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Looking for opinions and input on multiple decks

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  • Member since
    August, 2019
  • 6 posts
Looking for opinions and input on multiple decks
Posted by jim81147 on Monday, August 12, 2019 8:39 PM

Hello guys , I am new to this forum but not new to the hobby . I am getting ready to design a new layout and was hoping to get some input/direction on which way to go . I know that is a totally open ended question so I will offer up some specifics of what i am looking for . My newly aquired space is 14X19-6 . I have never had a layout before that had a "job" so I would like to incorporate more operations . I love doing the scenery , trestle bridges in particular, so I want to incorporate at least 2 into the new layout . The thing that I am having the most trouble with is deciding on how many levels. I like the fact that I can get twice or three times as much run space by going to a multilevel but I do keep reading these stories about helix problems  unless they have monster radius' . That kind of takes up alot of the "extra" real estate . I will say right up front that I have never built/operated a layout that had a helix so I am basing my thoughts on things I have read . Another possible issue that I see is lighting . If I understand all I know about it , for a decent look I am either going to lose valuable headroom or have to separate the decks more . Reach is another concern because of height of decks if I use multiple levels . When all is said and done , those of you who own or have operated on a multiple deck layout , did you find that the extra trackage was worth the difficulties/nuisances that a multi-deck layout presented?

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Posted by nealknows on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 9:55 AM

Hello Jim, welcome!

I was in the same situation as you many years ago. I have a 20'x20' room with a double door right in the middle of the wall when you walk in. I didn't want any duckunders or lift outs. So I opted to put a helix in one corner and have 2 decks. The layout is a large 2 track dogbone with 2 tracks that go around the op for continuous operation or just to see trains run. Lower level is staging tracks, stub tracks and a small peninsula for my engine terminal. I go around the room with 30" depths on both levels and the main peninsula is 66" wide with access from both sides. It's made for operations and I hold sessions with anywhere from 3-7 operators. One thing in hindsight that I would have done differently is to make the upper level 24" deep instead of 30". In addition, since staging is for storing trains, I would have increased the distance between decks from 12" to 16" or more. I don't have any bridges or grades on the railroad, just the helix to move the trains between levels. My helix was custom built and fits in an 80"x80" area. 29 3/4" inside radius / 32" outside radius. The tracks around the top are 33 3/4" and 36". Loop track around the bottom of the helix is 36" and I use this for storing one trainset.

Hope this helps and doesn't confuse you. Good luck!

Neal

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Posted by trevorsmith3489 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 10:13 AM

Hi Jim

I have a room slightly smaller than yours and I wanted to build my layou so that I could "watch trains" I live in the UK and with no other USA modellers living near I have to be a lone wolf modeller

I went with twin decks linked by a helix. This is my second helix build and with lessons learnt I have fewer operating problems on the helix than anywhere else on the layout.

My track plan enables me to enter the room without a duck under or lift bridge and the 6 months planning has certainly paid dividends

Pitfalls - working on your own will take a looooong time to finish. If age is not on your side, consider carefully the height of the top level and the height between levels. With a narrow gap between my decks, deteriorating eyesight and some arthritis, working at the back of the lower deck can become uncomfortable after a period of time.

My wordpress site shows my layout evolution and explains in some depth how unseen problems occur and the solutions to problems.

https://kaleyyard.wordpress.com/

Trevor

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 10:14 AM

On nearly every multi-deck layout I have ever seen, one deck, usually the bottom, ends up getting ignored. Then the layout becomes by default a single decker.

.

I had this experience with my friend's N Scale NORFOLK SOUTHERN layout.

.

I am going to stick with single levels.

.

-Kevin

.

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

  • Member since
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  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
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Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 3:10 PM

The double deck layouts I have operated on that had helixes (or whatever the plural of helix is) were so sprawlingly expansive and large -- larger than the space you propose -- that the considerable real estate taken up by the helix felt inconsequential, and the layout owners didn't even attempt to scenic around them.  You just didn't notice them (although one guy did end up putting a very large farm scene on top of his helix -- no trains, all farm -- and the other guy  put his dispatcher inside the helix, perhaps as punishment).  For your size space the helix, even if it had trainset type sharp curves, would be a consequential percent of the total footprint and a decided challenge to scenic for both levels.

This is in addition to the operational issues of helixes that Jim Kelly and others have written about - the "where's my train?" syndrome if the track is hidden, or the peek-a-boo look of slots in the sides to see where the train is.

I have visited but never operated on a double deck layout that is one long continuous grade so that there is no helix.  An interesting solution which kind of dictates a great deal about the layout and even about the prototype.

And I have read about (but never visited or, obviously, operated on) those double deck layouts where there simply is no connection between levels.  Two different layouts but often "connected" in theory by junctions or interchanges which are modeled in duplicate on both levels, one version east/west, the other north/south. 

