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Well-Known Member
Yesterday I finally started cutting plywood for some of the multiple decks of my new layout. Started out with staging level decks. Surprisingly I was able to get most of my 3 area staging cut from only 2 full sheets of 4x8 foot sheets of plywood. Photos coming later today perhaps.


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Trimming the Waterfront Scene

I had posted earlier in this discussion,...
2) My Waterfront Scene
I have this WONDERFULL waterfront scene I purchased from an estate sale. Perhaps I could place it at the very end of my peninsula on the lower level. …..the more modern stuff (containers,etc) in the first portion of the peninsula, then this 'older style' waterfront at the 'pointy end' ?


Might have to modify its footprint a littlbit. Trouble is it would set a tone of detail that I COULD NEVER match anywhere else on the layout....:)

I made a scale image of this overhead shot,...then placed it around a few spots on the layout dwg


I've been VERY concerned with cutting up (trimming) this great piece of modeling, but yesterday I had to bit-the-bullet and give it a try. I needed to cut an end off of the scene that had 3 small buildings on it, make room for the double track mainlines that will cross behind it.


I used my trusty old Swedish made hand saw as I needed to get 3 layers of foam and 1/2" plywood.

Now I will need to get to a couple of other edges, AND figure out how I am going to place it on/in the layout deck such as to be able to easily remove it when working on the brick factory behind it, and whatever I end up placing in the corner of the layout on the very top deck.

BTW, I'll find another place on the layout to utilize those 3 small buildings,...particularly 'Rocky's Tavern'....ha...ha


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More Plywood Deck Cutting

After some trimming of that waterfront scene I figured I best get on with how I was going to fit it into its corner piece of plywood deck. I'm desiring to make the waterfront scene 'removable' at times so I can work on the structure that will behind it, and those structures i'll end up putting in that same corner on the very top deck (still to be determined).

Some plywood deck cutting and fitting so far,...

With paper template laid over plywood,..

Here you can see the good clearance between staging deck and main deck at door's entrance,..

Steel Mill corner piece & its outer frame support, ...

The reason for the 2 different beams, angle iron beam & alum extrusion. is that i wanted the alum beam to exist where I intend to build a work station under the deck there.

With all these multiple beams at the same height in the room I am able to slide the big, heavy 3/4" plywood sheets around to different positions to get access to items underneath, or to trim them, etc.


Well-Known Member
I was doing some tweaking on areas of the main deck, and playing with ideas as to the reinforcements and ledges to support the waterfront scene. Hope to finish that tomorrow after one more gluing stage.

That steel beam lying on TOP of the deck is being utilized to locate where to drill the bolts holes in the plywood for bolting to the support beam underneath. I decided this was much easier than drilling the holes up from underneath,...and I did not have to remove the staging beams in order to get the drill in there from underneath.

Those white items under the edges of where the waterfront scene will sit in are just 2" square alum tubes they utilize for screened in porches down here in FL. Had to glue a little 1/4' wood spacer onto their bottoms so the next 'ledges' are the correct height to match the depth of the existing waterfront scene.

Played around with clamping a few pieces of random plywood on the very upper deck beams just see what it might look like. I plan on going ahead and cutting/fitting the upper deck plywoods prior to any track laying.


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Fitted Waterfront Scene

It fit in my cut out area pretty good. It sits on ledges of 3/8 plywood I provided off of the aluminum beams I provided on 3 sides of the scene,....easy in and out.

The existing scene had about a 3" drop down to water level, so I had to support it from ledges on the bottom WITHOUT taking up too much space that might interfere with the staging tracks below.



Well-Known Member
Beiland, nice progress! Looks like things are coming together very well. Are you going to leave the seaport scene there, while you work behind it? Experience has taught me that frequently things get damaged in places like that. Of course, not having scene finished has its disadvantages, however damaging stuff which is very pricey or time consuming to fix, is something I'm trying to avoid these days, as I've learned my lesson the hard way, too many times in the past. Keep those photos coming!


