Large Scale Central

Who likes to complicate layouts in confined spaces?

Ok, I’m stuck again in South Australia.

I have an elevated L shaped garden bed that will at some point allow me to connect the railroad with a rectangular garden bed.

I’ve learnt from trolling through numerous LSC discussions that I don’t want a boring layout and yet having put in the garden beds I don’t have much option in changing elevations and I have tighter curves than ideal.

I want to run trains independently on separate loops in separate garden beds but want to connect the loops so trains can cross to other beds and run with each other using DCC.

And as many have said on this forum, I want to make space to run operations, deliver goods, shunt cars etc. So that needs to be addressed.

I can use grade level crossings, and am slowly coming to an understanding that I will have to plan circuits for keeping trains from crashing into each other. I think I want to avoid reversing loops.

Anyone have experience of successfully cramming so much into a small place?


The Triple O has the same space issues. In fact, it looks like we are using the same amount of yard space. The Triple O uses R1 / 2ft radius curves and turnouts with very few exceptions, so tight curves are our reality, too. Effectively, it has two loops, both of which are electrically isolated but do connect. The inner loop represents an extractive industry (in our case, sugar cane). The outer loop represents the connection to the outside world (a fictional port town). The loops come together at a processing plant (the mill). While we largely just let trains run in circles, the design would allow for simple switching (shunting) at the mill and dock.

Below please find a shot from a couple weeks ago
of the mill town of Pu’u’oma’o:

To the right of Hibachi Junction (my grill station) you can see how the two loops come together. A cane train would drop full cars off inside the mill, then pick up a string of empties. In Hawaii, the mills loaded bagged sugar into box cars for the common carrier to take to the ports. In our version of how Hawaii should have been or should be, a yard switcher theoretically would take full box cars to the mainline, then return empties to the mill.

The following dated from August, is our port city of Haluku’ilio:

You can see a siding heading off to the docks just to the right of our DC analog controllers. Again, conceptually, the sugar train drops off full box cars, picks up the empties as well as any other imported goods, and heads out.

Though we don’t actually operate this way, being able to explain how the railroad works helps us to create a believable story that gives it a sense of place, and it allows us to highlight 100 years of Hawaii’s history in our garden.

Hope this helps!



Real RR’s are point to point in the straightest line possible but that can be boring when it comes to our trains. I do think too much track in a small space looks like a bowl of spaghetti and that makes it too toy like. A balance needs to be struck and that is the loop.
I like your neat and tidy raised beds and I think a bridge connecting the 2 is a great idea. If you need to go through that area do consider a lift out section.
You could put a small yard/ industry in the bigger bed and then create a reason why the train has to go to the other bed. Many guys like modelling a logging RR because the equipment is so cool. The idea would be that your train picks up the freshly cut logs and transports them to the mill or the yard where they will be picked up for further transport. You can have all kinds of fun with this basic idea. You could have a brewery on one side and the bottle plant on the other. Anything to give the trains a reason to run.

As for reverse loops, it is best to avoid them. I have 2 battery powered engines but the rest are track powered. Every siding on the RR can be shut off with a switch so a train can be parked to wait for another to pass. I can run 3-5 trains at once on my layout and it is fun to keep them from crashing.

If you are limited to tight curves you might be limited to shorter train cars. Do think outside your boxes. You will be able to ease the curves and fit in more track if you cut the sharp angles with bridges that overhang the edges. I’m thinking in the bigger planter box you could cut across the right angle with a 45 degree bridged section. I would also try to allow for a train to run in each box but then with a flip of a switch the train can head to the other side. A loop inside a bigger loop with sidings.

Hey Eric,
It does look like we set up similar raised garden beds. Do you have an over head shot or diagram of what you’ve described?

Hi Todd,

I’d have loved to do long graceful curves of rail and go point to point, but this is the “right of way” provided. Ha! I have no room for the 18000 LGB curves but I think my curves will be generally 16000 LGB Curves (worst case scenario 15000) on the main line but will use sharper 11000 curves on the siding.

Thanks to you and Eric for reminding me that railways generally have a reason for their existence. I do have some logging cars and ore cars that will provide me with the freight for an industry. I have an ore tipple that I will place between the two beds and run into my fake tunnels. So that’s another industry to serve. (I can’t practically run the tunnels up to the beds as they would need 22 meter cuts to get to the top. So it will be static but sitting out in front of the bridges.)

  • What brand connectors are you using for lifting out your bridges?

I have discovered that even though I can’t place tunnels, that elevating a section of the garden bed, cut off the direct line of sight to the railway and by putting in deep cuts for the track to manoeuvre through has prevented the “spagetti-fication” of the layout so far.

I’m thinking I might be able to create a ridge with a 2% grade to run a train up to an industry, maybe a forest. Hopefully I might get a waterfall out of it as I’ll need to place a mill below to power lumber mill of sorts.

  • Thoughts on the design?

That’s a good design, try to use the biggest curve possible to not limit what you can run on there. Don’t know what your era and preferences are, so make sure you can make what you like run on there. I am kind of limited to 50’ equipment or less, so passenger trains with 3 ft long cars are not in my future, and definitely no USA auto racks , way too big

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Hi Pete,

Thanks for the advice…

I decided early on to go with the era between 1880’s to 1900’s American west. DSP&P, and the Colorado&Southern. I figured this would allow all those quirky construction techniques for the railway and short carriages that could zig and zag.

Then I dragged my wife to a national convention in the USA and some how ended up coming home with “pretty trains” including 1:32 UP track inspection car and an LGB orient express with super long carriages. Sigh… so yes, I’m really trying to keep the mainline open with gentle curves to run pretty trains. Hopefully they will manage the sidings.

…and yay! My wife is really invested in the hobby. So now I think we are running a railway that occasionally hosts a Czar or a Tsarina who brings their Royal engine and carriage on their visits to the new world (Like the old TV show The Wild Wild West).

…and to make things more interesting, my wife suggested we take up bonsaii a number of years ago before we had space to build are now incorporating all our decade old bonsaii trees into the raised garden bed.


Found one here: A Big Mahalo – Seven Years Since the Golden Spike!. The track plan has remained the same since the 2022 photo in the thread.


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Wow, Eric, that’s come along nicely. Thanks for the aerial view.

My pleasure, Bill, and thank you!

As to motive power, you will find that LGB’s mogul will run on tight curves, but it won’t like it. Oddly, we have a pair of European style locos, and 0-6-2T and a 2-6-2T that run fine. Our B’mann 4-6-0, while a mechanical nightmare, handles the curves surprisingly well, probably due to the flangeless center drivers. We have the best luck with our stable of 0-4-0s. Given your logging or mining focus, you may find that the LGB or similar porter may fit your needs best when the Tzarina is not in town!


Try this site. He also has a Facebook page. He has some great track plans that will work for outdoors.



Thank you for the link.

Well there goes any free time for the time being…

…What a talented modeller.

Anytime. That has to be one of my favorite layouts.

I don’t believe you have EVER seen my layout in person ? …:cough:

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