Track standards- parallel track spacing for Maine On2

Parallel track spacing can be a problem for Maine On2 (and other scales) layout builders at the design stage, particularly if they need to shoehorn a design into restricted space, as there is not a lot of information around for guidance, but here’s what we have found.

The NMRA Standard for model railroad parallel track spacing is S-8 which can be viewed here. The general view of the Maine Two Foot modellers is that this standard is not particularly helpful as it depends upon interpretation and interpolation, but still does not give clear results for On2. This was so eloquently put by Yahoo! group member Hilary Smith very many moons ago:-

In my reading so far, I have either not come across spacing discussions or have overlooked them. Looking at NMRA S-8 Track Center Standards for Class II (small four-wheel truck diesels; small steam; old-time, logging, branch line rolling stocking stock) O scale standard gauge puts tangent track at 3.75″ (or 15 scale feet) apart, and for a curve of 41.5″ radius, 3.8125″ apart. For On3, tangents are 2.75″ and for 41.5″ radius, 3.375″, proportionally much wider spacing in curves relative to tangents than in standard gauge. Comparing On3 tangent spacing with standard gauge shows that the track centerlines are a full 1″ or four feet closer together, but on curves only 0.4375″ (or 1.75 feet) closer together. So, are On2 cars no skinnier or longer than their On3 counterparts meaning that On3 spacing standards are a good choice? Or should the centerlines be closer still? Thanks for any observations, experience, or advice.

Hilary Smith,  Northern Virginia

 

The post got two replies;-

Terry Smith: The Maine two foot passenger cars can be longer than was common on three foot gauges, meaning that models of Maine cars “cut the corners” more than the equivalent three foot lines. The controlling dimension is the truck centres. I think that three foot narrow gauge cars are slightly wider in general than two foot, but not sufficiently different to make a difference modelling wise for track centres. ie using the On3 data will be OK for On2.

Trevor Marshall:  
You asked about spacing between tracks on tangents and curves for On2 layouts. I think it’s safe to say, as Terry Smith suggested in his reply, that passenger cars are the critical equipment for curves. Therefore, if you have such a car (SR&RL – not, say, Monson, whose lone passenger car was much shorter), you could do your own testing:

1 – lay a minimum radius curve on a surface on which you can draw with a pencil. You can either spike down a piece of On2 flex, or just a pair of rails, directly onto, say, a 1×6 piece of pine.

2 – put the car on the track.

3 – holding a pencil at each end of the car on the outside of the curve, roll the car along the track so the pencil draws a line on your surface

4 – repeat holding a pencil at the midpoint of the car on the inside of the curve.

5 – measure the offset between the track centerline and each line you’ve drawn.

Note that the pencil line will be slightly offset from the edge of the car – that’s built-in clearance for you. If you don’t yet have a passenger car – or don’t want to use that nicely painted model as a marking device – you could always cut a passenger-car-sized piece from styrene or wood (doesn’t have to be exact, but should be at least as large as the car is, corner to corner), add some bolsters from styrene strip under it at the proper locations, and screw some On2 trucks to it. You could even add pencil holders at each corner and in the middle if you like. Build two of them and you can check clearance on the layout before running your real models through. Heck, even add vertical pieces at the ends and in the center to turn one into a clearance car for bridges, buildings, holes in the backdrop, etc.

That’s curves for you. For straights, I have two standards: For transfer tracks, freight platforms, or other places where cars will be spotted adjacent to each other or adjacent to a structure with the intent that plates be dropped between them for the transfer of goods via hand-trucks or strong backs, I use my widest pieces of equipment to lay the tracks as close together as possible without sideswiping. For other places, I’ve spaced tangent track on 3″ centers. This is way more than the minimum spacing required, but it looks right to me – narrow gauge yards tend to have a spare, open feeling to them, and 3″ spacing allows for an O scale figure to stand between cars on adjacent tracks without getting sideswiped. Remember, the minimum is not always the best.

Hope this helps. – Trevor in Toronto

Some time later, the question was asked again, and this time the replies included references to the Maine Two Foot prototypes and other modellers’ experience.  

