I’ve done all these exercises before, but it’s worth doing again as circumstances are different.
Knowing the heights of decks for multi-deck layouts is important. Figuring out the math for a helix, and how much space that helix needs, is the main reason why. Multi-deck? Yes, I said multi-deck. I know I’ve talked several times about wanting to build single deck, but as the concept for what I want to build has evolved as I talk with my wife, read, research, and look at photos… really dig into the world of 1927 and the N&W, I’ve become convinced that multi-deck is the best solution as it gives me space to have all the things that really interest me without needing to own a warehouse or quad car garage or basement, to model them in.
As I shared recently when starting to talk about research, I’ve become quite interested in the N&W’s reach into Cincinnati, OH, essentially the western-most reach of the railroad. At the same time, my interest in the coal fields of West Virginia has not waned, and a new book on the N&W in West Virginia has just been published, and I’m anxious to dig into that.
In order to get both locations, I find myself planning a multi-deck layout where the upper deck is based on Cincinnati and the lower deck is based on a yet to be determined branch in West Virginia. It really is almost planning two railroads, but the logic lies in the fact that the coal coming off the lower deck, and any goods like lumber or glass coming from there, also have customers on the upper deck in coal docks, barges on the Ohio river, and other industries in the city.
Still, I have a limited space here and can’t just declare the garage to be railroad space. I need to plan for a multi-deck layout that can be expanded. To that end, this rough drawing helps explain what I’m looking at for the first “phase” of construction. The layout is 16′ long with two 5′ long arms attached. A helix with 30′ radius loops and another set of return loops that slot hold staging can be attached opposite the helix. Both the loops and the helix can be removed and stored separately from the rest of the layout, allowing space for the car to come into the garage. In the future, the layout footprint can be expanded by adding other sections, moving the helix and the staging loops, and extending both decks. The first phase should allow for 3 operators to be comfortable in the layout, with a dispatcher / station agent, located elsewhere.
Deciding on deck heights also is part of my preparation for getting this layout idea drawn out. I already know that I will have 20″ between decks based on the benchwork I started to assemble at the end of the summer. Doing the math, 20″ with a 30″ radius helix works out to be a 5 turn helix, which isn’t bad, and the grade falls below 2% in the helix as well. The 30″ helix should also allow for the Z class 2-6-6-2’s to traverse the whole layout easily.
I know too that I like layouts to be in the 50″ high range. Multi-deck planning is a little bit of a compromise there, though, and I decided it was time to test the heights again. A really comfortable height for me, if I sit on a stool, is to have the lower deck be at 36″ from the floor. That’s counter height, so I went to the kitchen and tested that out. The counters in our kitchen happen to be 36″ high, and setting cars on the counter, sitting on the rolling stool I have, that’s about perfect. The next task was to figure out then if 56″ from the floor is comfortable for the upper deck, or if I need to go down to 30″, which is table height, for the lower deck.
Fortunately, this time of year there are lots of boxes around for holiday shopping deliveries, and I found a box that was 19.75″….. close to my 20″, to test with. Setting the box on the counter, and cars on the box, I get a really good idea of what the upper deck height will be, and I found it to be comfortable. Seeing car numbers, especially if there is a yard and lots of individual industries or the team yard I am looking for, is actually easier at the 56″ height. So now I know, 36″ and 56″ are the heights I’m planning for, and this means too that I can start planning materials for legs, the helix support, the loop supports, and get to drawing track.
More to come!