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Center Peninsula Deck

Took a day off for some other projects, then yesterday I cut out the 24" wide piece for the peninsula deck, and the 24" piece for the very upper deck in the back.

Might be hard to tell from these photos, but I feel the aisles are plenty wide for a single operator.

And the access to the staging area below this peninsula is superb,...

BTW, the very tip of that staging deck is only rough cut at this time, until I test out the clearances for someone a little 'thicker' than me.


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Upper Deck

I was getting ready to start cutting the plywood decks for my final and upper level of my 3 level layout. Something kept telling me I should have a look at the height of that blast furnace I had previously acquired before proceeding forward with the piece that was going to be overhead of it,....the Santa Fe station and SF diesel engine maintenance building.

This is what I discovered. The blast furnace tower was taller than I thought,...a good bit over the 20” I had set as the distance between my main level tracks and my upper level tracks,..

I spent much of the day contemplating what approach I should take. I finally came to the conclusion I was going to have to 'abbreviate' the piece of deck over the blast furnace,...and this would require my moving the Santa Fe station, Santa Fe maintenance building, and the 'west coast' container facility over to the other side of the layout/shed.

So now that Santa Fe station will move over to that corner across the entrance way and be over the waterfront/brick factory scene.

Basically I am going to have to redraw that upper deck plan, and concurrently try to arrive at more definitive arrangement for the coal mine and lumber mill scenes.

At least now my 2 opposing cites (Balt east coast, LA west coast) will be in diametrically opposed corners of the room,...on different decks.

...back to the drawing board


Well-Known Member
Why not 'abbreviate' the blast furnace? To me, having a structure from one level poking its head up into a second level would be disconcerting.

That thought entered my mind, and perhaps I will have to give it more consideration. I think I will let it shimmer this weekend while I go forward with a few other projects.

One other thought that arose was that having the blast furnace 'out front' of other structures back under a completely covered upper deck might be a bit 'claustrophobic'. That prompted my thoughts of abbreviating that upper deck in the corner, and putting something a little less 'busy' in that upper corner.

And fortunately I had never yet made plans on the other corner of the upper level.


Well-Known Member
Regarding the blast furnace situation, how about trimming down the smokestack some. Also maybe take 1/4" off the bottom of the bottom, and 2" off the lines into the top of the furnace? Not saying it would be perfect, but a lot of people aren't familiar with every detail of steel mills. Another alternative would be to switch it, and the rolling mill.


Well-Known Member
There have been times in the past when I considered placing the steel mill / blast furnace in the 'background of the scene' (back against the backdrop images),...
Steel Mill Scene in a Corner

....but I have decided against this in favor of my current location. I just didn't see how I was going to place it in a corner where I also needed reasonable large radius mainline tracks,..2 of them. Perhaps if I had a bigger layout things could have been arranged better, but I am working with a fairly small layout.

Having it 'outfront' at the edge will allow folks to get a better view of the various cars utilized in making steel. And I think my 'mirrors' will make the scene appear more massive (maybe 2 blast furnace in a row). Please excuse those temp mirrors I show in the pics, I did not have any plain ones at this time,...only the decorative ones I had salvaged off an old house remodel job.

And the double mainline tracks will run behind the steel mill unseen for a short period, hopefully they will not appear to be running right next to, or in between, the blast furnaces.

I'll abbreviate that upper deck just over the blast furnace so it can attain its full height. I just need to figure out what I might place in that upper back corner?....a refinery and tank farm have come to mind??

BTW, I had hopes my 2 mill image might look a little like this



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Experiment with moving Steel Mill to upper deck
Yesterday I decided to make a few experiments with changing some locations of some structures. A biggy was relocating the blast furnace/steel mill scene to the upper deck. So I grabbed a spare piece of plywood decking I had and placed it in that upper corner. I tried to set the blast furnace as far back as I could while still maintaining the fairly large radius curved mainlines behind it. In order to not hind the blast furnace behind the rolling mill I had to locate the rolling mill behind like this.

