Micro Layout Mockup

I decided on the option 4 track plan but I changed the inner oval to be raised versus the outer making the overpass a bit more complex. I made a “mockup” of the layout pinning the tracks to the foam board and created “elevated track support” out of cardboard. This is a great way to literally see the mechanics of the layout. 

Mockup of layout

microlayout_mockup_1

The gradient is steep but I am not so concerned about that. I can see how the raised curve may bank a bit and that can potentially be a real issue. The magnetic wheels will help in both cases though. I need a short straight track to connect the elevated curve with the 60mm straight track. Not ideal but I will try to hide that section. 

I did also decided on the layout theme. I will build something ultra modern with a “sun powered tram” serving a multi story shopping/transport center. I will incorporate the tracks into the structure with 4 stops. Modern architecture with a lot of straight lines, rectangle and “squarish” elements looks like a perfect fit for 1/450 scale (or not). 

 

Micro Layout Options

Time to figure out the track layout. Step one; build a foam board “replica” of the IKEA frame I am using. I fixed copy paper to the “baseboard” with pins so I can draw outlines on the paper vs directly on the foam board. That way I can reuse the foam board template over and over. The foam board allows me to fix track sections to the baseboard using pins. 

The workable area inside the frame is 21.8 x 21.8mm (≈ 8.3 x 8.3in) with a height of 30mm (≈1.18in).

Height calculation: 
16M Chassis = 6.6mm 
Fine Track = 2mm
Track Base (cork?) = 2mm
Total = 10.6mm (≈0.42in)

Overpass margin: 15mm – 10.6mm = 4.4mm (≈0.16in) headroom.

I am choosing 15mm because its half the height of the 30mm I have to work with. 4mm headroom does not sound like much but in this case it is “plenty”. For the second level I will also have 15mm (0.6in) of available space. If I replace the track base with a bridge foundation I will have 2mm (0.08in) to work with which is 90cm (35in) IRL. 

The magnetic wheels allows me to be fairly aggressive with the track grade and I am using that to the fullest in my designs. I came up with 4 options I like. At this point I am not really considering the theme of the layout, just trying to get an interesting track plan. The numbers indicates height of track; 0 = 0mm from ground,  +1 = 7.5mm, +2 = 15mm. 

Layout option 1: Twice around oval with a circle and an overpass (A), one straight track for a platform/station (B). Simple and straight forward.

Micro Layout option 1
Micro Layout option 1

Layout option 2: Twice around ovals with a curved overpass (A), two straight tracks for platforms/stations (B), a section of track (C) that require trimming a 60mm straight track. This layout is a bit more challenging, more track, and allows for two stops.

Micro Layout option 2
Micro Layout option 2

Layout option 3: Twice around squarish loop combined with a circle. Has a curved overpass (A), one straight track for a platform/station (B), one section of trimmed track (C). The overpass can probably be more challenging than it looks. 

Micro Layout option 3
Micro Layout option 3

Layout Option 4: Twice around squarish loop combined with an oval. Has the simplest overpass (A), potentially room for three platforms/stations (B). Will require two more 60mm straight tracks (C) and maybe some shorter trimmed straight track sections in some places. At the moment this is the layout I am leaning towards. Plan would be to keep the tracks from the overpass at 15mm heigh through the straight track to the right (C). That should give me three stops. For a small “go around” layout it is a bit more interesting if you can have multiple stops (with some way overkill automation just for the fun of it).

Micro Layout option 4
Micro Layout option 4

Fine Track Test Run

I have been running circles (literally) with my Fine Track Set, and some ovals as well. Been testing how the 16m (35.5mm) chassis is running on the tracks and to understand the ins and outs of using the Fine Tracks. Previously I have only been running the DB ICE 3 set on the standard tracks with the raised bed and it worked perfectly. 

With the Fine Tracks it becomes more tricky because they don’t have a perfect fit. It illustrated to me how the smallest miss alignment or “bump” can cause an issue on this scale. My test runs have not been under ideal conditions in any way, the tracks were not flat, they flex as the engine drives around etc. I had some derailments and stalling but it was always an issue with a gap in the track joint, or some misaligned track. If I carefully reconnected and adjusted the tracks, did some “polishing” (abrasive paper) and/or temporarily fix the track I could make the operation smooth. 

It is impressive that despite the less than ideal set-up it worked fairly well, the magnetic wheels is a great “feature” in this case. The bottom line is that I am confident it will work but I need to be very meticulous when I lay the track and respect the size of the scale. 

Fine Track Set

I received two Fine Track sets from TGauge.com with 60 and 70 mm radius curves. They look really good with high detail and feels solid to work with despite the small size. There were a couple of broken of “tie ends” on the 70mm track. I am sure if I asked I would get a replacement but in my case it is not and issue. 

Fine_track_collage

Connecting the tracks is easy, but you have to remember that it is 1:450 scale and it will be a bit “delicate”. If you connect and disconnect the tracks several times you will need to give the joiners a pinch (carefully) with a plier to tighten them a bit.

The set includes: 

  • 4 x 60 or 70 mm radius curves
  • 2 x 60 mm straight track 
  • 1 x Power cable 
  • 5 x Track connectors (Same as the FlexiTrack joiners) 
  • 1 x Bag of track screws 
  • 1 x 2000 grade cleaning paper. 

If you put together the tracks using the 60mm radius curves you get an oval loop of 190 x 130mm, 7.5 x 5in (outside edge of track), and with the 70mm radius curves 210 x 150mm, 8.3 x 6in (outside edge of track). The Fine Track set comes in two colors, brown and grey. I ordered the grey because I like to start from a light base when weathering the track. 

The recommended max length chassis is 38mm which means that the 16m motorized kit bash chassis (35.5mm) is really the only viable rolling stock. The smallest Engine (Loco) availble is 21m (≈ 46mm) so it will require you to do some “scratch” building using the 16m kit bash chassis. Don’t forget that the set does NOT include a Power control, you have to buy that separately.  

In my case I am using the controller I got with the DB ICE starter kit (for now at least). 

Fine Track Set 60mm Grey
Fine Track Set 70mm Grey
16m Kit Bash Chassis

 

Micro Layout update 1

I have decided to build my “micro layout” in an IKEA frame. Ribba is a square frame 25 x 25 cm, 9 ¾ x 9 ¾. The workable area inside the frame is 21.8 x 21.8mm ≈  8.3 x 8.3″ and a height of 3 cm ≈ 1.18“. 

I will use two sets of fine track with 60 and 70 cm radius curves respectively so I can make something a little bit more interesting than just an oval. The frame height allows me to run two levels of track. I created fine track templates and printed them to test out some layout ideas while I wait for my order to arrive. You can download the template if you want to print out your own. 

IKEA Ribba