Greetings, all.

Here is a summery along with color commentary of the last time we talked while watching trains at Jeff MacDonald’s place.
First question: why so long? Well, since that meeting I have been in Florida and Minneapolis for work, plus attending several ag conferences and legislative events in Denver.
Also, remember the purpose of this layout is to show O scale to its best advantage, so high-quality and realistic models/scenery/trackwork are priorities. That said, the layout will be subject to dings and scratches so the need for cabinet-level carpentry is not should not override practicality and affordability.
The thoughts shared break down into two categories: Design Philosophies and Construction Realities.
In general, the Design Philosophies (DPs) were built around the following general preferences.:
  • Double track main line
  • An outside radius of 72 inches with the inside being 68.
  • Ends owned by the “club”.
  • Micro Engineering track, probably 148 on the mains and 125 on the sidings and 100 on the industrial sidings.
  • Turnouts built by Ed Miller
  • Simple track plan, with limited crossovers. In fact, I recommend any other mainline turnouts be used for sidings and that all “industrial” turnouts be limited to placement in sidings and never the main line.
  • Tracks run to the edge of each module, meaning no short connecting tracks. This may require the use of a master jig and alignment pins and also the use of a protective “faceplate” for transportation purposes.
  • Scenery should be somewhat generic, possibly midwestern prairie. Modeling the Rockies, Appalachians, or Cascades might be difficult.
  • Era: My recommendation is that the buildings and signs be somewhat modular and interchangeable so eras can be shifted with minimal conversion time. That 1950s dairy can be replaced with a 1970s fertilizer plant or a 1990s plastics plant if all are built to the same footprint and provisions are made to plug them into the scenery base (I’ve done this).
Let’s move on to the Construction Realities (CRs)
  • Side modules owned by members will be in lengths of integers of two feet. Allowances, however, may be made if an odd length has a corresponding module for the other side to balance out everything.
  • Width is a bit tricking, One can make a convincing layout “scene” on a shelf layout just 15 inches wide. However, to accommodate sidings and buildings I believe the layout should be either 24 or 32 inches wide, the latter more likely. If someone wants to construct, say, a paired module 36 inches deep, that’s their choice providing they maintain the standard track interface at the ends. I’ve done this as well.
  • No talk about a backdrop. I used one only for my paired modules featuring a small town. Back drops can do a lot to make a scene more realistic yet it can become a barrier to people whom might have questions.
  • Height was discussed although I do not remember a specific recommendation. For a home layout, you might want 42 inches. For a show layout, 38 inches might work better. I would recommend against adjustable legs, so we need to further define this specification.
  • Benchwork remains a discussion point. L-girder is not likely (although I had a portable O scale layout made with that design). Box frame is possible, as is using hollow core doors. The latter would require some reinforcement to handle legs and provide some “anti-twist, anti-sag” reinforcement. My last layout followed this design. And, do not rule out using one design for the side modules and another for the ends. The corners may well have to be made of box frame given that the radius seems to dictate the ends will require three and more likely four sections to handle each semicircle of track.
  • Connecting the sections is another specification that we need to pin down. It may be as simple as having matching facias on the ends that provide space to put a couple of adjustable clamps. It may be bolts and washers and wing nuts. It may be a more advanced cabinetry clamp. The link below shows the general module dimensions and costs for modular layouts offered by Kam Konnect. It looks like a slick system. For those of you going to the train show in Denver this weekend, you may be able to inspect a three-rail layout using these products. Cost could be an issue.
 Just a few other notes. We also talked in general about having the layout set up to use both DC and DCC, depending on circumstances. Operators would bring their own power packs. We would use either a 12 or 14 gauge buss lines. As far as legs, that too remains an ongoing discussion. Folding banquet tables are relatively inexpensive and easy and quick to install. The downside is they need to be modified to extend enough to provide the necessary table height. Wooden legs that tightly plug into channel boxes may be just as practical.
Perhaps the most critical thing is that we proceed in a cooperative spirit regardless of the final decisions. And that we build the modules together, at least the corners, so that we maintain the integrity of the design when we build our own modules. So, questions on whether we want Proto: 48 or Bachman 30-inch gauge may already have been answers. It would seem we want to run our equipment and show it off to the public so that will drive our end results.
Several of us plan to get together this Saturday night following the close of the Rocky Mountain Train Show at the Merchandise Mart to discuss this in more detail. Please join us. If you have questions, please email me.
Ed, I still could use a few ore cars. Jeff, thanks for letting us tour your layout. Tim, I like your ideas of using a “web” of plywood along a hollow core door to provide rigidity and a facia in one, as well as your recommendation for lightweight ballast.Rick, I’m with you on wanting to run a few longer trains with modern power and piggybacks. But then, I also have a 50-year-old Max Gray 2-8-4 that needs to do more than hide in a box in the basement.
Oh, one final thing. I have a rather severe cold. Or worse (really, it is worse). For this reason, I am not going to proof this. If I said, oh, N scale, don’t quibble. You know what I mean. If I said three rail, relax. If I suggested we switch over to Kusan, call a doctor.
Below are photos of the Rocky Mountain Division TCA club modules currently under construction. All digital captures are by Bob Kjelland.
Construction Details
Wiring Details
Links between modules