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"Al-Turtle-tive" Extension for an HO 4X8

A separate layout section linked by staging and operations

Jim Kelly's Turtle Creek Central project railroad was featured in Model Railroader in a four-part series beginning in January, 2003. This HO 4'X8' layout was based on one of Linn Westcott's plans from the book 101 Track Plans. A 2'X6' extension to this layout is featured in another multi-part series in MR beginning in January, 2005.


Mr. Kelly has built a very appealing section as the Turtle Creek Extension, which provides lots of room for scenery along with a small coal mine. The layout as he designed it would make a nice complement to the original 4'X8' layout. But even though the 4'X8' "sacred sheet" is not my favorite form-factor for a layout, I thought it might be fun to look at an alternative approach for the extension.


One of the things lacking in many published 4'X8' is any suggestion of staging. But I think staging always adds realism to a layout, so I thought that it might be a good thing to include in my extension exercise. In addition, I think larger industries are more realistic and interesting than the typical small ones seen on most model railroads. And since I love to work a yard, that might be good to throw into the mix as well.


OK, our 2'X6' extension is getting pretty crowded, but it might still be interesting as a way to add some more operation to an existing "sacred sheet" 4'X8' in HO. I kept the 18" minimum radius and HO Snap Track turnouts as in Jim Kelly's design, with a couple of exceptions. In the design below, two staging tracks are tucked beneath a hillside with the mine structure above. I used a #4 turnout to help ease the reverse curve into staging. These staging tracks might represent another branch of the shortline or interchange with another prototype railroad.


The mine is larger, now served by two tracks. Adjacent to these tracks is a two-track mini-yard, again eased by the use of a #4 turnout. And another track provides the switching lead for a fairly large mill that spreads out over both sides of the two tracks which serve it.


As in Jim Kelly's design, there's no place on the extension to run around these cars, so the switcher would have to come out to the extension with cars on each end. Not an unusual situation for the prototype, but not ideal. If we had another couple of feet, a runaround track would be an excellent addition.


I trimmed a couple of the turnouts by one inch or less each to help everything fit. Since Mr. Kelly had done something similar on the original layout, I figured a little trimming was OK.


Here's how it would look combined with the 4X8 HO Turtle Creek layout:


If you've already built an HO 4X8 or something similar and would like to add more operating fun -- but can't stand the thought of a complete tear-down -- maybe a hard-working extension will be a good "alternative" for you. Contact me and let's get started.

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