Wednesday, May 20, 2015

"I'm converting... But still saying my prayers."

The allure of the multi-deck's long run and generous separation between key LDEs was tugging at me. I studied what other modeler's had done with that style... construction, dimensions, finished photos, etc. But now I was especially concerned about another kind of separation, that of the vertical kind, with a ceiling that only afforded a clearance of 6'-3".

I checked with friends and on-line acquaintances about the dimensions that they used and their relative success for viewing and operating. My mandate was not to be too low for my lower deck, lest my cranky knees and back punish me for sheer stupidity. I did know that the relative depth of my decks would be modest, between 8-20" which would minimize the necessary vertical separation. A cardboard mock-up on bookshelves confirmed that.

And key to all of this re-thinking was that ultimately the objective was to double the mainline, not double the layout. ROW areas might be as narrow as 8-12".

A quick sketch showed what I could get by lowering the existing deck and trimming the valence. The upper deck would be cantilevered off of the wall with a riser for support. Depths of the two decks would fluctuate so that key operating areas would be staggered and viewing would be maximized.

Because the bench work was built in sections, it could be unscrewed and lowered in step-by-step fashion using clamps and the magic tripod. Thankfully, the peninsula backdrop could hang free from the ceiling due to the system used to install it. (Take that Murphy's Law!)
The sections were lowered from the existing ledger strip at a consistent dimension through the use of an autographed piece of scrap wood. More on that valued pine spacer below. 

The existing legs needed to be shortened so each was removed one-at-a-time and trimmed at the table saw, before going back in place. The lower deck would need a new backdrop of its own, and I had some ideas, but we'll cross that bridge when we get to it.

So, there you go. In for a penny, in for a pound. My modest single deck with the cramped towns was growing up. Yet I do keep hearing my mother's admonition from my childhood,"Your eyes might be bigger than your stomach."
We'll have a quick 'Friendly Friday' for the start of Memorial Day weekend and then get back to major construction next week. Geez, am I really doing this?

Did you know? When a friend relocated to North Carolina his massive B&O layout had to be dismantled and tossed into a dumpster over the course of several weekends. I picked through the used framing with the intention of keeping the B&O lineage in my bench work, while paying homage to this former layout. The scribbling on one piece said, "Thanks Jim. Magnolia Cut-off. Henry Freeman."... And my wife says that I'm not sentimental!


  1. Jim -- not being critical, just wondering: why wouldn't you use L-shaped shelf brackets spaced 16" apart for your upper deck, thereby eliminating the support riser and letting your lower deck be deeper by a few inches?

    1. No worries, Gerry... visitors have asked the same thing... I decided that I wanted a fully integrated system for my two decks, so I stayed with the same method and materials... this way, it's still technically a 'sectional' layout that can easily be relocated, plus it limits the number of additional screw holes in my drywall which does not have 2x4 studs consistently @ 16" OC... the depth of each deck was not crucial as I wanted to minimize scenery along nothing but the ROW... the risers provide a backing for a new backdrop, which the stamped L-brackets do not, and their positioning gives me the option to vary the deck's depth... however, you'll see in upcoming construction posts, I did need to use those brackets where my backdrop was not drywall @ the peninsula and former doorway... keep watching and you'll see how it all comes together... thanks.

  2. Jim, Here are a couple of ideas to mull over. What is your overall goal? If it is operations, I think you will be more satisfied with the longer run. If the goal is more visual to recreate the B&O Old Main Line and environs then the single level will be your path. Frankly, we are in a hobby with movement and operating is often a high priority.

    That upper level needs to be as thin as possible. The Morgantown, WV club tackled this a couple of decades ago. We supported the upper level with plywood gussets which were the main grid element of that level. With the subroadbed installed to the gussets, the structure became rigid. The seventh and eighth images on this page will give you an idea of this construction.

    Keeping that upper level as narrow as possible is important for the lower level visual. YOU will need to add lighting behind th efascia on the upper level. LED strips are now available that use minimal space and can be adjusted for the light spectrum you desire. I would minimize the upper level fascia as much as possible to maximize that between layout level space measurement. - Eric

    1. Eric, you have captured the ongoing conflict that many of us have in your first paragraph... fact is, I'm probably more of the 'artiste' than pure operator, but I don't want to create a static model that will grow tiresome, but a dynamic one that remains relevant... you'll see in upcoming construction posts how the depths of the two decks vary at any given location... take a close look at the track plan from my May 7th post and you'll see... I do plan on LEDs for the lower deck and am working on reducing the 3" fascia down a little bit, but do need to allow for land deformation for the river bed... thank you so much for your interest and expertise... I really do appreciate that you took the time... and continued good luck with the club layout... I was familiar with it from somewhere along the way.

  3. Jim, I like where this is headed. When you began to talk about a multideck option, I was sure you might dismiss it after some discussion. Then the photos showing your benchwork being adjusted for a multideck had me totally surprised!

    I also get that "eyes bigger than the stomach" feeling sometimes too with my layout ambitions, but we all learn by trying right?

    I agree with Eric, keep that upper level and the fascia thin as possible.

    1. Chris - You weren't the only one that was surprised by this!... but as you say, we learn by trying and there are several well-known modelers who have documented major changes to their layouts... I have come to realize that it's impossible to get everything 'just perfect' the first time no matter how much research and analysis is involved... but keep watching because I'm still a little unsure about this overall direction... thanks for sharing your thoughts... it makes blogging worthwhile.