Track Plan At A Glance
Layout Theme: Transit System
Layout Type: Permanent Layout
Scale: HO Scale
Track: Code 83
Turnouts: No. 4
Min. Radius: 20"
Article by: Jim Spavins
Posted: June 7, 2016
Published: December 31, 2012
One of the key components of any large city planner's transportation plan is almost always a transit system. In many big cities, rail is the obvious answer in moving large numbers of people around the city quickly and efficiently. In the last couple of decades, light rail transit systems have become a popular choice for these city planners and a number have been built around the United States such as the St. Louis MetroLink (pictured below) constructed in the early 1990s. For model railroaders, these light rail systems make for interesting modeling candidates. Track radii and grades can be substantially smaller and steeper, respectively, due to the size of equipment run on these lines. This makes designing a layout to fit in a spare bedroom much easier with lots of opportunities for highly detailed scenes with large buildings towering above the right of way. This theme would be a great candidate for the modeler who enjoys building structures and adding endless detail to their layouts.
To capture the essence of a transit system, the essential features of this railroad should be:
- Several station stops along a mainline
- City scenes with appropriate detail and design
- Light rail passenger equipment
Even within our constraints of a 10'x11' spare room, it would be possible to incorporate all of these essential elements to build a spectacular transit line. The plan shown at the beginning of the chapter is a point to point design featuring a light rail line set in the fictional Springfield metro area from its start at an airport in the suburbs to the city center. A total of four station stops are included on the route. The layout starts at the suburban airport station and proceeds to a suburban station stop. Buildings in this area should only be a few stories tall and the line should even feature a grade crossing or two. The line then proceeds into the more densely populated downtown area with a stop at the commercial district and terminates at the downtown stop in the city center. At this end of the line, the tracks proceed below grade with large skyscrapers dominating the area around the station.
Operating the Railroad
This railroad could be operated in a traditional manner with engineers operating the trains and a central dispatcher directing traffic. A small crew of three people could fit in the room to handle the traffic on the line with a pair of trains shuffling between the station stops. However, this would be a light schedule. The railroad could support as many as four trains on the line at any given time but the room would be ill-equipped to handle this number of operators. Therefore, the alternative would be to program an automated train control system to have hands free operations on the railroad in order to increase the number of trains on the railroad. This would certainly be a programming challenge but certainly well within the realm of possibility for any hobbyists willing to spend a little time learning code and computer interfacing.
A St. Louis Metro set pulls into the Busch Stadium stop during the fall of 2005. | Photo by Jim Spavins.
Resource Use on the Railroad
To capture the essence of a transit line, here is how resources would be used to accomplish this goal for the Springfield Metro design:
Time would be spent...
- Building Structures
- Adding Details such as Vehicles, People, and Lighting
- Programming an Automated Control System
The Space would be used for...
- Large city structures
- Transit right of way and stations
Money would be spent on...
- City structures
- Details such as vehicles, people, and lighting
- Light rail equipment
The Skills required to build the railroad are...
- Structure Construction
- Layout Detailing, Painting, and Weathering
- Electronics and Computer Programming
As mentioned earlier, this layout would be well suited for the person who enjoys building structures and detailing. The layout could provide a plethora of these types of projects and certainly be outfitted with numerous lighting and animation features such as a working signal system and building lights to add to the effect of a bustling city themed layout.