Friday, June 19, 2009

Layout Space

I promised some retrospective so that you can see what has already transpired on the SP Santa Barbara Subdivision. This is the first blog which primarily looks at the space and preparation of the layout room.

When we first moved into our current home, I looked for a space for a possible model railroad. There were several possibilities.

The house has a large 17' x 34' "Family Room" which was an addition along the back of the house. My wife actually offered that as a possibility. It looks out a large sliding glass door into our back yard. The ceiling slopes from just over 8' to about 12'8". Plenty of room to build a good sized model railroad, maybe even using a mushroom design. The big issue for me was that the house is not just for model trains and I felt the room was better served as a space for the family to entertain and also to enjoy looking out on the yard. I do have another vice - books. Instead of a model railroad, I built an 8' tall bookcase that covers one of the 17' walls. Even so we do not have enough space for all our books.

There are four bedrooms in the house and there were only my wife and I along with our daughter and son. That meant theoretically there was an extra bedroom. There are plenty of plans for model railroads based on bedroom sized rooms so this was also a possibility. We ended up using one for our computer room but also had a futon in it for guests.

I did have a friend, Paul Catapano, offer to build me a large purpose-built building. He did an addition on his garage, adding a second story for his model railroad. He calls it the "Garage Mahal". It is a great space for his railroad, but I decided to decline and keep within the current footprint of the house.

Lastly, there was the garage. I decided this was the best space to allow me to build something yet keep peace in the family and utilize the house space for its intended purposes. The garage is basically 25' x 20'. We decided to park a car in the garage. That limited me but we started out by putting a stripe down the middle of the garage.

There are some interesting plans that utilize a garage and still share it with the automobile. Take a look at

This is a page that has some links to the Design Challenge held in 2004 at the Bay Area Layout Design & Operations Weekend. The event is held every January or February and draws over 100 people to discuss layout design and operation as well as to tour some excellent layouts and actually operate on some of them. If you have a chance to attend, I highly recommend it. Back to the Design Challenge. Look at the four files. It is best to start with chllng_1_2.pdf as this talks about the parameters of the challenge which is basically a two car garage where a compact car still needs to fit into the garage and share the space with the railroad.

So I started doodling plans for a space of 20' x 12'. Lots of other activities took my time including the growing family and work. Not much was accomplished but it was fun dreaming about how I could fill the space.

Unfortunately, the space did fill up.

It is truly amazing how fast it filled up. Dreaming about the layout and being tempted by sales of model kits and locomotives, saving model railroad magazines with "pertinent" articles, changing scales a bit and acquiring some G-gauge locos, collecting a prototype switchstand and sections of rail. all added to the pile. Whenever, we needed to quickly clean the house the "stuff" ended up in the garage on the side where the layout was suppose to go. This clearly was not going to work. Note the white line just to the left of the growing pile of "stuff".

Eventually, I knew I had to do something so I moved everything out of the garage and into the family room and started preping the space. This entailed finishing the garage. There was dry wall only on the walls adjacent to the house, the other three walls, including the garage door were bare stud walls. Also the space was open all the way to the roof. I wanted to put in a ceiling, and finish the walls. I also started considering some sort of floor treatment. All of this was to cut down on dust and to control the temperature in the space. Even though I live in Southern California, the summer made the garage very warm and the winter made it quite chilly.

One other issue: When the house was built they never put in all the ceiling joists! The joists were spaced about 24" on center until you got to the street side and suddenly there were spaces of 48". This would not do if I was going to put up a dry wall ceiling. So with the help of my wife we added a couple of joists. Have you ever put in a joist after the roof is on? It is not easy. We had 22' 2x4's but they would not fit without turning them on their sides, bending the middle towards the floor and slipping the ends on a diagonal
up to and on top of the header blocks. This was finally accomplished.

The dry wall was added to the walls with the addition of bats of insulation in the spaces between the studs. That was the easy part.

To do the ceiling, I recruited members of my local model railroad club. They came over and we managed to get all the ceiling up.

That left me to do the taping and mudding. Note attic access door has been installed.

It went well and shortly I was priming and painting.

Finally, I again recruited my wife and we put down an epoxy floor.

Finally, the space was finished.
Next I started getting serious about the plan so we could put in the benchwork. We will leave that to another day.

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