Overall  This is overall design of the layout. It's a three level mushroom design.The lower and middle levels are viewed from the aisles and the upper level is viewed from inside the center platform. The floor of the center platform is 30" above the room floor.  The overall design of the layout is a 'loop to loop' with a long mainline run between the end loops.  The lower return loop is in the top right corner and will be hidden under the large city. The upper return loop is above the helix next to the center platform.  There is about 500 ft of mainline run between the lower and upper return loops. Lower Level  The lower level. Most of the lower level is at 42" elevation. My freelance version of the city of Ogden Utah is located along the top/right of the lower level.  In my freelance version of Utah in the 1950s, Pirates from the Great Salt Lake founded Ogden. ;) MiddleLevel  The mainline exits the helix at 62" elevation on the middle level. About half the middle level is flat at 62" but then it starts climbing (2% helper district) until reachs about 80" where it crosses above the aisle into the upper level. UpperLevel  The upper level mainline track starts at about 80" elevation and levels out at 82" elevation. With the 30" high raised floor of the center platform it is effectively 52" high.  The mainline enters a tunnel before reaching the upper return loop (with 5 staging tracks) which is above the helix.  There is a branchline that splits off the mainline and climbs up to 88" (58" relative) to service a large industry (or town) above the upper return loop and helix).
20150703 104405  Lowes delivered the initial load of lumber for the layout benchwork. 20150703 114227  First I built a storage rack for the lumber.... 20150703 114239  . 20150704 071022  Finally I moved all the lumber from the driveway into the garage.
20150704 071048  . 3D Overview  This is a 3D overview with the backdrops and terrain removed.  The pink areas will be 1" rigid foam sheets. ElectricalBusDiagram  Simplified bus wiring diagram IMG 2559  .
IMG 2562  This is what the train room looked like before construction on the layout started. P7051645  And then I started on building the 'center platform'.which makes the 'room within a room' of the mushroom layout design. P7051647  The benchwork leaning against the wall in the background was recovered when I deconstructed my old layout. I may be able to use some of it in the new layout,otherwise I will take the pieces apart and reuse the 1x4 and 1x3 boards. P7051649  Building floor joists to support the 30" high floor of the center platform.
IMG 2664  You can see the 2" rigid foam insulation in the windows on the back wall. IMG 2665 IMG 2666  Wide angle perspective showing the size of the center platform. IMG 2667  The joists were spaced 24" on center so I can use the area under the center platform to store the large plastic storage tubs.
IMG 2670  I have tied the joists together across the front (where the helix will be located). P7051641  One of the other projects was to seal off the windows. The windows exist only for exterior archictectural reasons and get in the way of the layout construction because there will be two levels of shelf benchwork crossing them.  I first installed 2" rigid foam with reflective finish facing out and then mounted 5/8" plywood. P7051643  Furring strips around the perimeter of the window to be used for mounting the plywood. IMG 2688  The 5/8" plywood has been mounted.
IMG 2675  I have installed the 3/4" tongue/groove plywood floor and one of the center platform wall panels (1/2" sanded plywood). The wall panel on the right is just leaning against the stud wall. IMG 2676  The two 4 ft wide plywood floor sheets were about 3" short of making all the way to the near side of the platform here. IMG 2680  All of the center platform wall panels have been installed. I plan to fill in the 4" gap around the bottom at some point (probably before I install the carpet tile on the center platform). IMG 2682
IMG 2684 IMG 2687 IMG 2689  I'm starting construction on the benchwork where the lower return loop and 5 staging tracks will be hidden under the large city.  The lower level benchwork will be 1x4 open grid style. IMG 2691  Here's my open grid benchwork construction/assembly area in the garage.
IMG 2692  I am using SPAX 1 3/4" hardwood/MDF screws to assemble the open grid benchwork). IMG 2693  Adding the second piece. The benchwork assemblies are bolted together with 1/4"x2" bolts and affixed the the wall stubs using 2.5" cabinet screws. IMG 2696  After the 3rd and 4th pieces were installed.  The two larger openings in the benchwork near the corner are access points where I will be able to reach the back side of the deep (44") city scene (which will have a removable backdrop to provide access from the back). IMG 2701  The lower return loop will have a radius of 38".  The 5 staging tracks inside the return loop will have radii: 35.75", 33.5", 31.25", 29", and 26"
IMG 2703  I used 2x6 SYP (Southern Yellow Pine) boards as the main support beams for the upper level 'wings'. IMG 2704  There is 6' 3.5" clearance under the upper level wings. IMG 2712  I built the stairs to get up onto the center platform. I also started work on the lower level benchwork on the right side of the door. I wanted to get that benchwork area built to establish the 'traffic flow' around the layout. IMG 2713  The stairs are very solid.
