DRGW II - HO - Benny

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A short discussion about this plan

It was designed to be a single level, around the wall, walk-in design using John Armstrong’s “squares” (40 inches). I placed an emphasis on scenery vice operations, as it seems from recent posts that Benny is looking to model specific scenes of the railroad rather than its operations. From other posts, I’ve gathered that the longest train would be a SFe ABB with 11 cars – about 12’-9” in HO from the measurements Benny provided). I have included the following elements in this arrangement:

Denver/Pueblo (visible staging)

Rather than attempting to model both yards, I have combined them into one; the northern half would be Denver, while the southern half would represent Pueblo. Depending on desires, this area could be used for making/breaking trains, providing interchange traffic with other railroads, and/or model industries to produce/consume loads (i.e. a power station or steel mill).

>With the length of trains that Benny wants to run (13’ in HO), there really isn’t much room for operations here. Rather, this area would be more like visible staging where trains are waiting at the terminal before commencing their next run.

Moffat Road Route

Big 10 Curves

A classic feature of the DRGW. I’ve used the minimum curves of 36”; not sure how the long passenger trains will look on this (I work in nineteenth century narrow gauge so my trains seldom exceed 7 cars which are never longer than 50’).

Tunnel District

I’ve picked T6-T7-T8 as they are relatively close together and work well in this particular arrangement. I envision modeling this section with the background being the “Great Plains” spread out well below the track level; i.e., the viewer would be above the tracks looking east out across the plains – similar to the postcard views of these tunnels. T8 is where the railroad turns west up South Boulder Creek, which matches well with the hard left hand turn in the track plan.

>To make room for another passing siding and to allow some room for the Moffat Tunnel helix, I’ve had to move T8 off the curve.

East Portal of the Moffat Tunnel

Another classic feature of the DRGW. I’ve only included the eastern portal – didn’t see the space for the western portal. I would use a “duck under” section for the tunnel. This tunnel section would not include scenery (the background ends at the tunnel portal). After the train enters the tunnel, the operator would “duck under” and pick up the train at Dotsero. I would also include a passing siding Between T8 and the portal.

Royal Gorge Route

Royal Gorge

I envision this as a space with “narrow” aisles to emphasize the steep walls of the canyon. The aisle can be narrower in this area as it is purely scenic – no operations here. I’ve included the Hanging Bridge on the backside of the loops to “hide it” until the train is well into the canyon.I

I think that very high scenery is required here, with the canyon walls towering over the trains as well as the operator! I think that it would be neat to model both sides of the canyon, in the area of the tight curve where the train makes a 180+ degree turn. Wouldn't have to model the aisle side nearly as high, just enough to give the effect of the train being "squeezed" by the canyon walls (and make the operator "peek" over the scenery to view the train at the bottom. Also, this would allow very effective modling of the Hanging Bridge (I finally saw a photo of this great sructure) with the beams arching across the Arkasas River and buttressing against both sides of the canyon. After the Hanging Bridge (as well as before the big curve), it would only be necessary to model one side of the canyon with the river at the bottom.


This could be any town including Salida, I chose Leadville as it is well known. The idea here would be to provide some interesting operations for those so inclined. It should also include a passing siding.

>After reviewing the actual route of the railroad, this area would better reflect Salida or Buena Vista as Leadville is actually located on a branch line.

Tennessee Pass

Similar to the Eastern Portal of the Moffat Tunnel, I chose to only model the eastern portal of Tennessee Pass.

Salt Lake Line


This area would include a “wye” allowing trains from Salt Lake to proceed over either the Moffat Road or the Royal Gorge Route or allow a westbound train from Denver, to return to Pueblo via the Royal Gorge. This would also provide for the turning of trains if desired. And finally, this would allow continuous operation over the Moffat Road/Royal Gorge routes while the Grand Junction, Salt Lake section was being constructed. The scenery (i.e., rocks, buildings, trees, etc. would be used to disguise the entry of the trains through the backdrop (no tunnel portals here).

Grand Junction

Like Leadville, this could be any town in the area. Something to provide some operations (and a passing siding).

>There has been a good suggestion from Bryan Lemonds concerning modeling Glenwood Canyon or Glenwood Springs in this area as Grand Junction is not very scenic. I would prefer Glenwood Springs, if it can offer the ability for a local freight to conduct some operations here. Although Glenwood Canyon is very pretty, there is already a canyon scene modeled in the Royal Gorge.

Salt Lake (visible staging with return loop)

Similar to Denver/Pueblo, this would provide a place to hold trains, and interchange with other railroads, and/or industries (from hidden staging). The return loop would allow for continuous running (would have to include either a “spring switch” or better, a sensor and switch motor to automatically align the switch at the tail of the “wye” in Dotsero if unattended continuous operations are desired.

