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Building a railroad in an attic with a sloped roof

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Building a railroad in an attic with a sloped roof
Posted by Nevin on Friday, April 20, 2018 8:01 AM

I'm acquiring a new space for a potential model railroad.  The good news is that it s finished with heat and AC.  The bad news is that it is part of an attic with a very sloped roof.  Overall the space is about 15x22 with a dormer on one side.  However, the area in the middle where you wouldn't bang your head on the roof appears to be about 7x22.  How would you use this space?  Build a lower railroad and sit down while operating?  Build it in the middle?  I'd like to hear what others have done.  Thanks.

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Posted by IRONROOSTER on Friday, April 20, 2018 8:18 AM

Congratulations on having a space

Some questions:

How do you get into the room? door at the end, stairs at the end, stairs at the middle, etc.

What scale?

What kind of layout? class 1, shortline, narrow gauge, etc.

Is the floor carpeted? tiled, wood, etc.

Doors to the unfinished part? have to have access?

Does the dormer window require access?

Is there a bathroom in the space?

What I am getting at, is that without knowing more about your space it's hard to suggest anything.

Paul

If you're having fun, you're doing it the right way.
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Posted by Nevin on Friday, April 20, 2018 8:46 AM

How do you get into the room? door at the end, stairs at the end, stairs at the middle, etc.    Door at the end and then some stairs.  About 1/2 story up.

What scale?  Most likely HO which is what I currently model.  Possibly On30

What kind of layout? class 1, shortline, narrow gauge, etc.  I like shortlines, WW1 era. Mining.  Steam.

Is the floor carpeted? tiled, wood, etc.  Wood floors and ceiling.  Completely finished.

Doors to the unfinished part? have to have access?  Small access door to another 15/25 unfinished room on other side of stairs.  

Does the dormer window require access?  No

Is there a bathroom in the space?  No, but one is close by.  

 It is a pretty nice space for a railroad except for the slope of the roof.  

 

 

 

 

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Posted by VOLKER LANDWEHR on Friday, April 20, 2018 8:59 AM

Nevin
However, the area in the middle where you wouldn't bang your head on the roof appears to be about 7x22.

It depends on the layout height you choose how much of the room you can use. I choose 35'', sitting at the layout, and use everything that i higher than 55''.
Regards, Volker

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, April 20, 2018 10:43 AM

I've got a similar situation in my trainroom. It's a 24x24 foot room, but the north and south rooflines are sloped at 45 degrees.  There are kneewalls going up part of the way to the slope.

I chose to build the layout at about 34 inches high.  In retrospect, I should have gone higher, mostly because it is awkward to work under.  On those sloped walls, I built one side about 30 inches deep and the other side about 20 inches deep, while the unrestricted part of the layout was 5 feet deep and accessible from both sides.

This is one of the corners:

I chose to work with the slope rather than against it.  Here, along the longest affected wall, I put a bit of low scenery at the very back, against the slope, then a few tracks, and finally a row of multi-story buildings to shield the back wall and make it less obvious.

I wasn't able to paint the walls, so I did a few things to make them less obvious.

First of all, I built low scenery into the very back of the layout, using the same slope as the roofline on the back of the scenery, but with varying terrain so there was not sharp line where the layout met the wall.  Here, I put a photo on the straight wall and blended the scenery into it to further disguise the transition.

My last suggestion is to NOT illuminate any building faces on those walls.  Fronts and sides of the buildings, fine, but you don't want window lighting reflecting off those 45-degree walls.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by selector on Friday, April 20, 2018 11:01 AM

I built my last layout in a hipped roof loft over a garage that looked outwardly as if it were a small barn.  From the floor, the roof came in on a batter of about 10 degrees, but at the four foot level it changed pitch steeply to form an apex at the 8 foot level where some short track lighting was.

I built my benchwork so that the top of it was at 27 inches.  That's right, not even 3' high.  I still found it easy to work under it as the floor was smooth and painted plywood.  I quickly adapted to looking down from a standing height onto the layout, and got to appreciate the view.  The point, though, was that I wanted the widest curves I could get at the ends of the long oval the room afforded.  At the floor, the space measured 12 X 22, but at 4' it was less than 11' 3", and now changing sharply such that buildings would have to be placed about 6" in from the wall for a single story structure. I was loosing territory quickly.