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Bob Schlechter: Scaling from the prototype photo above, taken at Bridgton Junction, gives approximately 8′ 7″ to 8′ 9″ as the center to center distance of the two foot trackage to the standard gauge trackage. The photo was taken from the roof of a standard gauge box car looking downward at the trains and trackage giving a good vantage point.

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Bob Schlechter: on my Kennebec Central diorama (above) I used 8 1/2 scale feet center to center. Looks good for prototype spacing but if one is going to do lots of operation and switching you may want it wider to allow for full size fingers to be able to reach in between cars!

 

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Terry Smith: “I used 2½” spacing for straight parallel tracks widening to 2¾” around the curved sections (36” radius) on the Reading iteration of my P&SR (pictured above). I added the extra bit of clearance around the curves because I had a passing loop cum staging tracks that were bent round a 90 degree corner in parallel.
I do not recall having problems with access for manual uncoupling (using a Rix wand for my Kadee’s) or with interfering overhangs/underhangs with the longer rolling stock (coaching stock and Bridgton 34 foot freight stock) or locomotives like the large Forney’s, (B&SR/B&HR #7 & #8), or SR&RL #24 using these values.

 

Bob Harper: I use 3″ spacing on my On3 tracks and 2½” on my On2,  which reflects the difference in width of the real rolling stock – 8′ on the 3′ and 6′ on the 2′ lines. Looking at Franklin on the FAQ’s will show how this looks.

Editor: see the picture above of Bob’s Franklin module where the slight out of focus plus lighting highlight the tracks. To view more pictures of Bob’s Franklin module on another browser page, click here.

Bob Harper continues: Obviously the throw-over of the long On2 coaches is important, but I have found that the critical dimension is the cab on SR&RL #23. This is far wider than anything else (apart from a snow plow?), and my mistake of having the driver leaning out of the side window made clearances even worse! He has since been repositioned.

But another factor to bear in mind is the sense of proportion of the whole scene. Unless we are very fortunate with the space available, we inevitably have to fore-shorten out scenes, and trying to keep a prototypical width while losing the prototypical length can lead to the eye perceiving the track spacing to be too wide. In order to keep the overall scene in proportion, it may be necessary to slightly reduce the track spacing from prototypical standards.

 

Trevor Marshall: I like the generously spaced look of the Maine Two Foot yards, like in the picture below of Bridgton on the B&SR/B&HR;-

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Trevor continues: I’ve used 3″ centers on my On2 layouts. I find it gives that appropriately “NG” look.

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Above is a picture showing Enoch Pond station area under construction in the first iteration of Trevor’s S&PCRR, which captures the spaced out look between the tracks.

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This is a rare overhead shot of the Hebron Pond Slate Company sheds and passenger depot on the second iteration of Trevor’s S&PCRR.

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Trevor continues: – I built a test track board that included both 2′ and standard gauge tracks, side by side, like a transfer yard (illustrated above by the interchange yard at Monson Junction). I lined things up visually – used a standard gauge and 2′ boxcar and double checked my spacing with an engine. I think I left a scale 6″ between the equipment, and raised the 2′ gauge line so that the floors of the cars were level.

What I did NOT do was check the spacing with a 2′ gauge plow. ……..Guess what? They’re a lot wider than other equipment. So, if you can get a plow or mock up the width of one (a block of balsa would do), it’s a good idea for checking clearances.

I think I’d still build the transfer tracks close like I did. Crews will just have to shovel the tracks by hand, or plow when there are no standard gauge cars in the yard.

Editor (18-12-2016): I’ve just found my plans of the Bridgton snow plow #2, which measures 8ft 10ins wide at its maximum – a lot different from the normal 6ft 6in to 6ft 9ins width of Bridgton freight cars and coaches. The model snow plow that Trevor acquired was built from a SRCS kit for SR&RL #513, which measures 8ft 4ins wide at its maximum.

Editor: Here’s a picture of the interchange yard at Snowdon on the second iteration of Trevor’s S&PCRR.

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For more pictures of Trevor’s layouts click here. Well worth a browse!

If you have different suggestions and/or experience and would care to share it with us then please contact us.

