Dual Gauge Layouts page 2

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Continuing with the theme of “Dual Gauge Without Tears,” the Waterslide Transfer Co. represents one of those busy places where standard- and narrow-gauge lines meet to sort and trade freight, organize themselves, and then haul the goods away to freight yards to be marshalled into trains headed for distant destinations. Transfer stations are (or rather, were) very busy places, and we’ve chosen to model the heart of the facility, the Transfer Dock itself.

Top and bottom tracks, which both serve the Transfer Dock, are dual-gauge (three-rail) affairs. Both tracks are served by central narrow-gauge trackage, which allows you to have nice, intricate dual-gauge effects using standard HOn3 turnouts (points). No extra frogs to cut! Notice that the narrow-gauge portion is next to the dock at both top and bottom — which means that the third rails are on opposing sides of the two tracks.

Cunningly concealed within a freight warehouse facade is a dual-gauge transfer table (traverser), long enough to hold a switching locomotive and two 40-foot U.S. freight cars (or 3-4 four-wheel European wagons). The table is used to move cars from track to track, and to “fiddle” cars on and off the layout using the “0-5-0 switcher.” Your actual switching locomotive should be narrow gauge so that it can go anywhere on the layout and can shunt both standard- and narrow-gauge stock.

Notice that the transfer table has four rails–needed to align with both standard and narrow gauge in the top and bottom tracks. And that’s one of the little “catches” that keep you wide awake when switching this line! The top and bottom dual-gauge rails are not symmetrical–at the top, for example, the narrow-gauge rails line up with rails 2 and 4 on the transfer table … but at the bottom, they’re alligned with rails 1 and 3. So if you want to shift a narrow-gauge car from bottom to top (or vice versa), you have to get there via the center narrow-gauge trackage, selecting the correct alignment when you enter the transfer table! A very tricky operation, in a model or a prototype situation!

Notice also that the narrow-gauge trackage is arranged to provide two runaround areas, using the transfer table. You’ll find this capability very handy as you switch the cars around the layout. Indeed, Waterslide Transfer is ideal for Car Order operations — sequences which order the car to a series of positions on (and off) the layout.

One easy way to handle this task is to have a series of 3×5 cards on which a destinations list is printed — along with a paper clip that slides up and down the side of the card, spotlighting one destination at a time. Grab a card assigned to the boxcar you’re working, pull a destination list out of a hat, clip the two together, and proceed to switch the car to the next location on the list. Then move the paper clip down to the next destination on the list and return the card to the hat.

Things will get intricate very quickly, and you’ll find yourself spending many a happy hour shuffling stock around the Waterslide facility, as you hectically forward the freight to the waiting world!

{Note: If you prefer to model a dual-gauge facility in HO/HOn30 or OO/OO9, use Peco trackage and follow this same plan. Or add a third rail to N gauge trackage. Should work just fine!]


Carrying on our theme of “dual gauge without tears,” Jon Song√łygard from Norway has designed Sewett’s Mine to take advantage of commercial dual-gauge track offerings from Tillig. As Jon explains:

“The German manufacturer Tillig offers tracks for the combination of normal (standard) and narrow gauge (H0e – 9mm). See [attached] drawing of the track pieces necessary for this layout.

“On this layout plan, I’ve drawn the Tillig tracks with their original length. If I should build this project, I’d trim off as much as possible from the three pieces, to give more room for the [gradients] on the hidden tracks.

“This layout consists of two scenes; the industrial area with the smelter (to the left), and the ore mine with its desolate surroundings (right). The two scenes are separated by the hill/mountain, which should have some height to give a majestic impression.”

Jon envisions two trains — one standard gauge (two ore cars) and one narrow gauge (five ore cars) — operating continuously on this layout. The premise is that the five carloads of slimgauge ore will just fill the two standard-gauge cars. Jon has drawn the same train at each end of his plan, to show how the trains will fit at both termini, but only two trains are in operation at any given time.

Starting at the right-hand end, a heavily-laden narrow-gauge train (either 9mm or 12mm gauge, Tillig makes both) emerges from the mine tunnel and parks above the ore transfer bins. A short time later, a standard-gauge train arrives down below the bins, and the five loads are transferred. The wider-gauge train pulls away first, creaking into the tunnel. Ultimately, it arrives at the upper track of the smelter on the left, and the first car is placed above a transfer bin, as shown. Both cars are emptied into the bin.

After awhile, a tiny narrow-gauge train of empties pulls out of the smelter and positions itself beneath the transfer bin. The material in the bin is loaded into the narrow gauge cars, one carload at a time. When all five cars have been filled, the little train is pushed into the smelter, bringing the ore to feed the insatiable furnaces. A little later, the standard-gauge train bestirs itself and meanders off down the line again.

This completely prototypical scene can be repeated as often as you wish, for whatever audience is available. If you wish to substitute small, hard candies as loads to amuse very young spectators, that’s probably a good plan.


Ivan Furlanis, who lives in Italy, has expanded the design of my Dual Guage Docksider layout to include some additional narrow-gauge trackage and operations. His HO scale layout is called Hyde Canal, because somewhere along the way, the “dock” has been hidden!

This is the most complicated of the plans Ivan has drawn (so far) for a layout to fit in his bookcase. He is showing three dual-gauge turnouts — one with both gauges on both legs (three frogs), the other two being right-hand turnouts where the narrow gauge simply diverges from the standard gauge (only one frog). Gauges involved are HO standard (16.5mm) and HOe (or HOn30, 9 mm). The German manufacturer Tillig makes ready-to-run versions of both types of turnouts.

There’s plenty of operation in this tiny railroad, on both gauges, fed by the dual-gauge cassette at the right rear — where new trains are assembled and filtered into the operating stream, and other trains can gracefully exit the layout. Both passenger and freight operations are accommodated on both gauges, and full engine-service facilities are provided for the litle narrow-gauge steamers that are an important reason for building this layout!

The setting can be just about anywhere in the world — North or South America, Britain, Europe, Japan, Australia — take your pick. Ivan has been thinking about building it as a U.S. railroad. Anyone have a prototype suggestion for him?


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Carl Arendt

Webmaster Carl Arendt died on March 4, 2011 in Olympia, Washington. Carl came to Pittsburgh to attend Carnegie Mellon where he graduated with a degree in physics and met Sheila, his wife of 49 years. Carl started work for Westinghouse Electric Corporation where he spent his entire career. During this time, he and Sheila raised their three sons. Following retirement from Westinghouse, Carl threw himself into the world of micro-railroading. In 2002 he started this web site, and authored three books on the subject. This web site attracted a large worldwide following, and Carl built up a collection of friends who came to know and respect him even though most had never met him in person. Such was his personality that it shone through across the ether. He and Sheila moved to Olympia in 2009 to be close to their son Giles and his family, where Carl enjoyed time with his three grandchildren. His wit, erudition, and creativity made this true gentleman a joy to be with, in both the real and the virtual world. This site is a trove of microlayout ideas and examples, and so long as it continues will keep Carl's memory alive and further the hobby he loved.

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