At the 60" height of my upper deck the structure appeared more inspiring, as it was likely in real life. And of course the full height of the tower was accommodated under the ceiling of my shed. I determined I would likely cut that upper deck plywood back to just in front of that slag car track in front of the BF.

I experimented a little with the mirrors that worked best when the BF was angled just a little.

Not totally sold on this idea yet, particularly when I would have to redo all my previous plans down below, including the lifting bridge images that would not go well with the Santa Fe station just across entranceway.


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I sat and looked at that possible new location for the steel mill,...and I have decided against it. I will locate it back down on the lower level as I originally intended.

When I thought about this move I had to move the Santa Fe station scene over to the opposite corner of the upper level. I am going to stay with this decision.

I am already looking for what industry I might put up above the steel mill. I am entertaining a coal mining scene, a refinery/tank farm, or even the container loading scene that is associated with the west coast portion of the layout.

My mind is a-buzz, so I had to entertain myself today with just making some changes to my 'metal reinforcement plates' that join the metal benchwork beams, 2 places where I had originally utilize 3/4 plywood gussets. My thoughts were that those thick wood gusset plates could interfere with some scenery items on the main deck, for instance the Balt city flats area in that back corner. That city scene may have to be very movable to get at any derailments behind/under it.

Oh joy and cheers for going back to the drawing table

BTW I did have an encouraging note today. Over behind my freight yard scene where I had included a double crossover Shinohara turnout (warned about possible troubles), I found that I have room enough for 2 in-line single Shinohara crossovers.


Well-Known Member
I've had several folks suggest that I leave that upper corner blank, this
I'd just extend the upper deck fascia high enough to hide the upper deck in that area myself...and then paint it blue or gray...

Corner Real Estate
Like real estate in the real world, there are limited amounts of it many times. On my relatively small layout I am limited by the amount of real estate I have to place many different industries I would like to have. So I am not so enamored with the idea of making this upper deck corner a 'blank theme'.

Plus I have some number of areas where the trains are out of sight, the helix, and the one long track that will be hidden behind a view-block of containers in the container/ship yard of the west coast on that upper deck.

So my thoughts have turned to what scene/structure(s) I might put in that upper corner. I am thinking coal mine, refinery, maybe even the container yard, etc. I think the coal mine and the refinery could both allow that upper portion of the blast furnace to exist without too much interference?

I was also looking back at my copy of Tony Koester's book 'Designing Multi-deck Model Railroads' and found this pic of an overly tall structure on the lower deck

BTW that small text reads, "Tall structures on a lower deck can be accommodated by shortening them OR by extending them up behind the upper deck fascia/valance. Stephen avoided the need to truncate the top of an elevator by recessing the upper deck ......."

I need to go back and read thru this chapter of Tony's book.


Well-Known Member

Do these revisions ever stop....ha...ha

About a week (or 2?) ago I got my already assembled steel mill blast furnace out of its box and placed it on main deck where I had planned to put it. Well it turned out it was a little too tall to fit under the upper deck's planned height. For a few days I played around with the idea of moving it up to the top deck.

Of course that meant I had to move my Santa Fe station and engine house scene out of there, and over to the corner across the room. I subsequently decided NOT to move blast furnace up top, and placed it back down in its original location. BUT I decided I would cut away a small portion of that upper deck to allow the towering blast furnace to remain uncut/untrimmed. But now my SF engine facility would not fit up there.

Besides I had now become comfortable with the Santa Fe station and engine house over in its new corner. I was intending to have an adjacent USA west coast container/ship-yard up there in association with the Santa Fe facilities, so that yard was moved over to the opposite side of the layout along with the station and engine house.

That move displaced my thoughts about locating a coal mine in that spot, so now I had to look for a new home for coal. I thought about moving to coal mining scene back over to the upper deck over the steel mill. Then I got the idea that that corner would be better utilized for the refinery scene that would require more real estate than the coal mine. So I found that I could fit the coal mine scene in far upper right corner with some trees and mountains associated with the logging scene still in planning.