 

 

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Maine On2 layouts – Bob Harper’s Franklin module

Editorial note: The early pictures of Bob Harper’s Franklin module shown here were originally published in one of the last galleries to be revised on the original Fotopic pictures FAQ site. As noted elsewhere, that site went belly-up (without warning), and the backup copy made temporarily available a year or so later pre-dated the Franklin gallery revisions, so all the original work was lost. The recent work on Bob’s latest module, (Megantic, click here to view on another browser page) unearthed some of the original Franklin pictures and drafts for the accompanying text, so we present this topic as if it were published in the 2010 to 2012 timeframe or so.

Foreword: UK Style small exhibition layouts, owned and shown by individuals.

The Franklin module is typical of many UK Exhibition layouts in being relatively small,  consisting of three major units; the visible part of the layout is in two pieces with an integral (and solid) backscene and ends, and a non-sceniced fiddle yard section using a multi track centre pivotted sector plate. The two scenic units fold together for transit, and the turntable unit fits on top forming a pretty complete and strong cage to protect the permanently attached scenery and structures whilst in transit. The size of the units is essentially dependant upon the owners’ vehicle or vehicles.

At the UK Slim Gauge Circle meet, I helped Bob bring the layout in from his car to the hall in the morning and back again in the afternoon. Bob confirms that his vehicle is a Ford (UK) Mondeo estate car, pretty similar in size to the Audi A4 estate, and quite compact compared to the American cars that I used to rent on my business trips throughout the 80’s and 90’s. The layout sections were loaded in lengthwise from the rear door.

The fiddle yard section has two sets of legs built in and is erected first, and then the sceniced sections are added as they only have/need one set of legs each.

In many cases the exhibition layout is the owners home layout, built so that it is easily transportable for exhibitions or even house moves. In other cases, like Franklin, the exhibition layout is part of the owners home layout designed and built to be easily removable as a section. In a few cases the owner may actually store the layout between exhibitions and only run trains at shows and exhibitions.

This style of layout is ideal for a first layout and for those who may have space or other restrictions, or who do not wish to commit to a larger layout. An added advantage for an On2 modeller is the linear nature allowing the larger radius curves required for satisfactory running of the larger Forney locomotives.

The Man and his module;-

When Bob joined the Maine On2 Yahoo! group he posted this introduction;- “My name is Bob Harper and I live in Manchester, England. Modelling in On3 since 1998, I have been adding an On2 feeder line to the On3 main line for the last 4/5 years. The On2 branch leaves the mixed-gauge junction and climbs up to the terminus, “Franklin”, which is detachable and can be taken out to exhibitions around the country. I was introduced to this Group by Terry Smith, and you can see a couple of photos he took of Franklin at the recent meet (13 May 2012) of the UK Slim Gauge Circle meet at Hillmorton, near Rugby”;-

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Bob continues;- “The white-bearded figure on the left of the photo is myself, controlling the layout from an i-pod. This is my latest painstaking mastery of modern technology, and creates a lot of interest at exhibitions. The scenic part of Franklin is 10 feet by 2 feet, and is fed by a 5 foot long turntable “fiddle yard”, with 5 tracks. The station is roughly based on Bridgton, but greatly compressed.” Note the legs and various boxes under the layout that transport the rolling stock etc.

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This picture shows a train of Terry Smith’s Bridgton freight cars arriving at Franklin on Bob Harper’s On2 portable layout.

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This view emphasises the track-work, which is all hand-built by Bob using Karlgarin code 82 rail. This rail is specially drawn in the UK with heavier sections to suit O scale (and larger) narrow gauge track work.

Click here to visit the Karlgarin home page, and here to download a .pdf of the rail sections available.

This picture shows the wider head (and base flange) of the Karlgarin rail.

Unpacking and erecting the layout at a show (Wigan 2012)

On the 15th June  2012, Bob sent these pictures and wrote “It’s still raining here in Britain, but I managed to dodge the showers and get the layout into the Exhibition Hall in Wigan, where I took photos of the rotary fiddle yard and the lighting beam.”

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The turntable style fiddle yard as folded for travel.

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The legs hinge upwards (in this view) and are locked in place by struts with toggle latches.