One could even have two utterly unrelated layouts, even different scales.  Somewhere I am sure it's been done and done well. 

Tony Koester theorized about using an interchangable cassette that would be shared between the two separated levels (and he conceded that an un-named staffer for MR termed it "the worst idea I have ever heard of").  

And speaking as a tall man with an increasingly bad back, the lower level of a true double deck layout might as well not be there for all that I can see it or enjoy it or truly operate on it.  I have to hand over the throttle to somebody else - perhaps a short person who feels the same way about the upper level.  

Dave Nelson 

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Posted by cv_acr on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 3:41 PM

SeeYou190

On nearly every multi-deck layout I have ever seen, one deck, usually the bottom, ends up getting ignored. Then the layout becomes by default a single decker.

I don't see how.... most DD layouts I'm familiar with will have a main line that runs across one deck, up a helix (or two or three :p ) and across the upper deck. Any train making a full trip across the layout transits both decks...

I've never run on a layout that was two completely separate layouts up and down with an incidental running connection via the helix...

  • Member since
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  • From: Canada, eh?
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Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 4:22 PM

I have a partially double-decked layout in an oddly-shaped room.  The layout is meant to be operated as a point-to-point-to-point-to-point-to-point (there are five end points with staging/receiving track at each).
In the crude drawing of the layout room, below, the area in grey is doubledecked (what's shown is the lower level, while the level above it is roughly the same dimensions...perhaps slightly deeper over Port Maitland).

The peninsula between South Cayuga and the town above Elfrida is the grade on which trains get to the upper level, approximatel 45' long and at 2.8% (uncompensated for the many curves).  Almost all trains require at least two locomotives, and, as the layout is set in the late '30s, all are steam.

Here's a LINK to a layout room tour.

Most of the area in grey is "finished", so access is not too much of an issue.  However, there are some turnouts (all but one on the layout are manually operated) that are now somewhat difficult to reach, and when time allows, I plan to make those operable from the fascia.

The lower level is operated from a rolling office chair, while some operations on the upper level require use of a stepstool to reach some of the turnouts.
Operation is DC, with a walk-around throttle, and I am the sole operator.

There are 27 double-tube 4' fluorescent fixtures, plus two  8' doubles and a couple of LED 100 watt equivalents lighting the layout, but I'll be replacing some of the fluorescents over the single level area using LED flush-mount pot lights.

The upper level is operable, but needs scenery and structures - most of the latter are on hand.  The fifth staging area is on the upper level, in an adjoining room, located approximately below the caption for the Maitland River.  All other staging track is stacked in the area labelled "Staging".

The only real drawback to this layout is not having enough time to work on it.

Wayne

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  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
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Posted by SeeYou190 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 4:34 PM

cv_acr

 

 
SeeYou190

On nearly every multi-deck layout I have ever seen, one deck, usually the bottom, ends up getting ignored. Then the layout becomes by default a single decker.

 

 

I don't see how.... most DD layouts I'm familiar with will have a main line that runs across one deck, up a helix (or two or three :p ) and across the upper deck. Any train making a full trip across the layout transits both decks...

I've never run on a layout that was two completely separate layouts up and down with an incidental running connection via the helix...

 

.

The thing is, as time goes by, the lower deck stops getting work done on the scenery because it is harder to reach. Then repairs stop happening on the lower deck. Then it stops getting cleaned.

.

Eventually a way is found to stop operating with the lower deck, then only the upper deck is really the layout.

.

You can see this happening on Scale Rails Of Southwest Florida's club layout now.

.

-Kevin

.

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by cuyama on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 5:56 PM

SeeYou190
The thing is, as time goes by, the lower deck stops getting work done on the scenery because it is harder to reach. Then repairs stop happening on the lower deck. Then it stops getting cleaned.

I've visited, operated on, and designed dozens and dozens of multi-deck layouts in various states of completion. I have never seen this. Ever. It’s certainly not typical.

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Posted by jim81147 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 8:27 PM

Interesting comments guys , thank you . A few things I did not even think of . I will be the only operator on this layout , like some have already mentioned . I had thought of doing one continuous grade along the outside walls , but I dont think that this option would give me enough separation and I also cant visulize what it would look like . If it were to run "through the mountains" I would think that most of the lower deck would then be just that , mountains . I dont see that being an effective way to use this space . Maybe a conversation with cuyama is in order ?? When it comes to design , my imagination is very limited .I appreciate all the comments and welcome any others , it gives me more to think about.

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Posted by ATLANTIC CENTRAL on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 8:46 PM

I built a double deck layout, and was not happy before it was even done.

I did not use a helix, trains progressed up and back down thru a series of hidden track behind the visable scenes, with some part of all the grades being visable in places.

My original thoughts relied a lot on the idea of sitting in an office chair to view/operate the lower levels, but I never was comfortable with how the scenery started to play out on the lower levels.