Hidden Staging

There are three locations that would work for “hidden” staging. Certainly the area “behind” Salt Lake would be an ideal location for staging. The Denver/Pueblo area is not as convenient; however, I believe that some staging could certainly be located under “Grand Junction that would wind around behind/under the Royal Gorge route and enter Pueblo from the west (exiting Denver to the west). Likewise, some hidden staging could be located under the Big 10 curves feeding into Denver from the west (exiting Pueblo to the west).


1. I would really have liked to have found a way to get Bond into the plan (in its proper location) as that would be a ready source of coal for a coal train that Benny has indicated that he would like to run. The Bond branch would join the mainline between the Moffat Tunnel and Dotsero and there just isn’t room up there for more tracks. (Also, I really don’t like plans where the operator has to “leave” their train to walk around the scenery, thus my use of tunnel portals to provide a natural exit of the scenery where the operator has to temporarily leave the train.)

2. Moffat Tunnel and Tennessee Pass tunnels are really too short. I’d rather have the trains disappear for a moment allowing the operator to duck under the track and be in position to observe the train exiting the tunnel. Perhaps someone else can find a way?

>Corrected: Charlie Comstock suggested using a Helix at these locations as Joe had done in the Moffat Tunnel of his proposal. This is an excellent idea and has been incorporated.


During a "discussion" on the ldsig at Yhoo Groups, Charlie Comstock made several very good suggestions as possible improvements to the track plan. As with many things in designing a model railroad the changes involve trade-offs and compromises and the "owner" has to decide what is most important to them.

Adding helix’s to lengthen the tunnels

An excellent and clever idea, which has been included. Thanks Charlie and Joe.

"Mushrooming" Grand Junction with the Royal Gorge

Another excellent idea -- especially if the helix's could be used to gain additional elevation in Grand Junction (at 2.0% average grade from Royal Gorge to Grand Junction (with the helix) the gain in elevation is ~20 inches). The advantage of the mushroom would be an increase in the "depth" of scenery at Grand Junction as it could extend over the top of the Royal Gorge below. The main disadvantage would be a loss of vertical height in the Royal Gorge. (I envision pushing those vertical canyon walls well above the operator's head!) Without the helix, however, I don't feel that this option is really viable.

Moving the Salt Lake staging to increase the mainline run

This is an excellent idea if a longer mainline run is desired. Benny's triple-decker uses this method and it is an easy substitution if that is what is desired. I had intentionally placed Salt Lake at the main entrance as I envisioned the visitor/operator being greeted by the scene of the Salt Lake depot that Benny had posted to the Yahoo Groups. I had also thought that "hidden staging" (not shown in the diagrams) could be placed in this area. As to the "closet" I had kept it free of tracks to allow its use as either a Dispatcher's Room (if Benny decides to get into operations) or a "workroom" -- I just couldn't justify the inconvenience of routing tracks into this space (unless the goal is to get as much track as possible).

Comment from Benny

Here's an alternative idea for the Salt Lake corner of the room. However, it relies on tight radius curves (30" radius) and narrow aisles (about a foot wide), so may not be such a great idea. But I offer it and maybe it will generate some interesting new ideas.


A Revision to the "Original" Plan


Although this track plan doesn’t include many things that have been mentioned or suggested by several others, I was able to squeeze in (literally) a short siding at Canyon City, which Benny indicated he really wanted. The one big problem with this particular location is that there will really only be a couple of feet of mainline between the ladder at Pueblo and the siding at Canyon City.

I have also modified the routing of the track through the entrance to the Royal Gorge. I believe that you can get a fairly accurate representation of Benny’s photo here. What I’ve tried to show with the blue backdrops, is the train actually exiting the scene behind a section of “backdrop”, which is located between the track and the aisle this “backdrop” would be modeled as that large rock and the other side of the track would be vertical canyon wall as well. The train wouldn’t enter a tunnel here, it simply disappears behind the rock (if you peeked over the top of the rock, you could see the tracks at the bottom of the canyon), reappearing a bit later to the north where only one side of the canyon wall is modeled. In a similar fashion, I’ve shown a portion of “scenery” blocking your view of the train as it makes its 180 deg. + turn at the northern end of the canyon aisle – again, the train isn’t traveling through a tunnel here, it is open at the top, its just that your modeling both sides of the canyon. I’ve located the Hanging Bridge on the exit from this section where you could model the bridge hanging from the trusses spanning the canyon walls. I’ve arbitrarily made the portion where the scenery blocks the direct view of the train to coincide with the 13’ trains that you’ve indicated you would like to run – jus so the train you don’t see both sides of the train at the same time as it makes this big turn.