Personally, I would have that track plan in mind and then try to fit it at a given height.  From there, do what you gotta to get 'er done.

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Posted by Attuvian on Friday, April 20, 2018 11:13 AM

Great thinking, Mr. B.

I've got some of the same issues but am still at the benchwork stage.  Depending on where the break begins along the wall, sloped ceilings that overhang any benchwork really kill any opportunity for a walk-behind.   That leaves one with the reqirement for virtual shelves, however wide that can be managed.  Where I get a break is the height of my opposing walls - it's 54" at the break for the slope.  That gives me some vertical surface to scenic or paint behind the shelf.  I'm doing 42" for height (maybe a tad more) along walls.  Widths of the layout along those walls is 24" to maximize access.

One other thing to consider is lighting.  Sloped ceilings can create gloomy corners and edges.  I a sceond break in that the ceiling is white and the lighting from the center of the room is by floods.  They can be angled to spread some light into the marginal areas.

John  

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, April 20, 2018 12:19 PM

Thanks.

This is a piece of scenery I built to tuck in under the 45-degree roofline.

The wall ends up behind the cars, so the plank fence faces outward.  This bit of scenery is only an inch tall or so, fitting nicely under the angle.  To the right of the graveyard of the rusted automobiles, I scratch-built a background building with angled side walls that also fits right under the angled roof.  If you look in the upper right corner of this next photo, you'll see the white background building.

Another thing that the row of tall buildings from the previous post does is hide those tracks behind them pretty well.  Yes, there are alleyways and streets between the buildings, but effectively trains looping around behind the buildings can't be seen easily, so they disappear at one end of the street and reappear at the other, breaking the continuous-running loop visually and making the whole scene more interesting.

Seen here, just beyond that plank fence as you go further down the track, there is an old Plasticville fire station with its two overhead doors.  I used the same trick with the side walls of the fire station, so it too is beneath the sloped ceiling line and hides where the layout meets the ceiling line.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by rrinker on Friday, April 20, 2018 1:57 PM

 Take a look at my web site. This is almost exactly what the situation was for my last layout. The bedrooms in my apartment were actually the attic of the house (I had the second floor and attic, the first floor was a 1 bedroom apartment). Only difference was that this house was half of a double, so the one wall in the bedroom was a standard vertical wall, full height to the ceiling, and only the opposite wall sloped down. I used 2' wide benchwork along the sloping wall, the edge of which came to where I could still stand without hitting my head - that set my height, which ended up slightly lower than I wanted for an ideal height, but not ridiculously low. Any higher and I would have lost even more width, so it was a trade off.

 The dormer window alcove, I initially tried to make use of for the layout (some of my earlier track plans are on my site), but I ended up bypassing that and putting a small desk in the space for my workbench instead.

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Posted by Doughless on Saturday, April 21, 2018 5:04 PM

A 7 x 22 around the room shelf layout would look good to me.

- Douglas

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Posted by bogp40 on Monday, April 23, 2018 8:33 PM

Nevin, When you say the center "head clearance" area of the space is 7 ft, is this at 6ft of higher?  This open area of the center walking space can be the innermost edge of the layout. Sloping walls over the layout isn't a problem, provided that the angled ceiling/ knee wall line still is about eye level of slightly higher. Just asthetically work better for layout viewing. the benchwork cold be 24 to 30 inches giving an overall layout width of about 11 yo 13ft. I assume that that 22ft dimension is to vertical gable and/ or center partition. Any of that extra width can be just dead space behind your backdrop. For ease of construction and greater benchwork strenth, I would run the joists to the wall extending into the room to the inside if benchwork. vertical supports from floor to vaulted ceiling can be placed at your discresion as to the backdrop height and usable benchwork width. Without the actual rood pich and full plan of room I can only help thus far.

Modeling B&O- Chessie  Bob K.  www.ssmrc.org

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Posted by railandsail on Friday, April 27, 2018 8:06 AM

 

 

 

Train Layout in Attic of a Garage

There was recently a subject thread started that concerned itself with sloping/slanted roofs over portions of a train layout space. It got me to remembering one of the interesting articles (of many) I have saved from older Model Railroader mags (what a great inspiration some of these older mags can be.

