I used to N-scale as a kid, but then the Marines, college and my career took over... A month ago I was at the grand opening of my dad's Lionel club in Chicago, and I was bitten by the bug again. So I pulled out some of my old stuff and got back into the hobby... man, how some things have changed! So I've spent a number of weeks learning some of the new CAD programs- XTrkCad was complicated, at first (not nearly as intuitive as the Atlas CAD software), but once I went through a few of the "how to" demos, it became easier to use. Then I designed a few layouts- due to the fact that I move often (4 times in the last 2 years!) I'm keeping it small. Some of the plans can be built on a door, but even those are a bit too big right now, as I'm anticipating ANOTHER move within 6 months... I've always been facinated with urban scenery; having grown up in the Chicago area and taking the Metra and the El frequently, I've fallen in love with the possibilities of large structures dwarfing the trains, as they snake their way around curved walls. I really like the switching concept, but sometimes I also just want to sit back and watch trains roll by- so the figure eight and the loops allow me to do just that. I can see some old Alco pulling a short freight around and around, while a SW-7 can do some switching off by itself. So, I took much inspiration from Bill Denton's Kingston Branch (I actually remember seeing the layout at the LaGrange show back in 1996, 2 months before I went into the service, but I couldn't remember who, what, where, or how. Then 3 weeks ago, surfing through the net, I found it again.) I also took a lot of inspiration from Jim Marksberry's 1'x2' beauty, which I found at http://www.carendt.us/scrapbook/page33a/ I tried to make the plan fit into a 2'x4' space, but it was just a bit too cramped, so I acted like Da Mayor and just took some more land, adding another 6" to each side. The effect is more or less what I'm looking for. So now I've got a double track high-speed elevated mainline (CNW, BN) that bisects the layout, and then the switching part that forms a figure eight, passing underneath the mainline. Most of the switching will be done on the ground floor, with the exception of the two spurs branching off the CNW line. Those I think will stay elevated. Right now, the tracks pass over each other at a height of 1.5"- thinking of making it 2", but that would put the grade somewhere around 5-6%. Not sure if that's too excessive. The tightest radius on the figure-8 is 8.7 inches- on the spurs it can go down to 6 inches. Tight, but it's prototypical, I believe. The largest cars I'm planning to roll on this would be a 50' box, so it dosen't seem to have any problems negociating the turns when I run the train simulator (which I think is a GREAT feature to these CAD programs- you can run operational scenarios and see where you might have some problems before you lay the first spike!). I'm planning on using Peco 55 track, except for the 90 deg x-ing, which would be Atlas. I don't think I'll be using the Electrofrog series- it seems that the Insulfrog would work here fine. As I understand it, the Electrofrog makes fore slightly more complicated wiring, but it prevents small engines from stalling on the track. The smallest thing I'm looking to use is a SW7, so I don't think this will be a problem. The wiring will be simple, as I'm planning to use DCC. This leaves me with a lot of older engines to convert, but that's OK. The scenery is all Chicago inspired, drawing both form the South Side and points west, mostly from along the Geneva Metra line. I envision a few large brick factories, curving along the sides of the spurs. Tracks dissapearing into others. There will be a road down the center of the layout, paralleling the track going south past the 90 crossing, offering plenty of frustration for me truing to model it, I'm sure. I've already started planning out how to model it- to get the authentic look I'm looking for, I think I'm actually going to lay down an old brick road first, then lay the track, and then pave over it with asphalt, leaving some brick exposed here and there, especially under the bridge. The benchwork will be extruded foam. I'm trying to make it as light and portable as possible. Anyway, that's all for now. I'll keep posting updates, as they become available. Given my occupation and my schedule (airline pilot) I don't think I'll have much time to work on it, but it should be fun anyway. Looking foward to start laying some track, probably within the next 2 weeks or so!