Author Topic: Question about layout for finished attic space  (Read 574 times)

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CRL

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Question about layout for finished attic space
« on: September 11, 2019, 06:55:10 PM »
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It’s looking like my N-scale layout space will be in a room finished attic space over the garage (yes it will be air conditioned). The roof will be 12/12 pitch on both sides and I’m seeking input on the height of the knee walls we’ll be installing. I’m intending to use a “0” elevation for the track above the floor of 48” and I think a minimum of 12” of 90 degree vertical backdrop before the sloping roof is encountered would be good, this would mean a minimum shelf width of 6” would give a 6’ minimum headroom up against the layout shelf if I specify a 60” knee wall. If the garage is 21’ wide and 24’ long, the 5’ knee walls would produce a train room width of 11’ or so, I think, for a 24’ X 11’ space. Granted, I’d lose some space to a stairway, but that seems pretty good for N-scale around the room w/peninsula.

I can gain more or less head space by moving the knee wall in or out further than this, but I’d like to have as much width in the room as possible. Since I’m 6’ tall, I don’t think it makes sense to push the knee walls any further under the eaves. If I need more than 12” of vertical clearance for scenery features or structures, I can move that area away from the rear wall, gaining 1” of height for every inch further into the room. Of course the gable ends of the room will be mostly 8’ ceiling.

Any input would be appreciated.  Fire away!!!


« Last Edit: September 11, 2019, 08:26:27 PM by CRL »

davefoxx

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #1 on: September 11, 2019, 07:28:34 PM »
+1
You need to communicate with Lee.  His WM West End layout was built upstairs with angled ceilings similar to yours.  He could probably offer a lot of guidance, especially considering what he shoe-horned into the room.  Paging @wm3798.

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #2 on: September 11, 2019, 08:52:09 PM »
+2
I had seen this earlier, but wasn't able to type with my oven mitt on.  Thanks for the handoff, @davefoxx ...

With a 12:12 pitch, the good news is that it's really easy to calculate your elevations as they relate to the layout and the ceiling. 



The bad news is that for every inch your raise the platform, you loose 2" of horizontal space.(assuming your layout will occupy both sides of the room)

A lot will depend on how much room you want to keep open between the lobes of the layout, which will determine how much room is left for table tops, and then you have to take into account that the track at the back of the table will be pretty much inaccessible once the layout is installed, because the ceiling will impede your ability to reach back there.



This will impact the comfortable height at which you can functionally work on the layout.  While we all dream of having a layout up at eye level, in an attic, that's going to seriously cut down the amount of available space you have.



This is the first section of the layout that was installed.  And when I say installed, I mean it was constructed entirely out in the garage, from framework to track to wiring, because there wasn't going to be any soldering irons getting to the back rail under the ceiling once it was installed.  I had to make sure all of my geometry was perfect, and all of my mechanical and electrical work was bulletproof.



I even roughed in the scenery out in the garage because getting ballast on the tracks in the back was going to be difficult at best in the attic.  The paper mill scene measured 36" at the main level, x 8 feet, and was built on an L girder frame.  I measured and measured until my measurer was sore, and I ended up with a base table height of 42" or thereabouts.



Here we see the lovely @RockGp40  Brian Carhart modeling the comfortable height of the main deck on his first visit to the attic.

My old house (old being the operative word) had knee walls that weren't more than 2' tall.  So while the floor space may have been closer to 20', the usable area at layout height was only about 15', because by the time the table height was at 42", I had lost about 2.5' of floor with the elevation from both sides of the room!.

So, plan the kneewalls to be wherever you want them.  Personally, I'd go as far back as is reasonable, because that will give you a sh!t ton of storage space under the layout (a good selling point for the missus...somewhere to stow the Christmas decor, and still have room under the layout to get to wiring...)  That said, you might check with local code to make sure they don't have a minimum wall height to be considered living space.  Usually a bonus room over a garage will have some flexibility there, but you want to do it right so you don't screw the pooch when it's time to sell the house.



Having some extra lateral space below decks helped widen the return loops in my staging yard, too.  While the scenery level only had 36" available from the aisle, I could expand the staging loop to more than 42" by tucking it back under the slope.  This widened out the radius of the curves, and allowed me to expand capacity in staging tremendously.

So in a nutshell, the height of the layout won't be determined by the height of the kneewall, it will be determined by the width of the layout where it transects the roof line.  Again, every inch you rise will cost you two inches of horizontal space.  Once you get your head around that calculus, the rest will fall more or less into place where it has to.