This particular article was in an Aug 1984 issue, and titled 'Making Room for Making Tracks'. Basically the fellow created an attic in his 2 car garage.

Paul Delfino was looking around his home for a space to build a train layout. Her eventually arrived at the garage, and realized he could NOT leave the cars outdoors in cold winter months. Looking up he thought those joist in the ceiling could make some nice sturdy benchwork for a layout,.. IDEA. Build the layout on these joist and lower a section in the center enough so that I could work/transit down the center while standing up

 

 

 

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Posted by dknelson on Friday, April 27, 2018 10:31 AM

Wow I had entirely forgotten about that article where the guy basically created a trough for himself.

The 2015 issue of Model Railroad Planning has an article by Dennis Daniels with the same problem but different solution.  Roof had a 45 degree angle, so a 12/12 pitch.  Every foot in from the outside wall the celing went up a foot.  6 feet of headroom meant being 6 feet in from the outside wall, leaving of course 6 unused feet on either side AND just a long narrow layout.

His solution -- raise the roof!  Due to building codes he could not add a floor but could have a taller attic.  He raised it four feet so only lost 2 feet on either side, and could use that for storge or, he said, staging yards.

What he did NOT say in his exceptionally interesting article was ... what it cost.

Dave Nelson

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Posted by bogp40 on Friday, April 27, 2018 12:12 PM

dknelson

Wow I had entirely forgotten about that article where the guy basically created a trough for himself.

The 2015 issue of Model Railroad Planning has an article by Dennis Daniels with the same problem but different solution.  Roof had a 45 degree angle, so a 12/12 pitch.  Every foot in from the outside wall the celing went up a foot.  6 feet of headroom meant being 6 feet in from the outside wall, leaving of course 6 unused feet on either side AND just a long narrow layout.

His solution -- raise the roof!  Due to building codes he could not add a floor but could have a taller attic.  He raised it four feet so only lost 2 feet on either side, and could use that for storge or, he said, staging yards.

What he did NOT say in his exceptionally interesting article was ... what it cost.

Dave Nelson

 

I would like to know the cost as well. Wasn't cheap for shure, could probably have added a large shed or out building for the same. Have done this to a few garages for customers that needed the height to install automotive lifts. One big problem is extending the side (roof supporting) walls that 3 to4 ft adding the knee wall. Code required every othe wall stud to continue up the the new top plate. Roof load can bow out the wall at a continuous seam. I even added a ridge beam and the studs were still required. Ends up very $$$

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Friday, April 27, 2018 1:39 PM

What I quickly discovered when I built my layout was that every inch I made the layout higher I lost two inches of available width, one inch on each side of the room.  That's why my layout is so low, too low in my opinion.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Friday, April 27, 2018 6:16 PM

bogp40

 

 
dknelson

Wow I had entirely forgotten about that article where the guy basically created a trough for himself.

The 2015 issue of Model Railroad Planning has an article by Dennis Daniels with the same problem but different solution.  Roof had a 45 degree angle, so a 12/12 pitch.  Every foot in from the outside wall the celing went up a foot.  6 feet of headroom meant being 6 feet in from the outside wall, leaving of course 6 unused feet on either side AND just a long narrow layout.

His solution -- raise the roof!  Due to building codes he could not add a floor but could have a taller attic.  He raised it four feet so only lost 2 feet on either side, and could use that for storge or, he said, staging yards.

What he did NOT say in his exceptionally interesting article was ... what it cost.

Dave Nelson

 

 

 

I would like to know the cost as well. Wasn't cheap for shure, could probably have added a large shed or out building for the same. Have done this to a few garages for customers that needed the height to install automotive lifts. One big problem is extending the side (roof supporting) walls that 3 to4 ft adding the knee wall. Code required every othe wall stud to continue up the the new top plate. Roof load can bow out the wall at a continuous seam. I even added a ridge beam and the studs were still required. Ends up very $$$

 

While costing more, taxes would be the same since they are calculated based on square footage vice volumetric footage.   The same size outbuilding might cause an increase in property taxes, or the owner may not have standoff from the property lines (I don't think I have read MRP 2015, or its been too long to remember) to fit an additional building, or his local building codes might not allow it.

