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I have a relatively flat area, but I want mountains and trestles and tunnels and over unders and all that.  I have a rough idea of the track plan, kind of a folded figure eight and a cross over.  I have marked out roughly how I want things to go.  The question is, what do I do first?  Do I lay out my track and build my landscape and mountain around it?  Or do I bring in all the dirt and rock, stack it all up and build up my mountain and then fit the track around it?

I realize the prototype has to work with what is there,  but as modelers, it can go either way.

I'm thinking its personal preference or based on what you have to work with, but I'd like to hear from those with more experience.

Thanks,
Michael
 

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Michael,
Do the earth work first...
Trying to manuever a wheel barrow, or bob-cat around your track is asking for a 2X increase in the cost of your rail... (replacing what you damage with the earth moving)...
Layout with paint a rough idea of what you want track wise, and start making your contours to match.
You'll find that things change as you go, and new ideas of how to route the line will pop into your head as you build. Keep it fluid...
Believe me.
Please...
Or check out the archives and look for "portal" as a search word, and then "SDRR" as another, separate search criteria. You'll see some evidence of what I speak...

I've obviously wasted my time...
 

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Build a ladder frame for your track first and build up the landscape around it. The ladder frame will give your track support even if you have dirt settling. This is what I did and it has worked great for me. After I built up the mountains where i wanted them, I cut away any ladders that went across the gaps as I replaced them with bridges and trestles. Don't put any track down until your major landscaping is done to avoid any unintentional damage.
Russ Miller
 

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Hiya Mike,
  I would put down the layout first using some kind of inexpensive road bed (we used 1x4, old cedar decking). Then run some trains and check things out.
  After tweaking the layout to where you want it, remove the track, leave the cheapo road bed, and bring in the heavy stuff.  Then toss the cheapo road bed as you put in the landscaping.
  I started  our  railroad one year ago, and I am a real Newb. We put down a simple over and under figure 8 between two 10 foot (diameter) flower beds. We have expanded to about 150 ft of track and hope to add 300 feet or so this year. 
   So I say lay'r down and run some trains. See how she sounds and looks before the heavy stuff. :)

                                                                    Regards, 




                                                                    Zak


http://www.flickr.com/photos/[email protected]/


                         
 

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Well... I am about to start up again after having moved her over a year ago -my suggestion is to build your track and base work and then build your scenery around it. This enables you to fine tune your track work -eg find out why it derails there(!) without disturbing any of the landscaping. Added to this it is easier to change and re-arrange without the problem of a size 15 foot print in your new earth....

regards

ralph
 

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Michael

I would suggest that you get a bit more than a rough idea of what your layout will look like before you start anything. I think you'll find that even when you think you've have it all nailed down. Once you start construction you are going to encounter many things that seemed to work on paper that just don't pan out in actuality.

While you can build a ladder type structure out of wood or some type of synthetic wood product, or even use PVC electrical conduit to set your road bed and lay your track. Personally I'd take the time to get the rough landscaping done prior to putting any track down. I mean think about it, even if you use the ladder method to define and set the roadbed, then fill in around it. For the first year or so you're going to be dealing with the natural process of settling as the dirt and rocks compact and seek their natural levels. Plus it's going to involve a lot of fine hand work to accomplish, so you don't damage anything in the process. Additionally, if something doesn't work out or you think of a different manner of doing something it won't be that difficult to change things.

Like Duncan mentioned, basically it hard to damage dirt and rock, but even 332 code rail has its limits and it sure isn't getting any cheaper to buy it. Maybe if you were going to be using methods (i.e. fake mountains, valleys and such) that are normally found in indoor layouts just using materials that are suitable for outdoor use. Then building the roadbed first might be a better choice.

The following are some links to various topics regarding layout building found in the archived topics here on MLS.