I had a fairly large space, 24 x 40, and I considered several plans using a helix as well. 

Ultimately I stopped work on the layout and began a re-design, which is now the basis for a new layout in a new home - with only one scenic level.

I think part of my problem was that being a more "old school" modeler from years back, I have never gotten use to the idea of shallow "shelf" scenery concept.

My new layout will have deep scenes most everywhere, with bench work 3'-4' deep, even though most all trackage will be in the front 24"-30". 

Sheldon

    

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Posted by jim81147 on Tuesday, August 13, 2019 10:33 PM

That is another good point Sheldon . I had not considered the look of the much narrower layout space . I know a few tricks to make a scene look like it has more depth , but not that many . As I said in the original post , I do like the scenery aspect of the hobby alot and that look will make a difference.

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  • From: Huntsville, AR
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Posted by oldline1 on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 12:46 AM

I built one 2 deck layout with a helix in a 9x17 room once. Contrary to many people saying you get twice the layout I have to disagree. There's a lot of running but unfortunately much of it is hidden inside the helix climbing the required grade from the lower to upper levels. I had so many folks operating and not liking the fact their train was gone from sight a long time. That extra layout is used up by the helix.

Construction can be difficult sometimes working under the upper deck. The helix itself can be a challange too. There are many ways to build one and even kits to make it easier now.

One other issue is the lighting of the lower level can also test your budget and patience. I found building scenery, laying track and other things on the lower deck could be frustrating and I hit my head many times during all that. Operation wasn't a real problem. Another thing that you need to be cautious of is soldering and slinging plaster and paint on the upper deck can mess up things on the bottom if you had already started or finished it.

Sometimes setting the height of both decks can be an issue. If you have too much space between decks the lower might be pretty low to the floor or the upper a bit high for many visitors or operators.

I'm not against multiple level layouts but after building and dealing with that one for about 12 years I was happy to go back to a single deck layout. 

Just my 2¢ since you asked.

oldline1

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 3:22 AM

My current layout is a double deck with scenery that is 70% completed..

 

I would say that the big issue for me is that the construction is very complicated and takes way longer than building two single deck layouts.

 

Lighting both decks can easily be solved with LEDs or CPFLS.

 

Your room is awfully small for a nolix if you want a reasonable grade.

 

In general, your space is just large enough for a double deck but in my opinion is right at the limit in terms of aisle width and scene sizes along the walls.

 

Helixes will eat up a 6 ft square in HO. There ways to mitigate the impact but is a big issue.

 

Bottom line: I would not build a double deck unless you are into OPS and want a long mainline run.  I am happy with mine, but I am an operator.

 

Check the link below my signature to see how I approached my layout design.

 

Your mileage may vary,

 

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 7:40 AM

 I don;t have much of a choice, to get the railroad I want in the space I have, there needs to be two decks. I have some plans for the helix - it will be at the end of a penninsula, where you really don;t want to see both sides at the same time. There will also be a track running around the base of the lower level outside of the helix, which will go on to a branch line.  Not sure about the top yet, but I do not think I will be putting a second branch over top the lower one, having 2 groups running trains in the area will defeat the purpose of making you feel somewhat alone out on a low traffic branch.

 Some things to keep trains from being totally hidden in a helix that you cna do are to extend alternate laps into ovals incteadof circles and make part of if visible - at least if you are modeling a mountainous area where track clinging to the side of the mountain is plausible - or a big trestle. I think it was Lou Sassi had that on his old layout, just one loop extended outside the radius of his helix and went across a tall trestle that was somewhat the signature scene of the layout.

 There's definitely a height compromise, instead of one deck at your ideal level, there will be two one slightly lower and one slightly higher. However - consider that if you are going to have multiple operators, unless everyone is your close, the "ideal height" is only YOUR ideal height and not everyone else's, so the compromise of one deck higher and one deck lower may not be as huge a deal. There's also the idea of making the lower deck operable while seated in rolling chairs, although with limited space this may not be possible, since you need more aisle space.

                          --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by BroadwayLion on Wednesday, August 14, 2019 11:02 AM

Railroad of LION is on three decks. All are used. Trains starts out from 242nd Street transverses the upper layer to helix down to the middle layer via the west blob, from there it transverses the middle level around to the east blob where it helix down to the lower level and transverses the lower level to the loop at South Ferry, and then it runs back up again on the uptown track. Total Run with stops is 20 minutes.

Trains depart 242nd Street every three minutes.

The "Back 40" (20 feet on the east wall and 20 feet on the south wall) holds the three levels.

You may click on my website below to see how I attached the back 40 shelves to the wall. Actually the weight is all on the floor, with only a few screws holding the thing to the wall so that it does not tip over.

 

ROAR

The Route of the Broadway Lion The Largest Subway Layout in North Dakota.

Here there be cats.                                LIONS with CAMERAS

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