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The unit is rolled over and upright. This view shows the wooden wheels and upturned furniture castors which assist in taking the weight of the turntable when rotating.

The turntable fiddle yard is fitted with two sets of legs, and so is free standing. Both of the scenic boards are fitted with one pair of legs only and so must be erected and connected to the fiddle yard and first board in sequence. The legs are visible in the heading picture.

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The picture also shows the travelling position of an essential piece of equipment, the folding stool which Bob and other operators can sit on at the front of the layout while  conversing with visitors and occasionally operating trains.

Bob explains;- “the track on the turntable looks complicated as it was originally built for my On3 exhibition layout, “Cascade Yard”, which has 2 entrances to the yard and is a different width to “Franklin”. When I was getting Franklin ready for its first show I realised that I could share the old fiddle yard with the new layout, by adding the On2 track down the middle of the On3. Hence the 4 rails – 2 gauges, not check rails!”.

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After generating some interest on the Maine On2 Yahoo! group, some of it in error, Bob wrote “picking up a few points that have been raised, the micro-switches are needed to isolate the tracks, not flip the polarity. One is needed for each track at BOTH ends of the table. Isolation is required with DC operation, but not essential with DCC. I put the facility in to stop the sound of 5 trains at once driving fellow exhibitors mad at shows, not to stop the locos moving.”

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Like many UK exhibition layouts, Franklin has its own lighting system, built into a folding fascia that frames the layout like a theatre proscenium arch. Illumination is provided by a set of CFD “bulbs”, which were rather expensive on initial purchase in the UK when the layout was built.

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In transit, these expensive bulbs are housed in dummy bulb holders (ie not wired up) under a protective cover;-

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The fascia is supported by cantilevered brackets attached to posts at the rear of the layout, and held in place by toggle latches. Just visible at the top left of the fascia is the locking strip which fits across the top of the hinge line to hold the to parts open and in line;-

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The picture below shows the general arrangement of the layout from rear;-

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A “before the storm shot” below; the layout has now been fully erected, and after an electrical check can be connected to the mains supply, and rolling stock un-packed, and the paying visitors admitted.

Note the use of a cloth curtain in the picture below to hide all the detritus under the layout visible in the heading picture.

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– and here’s the continuation shot showing the turntable fiddle yard ready to accept the rolling stock.

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The red end stops are always kept down at the outer end of the table, and at both ends when it is being rotated.

Bob comments;- “As a space saving device, a turntable fiddle yard is very useful to save length, but do remember that you will need more width – you need a square space  to allow full rotation of the table. So it can’t be set up close to a wall. However, a friend has got round this by having the whole thing on runners, like a drawer, which pulls out and then allows rotation. Also I now use much niftier castors to support the table, which fit into a recess in the sub-base.”

Footnote 1: Bob and the Franklin module are booked to attend the National Narrow Gauge Convention 2016 at Augusta later this year. Click here for more details of the Convention.

Footnote 2: The Slim Gauge Circle is an informal group of around 200 UK (plus some overseas) based modelers interested in North American narrow gauge railroads. The Circle was founded 30 years ago to provide an alternative meeting place where the emphasis was on modeling, exchange of ideas, meeting old and making new friends plus some trading. Members’ interests include Colorado, Maine, logging and mining in all scales. The Circle holds “get togethers” twice a year at Hillmorton, near Rugby, in May and November.

Click here for more details about the Slim Gauge Circle.

Footnote 3 (update 31-12-2016): In October 2016, Franklin was awarded the David Lloyd Trophy for the “Best Layout in Show” by popular vote at the Expo Narrow Gauge Show held at Swanley, Kent. This is the biggest show in the UK devoted to small scale Narrow Gauge Railway Modeling. Click here for more details about the David Lloyd Trophy and here for more details about the Expo Narrow Gauge Show.

Maine On2 layouts – Bob Harper’s Megantic module

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Over the last few years Bob Harper, who hails from Manchester in England, has been doing a great job showing and publicising real Maine On2 on the UK Exhibition circuit with his “Franklin” module.