But bottom line, you will be wise to put a lot of thought into how the layout will work vertically  before you worry about track planning horizontally.

I'm sure you'll have more questions.  The good news is I pretty well documented the entire construction of the layout.  I'll have to dig up some of the cross section drawings I did (it takes a lot of graph paper to build a layout!) which helps clarify how it all worked in the space.

I hope this is useful to you.

Lee
« Last Edit: September 11, 2019, 09:34:41 PM by wm3798 »
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wm3798

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #3 on: September 11, 2019, 09:04:13 PM »
+1
Oh, and another tremendous advantage to the sloped ceiling...  You'll NEVER have to paint a back drop!


Just build your scenery right up to the ceiling and call it Christmas.  I used positionable track lighting, so I could rotate the cans to focus on whatever I was photographing.  I think that capability, more than any skill I might have with an X-acto knife, made my modeling look really good.

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wm3798

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #4 on: September 11, 2019, 09:39:20 PM »
+2


It was also fun to design my helix that carried the Thomas sub up to the deck that went to Elkins.  The bottom tier was an oval, 24" across and 32" long, with each lap slimming down until it was a 24" circle at the top.  Bear in mind that the Thomas sub was going to be hauling empty hoppers up the spiral of doom, and loads down, and the longest hoppers using this route were 40' cars.  Keeping trains to no more than 15 cars helped with the operation, and besides, every mountain railroad has it's "hill" to contend with.

Again, all of the engineering was figured out mathematically, the construction was done off site, and the final unit was installed after I was certain it would work.



And it HAD to work, since it was enclosed behind the skyboard that would be behind Cumberland...  I could get an arm up into it if the worst happened, but other than that, it was unmercifully inaccessible.  You can see the mirror tile I mounted on the ceiling over it... Thanks to the ceiling angle, I could see right down into the gut of it!

But in the end, it looked and worked pretty dang well!


« Last Edit: September 11, 2019, 09:47:55 PM by wm3798 »
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CRL

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #5 on: September 11, 2019, 10:39:14 PM »
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Wow! That’s a lot of good information Lee. Thanks. You’re right about the effect provided by the sloping roofline... really nice. However the “no room to work” at the horizon line where the roof (sky) meets the layout (horizon) is a problem. Someone like David K Smith could probably create some incredible forced perspective modeling within the last few inches of that horizon, but I think I’ll need some amount of vertical wall space above ground level below the sloping roof to place track, structures & such. My initial thought in the opening post was 12”, but maybe only 6” would suffice for N-scale. That would lower the knee wall to 54”, buying an additional 12” of room width out to 12’ or so. That may be significant given the necessity for the aisles to accommodate my fat butt, and the fat butts of any modeler guests who may visit.

Philip H

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #6 on: September 12, 2019, 07:04:47 AM »
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You don't mention operational schemes, so from a former WM operators perspective (and I'm 6'3") - the roof slope is not too bad for a reach back of that length at that height.  Having long arms definitely helped, though getting to a derailment at the back of the papermill or the Hagerstown yard was sometime tricky.  I did bump my noggin a time or two coming up from some train issue in the back of the yard. 

As to back of layout building height and knee walls - I think this should be driven by the scenery you intend to emulate and thus the most likely building height.  If you were doing small North Carolina shortlines (ala @davefoxx ) your buildings are likely going ot be in the 2-3 story range.  That's only about 4 inches ish  so you can probably get them snugged right up to a 6 inch vertical backdrop.  Ditto most rural farm structures.

But pursue a "normal" sized midwestern grain elevator or any sort of realistic urban scenery and you are probably over 6 inches.

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DKS

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #7 on: September 12, 2019, 08:38:07 AM »
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Unquestionably @wm3798 is expert in these matters. That said, if it was me, I'd sacrifice depth for a vertical backdrop, and judging from your original post, this is what you had in mind as well; indeed, I'd think in terms of a traditional shelf layout. Taking things further, I'd be inclined to use the "lost" depth for hidden return loops at the ends of the plan, as needed, but again I'd still want at least a foot, if not more, of vertical backdrop. Like Lee, I'd build much of the benchwork off-site, since working under the conditions of a sloped roof would be very limiting.

FWIW, YMMV, etc.

 
« Last Edit: September 12, 2019, 08:53:10 AM by DKS »
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wm3798

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #8 on: September 12, 2019, 08:51:18 AM »
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@Philip H raises a good point.  What kind of railroading are you looking to do?  Having that at our fingertips will go a long way toward assisting with the design and the various tricks you'll need to pull off to work within your space.