SDRR Phase II underway

SDRR Bridges Phase 5.5 (FINISHED), UPDATE 6-19

SDRR Track Update 7-16-05 lotso pics (slow load)

Wind induced damage to the SDRR

SDRR Track Plan

SDRR trackage changes- ops oriented

SDRR track enhancement for operations (10 pics)

Tunnel Roadbed - Update - Apr-13 - Portal in

UPDATE!!! Start - STOP - Start again...

cuts are work, but the reward is great.

Building a small yard

Counting the cost, Labor VS Materials

I love to dig,,,NOT

FALL, Is the season for......

Getting...... STONED!!! (updated)

Adding turnouts,on concrete roadbed.

Roadbed,steel and Eastern Sub Div"""OPEN"""

Drainage on your RR

Tunnel FAILURE!!!!!!

Tunnel,,mistake

Bridge piers and Abutments

Newest track plan

FREE...Garden railroad.(phase4 update4/15)
 

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If you are going to be moving a lot of dirt, then I have to add my vote for using some sort of ladder roadbed support.  No matter how hard you pack it down, the dirt will settle significantly the first year and a little bit more the second year.  A solid roadbed is the best thing you can do to lower the maintenance on your track and to insure smooth running.

I use a product from Mainline Enterprise (now sold by Split Jaw) that is made from PVC but the ladder roadbed you can make yourself works just as well.

As I add new trackage to my layout, I will get the roadbed down and leveled in all dimensions and then backfill and do the basic shape of the dirt.  After the dirt has settled, I then fine tune it and then lay the trackage and ballast.

This is a shot from a couple of years ago when I added to the layouts west end.

http://1stclass.mylargescale.com/JoeJohnson/March%2006%20roadbed/East%20Long%20View.jpg
 

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The most important ting is to go out there and just do it.

I started with track on the ground and small pieces of wood to level it.

I then dug out under where the track was and lined the tranch with weed blocker, then added 1/4 inch gravel, re-installed the track and ran trains. I even placed a large pipe in place for a tunnel which I eventually covered with dirt (lots of fill and dirt) and created a small layout above the mainline.

It is loads of fun to run trains while working, plus you are out there with the raw materials to fix whatever problems you see.

Biggest problem I had and have seen at other layouts was not the track being level from one end to the other, but the side to side level of the track especially at switches. SD-45's and my RDC are very critical about side to side level of switches.
 

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Michael:

In building my layout, I did build my trackwork first on a ladder system with the plans of going back and filling in the scenery. In laying out my trackplan I did plan my scenery, at least in my head how it was going to look.
 
Do your planning as if you were building an HO layout down your basement. The one good thing about building the trackwork first, is you do get to play way before the last tree is in place.   

 

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How much dirt are you talking about? If it's truckloads, or enough to justify a Bobcat loader, or if you have poor soil and want to add a large quantity of amendments, then definitely do that part first. If it's a few wheelbarrow loads, then definitely track first, then move dirt.

But having said that, I would throw at least the main loop down first, and run trains for several weeks before doing anything. I built layouts, ran trains, tore up the layout, and started over for the better part of a year. I think I had six layouts in that period of time. The end result was in a different part of the yard, and much larger than my first idea.
 

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I fully agree with Ken, especially if you build an elevated RR as he did. If you backfill an elevated railroad and then discover that you need to move track, the task of unfilling (is there a word for undoing backfill?) move the elevated roadbed and then backfilling again is a major headache. I have never built any RR that did not require changes in layout design after real world testing, so even if you place your track at ground level, I would test it operationally for several weeks before adding landscaping.

Mark
 

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RGSSD,
I like your layout just the way it is. It is really fantastic. Are you in So Jersey?  I would love to see it. If it was mine I would just put in more track, some plants and forget the rest, and just run trains.
Paul
 

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Michael,
This is absolutly the right place to ask these questions. You will get an opinion from every angle. The problen is that when it is all said and done the decision is still yours to make. You already have post suggesting both methods so read carefully and do which works better for your situation.
With that said I will put in my 2 cents worth. The picture below was taken at he very first run of my Tallapoosa and Southern. With the exception of the dry creek and rock banking you see, the rest of my 12 x 30 ft layout is flat.