Pictured above is Bob’s new module “Megantic” at its first public outing at the ALSRM (Association of Larger Scale Railway Modellers) North 2016 Show at Wythenshawe yesterday (14th February 2016). The modules are parts of his On3/On2 layout located in the basement of his home which have been designed to be removable for exhibition purposes.

Bob has a very relaxed style of operating at UK Exhibitions, and so the controls are placed at the front to enable Bob to chat easily with the audience. It is not unknown for him to hand the controller to a member of the audience to allow them to run the trains.

Note that all the pictures in this post are shown reduced. By clicking on the pictures the larger versions are shown, use your browser back arrow to return to this page.

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Bob sent the first pictures last week and wrote;-

“I’ve been working furiously on the Megantic module trying to get it mostly ready for its first proper outing at the Manchester O gauge show this coming weekend. This will be the last new station on the 2ft, as there is no more space in my basement! It would be nice if it was far bigger, but it’s the best I can do. Very roughly based on Bigelow, the granary and section hut come from Kingfield, station from Mount Blue Models kit and freight house (much reduced) from Bigelow, loco shed from Randoph (reversed), turntable from Bridgton, and factory (chair mill?) inspired by another Mount Blue Models kit. Come and see it and help operating next Sunday if you can get there. Real ale on tap at £2.50 a pint!”

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In response to the posted question below Bob has replied;-

“the scenic station section is 80″ long by 15″ deep, and the fiddle yard adds another 40″ to the length. Because of the rotating top, this is effectively 36″ deep, though only 24” when stowed “line ahead”. Everything is very tight, both in length and depth, with the station restricted to Forneys; in order to get in a run-round loop long enough for a 2 car passenger train, l had to reduce the head-shunt by the tank to the bare minimum, and also the turntable, so tender locos won’t fit either. Of course, at home I can use a pilot loco to release the tender locos, but for exhibitions I will stick to the shorter trains and locos. The white background mill is not a Ken Berlo kit, as he has designed his with the freight doors at a pitch to match 2 Bachmann box cars. I scratch-built my version based on Ken’s, but put the doors on 28′ centres instead. I had also run out of window mouldings, so had to reduce their number!”

In December 2016 Bob posted to the Yahoo! group:-

“I decided to use LED lighting on my most recent layout, Megantic. I have used a double strip of Warm White LED’s as close to the front as possible and slightly angled to shine into the scenery. I played around with the height of the strips until I got a good general illumination, but the biggest improvement came when I added a ceiling so as to enclose the whole scene. Have a look at pictures of the layout on MaineOn2 FAQ’s. If you are able to enclose your scene like this, the result is very even and natural, and I’m pleased with it. However, I suspect that LED’s become more and more ineffective as the depth and height of the scene increase. So it’s a matter of trial and error to see what works best. One crucial thing I have discovered is to do all your scenic colouring using the final lighting that you intend to view the layout under. We built one layout forgetting this, and a brownish wall burst out into bright red when we put the exhibition lighting on!”

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Bob’s modules are parts of his On3/On2 home layout which are removable for exhibition purposes where they are mated with a turntable style fiddle yard section to hold trains “off scene”. This type of layout is very popular on the UK Exhibition circuit. Bob’s open style makes it easy for the viewers to look over the stock held in reserve, rather than making them strain over view blocks.

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The editors made a deliberate decision to publish these pictures at full frame to allow our viewers to see the backgrounds – which are typical of many UK shows.

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The section hut comes from the SR&RL at Kingfield.

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The station was built from a Mount Blue Models kit of Bigelow Depot.

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This structure was scratch-built and represents a prototype industry believed to be a chair factory. The design was based on the Mount Blue Models kit “Backdrop Industry #2”.

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The loco shed is based on the Kennebec Central shed at Randoph (reversed) and the turntable is based on the B&SR’s at Bridgton.

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The freight house is based on the SR&RL prototype at Bigelow but is much reduced to fit the available space.

Stuart Edmundson was at the show sent in the following pictures showing trains on the module.

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Bob’s latest addition to his fleet of scratch built rolling stock is this caboose based on the early version of the Bridgton lines prototype.

Megantic at the Llandrinio Get Together, Sunday 3rd July 2016

This get together was organised by the UK Borders Model Railway Club for the Gauge O Guild at Llandrinio village hall. Llandrinio is just four miles up the road from Welshpool, which may be familiar to Two Foot Fans.

