What would you do differently next time?

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by spitfire, Apr 22, 2005.

  1. spitfire

    spitfire Active Member

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    A thread in HO about starting over got me to thinking.....

    In this hobby we do a lot of learning from our mistakes. I guess that's why when you see a "perfect" layout, it's usually not the first one that person made. :D

    So, what have you learned, and what would you do differently next time you build a layout? Mine's not finished yet, and I'm sure there are lots of "learning opportunities" I haven't come to yet, but here's my list:

    1. Use foam for the base. Easier to shape (and find) than homasote. My layout is too flat, and the only way I can add levels at this point is to build up.

    2. If there's a join in the benchwork, do NOT have a join in the plywood or foam I guess (see 1) at the same place. Especially do not have the joins under a yard.

    3. If it doesn't work on paper, it won't work when you're laying track.

    4. Add more feeder wires. Things that work fine with bare track, do not work so great once the track has been ballasted and painted.

    5. Don't take shortcuts. Every so-called shortcut I've ever taken has resulted in spending 3x as much time than I thought I'd saved, correcting the subsequent problems.

    6. Be patient. I can't count how many times I've rushed through something because I wanted to get to the next stage. Rushed work never looks as good as something you've taken time and care with. :)


    Val
  2. nachoman

    nachoman Guest

    I've only got a small, portable HOn3 layout, so many common mistakes are n/a on this one. But, if I were to do the same thing again with the same design criteria and in the same space, here is what I would have done different:

    1) Make the layout entirely out of foam on a frame of 1x2s. Right now I have foam scenery on 1x4s, and plywood subroadbed, and that too heavy and unecissarily robust.

    2) I wanted to have a continuous loop for display interest, and I thought it would be neat to have an over/under figure 8. This resulted in grades af 4-5% and few places to squeeze in sidings. If I did it again, i would make a simple, level oval with one run around track and 2-3 sidings.

    3) I would have given much more consideration to N scale or HOn30.
  3. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

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    I'd...

    ...marry a beautiful, rich woman who wouldn't mind me always playing with my trains (or anything else for that matter) and is happy to bring me a cold beer and likes to Bar-B-Q and...wait a sec- you said differently!!!

    Mark :D
  4. Matthyro

    Matthyro Will always be re-membered

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    That's a good one Mark LOL.
    Val, having been there and done so many different ways to build layouts the most important finding I have is to use the largest radius possible. Trains just look so much better and run better too.
    I had the the homasote experience and scrapped it and now only use foam surface on the L frame benchwork. Since moving to DCC I have feeders about every three feet and it is worth the extra effort for reliable running.
    Anything we plan on paper should only be used as a reference because when it comes to track laying I always seem to find a better way and so the end result could be quite different compared to the plan.
    You also mention Patience and it is more important than many of use realize. This is a fun hobby and we should enjoy it to the full.
  5. cidchase

    cidchase Active Member

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    And I'll bet Mark don't have no doghouse, neither :D :D :D
  6. Jac's Lines

    Jac's Lines Member

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    This is a great topic, Val. I am still learning (but I am now on my third -- and much more satisfying -- try at a layout). This is what I think:

    1. Design a point-to-point layout that can be broken up into manageable modules from the very beginning. My first two tries (one in n scale, one in HO) were both loops, and I found it really frustrating to work in scenery that made sense. I also consistently ran into problems with small radius curves, steep grades, and just an overall sense of clutter. This time around, I'm building in 2X4 modules, and doing one at a time.

    2. Set a budget. My first layout was all about buying stuff. When it was finished, I had a layout that was a great advertisement for Walther's Cornerstone products but had zero character. This time, I set limits on the initial start up cost (I think I budgeted $60 for foam, track and basic scenery), and I've been trying to keep myself under $40 every two months. This has been great in terms of motivating me to try a lot of scratchbuilding and experimenting with homemade alternatives to store bought stuff (e.g. blender made ground foam and building with strip wood and cardstock). I don't rush through things as much because I know that once the budget's exhausted, I have to stop. I also spend more time doing small projects with stuff that's just laying around (e.g. making outhouses and sheds from leftover scraps).

