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Houston Tinplate Operators Society - Lionel, Trains, Layouts: Club Layouts & Facility

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Club Layouts & Facility

Permanent Layout The Houston Tinplate Operators Society (HTOS) has always maintained an operating layout. We are fortunate to have had space made available to us by several of the area malls.

The original club layout was created by each member building and designing a module of 47-3/8 inches long by 36 inches wide. This allowed for one whole Lionel long O straight and two connecting standard O straight tracks that overlapped onto the next module. Each module was required to have three main lines of standard Lionel O-Gauge tubular track. If a club member wanted to do more, this limited space and the geometry of sectional track constrained most members to just a stub siding or a small passing siding on their modules. If a member had more than one module, they could deviate from the standard track placement as long as the entry/exit lines were back on standard placement. Aside from the placement of rail line entry/exits, each member was free to create his/her own domain. Later design changes introduced the allowed usage of Gargraves track and switches. This gave a little more design freedom, but all tracks were on one grade, and most modules consisted of little more than straight thru trackage.

The club built and maintained four corner segments consisting of 88 inch, 80 inch and 72 inch diameter curves in Gargraves track, and was used to tie all the member segments into one large oval layout. For train shows, some layout segments would be chosen, removed from the layout along with the the corner segments, and re-assembled on the show floor. This practice had several problems:

Later, in 1993, one of our members decided to create a set of modules to become a large yard. A special club segment was created to connect the yard entry, and could only be placed on one end of the layout. The layout at that time consisted of over thirty modules, and eight modules containing the yard lines.

Setting up our old modular layout was getting to be such a chore for train shows that it was taking eight, or more hours to set up, and, at times, just to get one line running. Realizing that moving and setting up for shows was so bothersome, one of our members came up with a suggestion: Create a separate layout, make it interesting, but simple. Design it from the start to be a portable layout and take that layout to shows. Most members thought that this was a great idea, and plans were proposed by several members. Construction of the portable layout was started in 1994.

In September 1995, the Town and Country mall management decided to rent the space we were occupying. We had to disassemble our club layout and arrange for storage. Unfortunately the yard sections were not complete and most of the track on them was not fixed down. As a result, the yard had to be completely dismantled. In fact, a great deal of the layout modules, some disconnected for the first time for this move, ended up getting damaged either by the disconnection, or the move to storage. The mall finally gave us a new smaller space just days before we were scheduled to move out. Our choice was limited and this space was about 1/10th of our original area.

Lucky for us, our portable layout was mostly functional by this time, but not complete. As a result, it became our primary layout during this time. The downside was, during shows, we now had no layout available for public mall days. Another problem for some members was that some of the motive power they owned would not run on the regular O gauge, 31 inch curves that were used on our portable layout.

It was decided that we would select some existing modules and try to create a new, smaller layout to fit this constrained space. Since we were starting basically from scratch, we thought it would be interesting to design a more complicated, eye pleasing, and operationally interesting layout. To do this meant abandoning our 'modular' concept. This seemed like a good time to make the break. Some of the damaged modules could be stripped and started over. New members that were coming in did not have modules, and everybody thought that a more interesting layout could be achieved.

Today, our club operates four layouts: One of the portable layouts we take to train shows and special events, the window layout which enables up to run our larger locomotives, the seasonal layout whose theme changes with the seasons, and the new American Flyer S-Gauge layout. The much larger permanent layout is in storage while we are located in a temporary space.

The Permanent Layout

Permanent Layout Permanent LayoutThe permanent club layout, as we call it, is a basic construction unit table. To this basic table width have been added some 'sidecars' to make each existing table one foot wider. While not really designed to be taken apart, we have insured that we can break the layout up into the individual tables for moving.

The current club main layout has its initial roots in our old modular layout. The original basic table size and height were carried over to the new layout.

We had the following design elements in mind for creating the new club layout:

The permanent layout grew to a size larger that 22' by 47'. It had three levels and extended into our Window and Seasonal Layouts as well. It had three independant loops and a frieght yard, a passenger yard, staging yard, and an engine facility.

Portable Layout Portable Layout Portable Layout

The Permanent Layout is currently in storage as we occupy a temporary space at the mall. For shows we now take our portable layout.

The Large Portable Layout

Portable Layout Portable LayoutThe 'Large Portable', as we call it, was 13' wide by 19' long. It breaks up into ten (10) smaller tables. Each table is one of three sizes: Each table is able to be paired up with another table module and bolted into some specially designed carts for moving. We have designed the portable layout with the following features in mind: Recently, we changed the dimensions on the four, outside corner tables by adding a foot of depth. These four tables are now 6 1/2 feet by 4 feet. This enabled us to employ 54 inch curves on the outside loop so we could run larger engines. It also gave us a bit more real estate for models on the tables. As with any layout, there are some design flaws that we wish we could change. The table tops are only 3/8 inch plywood. As a result, the light table has a tendency to vibrate more when running trains and makes it louder than we would like.

Portable Layout Portable Layout Portable Layout

Portable Layout Portable Layout

The Small Portable Layout

Portable LayoutThe 'Small Portable', as we call it, is 8' wide by 14' long. It breaks up into five(5) smaller tables. Each table is one of two sizes: The four edge tables are able to be paired up with another table module and bolted into some specially designed carts for moving. The inner table has a cart of it's own.

We have designed the small portable layout with the following features in mind:

The Window Layout

Portable LayoutThe Window Layout, as we call it, is 6' 5" wide by 20' long. It is one of our two hallway facing layouts. It is the larger of our layouts that can be viewed through the windows.

The layout is actually two tables with a spanning section beween. There are some additional outlying sections to fit along the windows.

We have designed the window layout with the following features in mind:

The Seasonal Layout

Portable LayoutThe Seasonal Layout, as we call it, is 5' 11" wide by 7' 3" long. It is one of our two hallway facing layouts. It is closest to our front door. We try to change the theme of the layout with the seasons throughout the year.

The track plan at present is two cirles of track, one inside the other. There are four turnouts that transition the running train from the outside loop to the inner loop and back again, automatically.

The Flyer Layout

Portable LayoutThe 'Flyer', as we call it, is 5' wide by 9' long. It is a single piece of 8' by 4' plywood table with extensions on the edges.

The Kid's Layout

Portable LayoutThe 'Small Portable', as we call it, is 34" wide by 50" long. It is a typical wooden toy layout that one might find at a toy store.

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