Mallory Needs Advice Setting Up ON30 Bachmann Train Sets

Mallory sent in this request for advice…

I’m coming into model railroading as a builder of miniature Christmas villages (Department 56, Lemax etc). I’ve purchased a couple of ON30 Bachmann train sets and fully anticipate that this will draw my husband into the hobby!

I’d appreciate any advice or cautions you can give me.

To provide you with the particular challenge I have:

I build a display in the local museum, to go with their Festival of Trees. The space I have to work with is a counter top 4 ft x 20 ft, with 3 square columns in the middle. At this point I need to lay out a train that just runs mostly unattended (no switching, reversing etc) with minimal problems. And, the village is the main feature – a Victorian High Street at Christmas.

I do my base and elevations in Styrofoam insulation. The main base is raised on 2 x 2″ “joists” so I can run wiring underneath. Here are a couple of shots…

Mallory image 01

Mallory image 02

This is a section of last year’s village (Currier & Ives, no train)…

Mallory image 03

With ON30, I know that the train doesn’t really like to climb & descend any hills. It would be best (for my purposes) to keep the track level and let the landscape elevations do the ups & downs.

Gotta keep the track clean – watch out for bits of styro or glitter, etc.

I think plain track would look better than E-Z Track, do you have any advice, pros or cons?

I know it will need multiple power supplies and re-railer sections.

With 18″ radius, the train needs 39″ diameter to make a U-turn; and that is available with 48″ wide surface.

The train should disappear from view periodically. Any tunnels would be best on a straight piece of track, and need to be accessible in case the train stalls or derails inside!  If I keep the train on the main platform level and raise the “High Street” with the buildings up in the middle, the train won’t be visible from one side to the other (at least, not in places).

Any suggestions for the layout?

I’d like to do something more interesting than just a very long oval. Maybe a lopsided dog-bone … two tracks parallel down one long edge, with the loop ends around the end columns.

I could try the long oval with an interior loop around the middle column, but I’m concerned about how that would interact with the street layout. Also, I don’t know if 48″ is quite wide enough to accommodate it.

Maybe in future we’ll become more sophisticated with the layout, but for the first time doing this village with a train I want to keep it simple.

Thank you!

Mallory Allen in North Carolina, USA

Please scroll down and leave your comments below… Mallory would appreciate any advice, comments or help. Thank-you!

This entry was posted in Questions and Answers and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

5 Responses to Mallory Needs Advice Setting Up ON30 Bachmann Train Sets

  1. Tom Blanchard says:

    I have a couple of comments. First a question: Is this a permanent layout? First: Consentrate on your layout and forget the posts in the middle. You need to focus the attention of the observers on the layout and not the posts. Second: paint the posts sky blue and put some clouds on them. Third: You can also put backdrops between the posts made of 1/4 plywood about 2′ high and paint the backdrops and the posts with scenery.

  2. Mallory says:

    Unfortunately not a permanent layout. Exhibit runs 2 weeks, plus an extra weekend.

    I thought of using a background divider but visitors really need to be able to see across the village to the decorated trees on either side.

    Yes, I just ignore the posts… screen them off with trees. I’ve thought of putting a background scene on the posts, such as a bridge going into a park.

    My main question is for ideas on how to lay out the track, avoiding the posts and leaving ample space for the village.



  3. Lloyd Miller says:

    What I have done in a situation as you have is to build two seperate layouts. What I mean by this is build your visual layout on the top level, and your return or twist section of layout on the bottom level. You were talking about a dogbone configuration, but were concerned about using up a lot of space.
    Visually in your mind picture how you want your train to appear to visitors. Now on the lower level, ( which is out of view by means of side covers ) you can run cross-overs or what ever to bring the track back to the top level on a parell track or in the opposite direction. This works very well with tunnels as the train is out of view for such a long time. The incline can be of 2 – 3 degrees drop and not affect the performance of the engine. Hope this helps and gives you a few ideas of your own. Good Luck

  4. jonathan says:

    I don’t know if sky blue paint on the posts will make them “vanish” to the viewers. Experiment with a mirror parallel to the longer runs of the layout, only on a post or several posts. If the mirror runs up to eye-level, some viewers might set up photo shots where they see both the trains and themselves — documentation that they “were actually there”.

    I agree with the suggestion of slight inclines to enable crossovers without train slowdowns.
    If you accomplish that, you might even set up a nearly parallel route with a different train. Two trains might run alongside one another at one stretch, and “oppose” one another in a second stretch. How about one train for passengers and another for freight, running at very different speeds.

    In showplace layouts I’ve seen, one of the most entertaining features is the surprise of a train emerging from a very long underground run, because the train’s entrance is unobserved. Definitely make those underground runs as straight as possible so you don’t have to open a mountain to fix a derailment.

    You mention needing more than one power supply — I suppose because of power loss along the track. Try, instead, running stranded (not solid core) wire from the power supply to additional power-tapped tracks at large intervals. Stranded is the usual for appliance cord. So you don’t accidentally cross the wires, use wire with a stripe along one conductor.

    If you have model stations and your train(s) naturally slow at some point due to power-loss, position the power-feeds so that the train(s) slow at the stations.

    Another idea: If you have some control over local illumination, put the lighting on a timer, with the usual brightness of shopping lights alternating over about an hour with dimmed lighting to bring out lighted scenery, lighted passenger cars, and engine headlights.

    When you’re done, post some pictures, preferably with enchanted kids looking on.


  5. Excellent post i am sure that i will come back here soon

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *