Dense Track Designs

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Sometimes designing a hard-working shelf switcher can involve “pouring a quart into a pint pot” — covering the shelf with a knot of trackage. Here are a few layouts that pursue this strategy for providing a lot of operating fun. We begin with the Saga of the Incredible Shrinking TymeSaver:

Honey, I Shrunk the TymeSaver: Part 1

Jack Trollope’s Standard Gauge Micro TymeSaver

Using ingenuity and Fleischmann “Profi” switches, Jack Trollope has squeezed a TymeSaver layout down to a near-minimum — this HO Standard Gauge MicroTymeSaver is exactly 4 feet 8.5 inches (1435mm) long and 9 inches (229mm) wide. All sidings will hold two 40-foot US cars (or a small switch engine and one car), except the upper left siding. Making the layout 10 inches wide will extend that siding to fit two cars as well. Jack’s design shrinks the TymeSaver from 576 square inches to 565 square inches (3645 square cm) with all spurs holding two cars. Can it sink lower?

Honey, I Shrunk the TymeSaver: Part 2

Emrys Hopkins’s Less than Four Square Foot Timesaver

Emrys Hopkins responded to the challenge above with this elegant design, The Less Than Four Square Foot Timesaver. Using the trick of substituting a sector plate for a runaround track (loop), Emrys has provided for all sidings to hold two HO 40′ U.S. cars in a total space of only 11″x48″ (28×120 cm).

This design puts an amazing variety of operating patterns on a very small shelf! A couple operating notes: (a) usually not every siding should contain two cars as shown here; and (b) it’s very important to use a switching or shunting locomotive that’s no more than 40 scale feet in length.

For more examples of Emrys’s layout designs (and some other people’s as well) see his excellent web page, Can this layout functionality be crammed into fewer than 530 square inches? (Note: Yes, 11×48 = 528, but there are two extra square inches in Emrys’s design occupied by the sector plate overhang outside the layout proper.)

Honey, I Shrunk the TymeSaver: Part 3

Chris Gilbert Lops Off Another 20%!

This layout is one of those arrangements that seems so natural that you almost say, “Of course! I should have thought of that!” But of course, only Chris Gilbert did! Using three turnouts and a single-slip switch Chris has conjured up Shrunken Headshunts, a fully functional TymeSaver layout in 60″x7″ (152×18 cm) — a total of just 420 square inches (2736 sq cm). It looks like this is the minimum size we can get. Or is it?

Honey, I Shrunk the TymeSaver: Part 4

Jack Trollope Fractionates to Shrink Even More!

Where will it all lead? Jack Trollope has returned to create The Fractional Flyer (with a little help from Carl Arendt) and reduced the timesaver to 55″x7.5″ (140×19 cm) — an improvement that yields a 412.5 square-inch shelf layout! The board is now filled with track, the switching and shunting opportunities are multiplying … and we breathlessly await the next round of reduction below 412.5 square inches (2660 square cm).

(Note: Any number can play this game, please feel free to join in! Gauge is HO, at least three spurs are required in addition to the runaround leads with each no less than 12.5″ long, and there must be a runaround loop clearing at least two 40-foot-long cars — i.e., with 12.5″ between fouling points on one of its legs).

Honey, I Shrunk the TymeSaver: Part 5

Chris Gilbert Breaks the 400 Sq. In. Barrier

Using Y turnouts as his “secret weapon,” Chris Gilbert created WhYme!!?! and reduced the TymeSaver’s size to 52″x7.5″ (132×19 cm), for a total area of just 390 square inches. Y turnouts require less space than “straight” turnouts, because their legs diverge at a wider angle. This plan makes use of 5 Peco Y switches to cram 3 spurs and a runaround track in an almost rock-bottom space! But wait…

Honey, I Shrunk the TymeSaver: Part 6

More Design Tricks Save Another 15%

With Foggy Bottom, we’ve pared the TymeSaver down to 334 square inches — about 2.3 square feet (2184 sq cm). This layout uses several space-saving devices. Peco Y turnouts reduce space needs, and a transfer table (traverser) serves as both a runaround (top two tracks) and a third spur (bottom track).Trace out the shunting patterns, and you’ll see that this layout provides the same operating capabilities as the other plans in this series despite its “different” appearance. (Note: the basic shelf for Foggy Bottom is 44″x7″, but the 13″ transfer table requires an extra inch top and bottom to function properly. So the total area of the layout is (44×7)+26 = 334 square inches.)

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