    3. HOn30. This is in part because I don't have a lot of room for a layout, but I think switching to HOn30 was the best decision I ever made. HO was just too big and requires too much space, and I found it difficult to do detail work in N. HOn30 combines compact track plans with the ready availability of a wide range of detail parts, etc.

    4. Come up with a backstory. It's helped me a lot to imagine the kind of railroad that I'm building -- by being very specific in terms of time frame, geography, industries served, etc., I've been able to (more or less) avoid the temptations of impulse buys and has I have a frame of reference for focusing research on period structures, equipment, etc. I also think that the internet has helped a lot too -- I can access hundreds of examples of prototypes and models (my first layout was built after I graduated from college in '94 -- before the internet was particularly useful).

    5. Be open-ended. I used to look at blank spaces and just want to get something (anything) put in. For reasons that I can't explain, I have grown much more willing to tolerate my layout as a work in progress.
  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

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    Jac - great post...

    I agree every much with your first point. My biggest "do-over" would be to skip the 4x8 and go straight to modules. #4 is also good!

    Andrew
  8. grumbeast

    grumbeast Member

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    Been a while since I've been here.... but my big thing would be :

    Be patient!.. do the backdrop first, don't try and retrofit one.
    Consider lighting right up front, its money from a limited budget very well spent.

    Graham
  9. J&A_RR

    J&A_RR Member

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    thanks for this thread spitfire, it's great to here about what ya'll went through the first time around. here's what I learned.....

    don't tack down your track straight to the wood!!!!:eek:
    use foam for base
    benchwork then backdrop
    bigger is better
    run the trains like you stole 'em :D
    be patient, be patient...
  10. sumpter250

    sumpter250 multiscale modelbuilder

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    1. Use foam for the base. Easier to shape (and find) than homasote. My layout is too flat, and the only way I can add levels at this point is to build up.
    ** I seem to be at odds with most here. I still believe in risers,plywood subroadbed, and homasote (although I will go with cork) (and that's on modules that I have to lug up and down the cellar stairs)

    2. If there's a join in the benchwork, do NOT have a join in the plywood or foam I guess (see 1) at the same place. Especially do not have the joins under a yard.
    ** I do modular, therefore, everything joins in the same place. For anything else, I concur, lapping the joints makes a more stable surface to build on.

    3. If it doesn't work on paper, it won't work when you're laying track.
    ** If it doesn't work on paper..........don't worry! Trains don't run on paper! :D :D :D The best layed plans.......are modified during construction.

    4. Add more feeder wires. Things that work fine with bare track, do not work so great once the track has been ballasted and painted.
    ** 'nuf said! :thumb:

    5. Don't take shortcuts. Every so-called shortcut I've ever taken has resulted in spending 3x as much time than I thought I'd saved, correcting the subsequent problems.
    **'nuf said! :thumb:

    6. Be patient. I can't count how many times I've rushed through something because I wanted to get to the next stage. Rushed work never looks as good as something you've taken time and care with.
    ** :thumb: :thumb: :thumb:

    Three out of six........not bad Val! Great thread! :thumb: I would only add;
    Position things roughly in place and "live with it" for a bit before making the installation permanent. You might even want to set buildings before laying the track, this way you get a good working siding, and the best looking arrangement.
    What you envision, in two dimensions, to put on paper, is not what things really look like. Sometimes you need to move them around before you like the scene.
    Pete
  11. Ralph

    Ralph Remember...it's for fun!

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    I can relate to many of the above but to add one not mentioned yet: I'd have provided for more staging tracks!
    Ralph
  12. ausien

    ausien Active Member

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    This is a great thread Val,
    And as many have said, it is a learning curve, making/building a layout.

    The first thing I would do, if I was making the feather river again would be join the GAUGE first and read evey darn word writen in the last 4 yrs, soooo much info here.

    The second thing I would do would be to think about the scale I was going to model in,(mine is N scale) and detail parts are hard to find.

    The third thing I would do is, use the KISS system, Keep, It, Simple, Stupid.

    The fourth thing I would do, would be to model somthing I had first hand knowlage off, as I live in oz the Feather river is a long way away to pay a visit to. and I dont like square boxes on wheels that we call locomotives,( no carricter)..as we have here

    And the last thing would be to place a budget, and stick to it... this last one can save you money.. on new cloths, dryers, washing machines...ect... as pacifyers( for the boss)...

