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Building a new layout

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  • Member since
    July 2019
  • 5 posts
Building a new layout
Posted by Billybob57 on Friday, January 27, 2023 3:43 PM

A few years ago, I had to pack up my L-shaped 4 ft x 24 ft layout due to moving to our downsized retirement house.  I have recently recieved a green light to build a new layout, unfortunatly I only have a 4 ft x 8 ft area.  After much internal discussions, I thought I would build a triple tier layout, each tier being devoted to a theme for Santa Fe, Southern Pacific and D&RGW.  The bench work will be 1 in x 4 in - 16 on center open grid work (each tier will be built using 2 sections of 2 ft x 8 ft) bolted together covered in 2 inch foam board insulation.  Here's my issue, what would be an ideal dimension between the tiers for operating and spector viewing.  I am thinking of having the first tier approx 42 inches off the floor.  I know the third tier will need to be reached with a raised platform.  Any and all comments, suggestions, or nut house commitments willl be gratfully appreciated.

Bill

  • Member since
    June 2008
  • 116 posts
Posted by PennsyLou on Friday, January 27, 2023 4:43 PM

I'm working with about 14" minimum separation between levels on the new layout - 1st level is at 42-48", 2nd level at 56-62".  Less than this is probably theoretically possible, but one also has to consider the thickness of the second level.  I've seen pictures in Tony Koester's book where it looks like there is perhaps 10" min viewing height on some layouts.  That would not work for me as buildings, smokestacks etc. would be unreasonably truncated.  For the vast western expanses that you might be modeling (I'm doing the PRR in New Jersey), 16" or even 18" separation might be even better.  Perhaps levels at 36", 52", and 70"?

  • Member since
    December 2016
  • 231 posts
Posted by TrainzLuvr on Friday, January 27, 2023 8:02 PM

Being vertically challenged (over 6 ft. tall in a world generally made for people shorter than 6 ft.) i can tell you that you can spend the next 10 years trying to figure out the best multi deck separation, and not reach a conclusion.

My finding is that there isn't a sweet spot and it's really a crapshoot. You give up something thinking you gain elsewhere, but really there's no win-win situation at all.

The best advise I've read somewhere was that when you are building a layout, you are building it for yourself, first and foremost. Everyone else must adapt to your setup or go elsewhere if they don't like it.

Many people build layouts low for their grandchildren, or at the height to accomodate their friends, or whatever other reason, except for themselves. Honestly, to me that's not being noble. And you are not being selfish if you build the layout for yourself as a primary user. All these other people will not be there most of the time - you will so it has to work for you.

Another thing to consider is aging (of a person). Right now we don't have the luxury of exoskeletons, yet. So the knees, feet and hips have to support you operating your layout...Or you build a single deck and work from the chair only, if you can't stand on your own today, or might not in the future.

Honestly, don't bother with open grid framework, it is redundant and not a benefit at all in this case.

I suggest Rubbermaid double track shelving system instead. You can buy 48" or 72" tall uprights and then pick from a selection of various depth brackets (8-24" deep). You will be up and running in less than a day, requiring probably 3-4 uprights, depending on the setup (more on that below).

For a surface, a 3/4" (of better quality) plywood, and if really needed (for cutting into the ground for scenery) a 1-2" pink foamboard.

Your middle deck will be the deepest one, while the upper has to be shallower, or it will interfere with viewing of the middle deck. Lower deck on the other hand will suffer one way or the other from the middle deck depth, so it could be made as deep as the middle.

Consider that if you are sitting on a drafting stool for example and operating, you don't want your knees hitting the lower deck though.

Also, if your space is 4x8', you could probably have a L shape setup (a corner would be nice) so that you get a bit more surface for the railroads.

Example:

L shape in 4x8 ft.

To find the ideal heights and depths of the decks you have to experiment because they are based on individual preferences. There's no formula that works for everyone despite some people making all kinds of excel sheets, coming up with rules about viewing angles, field of view, etc.

At the end of the day, it all sums down to how you feel when you sit in front of it, because if it doesn't feel right, you will hate sitting there and operating it.

You also have to build it in the mean time, and going the above route, you can have the track down the next day even, after you've attached the uprights and brackets and put the plywood surface ontop. Using the plywood surface, you can mount tortoise motors, manual bullfrog, caboose industries ground throws, or whatever else immediately.

Wiring can be done in all kinds of ways, but considering that these are simple surface shelves, they could be lift out of place, moved, put upside down to do the wiring, etc.

I'll stop here because I can keep writing and perhaps this is not the direction you might be going. Never the less, you asked for nuthouse ideas and comments. Big Smile

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • 5 posts
Posted by Billybob57 on Monday, January 30, 2023 1:57 PM

PennsyLou

I'm working with about 14" minimum separation between levels on the new layout - 1st level is at 42-48", 2nd level at 56-62".  Less than this is probably theoretically possible, but one also has to consider the thickness of the second level.  I've seen pictures in Tony Koester's book where it looks like there is perhaps 10" min viewing height on some layouts.  That would not work for me as buildings, smokestacks etc. would be unreasonably truncated.  For the vast western expanses that you might be modeling (I'm doing the PRR in New Jersey), 16" or even 18" separation might be even better.  Perhaps levels at 36", 52", and 70"?

 

Thank you

 

  • Member since
    July 2019
  • 5 posts
Posted by Billybob57 on Monday, January 30, 2023 1:58 PM

Thank you. Have some food for thought and measuring.

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