I sketched out a tentative coal mine in that corner. As I sat looking at it for a few days, I grew irritated that the coal mine scene would be right adjacent to the end of the container yard. I didn't like that association. So now I have moved the coal mine scene to the left hand upper corner, and it will likely have to be built in a light-wt removal manner to gain access to my custom double crossover up there?

I have decided to place the refinery scene in the upper corner over the blast furnace. I figure with all that piping, etc of the refinery, that the upper tower of the blast furnace will just 'get-lost/blend-in' with all that piping. I also figure that having the refinery up at that height, it won't be too noticeable that my dble mainlines in that corner will be running right thru the middle of the refinery,...a no-no.

Sort of like the old time game of 'musical chairs'


Same Ol' Buzzard
It's like trying to put ten gallons of stuff in a five gallon bucket. I think that the coal mine is better suited to the lower level (in the east), than in the west where most coal is strip-mined. I also hate to suggest it, but maybe something has to go. A further suggestion regarding the refinery over the blast furnace is to extend the upper level fascia high enough to completely shield it (upper level) from the top of the blast furnace and just paint it blue. It might obscure part of the refinery, but that seems to be large enough that it won't really be noticeable.


Well-Known Member
yet ANOTHER revision

Paid a visit to my storage trailer yesterday, and picked up a couple of already build structures I had,.. for measurement/fitting purposes.

The first one I unboxed was a portion of the steel mill structures that I had pretty much decided not to include on my layout,....the electric furnace. I discovered it had a number of the interior appointments including the HD crane, lighting, etc. I set it in where I had originally placed the 'rail rebuilders' structure and found it fit pretty well. Now I believe I am going to include it, and find another spot for the rebuilders.

I needed to make a final decision on how I was going to cut the portion of the upper deck over this steel mill scene, and fit in my refinery. I've got a number of new unbuilt kits of the refinery, the loading ramps, MULTIPLE tanks, etc. I also had one built up piece I had bought a long time ago. I cut it into segments so I could try to use it to visualize how I might arrange things up there. I didn't really get a chance to work on that aspect, but I did decide how I was going the cut out the 'relief' to clear the blast furnace tower.

So I proceeded to cut out the big deck section, ....and make the multiple small recuts to the very corner of that deck to make it fit my slightly 'out-of-square' shed's walls in the corner....lots of fun and multiple lifts of that big piece of plywood.
....the refinery piece is just set randomly up there for perspective at the moment.....

I'm happy with the clear space between the decks,..

(that photocopy of the diesel engine service facility was put there to show another friend of a friend some of the structures I was going to place around the layout. Did that same sort of thing for a number of spots)

Going to work on drilling the bolt holes for the deck piece today, then cut out the big upper corner piece for the other side. If I get time I may play around with my 'entrance-way pull down bridge'.


Well-Known Member
Just before that I put a few of my structures back in their proposed spots. As I had hoped the tall tower of the blast furnace will get camouflaged by the refinery happenings above it. This is not a very good representation as it only a small bit of the refinery stuff I'll have to put up there, but it captures the basic idea...

While I was experimenting here I wanted to get an idea of how I might be lighting up that lower deck and deep recess. I clamped a piece of that alum extrusion that I had suggested I might use on the outer edge of the cantilevered plywwod upper deck,...then placed one of those same LED tubes like those I have on the ceiling. I think this is going to work out fine to illuninate the middle deck.

Since the upper deck on the other side of the shed is even smaller width, there may be no need for that alum extrusion on the outer edge. So I thought I might experiment with just laying one of those LED tubes on its side by itself,..(you are seeing the bottom edge alum base of the LED tube taped to the upper deck plywood.

Extending that into lighting up the corner area where the waterfront scenery will be,...again just a rough mock-up by taping the LED light fixture to the bottom edge of the plywood deck,...

These LED lights are going to work out just fine. I will even be putting some in my staging areas, and in my helix. Too bad they don't make shorter version I could use in some spots where the long ones are just a bit too long.

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