    I would like to take this oppertunity to thank all off you guys and gals, for all the help, advice, and friendship that you have shown me, as I have said many times, this is not a group of unknow people, but a wide spread family, and I feel very much at home here.... have a good one...steve
  13. seanm

    seanm Member

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    Wow! This is a great thread Val!!

    I like everything most folks have said except the stuff about foam. I am still a believer in plywood lifted off an wood frame.... but maybe that is because I am old. (smile)

    The only thing I can add is that it is OK to start over even if you are not done with your last layout or project. You have probably learned SO much the next one will go much smoother.

    One of the things hardest for me to do is to remember to think in three dimentions when laying track. I forget to add grades and sometimes end up with really flat layouts.... I hear other having this problem as well... I now FORCE myself to make grades and am much happier with the result.

    Next thing I have to remember is the land around the track does not always follow the grade OF the track.... it goes up and down, so I will try to remember that when I get to that point on the new TBA.
  14. Will_annand

    Will_annand Active Member

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    Well, so far I have the benchwork down, almost all the track laid and almost all the wiring done.

    1. I started planning an HO layout and ended up with an N Scale layout. Why? More operations in the same amount of space. :eek:

    2. I have already switched from wood bench to 2" foam. :thumb:

    3. I had the wiring almost done when I had to replace the incorrect switches with correct ones. :rolleyes:

    4. Now I am thinking about modifying the wiring again and using multi-pin connectors for the modules. :cool:

    NOTE: The only thing that remained the same was the RR Line, location and era. :D
  15. N Gauger

    N Gauger 1:20.3 Train Addict

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    I would Never, ever --- ever agian build a "solid straight" 8' X 12' layout ever again!!! :( :(

    I'm having a bit of trouble doing scenery having to climb on the layout every time I do details... (this used to be easy when I was 30 :) )

    I did use LED's in the rear areas. :) That way I dont have to climb on the layout to change lights :) But I would enjoy detailing a lot more if I had done around the walls & loop at either end :)

    Pretty much everything Val said - I learned by my 4th layout :) this is my 9th.

    I chose to make a giant 11' X 7' loop instead of a dogbone, since we are storing boxes under the layout.
  16. Tileguy

    Tileguy Member

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    Modules............let me say it again,Modules modules modules!!!!!
    Around the walls with Modules!!!

    1 piece of the world at a time........Expand westwars,or eastward or northward 3 feet at a time.
    Have a generallized plan in place and then build it as a series of modules

    Did i mention Modules :D
  17. CN1

    CN1 Active Member

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    Get a bigger house!!




    And get rid of the "dog house"... :D
  18. toolman

    toolman Member

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    Val you are so right, learn from mistakes, usually mistakes can be corrected with time and effort. My layout on 3, 2ft x 4ft modules. I made a number of goofs, one was not to incorperate back drops, also where the modules are joined together. I plan to add more modules and try to plan out not to make it flat, that will be planned on paper and then worked out with actual track laying until I get what I want.
  19. shaygetz

    shaygetz Active Member

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    ...maybe take up bungie jumping.
  20. Catt

    Catt Guest

    Tear the whole damn thing down and start fron scratch.The biggest share of the current N scale Grande Valley is on plywood topped modules at least 15 years old(some of the benchwork is from the origonal GVR built over 25 years ago)

    Things I would/will do differently

    1 buy cabinet grade 3/4" plywood and rip it into 3 3/4" wide strips for the frame work.Make the modules no more than 6' long with a max width of 30".Run two cross braces per module to help support 2" extruded foam.

    2 Mount the modules to the wall with drywall screws going through the framework,then the drywall and finally into the wall studs.Brace the modules by running 2x2 studs from the base of the wall to the outer wall of the modules(no legs to kick or bump :D Braces would look like this /.

    3 Concidering handlaying the track using code 60 (yes code 60) rail and building all turnouts in place to best fit their location ( absolute minium would be a #6)

    Val,thank you for starting this thread cause it has given me a chance to type this out so I can actually see these ideas in print.Ya know what? I like it. :D :D :D

    One thing I would not change and that is the scale.N is the scale of choice of course.