HO Lakeshore Southern
This 8 x 12' platform features room for scenery and operation with a long mainline and an industry-packed branch line.
Layout at a Glance
- Scale: HO
- Size: 12x8' (144x96")
- Minimum Curve: 22" radius on mainline, 18" on branch line run around
- Minimum Switch: No. 4
- Maximum Grade: 2%
This layout combines two typical 4x8 platforms in a 12x8 "L" shape. You could these plans for a simple platform, or adapt the open grid platform as shown on the Rio Grande Narrow Gauge Layout to the larger dimensions. Since the track never crosses over itself, "cookie cutter" benchwork with a solid table top and risers could be used, but the open grid or even an L Girder style benchwork would allow easier scenery contours to take advantage of the elevation changes.
Having the branch line in the center of the platform climb a grade will improve the look. Just keep the track level at the industrial sidings and run around track to prevent cars from rolling away. The mainline could climb a little on either side of the switch for the branchline to ease the grades or increase the total elevation change as well.
Leave level pads for the industrial buildings beside the tracks. More buildings could be added as well. Just be sure to seat the buildings' foundations into the contours of the terrain for more realism.
This track plan is designed around standard track sections and switches. A little trimming may be necessary on a few pieces for the best alignment. Use a pair of rail nippers to trim sections if needed. The run-around at the mine requires two pieces of flex track. For better flowing curves, and even just to eliminate all the joints from the many sections of smaller track pieces, flex track could be used for most of the track on the layout. With the large number of small sections required, you may find the flex track not only more efficient but less expensive as well.
No. 4 turnouts are used for all of the industries except one which is a No 2 wye. The switch for the branch line is a larger No. 6.
If this layout is placed against a wall (or two) the mainline track along the long side of the L could be hidden beneath the mountain. There is room here to add one or two additional tracks for a hidden staging yard. With this run being potentially hidden for many feet, access hatches in the scenery would be a good idea.
To build the layout as shown, here are the pieces you'll need:
- 22" Radius Curve - 41
- 18" Radius Curve - 23
- 18" Radius 1/2 Curve - 3
- No 6 Switch, Right - 1
- No 4 Switch, Right - 4
- No 4 Switch, Left - 2
- Wye Switch - 1
- 9" Straight - 43
- 6" Straight - 2
- 3" Straight - 1
- 2" Straight - 1
- 2.5" Straight - 4
- 3' Flex Track - 2
- 18" Radius Curve - 1/3 section - 1
Scenery and Structures
The spurs could be any industries you'd like. Footprints are shown for four Walthers industrial buildings. From left to right they include the American Millwork Company, Sunrise Feed Mill, Brookhill Farms Dairy and New River Mining Company. These would provide a variety of car types for interesting freight train consists.
This layout leaves plenty of room for scenery as well. Having the track skirt the edge of a lake on the inside corner of the L would be a highlight (and the namesake of the layout plan.)The branch line would be climbing a grade so that the two industries on the left would be about two inches above the lakeside track in the foreground and about 2 inches lower than the mine at the top of the hill.
If you have access to all four sides, the raised branch line will act as a view block so that you can't see all parts of the loop at once. Or the mountain could continue up behind the branch burying the long straightaway inside along the back of the platform.
Operations and Rolling Stock
The 22" radius curves on the mainline will allow operation of most of the equipment available in HO, though long passenger cars, autoracks and intermodal equipment will pose problems.
Grades, No 4 switches and tighter curves on the run around track at the top of the hill would likely limit locomotives on the branch to 4 axle models. Although some 6 axle power could handle the curves, the smaller locomotives will look better.
With DCC now available in some entry-level sets, wiring this layout for two train operation could be as simple as connecting two wires. Simple block control could also be used. One train could be busy working the branch while another cruises the mainline loop.
With any layout, spending a little extra time to ensure your track is laid well, and powering switch frogs will go a long way towards increasing your enjoyment. Uncoupling magnets on the sidings would also make switching easier.
This track plan is not too complicated and allows the scenery to balance the track. Use of flex track would allow even more natural curves and character. A modest sized pike, this layout could still provide years of construction and operating fun.