I’ve also included a siding between T-8 (had to move it to the right to make room) and the Eastern Portal of the Moffat Tunnel. This siding will allow two 13’ trains to pass. What I want you to notice is how long these sidings must be – they use a lot of mainline! I’ve also kept the siding back from the Eastern Portal in the event that you’d like to include helix’s in this area as has been discussed. I’ve voiced my concerns that the helix’s impact too much on the aisles, however, it would be your decision. With this arrangement, it should be relatively easy to substitute the alternate arrangement (with helix’s as shown earlier) in this area.

I’ve included some ladder tracks in the Salt Lake yard area in its “original” configuration. The curves in the “hidden” return loop and leading into the staging area (not shown on the detail) are 32” radius, all others are 36” radius. 32” makes the staging tracks easier to fit in here and as there is no grade, I would think that the trains could handle the additional drag. If this is unacceptable, they can be increased to 36” as shown in the earlier version, however the arrangement of the staging tracks as shown will have to be altered as well.

Rev 3a


Big Change was to more accurately reflect the shape of the rooms – fortunately this didn’t have too much of an impact on the design (actually improved the access through the doorway between Salt Lake and Glenwood).

Other changes include:

1. Addition of two single loop helix’s in the areas of the Eastern Portal of the Moffat Tunnel and Tennessee Pass leading to the “wye” at Dotsero.

2. Additional sidings at Glenwood Springs/Canyon, and Salida/Buena Vista.

3. Some simple “visible staging” tracks at Denver/Pueblo to give a bit of a feel for how long these tracks must be.

4. Included spiral easements in the changed portions of the layout (Big 10 Curves, Royal Gorge, and Salt Lake areas. I had to drop to a 32” radius curve with easements on the curve connecting the “yard” with the staging area. The inclusion of easements on this curve pushed the “yards” toward the doorway leading to Glenwood. If a 36” radius curve with easements is used in this arrangement, the Salt Lake yard will extend through the doorway.

Salt Lake Area


I've used the original track arrangement, as it was the most simple and easy to prepare. I’ve only included a simple ladder for discussion. If you look carefully on the 1st yard track at Salt Lake you should see (a very poor) rendition of your Zephyr – all 13’ of it. As you can see, even by extending the yard clear across the room towards the doorway into the larger room, this yard barely contains the longest train on the longest track without fouling the mainline. In fact if two 13’ trains were to meet here, one would have to be careful to ensure the train on the ladder is within the points of clearance for the main (there is room on the 1st ladder track to clear the main as shown). Also, if a 13’ train occupies the 1st ladder track (as shown), then it will foul the 2nd ladder track at both ends. This means that if you “park” a Zephyr or equivalent coal train on the first track, the “yard” will be inaccessible from both ends. The point that I’m trying emphasize is that long trains require long yards and these take a lot of space.

L-girder benchwork

This is my first L-girder benchwork. I made it 240 cm (~94") long. It's very sturdy and not that hard to build. I like it a lot. The idea is to build a module with the layout on top of the benchwork so it will be easy to move the layout. I'm investigating how to do it at the moment.
























The following specifications apply to the revised track plan (Rev 3a).


Total Track: 315 ft. (includes Denver/Pueblo and Salt Lake yards and return loop. Does not include the hidden staging behind Salt Lake)

Minimum Radius: 36 in. (except for return loop at Salt Lake which is 32 inches)

Max. Grade: 2.4% (Tunnel District)

Min. Frog: #6

Min. Tangent on “S” Curve: 12 in.


The first number is “baseline” starting from Denver/Pueblo at 0 inches. The number in (#) is the height of the track above the floor that places the duck under at 60” (+1 ½” roadbed and support puts Dotsero at 61 ½”

Denver/Pueblo: 0 in. (42 1/2 in.)

Dotsero: 19” (61 1/2 in.)

Salt Lake: 16” (58 1/2 in.)

Denver to Dotsero -- Moffat Tunnel Route

Distance: 107 ft. (excluding Denver yard)

Elevation Change: 19 in.

Max. Grade: 2.4% (Tunnel District (T6-T7-T8)

Pueblo to Dotsero -- Royal Gorge Route

Distance: 110 ft. (excluding Pueblo yard)

Elevation Change: 19 in.

Max. Grade: 2.2% (Entrance to Tennessee Pass Grade through Royal Gorge: 1.8%

Salt Lake to Dotsero

Distance: 23.5 ft.

Elevation Change: 3 in.

Max. Grade: 1.6% (Salt Lake to Glenwood)

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