IMG 2716  The view entering the room. IMG 2718  I temporarily installed a piece of the old benchwork to the center platform to get a feel for how wide the aisle would be.  With exception of a couple places (entry door way, stairs up to center platform) the aisles are 48" +- 2" wide. IMG 2721  The benchwork on the right is just temporarily mounted to get a feel for the aisle width. IMG 2724  Overall view of the work I accomplished in week one.
IMG 2727  I rebuilt my benchwork assembly table so it's taller and more level. This makes it easier to produce accurate open grid benchwork assemblies. IMG 2728  I also finally got around to installing an L6-30 240V receptacle for one of the workshop's 240v 30AMP circuits. This allowed me to run the Grizzly 240v 2HP dust collectosr. I also started configuring my dust collection system. Right now I just have the vortex chip collector, miter saw (it's hard to tell!) and the floor sweeper duct hooked up. IMG 2735  The lower level benchwork along the right side steps down to allow the mainline to descend into the lower level return loop and staging that will be under the large city (which will be along the walll behind the photographer.) IMG 2737  The main division yard will be along the far wall. The benchwork is 30" deep along that wall. I need to install a bunch of support arms from the wall to the benchwork in this area.
IMG 2739  I continuously verify level when building the benchwork. IMG 2742  Home Depot had their Ridgid MS1290LZA 12" sliding saw on sale for $299 so I bought a new miter saw.  I will be keeping my existing Delta 10" miter saw to use as a chop saw to use for cutting the Closetmaid Shelftrack mounting tracks/standards for the middle level shelf supports. I need about 100 shelf bracket mounts for the middle level benchwork.. IMG 2744  In this configuration the middle level benchwork can mount directly to the studs but the mounting track intrudes about 2" farther into the lower level backdrop. It seems to be very sturdy (Using Spax #10 2.5" screws to attach the mounting track to the stud).  I'm going to try cutting the mounting track about 2" shorter to see if it's still sturdy enough when mounting directly onto the studs of the center platform. I'm pretty sure I will not be able to shorten the mount track for the middle level benchwork supports that will attach to the drywall walls around the outside of the room. The good news is that most of that benchwork is only 16" deep. IMG 2745  This 'custom' bracket solves the problems of the previous bracket: it does not intrude into the lower level airspace and it would be very easy to install a seamless backdrop.  Unfortunately (as expected) it has too much deflection when you place weight at the outside end of the bracket.
IMG 2746  This is the Closetmaid Shelftrack system with a 20" shelf bracket (for the 24" deep benchwork).  The bracket mounting 'track' comes in lengths from 12" to 84" and they have 12" 16" and 20" brackets. I cut two 5" lengths from a 48" track. In this configuration the 20" shelf bracket only intrudes about 3.5" into the lower level 'airspace' but the top of the mounting track blocks the middle level banchwork from mounting directly onto the face of the studs. IMG 2747  I was trying to decide how to support the middle level (shelf) benchwork.  These shelf brackets are very sturdy, but the diagonal support struts intrude into the lower level 'airspace' and make it difficult to create a seamless backdrop for the lower level as well. IMG 2748  You can see how these brackets intrude into the lower level airspace. IMG 2750  Working on the lower level benchwork where the main (classification) yard will be.  The benchwork is 30" deep along here.
IMG 2757  After I added the wall support struts. IMG 2762  I have started building the shelf for the 4 track staging (and 'offsite' passenger train service facility) that will be located in the model workshop. IMG 2764  The wall studs were exactly where I expected them to be when I cut the opening of the model workshop staging track entrance from the train room. P8151669  The view from the train room looking into the model workshop.
IMG 2772  At some point after the layout benchwork construction is completed I plan to go through the wall on the right and add a return loop in the woodshop/workshop.  The return loop will be designed so it can lift up against the wall when It's not needed. IMG 2773  I wired and installed DPDT switches so the staging track can be selectively powered/controlled either by the 'main' layout DCC control or by the Zephyr in the model workshop. I also wired it so the closest track can function as a standalone DCC programming track P8151672  I'm also working out the 'kinks' on how I plan to use 5630 SMD LED light strips to light the layout. IMG 2769  Building more of the lower level benchwork around the center platform. I need to add wall support struts.