It would also be helpful if you had a schematic of the floor plan so I can see where any obstacles might be, such as the stairway, any windows, etc.  It sounds like the building is under construction, or there is a room that you will be finishing?  Or is everything set in stone?  Either way, a floor plan will be helpful.



This is the sketch of that original installation I illustrated previously.  The color section is that 3x8 unit that I built, and the line drawings are the "temporary loops" I connected to it so I could JFRT...

If you look at the track plan of the "finished" section you can see the line at the back slants away from the platform edge as it climbs.  There's an orange line that slants to the left of the track in the drawing, which represents the minimum clearance line.  This is how I accounted for the pitch of the ceiling and still maintained adequate clearance for fingers and freight cars.  The maximum table depth was 36" to afford a bit of reach, and the table height was 42" so I could lean in a bit as needed.  This was made a little more complex by the "blob" in front, at Shaw, where a good size mountain rose up on the aisle side.  I didn't add that feature as a permanent fixture until I knew it would work.




That's the view with the camera sitting on the main pointed toward the aisle.

Since I was doing mountainous scenery (Western Maryland and West Virginia) I had the advantage of hiding return loops and other acrobatics in tunnels.  This helped me design a more operations-intensive layout.  If you follow the main line from top to bottom, you can see where at MY it splits, the Thomas Sub turning toward the aisle first then looping back to the back edge of the layout, then up and over the main, while the Connellsville sub split off to the right, runs through the paper mill toward the back drop, then looped back to the front edge of the layout, and off to the river valley.  I wouldn't have been able to get away with that without the spine of the Alleghenies covering it all up.



Here's an early view of the construction.

So the other complexities that I had to deal with, that you may or may not have to, were the location of the entry door to the room, which you can see in the previous post, which restricted the table width to 36", and the fact that I wanted to put hidden staging under the paper mill, and I had to figure out how to get it out of there.  My plan was to have it run toward the door, then loop around to the back, and rise up to a point where it would exit the fascia below the scenery, then across a drop-leaf bridge, and over to the other side of the room where, eventually, I would build my active yard.





This further established the elevation of the first section, because I had a minimum grade I needed to account for in the staging loop, which had to have enough headroom for tall cars like Auto Racks poke out through the fascia to get across the aisle.  This in turn, established the elevation of the future yard, which of course had to be level across 14'6 at the other side of the room, then all the other spaghetti that was coming would just have to tie in somehow.



Did someone order meatballs?

So again, let's hear about your concept for the layout, so we can start thinking about how you can stack it all up and have an enjoyable operation in a plausible setting....

Lee
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wm3798

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #9 on: September 12, 2019, 09:05:58 AM »
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If a vertical backdrop is a thing, and if you're considering some thing urban or less mountainous, it might need to be, just keep in mind that with each inch of vertical plane, you're loosing an inch of workable scene. 

It's possible to poke a return loop through the backdrop to get a desirable radius, but whatever is back there will have to be accessible to clear the inevitable wreck.  That means something with a seam...  My solution for the tunnels was a removable mountain top.



This gave me access from above to the hidden loops, much nicer than crawling underneath.  I just had to cut the foam at the back to match the slope of the roof, and put a cabinet handle on the fascia to make it easy to pull up and out.
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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #10 on: September 12, 2019, 10:06:47 AM »
+1
And just to let you know, in addition to endless palaver and a mountain of grainy photos, I can also offer to help you work out the elevations and so on with my work computer... I design houses and remodels for a living, and I've done this for several folks here on the 'wire.



Lee
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CRL

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #11 on: September 12, 2019, 12:14:10 PM »
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Thanks, Lee. I may take you up on that offer.

Here’s a description from my original thread:
I’m in the planning stage for a new N-scale home layout. However, I’m taking what some may consider to be a backwards approach. This is necessary because I don’t yet have any idea what space I’ll have available as the house is still up in the air. I’m hoping for about the same area as a double car garage, but that information won’t be available until we make our final build or buy decision. My wife & myself are now retired, with bad knees necessitating getting out of a two story and going to a single story house. So working on a track plan will have to wait, although I do have a general concept in mind.

