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Thread: Above the Door layout advice

  1. Default Above the Door layout advice

    Does anyone have any experience with one of these set-ups? Lessons learned or things you would have done differently?

    I didn't want to call it an "around the room" design as that give the wrong impression.

    I am planning one of those set ups where the track goes around the room, above the door level, like you see in some restaurants, stores, offices, kids rooms, etc... Usually done in G scale but I plan to do mine in HO.

    I have been slowly making the transition from N scale to HO, and my wife got a me a big Christmas present years ago of nearly everything on my track planning wish list! So I set to work building my new HO layout. I found my bench-work had a few flaws and was going to correct them when disaster struck: An unusually heavy amount of rainfall in a very short time combined with a gutter failure that overwhelmed the drainage around the house made for a suddenly flooded basement. The result was a lot of warped wooden bench work. Shortly afterwards, I returned to college for another degree and so I just no longer have the time or money currently available to rebuild the bench work in the foreseeable future.

    I don't want to let my HO scale stuff sit forgotten in storage. I came up with the idea of putting the track around my computer room so I can at least run trains and keep my interest alive and hopefully continue to amass HO scale equipment for my planned return to the basement.

    I have several concerns:

    "Wasted space" or blank space in the corners where the curves are (I planned 22" radius) that will collect dust and spiderwebs.

    Cats! We have rescue animals and foster some. I'm worried the cats may try to climb up there and knock trains off. "Don't let the cats in the room" is a plan for failure. Despite the best efforts of humans, one day the door would be left open and they would slip in. Best to have a plan for it that doesn't involve hoping it doesn't happen.

    Getting up and down constantly to remove the trains would be a PITA and not something I want to do. I was thinking of maybe making a "tunnel" out of PVC pipe where I could park the train safely away.

    A second, and probably better idea, is to get plexiglass or clear sheets of plastic and make a small barrier. Enough to keep cats out and maybe save the day if the train ever derails?

    Lastly, the problem of what track to use.

    I don't want to use my good code 83 track I have been squirreling away for the layout. I briefly considered some of the various toy-track on the market (the kinds with plastic roadbed) but that would cost as much or more than "standard" track. Should I just go with classic Atlas on cork roadbed? It doesn't have to be pretty.

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    Just say "No kitty!...NO NO!....Bad kitty!......Kitty stay off train tracks!"

    Sorry .....lost my self control. You definitely have some issues to resolve......and or live with. I remember a restaurant in wichita kansas had a perimeter around the wall train to bring food out from the kitchen in the mid 1960's. Liking your idea of parking the train in a pipe. Surely your project is doable....wish I was more wishes for success!

    :: Mike Day :: N scale dismantler :: BNSF :: CP Rail :: CSX :: UP :: CN ::

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    Well first, the plexiglass will collect dust.

    The problem with a ceiling layout is that it's relatively pointless. It's a train running around on a loop of track. It works in G or even O because usually the equipment used is large enough to see clearly and toylike, which adds a bit of whimsey. HO will be hard to see if the track is more than .25-.5 inches away from the edge.

    If cats climbing onto the layout is a concern, I posit a more productive alternative. How about building a small-medium shelf layout, a switcher. Build a valence over it and have drapery connect the valence to the fascia with snaps or some other cat-proof attachment.

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    I toyed with the idea of doing an "up the wall" section of track. Pretty much some 18" curve track making a circle on one wall, running into a straight away and then into another circle two inches higher 100 inches away or so. Then the second circle would route the track back above the first circle and so on three or four times.

    What stopped me was having only maybe five or six inches of separation between each tier of track for any necessary reaching in or scenery.

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    There was an article once about an around-the-HOUSE layout mounted close to the ceiling in HO, so it has been done. I just can't see trying to operate something like that aside from just running trains unless you want to stand on a stepstool or ladder the whole time.

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    One potential problem to consider if you use a PVC pipe as a tunnel: How will you deal with derailments or stalled locomotives deep within the pipe?
    - keN in Maryland

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    The problem with a ceiling layout is that it's relatively pointless. It's a train running around on a loop of track. It works in G or even O because usually the equipment used is large enough to see clearly and toylike, which adds a bit of whimsey.
    Perhaps pointless for your own design druthers, but right now I have nothing except trains sitting in a box collecting dust and age. Getting them out and running helps keep the enthusiasm going.

    I've never been a big fan of shelf layouts for myself because often I just like to watch trains run. Also, my computer room/office has a very difficult floor plan with doors and windows placed very inconveniently for trying to build a railroad around!

    HO will be hard to see if the track is more than .25-.5 inches away from the edge.
    That is the general plan, yes. This wouldn't be some 2' thick shelf, it would be maybe 2"~3" thick so I can see the train going around. Hence the possible need for the plexiglass with the track so close to the edge and a LONG drop.

    One potential problem to consider if you use a PVC pipe as a tunnel: How will you deal with derailments or stalled locomotives deep within the pipe?
    I doubt there would be many derailments, however if there were the pipe I mention would not be very long, maybe 3'. I could easily get a small step stool and reach into it.

