 spaces of 24”) to get that drop in the access track.

That is NOT an appealing thought! Those metal wall brackets are being utilized in a cantilevered manner to support that upper deck, and thus require their integrity in a whole manner, rather than cut out to provide a drop in that staging access track.

This is my main dilemma, to 'dip' that access staging track down under lower deck of the layout plan, while not disturbing too much of the lower deck's support structure??


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Interesting Idea submitted by Designer of Layouts

It always seems hard for people to understand, but there is a very good way to address these kinds of issues. The lowest layout support (grid, brackets, L-girder joists, whatever) goes below staging. Then staging and the visible deck are supported by risers from that level. There’s no need to “interrupt” anything.

Risers. Is there anything they can't do?

Byron Cuyama
Layout Design Gallery
I'm going to have to give this serious consideration.
I'm going to have to give this serious consideration.
Just remember to allow enough vertical space so one can reach in and extract derailed cars on the rear most track. Nothing more annoying and time wasting than having to remove all the trains/cars on the front tracks just to get to the rear tracks.


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Two things I have in mind there IronHorseman,...1) allow for 8 inches clearance between bottom of lower deck, and 2) staging tracks NOT recessed back under the lower deck much at all (lower deck on that side of layout is pretty shallow in depth).


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I'm thinking I may only have to modify my lower deck supports, as you suggested, on one side only?

The side that contains the actual 8 tracks of staging is already well below the lower deck/shelf of the layout, it could still have the type of support that I originally had in mind.
Long plywood sub-shelf slit to fit the metal brackets attached to the wall studs, this..

And placed at such a height to just barely clear those plastic stowage containers stacked 3 high....

Could possible extend out to accommodate 10 tracks of staging??

It's the other side of the layout that would need your modification in order to accept that 'descending grade access track' needed to reach the subterranean staging.

Interestingly these two sides might be interchangeable.


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Sub-Helix to the Staging Tracks

Yesterday I was sketching up a revised dwg to just clarify those bracket locations below the bottom deck(s) that might be used to support the staging track decks as well,....result....

While doing this I decided to re-look at the possibility of utilizing the helix structure to gain access to the the staging tracks. What if I decided to try to add two loops to the bottom of my planned outdoor helix to take the trains down to the staging level? Would it really be so difficult to access if I were to have to get inside the 'helix cylinder',...and yes I know I will have to at times.

I had a 48" circular metal ring that I placed up on the top of three stacked milk cartons. After all, if you look back in this discussion you will find that I had planned on providing enough clearance under my 'staging deck' for a stack of 3 of these plastic cartons to be utilized as slide-in-slide-out storage bins. So my 'staging helix' would be at this level.

Even with this 48" circle I had PLENTY of room to get up inside the helix. Now imagine if my circle is closer to 60" (30R helix) one I plan on. I am now convinced that I will NOT have to play limbo to get at the interior of this lower helix level.

And now I could have staging tracks on both sides of the layout while sticking with my relatively simplified metal brackets to hold up my lower decks/shelves all around. I could even have staging down the center of the peninsula. HAPPY :)
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Helix, Staging Track Access....error

Last night went to bed believing I had solved my problem with access to the staging tracks,.... via the use of another lower level addition to the helix structure.

This morning I woke up realizing I had forgotten to consider an important aspect. I can't have both the track feeding this downward spiral to the staging area, AND the bottom balloon loop track, entering the helix at the same height.

Back to the drawing board !
But, I am still a renewed fan of utilizing the helix to get to the staging tracks.

Just have to figure out the best way to enter this sub-helix?


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Steel Mill Site Location & Elevated Stone Arch Bridge Trackage

I have pretty much decided that the steel mill scene will be located in this right hand corner of the bottom deck, and the Balt city scene will be located in the left had corner.

I have modified the elevated double track plan in front of the steel scene to try and give the space behind this double track more room to accommodate the scene. This also makes the track curves in this are more broad in curvature.

This double mainline track, and the single 'connector track' branching off of it (denoted by arrows)
will be elevated by a stone arch 'bridge' similar to one that exist in the Balt area,....

This arch 'bridge' will allow for passages under itself in several locations including the lower loop track to the peninsula area, and hopefully several tracks to the steel scene in the its background and maybe brick factory in the foreground.

I am having problems fitting the steel scene in. The footprint of the blast furnace itself is just too large, ....a rectangle shape almost 27" long. I could put it in 'parallel' with the stone arch bridge, but then there is almost no way to include any service tracks to it.

I thought about sectioning it up so I might just include a portion of its face, BUT I would NOT cut up my completely assembled and weathered blast furnace!! Maybe I could find a really damaged blast furnace to kit bash??...Not likely.

So what if I were to make a background painting that looked like this...

......then make some tracks out in front between the backdrop and the arch bridge. I should be able to make that backdrop image fit in the square corner just like this real life model structure does??

I might even be able to make a small 'switching' area here for steel related cars and locos I have.



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New Staging Idea

I have changed my idea that I presented in this discussion of having my staging on just one side of my layout plan,...and my access to that staging.

I now want to make use of that 'sub-helix' to bring my trains down to the staging areas (now 3 areas) below (8" inches below) my main deck level.

