I recently moved from Maryland to North Carolina and unfortunately ended up with a house without a basement so that left me with the question; what do I do with the trains? In the Maryland house I had a large basement layout with 072, 081and 090 Atlas curves which allowed me to run larger engines so my collection is focused on primarily larger engines. The only room in the new house that was an option for trains was a bedroom on the first floor that was planned to be my office. The room measures 15’ 5” long x 13’1” wide, kind of tight compared to what I used to have, but possibly doable with the needed compromises. However there is a closet right next to the entry way door that juts out almost 3’. That closet is on the same wall as the door so that effectively subtracted 3’ from the length of the room leaving me with a 12’5” length to work with. I spent a lot of time thinking about how I could fit a train table as well as a small workspace that could function for my office needs. I laid a few things out in the space but it always came back to the reality that the room was just too small to run curves the size I needed, plus have a usable office workspace. So I put the idea of trains on the back burner and went out and bought office furniture.
Then came Christmas and the lack of running trains came to the forefront again. The office furniture I bought worked out pretty well so I got to thinking if trains were to happen the only way to do it would be to go up. That closet was still sore spot for me as the only option I had, considering the size of curves I needed, was to tunnel through it. I was hesitant to do that for a couple of reasons, there is a water pipe coming from the ceiling in the front wall of the closet going to the outside hose bib, right by or possible in the way of the hole I’d have to cut to get into the closet. The next issue was the back wall of the closet is shared with a bathroom on the other side and who knows what's in that wall. I needed to be able to navigate those obstacles successfully or get into more trouble than I wanted to be in. It came down to the fact, for the layout to work, it had to be up in the air and tunneling through the closet. Once I got comfortable with that idea and if I could accomplish it, I got down to the work of planning out how I was going to build it.
First thing I did was get a track plan drawn up. I’m a Mac guy so I used Rail Modeler Pro and it worked really well for me. The track plan is beyond simple, 2 separate loops with O72 curves on the inside loop and O90 curves on the outside loop. Rail Modeler Pro figured out how much track I needed as well as letting me visualize how the track would get in and out of the closet tunnel. That part was huge for me as it showed me that the track was going to have to curve into the tunnel on the front side of the closet by almost a full section of track on both loops. That meant getting bigger engines and longer passenger cars through that tunnel portal was going to be tight so I needed to figure out how that was going to work. I also was thinking about crossovers on the straight aways on both sides of the layout to add a little more operational fun. The next thing to figure out was how high on the wall I wanted the track to be. The office has 9’ ceilings. I played with a few different measurements and finally ended up at 16” from the ceiling. I wanted to go lower for better viewing but 16” seemed to be the lowest height that didn’t make the room start to feel closed in by the framework. At that point I was ready to start building the frame work. I had decided that I was not going to use traditional shelf brackets as I wanted more of a built-in feel, almost like a plate ceiling look. I decided the best way for me to get that look was to cantilever the framework. I needed the framework to be very strong as I’ve got a UP Veranda that is die cast and very heavy and I didn’t need that engine breaking the framework from the wall and falling on some ones head so I needed the cantilevered framework to be strong. I used 1X4s to build the framework and I decided to use a modular approach in building them. Each section was 4’ long X 12” wide. I pre drilled holes for the wiring through the middle and end supports of each frame and the frame was assembled by squaring it up and joining it together using pocket holes and screws. I had never done a project using pocket hole joinery and it worked great. Once I had the frames built it was time to get them mounted to the walls. For added strength I decided to use a ledger board attached to the walls first and then screw the framework modules to the ledger board. That added a bit of cost to the project but was well worth it as the studs in the office were spaced at odd measurements on some of the walls. To attach the ledger I hit the studs everywhere I could and then used anchors where I didn’t have studs. From there I could screw the framework modules into the ledger anywhere I wanted without worrying about having to hit the studs or hitting anything that may behind the drywall.
That's where the project sits now, more to follow.
I've attached the track plan the redline indicates where the closet is. On the top left side you can see the 2 curves going into the closet tunnel.
Here's a video of the installed framework.