Here are my primary operational rathers and druthers:

> DCC with layout control by computer and cell phone / tablet throttles.
> Ability to have computer run some trains on schedules while local trains and yards are operated manually.
> The above will require some type of signaling system, at least on the mainline and branchlines where computer controlled trains will operate.
> Dispatcher control during operating sessions. This will not be a “watch the choo-choo go round & round” layout.
> Peco code 55 track & turnouts will be used.
> Layout will be loosely based on the current Arizona Eastern trackage in Southeastern Arizona from Clifton to Globe with a fictitious connecting line from Three Way to Safford through Tollhouse Canyon and Tollgate Canyon along current US-191. This connection over the mountains was made necessary by (fictional) increase in volcanic activity in the Boot Heel Volcanic Field closing the main SP/UP line between Steins and Lordsburg. The inspiration for this location came from this video:
Start at the the 16:15 mark for an almost perfect N-scale scene.

The first 4 items need to be accomplished as cost effectively as possible. At present, all my locomotives are DC, meaning I’ll be converting those to DCC as a mandatory first step. I’m leaning towards TCS decoders (non-sound) since many of my older locomotives are not DCC ready and TCS has those split boards designed for non-DCC ready locos.

I’m also leaning towards the Digikeijs DR5000 command station since it has Loconet & Railcom capability. Digikeijs also has cost effective 16 channel feedback modules to enable using computer control of the mainline and branchline tracks for automatic train control. I’m a believer in using a single manufacturer system where practical to reduce interaction problems between components. Digikeijs also has loconet capable boosters and auto reverse loops.

I’ve considered JMRI for the software to drive the layout, but I’m not computer savvy enough and don’t have access to a 9 year old child to help me out. So I’m leaning towards using Railroad & Company Traincontroller program and it’s cell / tablet companion program +SmartHand. The +SmartHand program has the added very attractive feature of a built in Block Signal Indicators for the home and distant signals of the train being operated. All I’d need to do is mark the block boundaries with a dummy signal, or even a brightly painted pole. Although this program is expensive, it’s cheaper than installing a layout based signaling system and it appears to be a little less computer-nerdy than JMRI. That being said, the Loconet capability of the DR5000 and the detectors would allow the use of JMRI monitoring in parallel with Traincontroller.

Turnout control on the mainline, branchline, arrival/departure tracks and passing sidings will be by servos, controlled by the computer software. All yards and industrial turnouts will be manually controlled. The cab operator will be able to control turnouts on his train’s route unless the dispatcher (computer or human) has locked the turnout. There are a few cost effective sources for DCC servo controllers - Tam Valley & MegaPoints seem to be the leading candidates so far.

I have built some small DC layouts in the past, but this will be my first DCC layout. I’m hoping those of you with DCC and computer controlled layout experience will offer constructive advice if they see any inherent problems with this approach.


« Last Edit: September 12, 2019, 12:30:45 PM by CRL »

wm3798

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #12 on: September 12, 2019, 01:08:43 PM »
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That's a good start.  Next we'll need a measured sketch plan of the new space.  Locate the walls, openings, windows, doorways, stairwells.  Give me the vertical dimensions of the ceiling, the knee walls, and vertical location of the windows.  Note locations of any potential obstacles, such as support posts, but also things like outlets, light switches and HVAC ducts.  For the ceiling, if you can give me the size of the rafters (2x6, 2x8 etc) then I can more precisely plan for the ceiling planes.

The scenery you're shooting for looks pretty hilly and rugged.  That will help us disguise some those model railroady requirements.

A system map of your desired locale, even just a sketch plan will be very helpful.  Not a track plan for your space, but rather the actual railroad route that we will be interpreting.  Show which end is east and west etc., the location of any junctions or other features that are "must haves" to the design, this would include geographic things like a particular river crossing or tunnel, or operational things like the major industries and where they are located on the map.

A little homework and some research up front will help us focus on what's important, because as I'm sure you know, model railroaders always have 10 lbs of railroad to put in a bag that rarely accommodates 5 lbs.

Looking forward to more reference materials for us to digest.
Lee
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CRL

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #13 on: September 12, 2019, 01:32:25 PM »
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We’re in pre-construction & design phase now. The house floor plan is pretty well set, but garage / attic room are not yet on paper. Lot will be surveyed next week and depending on where the 100 year flood elevation level is set, that will determine what fits and where, hopefully without having to take down a 100 year old live oak tree.

It’s going to be interesting. We bought the property 30+ years ago and if we have to sell it and build elsewhere, it’s going to impact Mr Wallet significantly.

wm3798

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Re: Question about layout for finished attic space
« Reply #14 on: September 12, 2019, 02:15:15 PM »
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I know your pain.  My work has me dealing with folks in your situation on a daily basis.  Let me know if I can be of any assistance.  Been designing and building things for 30 years.  It's almost like I know what I'm doing!

All the best.
Lee
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Lee Weldon www.wmrywesternlines.net