"Pizza Hill" N-scale Model Train Layout

This layout was inspired by a combination of having a lot of spare Peco Settrack curves of 9 and 10" radius, discovering Carl Arendt's webpage on Micro Train Layouts, and wanting to experiment with an idea I plan to incorporate in other layouts, namely the modeling of underground stations, or "tube" stations as they are to the Cockney.

The layout is simple, yet deceptively complicated at the same time. It consists of nothing more than 1080 degrees (three circles) of curves, all turning in the same direction, with no straights at all. In fact the track is formed by 7 9" radius curves, then 5 10" radius curves, then 6 more 9" radius, then 6 10" radius curves. This produces the plan at right.

The green grid is 1-inch spaced, so you can see that it could fit in an area of about 22" square, but mine is on a 24x24 baseboard. Track displayed without ties/sleepers is in tunnel; the red ties indicate a tube (underground) station. "Mind the gap!"

The tricky part is ensuring that trains do fit around the layout, and that there is nowhere an insurmountable grade.

Here is an early construction shot that gives a good idea of the three-dimensionality that is needed to make such a tight plan work. Think of the layout as a pair of helical climbs that overlap and interleave, the shape you get if you curl the fingers of both hands so that the tips of your fingers touch the palm, then mesh your fingers so that the index finger of your left hand lies sandwiched between the index and second fingers of the right hand, the second finger of the right hand is between the index and second fingers of the left, and so on. You can climb up easily and indefinitely if you allow a grade corresponding to rising twice the clearance height of the scale per revolution. To minimise the climb grade, my layout deviates a little from this regularity and only has three complete turns altogether.

Here are some photos of the layout finished except for trees, buildings and people. You can see the observation window in the rear...


The piece de resistance in this layout is the tube station. Here you see the station, viewed as it must be, from the side of the layout. The station itself does slope---there is no level track in the whole layout---as you can see from the varying thickness of the strip of wood between the top of the "window" and the (level) top of the wood that forms the back of the layout.

Merinda and I painted the figures for this layout, man and animal. Here you can see us at work in the kitchen, with a box of assorted, unpainted Preiser figures. You should be able to make out five people in the tube station, three sitting on the red benches, two walking.

The finished layout, with a small Bavarian village, trees, and people on the two open air stations; there are a total of three stations altogether.

Here is our family, as painted by Merinda, on a bench waiting for a train at the upper station:

Except for Amelia, who is waiting to catch the same train at the underground station, viewed from out of the tunnel approaching the platform:

Here is a view of the lower station.

The control system is built inside the box; here is the recessed panel from which the layout is run. The houses are illuminated, there is optical train detection built into the tracks at the stations, and the motor control is provided by a microprocessor-based controller using a PIC microcontoller. The power supply is switchable between 115 and 230V.

The controller drives the train from station to station, halting at each to pick up and set down the passengers.

Finally, as with all my layouts, the whole is equipped with a lid to enclose it for safe-keeping. The red lid is supposed to be suggestive of those pizza delivery satchels that keep the pizza warm while the delivery person searches for your house.

The comment "Mind the Gap!" comes from an actual station on the London Underground. This station is quite sharply curved, so that the carriages have relatively large gaps between their edges and the edges of the platform, at the positions of the doors. In order to keep patrons mindful of the hazard at this particular station, a recording keeps repeating the above phrase all the time that a train is in the station.

Carl Arendt tells me that: "Mind the Gap" signs are found throughout the London Underground these days, and are often commented on with amusement by U.S. visitors (who also love the British "Way Out" signs). I wonder if Gap still has the monotonous recording?


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