 

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Posted by Nevin on Thursday, May 31, 2018 7:31 AM

Thanks to everyone who responded.  This has been very helpful to me.  I go out there a a few weeks to see the space and will measure the room exactly.  I'll report back and see what people think.    

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Posted by Nevin on Sunday, June 24, 2018 8:51 AM

I finally got to see my new railroad room and I have measured it in detail.  It is closer to 26 feet long with a 10 foot wide dormer on one side.  There is a 22" knee wall and then the roof slopes in at 40 degrees.  The area where a 6 footer person would not touch the roof is about 9 feet wide.  Clearly there is enough room for a substantial layout.  The primary issue now is how to deal with the backdrop sloping at a 40 degree angle and lighting.  It is finished with a real wood siding so it looks like a hunting lodge.  My wife will be real happy when I start drilling holes in to it!  I'll post some pictures when I get back.  

The next issue is what do I model?  I currently model 1915 Goldfield Nevada but going back to West Virginia may precipitate a change to coal mining.  1920 Western Maryland, 1940 B&O, or 2005 CSX might be possibilities.

 

 

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, June 24, 2018 10:19 AM

 Sounds like you have quite a substantial space, all said and done. Very long, and if the 6' clearance space is 9 feet wide, you're looking at a preety wide layout as well - even plenty of rooom for a 2 foot wide penninsula to come out one end while leaving 42" aisles on either side.

 I didn;t get that far but since I pushed my layoout sections up against the sloping wall, i couldn;t put track all the way toot he back, there wasn;t enoough vertical clearance. So i was going to have just short vertical sections (held in by magnets since I did have staging at the back, as far as it could go while still retaining enough clearance to not hit the sloping ceiling) to be the backdrop, with building flats or a cut down photo backdrop on it. A simple sky blue on the sloping part would probably be better than nothing, or wood paneling, but for photo purposes the short backdrop would be enough to give the proper illusion, and if the photo caught a bit of the sloped ceiling above it, you can just crop that out.

                                              --Randy

 


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

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Posted by ROBERT PETRICK on Sunday, June 24, 2018 11:48 AM

I'm not an artist and I have no idea how to do this, but that sloping ceiling might be painted as a background to help create the optical illusion of extreme depth and distance.

Like I said, I can't do it, but maybe someone can.

Just a thought . . .

Robert

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Posted by Doughless on Sunday, June 24, 2018 4:28 PM

Nevin

I finally got to see my new railroad room and I have measured it in detail.  It is closer to 26 feet long with a 10 foot wide dormer on one side.  There is a 22" knee wall and then the roof slopes in at 40 degrees.  The area where a 6 footer person would not touch the roof is about 9 feet wide.  Clearly there is enough room for a substantial layout.  The primary issue now is how to deal with the backdrop sloping at a 40 degree angle and lighting.  It is finished with a real wood siding so it looks like a hunting lodge.  My wife will be real happy when I start drilling holes in to it!  I'll post some pictures when I get back.  

The next issue is what do I model?  I currently model 1915 Goldfield Nevada but going back to West Virginia may precipitate a change to coal mining.  1920 Western Maryland, 1940 B&O, or 2005 CSX might be possibilities.

 

If I'm reading this correctly, if a 6 footer is standing to where his head just touches the slope, and he's got a sloped ceiling in his face, its nine feet wide.  About 70 inches tall.  Dropping a plum bob off of his nose, pretend that would be the vertical backdrop.  At a 48 inch layout height, that would leave how tall of a straight, vertical, plum backdrop...about 24 inches?   You could have a 24 inch shelf around the room out from the backdrop and a 5 foot wide operating pit.  That's pretty comfortable, IMO.

If you made the layout shorter, so that you used a wheeled barstool to get around, that would make an even taller vertical backdrop, or a wider layout.

If the vertical backdrop is tall enough, it takes the concern about what to do with the angled ceiling out of the picture.

- Douglas

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Posted by wjstix on Thursday, June 28, 2018 12:55 PM

I think you could build a good layout without using the slanting walls at all. You could build around the walls, with freestanding benchwork say 24" wide, with maybe 18-24" of backdrop attached to the rear. You might have to do some trial and error to find the optimum height of the layout, but I think it would work.

Stix

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