This worked great for me at the beginning. I put in the retaining wall in the back ground, filled in the low areas with dirt and installed track on a 4 inch bed of crusher fines. The problem was I took away all of my  height. Now I am trying to come up with a way to add height and  depth. My only option is to haul in rock and dirt in and around the track trying not to tear anything up. Going flat from the beginning made it easier to install track without worring about any slope. It was also cheaper because I did not have to buy or build bridges or tunnels. Now I wish I had taken more time and left some of the topography in place. I just had to hurry up so I could run trains.
Anyway, good luck in your decision. Just take your time and do it right from the start.
Jeff
Tallapoosa and Southern
 

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Michael
I agree with some of the others, I used the ladder system on mine, I used a rope to layout what I wanted. The rope is easy to move and change, look at, think about it, make changes. 
Be sure to figure your grade in order to know how far you must go before you can cross over the track.  Using 25 foot ropes will help you know the distance you are going before you cross. If you figure you need 35 ft, use one 25 foot rope and go with 10 of next . 
I took a steel 5foot radius 3 inch wide pattern and a 4 ft straight 3 inch wide pattern and layed on the ground and used the flourecent spray and sprayed both sides. Took a rock bar puched holes ever 2ft , drove the treated risers in the ground, I used the plastic decking system for my raised road bed, I fastened the system to the risers got everything fastened to the risers, took a recepricating saw and cut off everything above the roadbed. It took about 15 hours to layout and build 170 feet of roadbed, I did no turnouts at first, I laid my track and ran some trains, the beauty of this system is you can run trains while you build up your ground work. 
Then I started building my mountains, my railroad is built on a hillside, I have about a 5 foot drop in elevation, my one mountain is 5 ft wide and 14 ft long and 5ft tall with two tunnels that cross in the mountain. That mountain is made out of concrete, GREAT effects. 
My second big mountain is 4ft wide 16 long and over 8ft tall, has 5 ft water fall with a 9 foot river. This mountain is made out of large polystrene blocks, carved with a hot knife and sprayed with vinyl patch cement.  This technique has outstanding results, 
The tall spire peaks in the west are one of the many outstanding effects you can get with this technique, using a 20.00 dollar sheetrock sprayer from habor freight, spraying the polystrene with vinyl patch cement then spray painted, I used a gravity feed sprayer, just a cheap one from HARbor freight, I love the effects you can get with a gun sprayer, lots of experience helps too.
The only disadvantage of the polystyrene technique is you can't crawl around on it. But again you can get effects you can't get with concrete.
The only catch with having mountains is you must have lots of bridges and trestles, oh darn, /DesktopModules/NTForums/themes/mls/emoticons/w00t.gif I love bridges
When I built the Foam mountain I took out that section of track.  To relay when done I find out as you add a section here, ideas for expansion starts to flow, I know if you have a large amount of room with lots of track it is easier to run track after most of the dirt is in. when I get done I will have about 500 ft of track, that will be 2-3 years from now, but you know what , I sure am having fun, and that is what I want you to have, good luck Dennis
 

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No matter how many times I measure and how many stakes I put out, when the track goes in everything looks different. Using sectional track, for me it was easier to lay it out and then see where the roadbed actually needed to be. It is always bigger than planned. Also with track on the ground, I found it easier to measure, with a string or laser level, the exact grades and then layout fill, cuts, tunnels and bridges. 
Many have suggested building a very small expandable layout, get the trains running, add scenery and plants so you can actually enjoy trains rather than spend all your spare time for the next summer moving dirt. This is not quite instant gradification, but it sure helps break up the monotony when the little engines sends up a could of steam.
Bob
 
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