Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Back to Square One, Kinda

So, after a discussion with my wife, I'm back to just the one side of the basement. For those that may not know, I had a daughter just over 8 months ago. I built her crib and changing table/dresser using a plan out of Wood magazine. My wife loved the idea and wants me to do that for our future kid(s). I'm even making shelves and a bookcase now for her room. As a result, taking up the whole basement would restrict my ability to do that in the future. While cutting of the wood could be done outside, I don't have a room inside to do things like gluing and clamping. Our garage was finished by the previous owners and my shed is like everyone else's, if you can get the lawnmower in without running over all the outdoor tools, it's a bonus. So, that leaves me with the layout on one side of the basement or the other. Now, I say either side because each has its advantages and disadvantages.

From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale
Ignore the walls in the picture above, I was just playing around with some stud-wall ideas. On one side, you have the gas meter, water meter, and stairs entrance.

From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

On the other side you have the utilities, a secondary water meter, the crawl space entrance and ductwork.

From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale
From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

One reason to limit to one side or the other right down the posts is that I can completely enclose the layout room. This way, if I'm working on woodworking projects, I won't get dust on the layout. I could also fully insulate the layout room and take my time doing the other side. I'm leaning towards the side without the utilities as I think the ductwork is going to be too much of a hindrance to a multi-level layout. Also, all of our utility lines: electrical for utilities, cold and hot water lines, and gas lines run on that side and covering them up, even with a drop ceiling, is just asking for problems, especially if there is a layout underneath. The line from the water meter and the gas meter to this side run through joists that would either be where a walkway is or along the outside wall, so those lines are less of a concern.

On the flip side, the other side of the basement would require a walkway, which should be unobstructed to the other side, thinking 36" from the steps. I've thought of using under the stairs for a helix of some kind, however, that would require either lift out sections or a duck under to the other side of the basement, where our second fridge is/would be located. Also, even though I have a nice alcove at the bottom of the stairs,where the water meter is which previous plans used, I'm leaning towards leaving the majority of that space open. The reason for this is getting wood down there, not just for projects, but also the layout itself. From the photos above, you can see sheets of drywall and plywood already down there. I had to use all available space at the bottom of the steps to get them down. Obviously, once the layout room is finished, drywall won't have to come down in sheets, but plywood may still have to be, maybe not full sheets but that doesn't preclude 8' sections either.

One other option I've contemplated is to go "sidways" across the basement. What I'm not sure of is how much storage space I'd have left over if I did this and I'd also have to ensure access to the utilities in some form. Also, the ductwork and water/gas lines would be running perpendicular to the layout (most likely).

I'm really leaning towards the side with the stairs, like all my previous attempts at plans had been, but I really do need to leave access, in some form, to the gas meter for when PSE&G replaces it. I've ordered the back issue of ModelRailroader from April, 2007, where Tony Koester talks about his swing gate in front of his water heater, softener and other appliances. I'm interested in his construction methods as his NKP is one of the few mulit-deck layouts I"ve seen with a large swing gate. Another option that I saw when searching various forums, was someone mentioned building that section as a "cart" like piece that when needed, could be rolled out. The person compared it a media car or tool car. I might play around with some designs for that and see what I come up with also and compare the two methods. If I want to do the U shape with a center peninsula (i.e., the E as I cal it), this is the one piece that I need to work out, otherwise, an little area that's about 4x4 is going to have to be set aside there for access to the meter and that could severely hinder plans to model this particular piece of Conrail.

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Basement "Finish" Options

This is a non-"Look at this design" post and I'll ask this question on a few forums as well, but what are people's experiences with "finishing" the layout room? The reason I ask is that in my case, depending on how I finish out my basement (if at all) I can take away anywhere from 2 to 6 inches from each wall. Here are my basement "parameters"
  • Block Wall foundation
  • French Drain with a system like this around the bottom
  • 2 "windows" at the top of the walls
  • Both the water and gas meters along portions of the wall
  • Exhaust stacks for the heater going outside
I'm leaning towards 2x2 furring strips mounted to the block wall around the perimeter with bead board insulation in between, however, I've heard of about 100 different ways of doing this from putting bead board insulation (3/4") down first then putting on the furring strips and the other (1 1/2") insulation between them to using plastic wraps, etc. Just seeing if the few people that read this blog have any suggestions.

Sunday, January 10, 2010

Staging ideas

As I packed away Christmas stuff in the basement I played around a little with the storage boxes and decided my little "dispatching" area in the full-length plan would be a little too small. I had also talked with my dad about the plan and he suggested I rework the plan to put staging as well as the dispatching/work area back against the wall with the Gas Meter, allowing unfettered access to the meter for whenever it has to be changed out (which occurs every 15-25 years and I have not idea when the last time was). The more I looked at the plan, the more I realized that while I like the overall flow, I think I could give myself some more staging area, with some hidden, and keep the same amount increase the amount of actual mainline run.

Since I seem to lack slightly the ability to come up with a decent plan by myself (although feedback I've gotten on various posts here and the forums basically has said I have a good base on things), I think I'll post as I work around from staging and go "eastward" on the layout and get feedback as I hit each "LDE" or section of the layout. Also, this will make it easier for me to throw up some prototype track work and then the modeled portion.

With all of that said, first up is staging. I basically came to the same conclusion as my dad. Staging should be around the utility area and built so I can have a desk/work area underneath it (desk at 30", benchwork at 48"+). I came up with two plans, one has two 13 track, stub ended staging yards where the tracks are all technically 150"+ inches and the other has a 13-track through staging yard, again with 150"+. Here is option one, the stub ended:

From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

The top yard would represent West staging and all the tracks area parallel to the wall. There's 2' of space between it and the furnace and it would come up close to the gas meter itself. The bottom one curves slightly to allow for the rest of the layout to go deeper along the right-side wall. If it had been straight also, that would have meant less tangent track on the layout on the right side of the basement. Track centers are 1" with 1.25" on the angled portion.

Here is staging option 2 (ignore the parallel tracks on the rights side of the pic):

From Conrail Harrisburg Line - N Scale

Now, on this one, there would be no difference in the amount the layout could go on the right side, still to the table edge line 24" from the gas meter. However, the area becomes less confined in this arrangement as there wouldn't be two yards separated by only 24" of aisle space. The dispatcher/work area could be on either side. The only downside is a duckunder at 48"+ to get to the area. I'm leaning towards option 2 because I can continuously run trains, reusing them during an ops session, etc., however, the final arrangement could be modified some, like making the shelf of the yards smaller around the furnace area, getting the turnouts along the edge of the layout, etc. The other thing is there is a window directly to the left of the gas meter, well, one of those "let the light in" basement windows. I'm thinking if I put the workbench area there, it wouldn't be too hard to hook up exhaust for say a paint hood or something to it and it would require tremendous engineering on my part.

So, essentially, I'm looking for feedback on these ideas or other suggestions on staging. It should be noted, the Harrisburg Line under Conrail during the timeframe of the layout (1996ish) saw over 50 named trains a day plus coal extras (some have documented 10 coming off the Lurgan branch from NS/CSX itself). The reason I mention that is to understand to get even a slight representation of the traffic density, a large number of staging tracks or the ability to rerun trains to give the appearance of more traffic is a given.


Welcome to the my Conrail Model Railroad site. I will document the research, design, construction and operations of my N-scale model railroad based on Conrail's Ft. Wayne Line in Ohio.

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