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The sequence of building a multi-level layout

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  • Member since
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The sequence of building a multi-level layout
Posted by Kudlor on Monday, January 30, 2023 10:21 AM

Hi, I'm planning a multi-level HO layout.  How does one go about building it?  I'm thinking about building a basic structure to support both levels and then build modules to install on the second level support structure.  The built 2nd level modules to include all wiring, lighting, and scenery except for buildings and small details.  Thinking that this way I can work on the first and second level at the same time.

Basically asking for input, suggestions, experience on what is the preferred way of sequencing the  building of a multiple level layout.  Lower level first?  Second level firs?  Both at the same time?  Thanks.

  • Member since
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  • From: Fullerton, California
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Posted by hornblower on Monday, January 30, 2023 1:04 PM

It sounds like you're planning freestanding benchwork.  In that case, you pretty much have to build the lower level first, especially since you plan to use modular construction for the upper level.  

My layout was just the opposite, I cantilevered my layout benchwork off the perimeter walls of my layout room.  This meant that constructing the upper level first made things far eaiser as I didn't need to climb over the lower level to build the upper level.  

Hornblower

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Posted by Kudlor on Monday, January 30, 2023 2:57 PM

Thanks for the reply.  I have two perimeter walls to cantilever off of. So I can start with the upper level on the walls first.  Need to find a good design for the peninsula section.

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  • From: Fullerton, California
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Posted by hornblower on Monday, January 30, 2023 3:50 PM

I also have a central peninsula.  I designed the peninsula as a double cantilever structure with a central backbone stud wall.  I carefully ripped each 2" by 4" down to 3" using a table saw with a 4' long ripping fence (a straight piece of oak screwed to the regular fence) and taking off only about an 1/8th of an inch at a time.  This allowed me to true up the plates and studs so that the backbone wall would be a straight as possible.  I assembled the backbone wall using glue and screws, and sized it to fit between the concrete garage floor and the underside of an overhead storage loft.  The bottom plate was glued to the concrete slab using construction adhesive while the top plate was screwed to the storage loft framing.  

I cut the cantilever supports from sheets of 1/2" cabinet grade plywood.  I attached the cantilever supports to the sides of the backbone wall studs at the chosen deck heights using glue and screws.  I used a couple of 4 foot long levels to make sure everything was straight and level.  I took the picture below of one side of the peninusla during construction.  The photo shows the bottom of the backbone stud wall and the cantilever supports of the upper deck.  The other side of the penisula structure is identicle. Also note how I used more 1/2" plywood to create fascia panels that double as a structural members for span rigidity.  I glued the 1/4" drywall backdrop to the backbone studs for even greater shear strength.  The peninsula doesn't budge!  The design also provides quite a bit of under-layout storage space.

  

Hornblower

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Posted by gregc on Monday, January 30, 2023 3:52 PM

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Monday, January 30, 2023 5:11 PM

Construction sequence depends quite a bit on the design of your layout infrastructure and room space. I built mine with rough benchwork and all the track from the lower levels up. My design would have been nearly impossible to build starting from the top... Once the track was all in and wired, I started scenery work from the top down. Worked well for me.

 

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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Posted by TrainzLuvr on Monday, January 30, 2023 8:14 PM

I would look at building the helix first. It determines entry and exit points for all decks, and you really don't want to be off on any of them later on (hard to access, too much difference, etc).

Also, you will be able to test the grades in the helix against any trains you might be running on the layout.

  • Member since
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Posted by PDizzel on Friday, February 3, 2023 12:09 PM

I agree with TrainzLuvr:  Build the helix first, so everything connects up at the right level.  After my helix was finished, I built my upper level, so that I wouldn't have to hover over the lower level during construction.  I plan to do most of the basic scenery (hard shell hydrocal on the upper level before constructing the lower level, so that the plaster doesn't make a mess on the lower level.  

Whatever order in which you construct, put your backdrops for each level in early.  They are difficult or impossible to install after you have bench work and track down.

Good luck!

Paul

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Posted by gerhard_k on Sunday, February 5, 2023 8:49 PM

hornblower

... 1/2" cabinet grade plywood...  

What do you mean by cabinet-grade plywood? At my local big-box stores (and my local lumberyard is no better), the only 1/2" plywood that looks decent is birch or oak hardwood plywood, and that's quite pricey. Did you find/use any lesser grade that is serviceable? 

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Posted by snjroy on Monday, February 6, 2023 9:36 AM

trainnut1250

Construction sequence depends quite a bit on the design of your layout infrastructure and room space. I built mine with rough benchwork and all the track from the lower levels up. My design would have been nearly impossible to build starting from the top... Once the track was all in and wired, I started scenery work from the top down. Worked well for me.

 

Guy

 

We had a similar approach for our 3 level layout at the club. The benchwork and track was built first for all levels. After that we did the scenery from top to down. Worked well. Doing down up would cause damage to the bottom level when doing the work on the top level.

Simon

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Posted by Outsailing86 on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 8:30 AM

have you been watching the YouTube series on the K&SV railroad by mpeterll ? 
it's enough to made me think twice about a double deck layout. 

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Posted by trainnut1250 on Tuesday, February 7, 2023 2:24 PM

Outsailing86

have you been watching the YouTube series on the K&SV railroad by mpeterll ? 
it's enough to made me think twice about a double deck layout. 

 

 

That layout is a bit over the top but your point is valid. My layout is actually a double deck with a lower staging level (triple deck). It was much more work to build the double deck than it would have been to build two single deck layouts of the same size.

My advice to someone considering building a double deck (I am now nearly 20 years in on my project) is to build one only if you need the mainline run - IE operations. We have been operating on mine now for years and it works well for that purpose but it is a compromise and a difficult build otherwise. Consider scaling back the plans and bulding a single deck if you are on the fence.... One other suggestion is to consider a double deck as a second or third layout - not as a first build.

Of course your mileage may vary,

 

Guy

see stuff at: the Willoughby Line Site

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