22′ radius curved track

Dan’s been in touch with a question on 22′ radius curved track- as always, the clever stuff is in the comment section.

Here’s the question – and below is Fred’s reply:


I admit to lurking around in the background and reading the blog for the past couple of years.

Each time I am about to start the project I come up with something that stops me.

This time it is wanting to use some passenger cars (Empire Builder) that require a 24” radius curve. I thought I was OK with that but those curves take a huge amount of space. I was planning on a a dog bone shape with 48”x48” end sheets to allow for future helix installation but then the scale just sounded wrong 2 helix units separated by 10’.

Should I just give up on the long cars and radii curves?

Thanks for the advice.


And here’s Fred’s answer:

“i see no reason why a 65 foot or so long cars cannot be used with 22′ radius curved – they do have a bit of a hang over on the rails that has to be planned for.

22 inch radius will fit quite nicely on a 48 in wide bench and allow for a circle.

i took some pictures of 89 foot and 60 foot cars sitting a 22 in radius they will run but the 89 foot are bit of an issue with realism.

i am like the majority of blokes here no way to put anything over 22″ in any space i have.


22' radius curved track

22' radius curved track

22' radius curved track

22' radius curved track

Fred’s post reminded me of Rob’s Big Curve project, which you can see here.

A big thanks to Fred for sharing his 22′ radius curved track thoughts.

Next, a tip from Mike:

“I have no budget for the hobby, so I love your trash-to-treasure ideas.

If you use home water filters (Brita style) cut them open for the charcoal – great “coal”)

If you make tea from teabags, dry them after use and save the tea – great “dirt” and ground cover. Coffee grounds work too.

For ballast, buy roofing granules. They come in a 5-gallon pail for about $25, assortment of colors, and you can size them for your scale by sifting through window screen or some other material. I’ve heard concern about iron in the material that could interfere with electronics, but I have not experienced it.


That’s all this time folks. Thanks to Mike and Fred for his 22′ radius curved track insight.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

15 Responses to 22′ radius curved track

  1. steve says:

    I had the same question Here’s the answer for a 3″ x 17″ train
    overhang from the inside center of the curved track as follows
    31″ radius = 1 11/16″
    42″ radius = 1 1/2″
    54 radius = 1 1/4″
    72″ radius = 3/4″
    82″ radius = 1/2″

  2. Dan says:

    You guys have been terrific. Special shout out to Fred for the photos. New plan on my end is to build the maximum radius curves possible then progressively add rolling stock beginning with shorter lengths first. Best to all.

  3. Rick Manning says:

    A lot of great suggestions and solutions for this question. Don’t know if this one has been posted yet. Having bought cab forward locos I opted for a around the room,walk in layout. The room corners can handle large radius curves easily. I like your final choice. Enjoy our hobby and have fun.

  4. Ben Taul says:

    I’ve found 35″ radius for long cars is best anything tighter causes my passenger coaches to jam togather and derail.Of course my system is a bit bigger than
    4’x8′ ie 6’x12′

  5. Richard Standing says:

    How tight a bend the coaches in question will negotiate will depend on the degree of swivel in the bogies, and also the length of the couplings – the sharper the curves, the further apart the ends of the coaches need to be (which then looks odd with corridor stock). That said, my father’s layout includes 14 1/2″ radius curves and all our coaches go round them without any problems.

  6. Lee Barry says:

    If it is realism you want then by all means go to shorter length cars. I have to run nothing more than 40′ cars on my layout and anything longer than sd-45 engines will hit as it comes out of a tunnel.

  7. Milton says:

    would you explain to me the equations shown in this post. I’ve always used 24 and 26 radius’.

  8. carl terrey says:

    I think we have all faced this problem at some time. My solution has been to use short wheelbase locos and wagons such as ore wagons short hoppers, tankers and old timer coaches. Current US mainline rolling stock and small radius curves just cause problems.

  9. Rod Mackay says:

    If you do have to use sharp curves that are on the limit for the rolling stock, it’s very important to avoid kinks etc., so I suggest even if you normally use flexi track you could use rigid on the worst curves to keep the radius constant and better resist expansion bulges in warm weather. Also it may help if you have gentle transition curves coming in and out of the turn so trains aren’t going directly from a straight onto the sharp radius.

  10. Terry says:

    There’s always a compromise between realism, and what will fit on your layout. To me, one of the worst mistakes rail modellers make is to create curves which do not look like scale curves, in the middle of an otherwise perfect scale scene. The greater the radius, the more realistic the moving train will appear. Tight curves make trains look less like scale models. The other mistake is to run trains at warp speed, rather than something approaching scale speed.
    If you really are stuck for space, go to a smaller scale. I have a 6’x 4′ N-Scale layout which I reckon is reasonably scaled. None of my curves has a radius less than 15”, most are larger. A HO scale layout on the same size base would be too tight for my taste.
    Keep up the good work Al!

  11. Arthur Ellis says:

    Hide those pesky curves in a deep cut or other obstruction on the outside of the curve.

  12. Pete Evangel says:

    So glad that Fred took time to post photos of what larger cars look like on a tight radius. Being a “visual” person, I appreciate being able to see what it looks like rather than trying to figure out the math and then using my imagination to “see” it.

    Sunny Silicon Valley

  13. Ron Schultz says:

    all good advice . but its really about enjoying the “railroad you build” . LIke I say “Its my railroad, and I’ll run it to suit myself “. I even stop the train, break it for the crossing in town and then call it a day so the crew can tie up in an apartment the company rents for them. Next day they “hook” back up and take the train out of town . Beats the crew having to sleep in the caboose all the time .

  14. yup the 90footers DO hang over a bit….and derail….on 22″ curves…
    just slow down on the curves the way REAL trains do in REAL LIFE on old obsolete tracks….
    just a suggestion….haha
    and if you don’t…well….part of having FUN with a train set is watching all the train wrecks…
    .guess my ‘Kid with a train set’ side is coming out….LOL
    keep ’em runnin’ fellas…
    stjohn in long beach calif

  15. Yes I think all has been said already, and very wisely too. Having recently completed my track work on a loft layout 16ft x 13ft the issue of curves is always a major factor. As many others have written sharper the curve the more chance of derailment hence always avoid if possible. If not as others say run the train slowly as possible as would be the case in 1:1 scale! Personally due to much frustration in the past I have a minimum of 24 inch curves on engine sheds only and 36 inch curves minimum anywhere else. I think this is about right albeit 60 inch would be ideal but room does not permit as with most layouts. My layout main line is 48 inch outside track radius which looks realistic and acceptable to the eye and this has works for several years without any derailments which cause so much frustration. My scale is OO. The engine shed which does have a couple of small sections of 24 inch is used with care as in real sheds with minimum speeds only. I don’t like it but space is the issue like all of us I guess compromises have to be made it is a case of what the eye deems acceptable and if it is then the layout is right for you! Just be careful minimum speeds only is the watchword! good luck, Steve Birmingham UK

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