I now envision the staging access track (the sub-helix track portion) entering the center of the back wall of the shed, and splitting off 3 ways, to the right, to the left, and down the center penisula. The tracks going to the right and left sides of the room would likely be some sort of ladder arrangment to build to 6-8 staging tracks each.

Should they be an ordinary ladder or a modified one? Could they constructed using be Peco small radius (code 100) turnouts which I believe are #5's? Rather than a 'simple ladder' configuration, should they best be a compound one like Armstrong and yourself have utilized??

So I got out some Peco turnouts and laid them out on my living room rug (my shed is currently being painted, etc)

Here the 3-way turnout is coming from the TV/stereo cabinette into the 'shed's interior' (represented by the carpet) That 3-way is located in the external helix structure, and sends the trains into the staging level in 3 directions, 1) down the center, and 2) to either side of the shed. The 6" wide laminate floor strip panel represents the thickness of the shed's back wall.

There are 2 different size Peco (Code100) turnouts represented here,..... small size (bottom row), and medium size (top row) ones.

I believe in this area the small radius Peco's are just fine??


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More Closely Spaced Staging Tracks

I would like to figure out how to make all those curves to the staging tracks at least 24" curves and get them grouped a little closer together as they straigthen out down the wall of the shed (edge of the carpet here).?


Active Member
Paper Templates

So I decided I did not want to spend $9 each for those Fast Track curves, nor wait for their delivery, I made some paper templates of 24" radius trackage,

Here is how things line up utilizing the 'small radius, code100' Peco turnouts. At first I had just 5 tracks for that side,..

Then I got 6 tracks for that staging area. All of the curves are a full 24" radius, EXCEPT for the inner most one at 22" radius. Likely this one could be made 24" as well if the straight section preceding it was changed, but have one track at 22" shouldn't be a problem for short car trains and engines.

Lets see 6 staging tracks at either side of the train shed, then 2-4 under the center peninsula,...thats a decent amount of staging !


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I will have to keep that in mind. If possible I prefer not to have the staged trains sitting on curved track.

With diesel engines I would probably stage the trains along with their locos, no coupling/uncoupling required, or at least not so down in the staging tracks. Wait until they are brought back topsides.

Steam engines,..a different story, particularly since I want them 'on display' up in the turntable/roundhouse area when not out running on the layout. And I really don't like storing them on a curve.


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Seems like it would be a poor design for scenery, but a good design for running trains. With very good backdrops, and a nice facia, it would probably be OK. I'd probably use a compound ladder, to get longer sidings, as well as curved and maybe a 3 way switch, if they meant I could store much longer trains.
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Seems like it would be a poor design for scenery, but a good design for running trains. With very good backdrops, and a nice facia, it would probably be OK. I'd probably use a compound ladder, to get longer sidings, as well as curved and maybe a 3 way switch, if they meant I could store much longer trains.
I'm a little confused by your reply. Are you mixing subjects such as scenery on the overall plan, verses compound ladder & longer sidings on the staging level??

With regards to longer tracks in staging, I would note that disregarding the 'curved trackage' in the staging level, the straight tracks are about 15 foot (inside dimension of shed length) minus 3 feet (curved portion), ...about 12 feet long.

12 foot long trains is not all that bad. And if I sought to run even longer trains, perhaps I could have some extra freight cars sitting on staging tracks under the center peninsula that could be added to the end of a train as it pulled out of its staging on the side wall tracks.
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Backdrop Ideas

The first video I saw was this short 'overview' one,..

I like some of the steel mill backdrop photos,

And I like the bridge over the big flat river, likely an idea i could utilize for my bridge over my big door opening in my new train shed.

Not quite sure how this video's link reference gets separated from his longer video?

djstrains,....Testing my new camera! Layout overview in 4 k.

...and then another one of his videos
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Narrow Shelfs, Industry Diversions, Multiple Trackage

A number of folks have critiqued this modified Tupper Lake layout design I am proposing as not having enough trackside diversions, and instead just too much train running tracks. I offer this quote and photos from another subject thread on another forum,..


I have a different approach, just for the sake of discussion I'll explain. I go to great lengths to get the tracks to match the prototype as much as possible, so that my moves will match the prototype's. Here is a map, made by a guy that used to work as a conductor at the Monsanto plant that is on my layout:

My compression is making the tracks shorter, especially the ones that curve around and into the backdrop. If I could make this area 3' deep, I could match those tracks better, but I can't so they're shorter. They are, however, in about the right place in relation to one another, all shortened about the same percentage, and, most importantly, the moves to switch them are the same.

Another guy that worked down here for the railroad has visited since I got these tracks down, and he recognizes the tracks without the labels on them. When he describes the work he did, he can follow my tracks and tell me what cars went where. THAT is my goal. Buildings are just window dressing to me. The tracks are where its at.

Because those old photos of my layout look funny to me, here is a more recent photo:

There, that's better. ;-)

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There is another option if you want a lower staging yard, I did this on a layout a few years back, basicly you have a rail leave the main level and begin to decline below the main benchwork as it declines it follows the perimeter of the benchwork and declines to the final level of staging area. This was 18 inches below my upper level and the decline was a 2 percent grade.

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