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    I was working overseas for a month a few years back and despite being in HO for over 30 years, the On30 bug bit my Fiancee and I (her BADLY!) so we wanted a way to run the On30 where we and visitors to our home could enjoy seeing them run. Especially since our living room was at the time, old west and Victorian themed. So, with 32 days after work each evening to think about things like this, and my Dad working with me, I had an afternoon where the car dumper dropped a loaded gondola into the pit, so there I sat, for 3 hours on a locomotive, the student hogger taking a nap, and got out my clipboard and the back side of an evaluation sheet, and doodled up a plan for an around the walls, above the door, On30 layout using Atlas Code 100 HO flex track. If I was doing a conventional On30 layout, I'd go with Micro Engineering code 83 On30 track for the narrow gauge longer ties to look right, but up high, you wouldn't necessarily see the ties or track for that matter, so Atlas code 100 Nickle Silver would be the just fine. Here's a summary of what I came up with:

    6" wide by 1/2" thick plywood shelves, supported by wood brackets cut from 2"x6" boards in a nice, visually appealing traingular shape. Think like a half of a bell shape, not a simple triangle. Cut a traingle out, then take it to the band saw (or jig saw if you don't have access to a band saw), and cut it to shape. Use that as a template to mark and cut all of the others. Space these every 12" on the walls. Mount them to the walls with molly bolts, using 3" drywall "grabber" screws. My layout had a simple 4 corners. My solution to that was take a standard sheet of 4' x 8' 1/2" plywood and cut it in half (4'x4'), then rip those two diagonally so you end up with 4 traingles of plywood. Those would be mounted to the corners of the room with 2" x 6"'s, obviously cut into much larger brackets, with 1" x 4" bracing diagonally to support it. You must ensure that everything is level (do not take the easy way and just measure down from the ceiling). You don't want any dips, rises or anything like that with trains up that high! I was going to finish the edges of the shelves with 3" crown moulding, stained and shellacked to make it look good and hide the wiring unless you we standing against the wall looking up at it from underneath.

    Track was to be 2" for the outer track from the edge. I wouldn't go any closer. Some of my On30 stuff is pretty expensive, So I wouldn't tempt fate anymore than I had to. Though a narrow gauge line wouldn't realistically be double track, my layout was going to be double tracked because there was no switching involved, and I have a lot of On30 gear. One wall next to my desk though was going to see the layout shelves end for approximately 5 feet (I have a HUGE U shaped executive style desk) where that 5 feet of shelf would drop down approximately 24" down, with a carved foam covered in plaster cloth and rock molded hydrocal rocks gorge with river to feature a LARGE wooden trestle. That was to be the show piece of the whole set up. I love the looks of narrow gauge steam running over large wood trestles. It's a far cry from my 1970's -early 80's Western pacific, but, I really have a soft spot for narrow gauge from the turn of the century to 1920's. Anyway, one of the long walls was to feature a long siding aside each of the two main lines, with automatic switch machines, controlled via dcc switch decoders, that can be thrown from the Digitrax DCC remote that runs the trains. This way, I can feature 4 trains total (5 actually planned, a passenger train sharing the siding with one shorter log train since it is DCC). Two would be running in opposite directions so one is running clockwise, the other counter clockwise and I can swap out trains all automatically from ground level. All of this would be wired to a standard wall switch to turn power on/off to the entire railroad, one for the track power the other to turn on all of the lights in the buildings and towns.

    Speaking of scenery, it'd be sparse really, just tall pines and redwoods, all the way from the layout to the ceiling. One corner (trinagle) would feature a removeable tunnel made from carved foam and covered with plaster that can be removed barring a derailment. I was not going to ballast anything, too much work for track that you'd never see. However, I was going to mount the track to cork or Woodland Scenics foam roadbed to quiet the trains. All I wanted to hear was the sounds of working steam engines (until i got tired of it and pressed the mute button), and the click clack of metal wheels over the joints in the track. Buildings were going to be scratch built wooden facades, only an inch or inch and a half deep along the walls with the obligatory water towers, windmills, etc. that you'd see around the turn of the century along the railroad. Buildings would be lit with tiny LED lights and not much in the way of figures; they'd mostly be too small to see that high up.

    The whole premise was to have something that would get our On30 trains running, something the Fiancee would enjoy (she loves On30 even more than I do!), something visitors would enjoy, something that fit with our old west/Victorian themed living room, and something relaxing and soothing for me. I get home from the airport after being gone a week or more, grab a cold beer out of the fridge, kick off my shoes, put my feet up in the recliner, and let the trains run around and relax me and the cat until I dozed off.

    This is just the plans *I* had, presented here for ideas for you. I put a lot of thought into it, my Dad helped with advise and ideas while we were working over in Jamaica in teh evenings, and I certainly think it'd be totally doable. I have the starts of it up already, I just got busy, and this was all planned for a move that didn't end up happening, so I am in the same place, same living roomm and it is odd shaped, but with some additional corner piece cutting and installing can be modified. Unfortunately, it's a small living room, a lot smaller than where we were planning to move to, so that's really the only reason I haven't done it yet. But the beauty of it all was that when I got the itch, with the On30 on Atlas Code 100 flex was that I could run long HO freights when I felt like it, and I had desgned it with 28" radius curves in mind. On the shelves that I have up, I put some HO up there for a bit and looked at it from various angles, and you could see it just fine. The On30 is VERY highly visible.

    So yeah, I think your idea is a good one, certainly doable. I say go for it.
    Tom Carter
    Railroad Training Services
    Stockton, California

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    If interested, I can doodle up some sketches for ideas I had and post them here if you'd like.
    Tom Carter
    Railroad Training Services
    Stockton, California

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    Ok, just to see if I could get myself motivated to finish the idea I had for a layout like this, I sketched up an idea of what one wall of it may look like and a second wall with the large trestle scene I wanted to do. Just a quick and dirty photoshop job, but it should give you an idea, and hopefully, some motivation to give this idea a try.
    Last edited by cct70; 09-10-2012 at 03:57 PM.
    Tom Carter
    Railroad Training Services
    Stockton, California

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