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Bob Harpers’ introduction for the Megantic module.

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The Megantic module plus turntable fiddle yard plus operator and spare seat set up in the corner of the main hall.

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John Pearson concentrating on driving a train through the end board into the fiddle yard section.

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Now you can see why John was concentrating! A tight squeeze through the endboard!

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Bob Harper adjusting the track between the scenic module and the turntable fiddle yard. Also shows the rolling stock. Note that Bob uses acrylic based paints from “rattle cans” to paint his stock. For the passenger stock he uses Humbrol Brunswick Green, and Halfords Red primer or Red Plastic Primer for freight cars. The 2 reds are slightly different, so give a bit of variety.

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Close up of the front mounted point control board and a tethered throttle . The Megantic module uses servos as point motors.

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The mobile phone used as a throttle. The speed CV is correctly shown as 77, inadvertently set by the handling of the phone for this picture. It was very rapidly reset to slow the train down immediately afterwards.

Bob’s ipod railway controllers use an APP called Touchcab and communicate with the Lenz DCC system via WIFI / radio waves.

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This low angle shot catches the nicely done clouds on the backdrop.

The host club has now posted a report of the day. Click here to view on another page.

Some notes from Bob Harper on point tie-bars and reliability.

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This photo shows part of my On2 yard, where I use hand-throws, which also throw a microswitch, hidden under the scenery, to change the polarity of the live frog.

Most of the points on my Franklin and Megantic modules are actuated by Tortoise switch motors. The slow movement is only part of the reliable operation that I seek to achieve. Ever since I started building my own track 40 years ago, I have completely avoided soldering the point blades to the copper-clad tie-bars. The endless flexing of the soldered joint will inevitably lead to the joint snapping eventually, (and sooner rather than later if you use solenoid type point motors), and the most used (and hence most important) points will go first – usually at about lunchtime on the Saturday of a 2 day exhibition. I’m sure you can remember seeing a large exhibition layout at a halt as somebody tries to solder the crucial points up again.

My tie-bars are still copper-clad for strength, but upside down, with a 0.8mm hole drilled through at the position of each rail. A short length of brass wire in the shape of a Z is pushed through each hole and soldered to the side of the point-blades but obviously not soldered underneath to the copper surface. I used to use dressmakers pins pushed up from underneath and then bent over and soldered to form the pivots, but all the ones I can get now seem to be far too brittle and snap when I try and bend them.

Electrically it as all very simple – what I would call “best-practice” DC – though in fact I operate the whole of my 2ft and 3ft empire, including the Franklin and Megantic modules using DCC. This means having live switched frogs, which is easily done using one of the changeover switches on the point motors or using an extra set of poles on the toggle switches that throw the point motors which is my preferred method. I have found that separate electrical feeds to every length of rail, no matter how short they may be, are essential. I do have isolating sections on the loco shed roads, and more could easily be added for a DC layout, but I use them to cut down on the noise from stabled locos that are DCC sound fitted.

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This photo shows part of my On3 yard before I painted and ballasted it, so the tie-bars can be seen better. I have used all copper-clad ties for quick, soldered, construction, but on more visible sections, I would mostly use spiked, wood ties apart from a few copper-clad ones to give strength at the switch throw and frog. The copper-clad comes in paxolin-backed (poor) and glass-fibre (good!); looking carefully you can see the lighter green mark across parts of the tie bar – this is where I have cut insulating gaps underneath. Depending on where I can fit the Tortoise underneath dictates where the gaps go – I try to leave the area underneath where the pivot pin comes through completely isolated, just in case!

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This photo shows what the copper-clad ties look like when painted and ballasted.

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And here’s a picture of the same area of real Maine Two Foot point taken earlier this year.

Note that Bob’s Franklin module has featured in a number of publications such as the UK 7mm Association newsletters and the Narrow Gauge & Shortline Gazette, September/October 2014 edition, and attended the NNGC in Augusta, Maine in September 2016.

2016 National Narrow Gauge Convention. Click here to view the Convention site on another browser page.