IMG 2774  I have completed the lower level basic benchwork. I will be installing 5/8" plywood and 1/2" homasote in the yard and engine terminal areas and 5/8" plywood and 1" Foamular 150 (pink) ridgid foam in other areas before I start to lay track. IMG 2778  The aisles are nice and wide.  Hopefully the aisles will still seem nice and wde if/when I host operating sessions. :) IMG 2779  I need to start work on the helix infrastructure before I build the final section of lower level benchworkwork (on the left). I also cut and mounted the first/test shelf support for the middle level around the center platform. It is 1 1/2" x 3/16" right angle steel stock and it seems like it should be sturdy enough to support the middle level benchwork (24" deep).  I need 24 of these supports. IMG 2780  I mounted some supports and a piece of 1 1/2" right angle steel bracket across the aisle to simulate where the track will cross from the middle level (nolix) over the the upper level (center platform).
IMG 2796  I am starting to work on the helix and upper return loop support structure.The helix will be double track with 37.5" and 40" radius tracks and will connect the lower level at 42" elevation to the middle level at 62" elevation. The helix will have 4.5 revolutions to climb the 20" elevation change. The upper level return loop will be at 82" elevation. IMG 2802  The helix will have 4" rail to rail elevation rise per revolution.  There is 6' 4.5" head room under the 2x6 support beams across the top. IMG 2803  The 2x4s that are mounted to the vertical columns will support a 3/4" plywood base that will support the helix. IMG 2805  The eight vertical support columns are lag bolted to the slab.
IMG 2806  The upper return loop will be 40" radius and it will have 5 staging track loops inside of it. IMG 2811  The 3/4" plywood support base is perfectly level. I will use a multitude of different height riser blocks to provide the correct slope for the first revolution of the helix. Once the first revolution of the helix is complete with the correct slope I can use constant height riser blocks to build to next 3 1/2 revolutions.  The helix will be built with 2 overlapping layers of 15/32" sanded plywood. IMG 2812  The vertical column in front of the helix will provide support for the upper level return loop and will also provide support for the lower and middle level benchwork.  It is lined up with the outside edge of the lower level benchwork and the outside helix vertical support column. Th mainline track will come in from the right and curve to the right and enter the right side of the helix. The helix will climb in a counter clockwise direction and exit on the middle level headed back in this direction. IMG 2814
IMG 2816  I need to add additional 3/4" plywood subroadbed to complete the upper level return loop. IMG 2818  I built the lower level benchwork that connects to the helix structure. IMG 2820  Starting to work on the wall panels that drop from the ceiling that support the outside of the upper level benchwork. IMG 2821  Starting to work on the wall panels that drop from the ceiling that support the outside of the upper level benchwork.
IMG 2822 IMG 2831  Sept 7 2015 - I built the upper level benchwork on the left side of steps going up into the center platform. Because I had reduced the overall length of the center platform from 16' 6" to 16' to provide more efficient use of 16' and 8' lumber (I moved the center platform to the 'right' in the room in order to provide more aisle width near the locomotive service terminal) the 2x6 blocking I had installed in the ceiling no longer lined up with the back edge of this 24" depp upper level benchwork. Therefore I built this benchwork to be 30" deep in order to line up with the 2x6 blocking in the ceiling.  All the other areas where I built walls from the ceiling to support the outside/back edge of the upper level benchwork lined up ok. IMG 2832  This is where the mainline track will cross above the aisle from the middle level nolix up into the center platform area. IMG 2837  I built this section of upper level benchwork that connects the two 'wings' that extend from the center platform the corners of the room.
IMG 2838 IMG 2841 IMG 2843  And then I built/installed the wall panel that mounts to the ceiling and supports the outside edge of this benchwork. IMG 2844  Next I will install the 5mm panel to this wall assembly.
IMG 2846  An overview of the center platform.  I will also be installing wall panels from the ceiling to the edges of the 'wings' so the entire center platform will be closed in except for where the steps come up. IMG 2850  Sept 8 2015 - I finished the last wall panel that supports the outside edge of the upper level benchwork (between the two 'wings' that extend the upper level to the corners of the room). IMG 2852 IMG 2854
IMG 2855 IMG 2858  Sept 20 2015 - Working on the shelf brackets that will support the middle level benchwork.  These are ClosetMaid 16" shelf track shelf brackets that I am painting flat black. I need about 70 of them (one for each stud 16" on center around the perimeter of the 2x4 stud walls).  I built a PVC stand to hang about 40 of them while spray painting outdoors. IMG 2861  Setup in the yard on the south side of the detached garage. The 'lawn' is very long because we had new sod installed in front of the house/garage and we have to wait about a month before the lawn guys can mow it. IMG 2862  The black spray paint is quite fragile so I had to do a little touch up after carrying the brackets inside.
IMG 2865  These are the 1.5" steel angle brackets I fabricated to use as shelf brackets by mounting to the exposed studs around the center platform.  I started with eight pieces of 72" long raw steel 1.5" right angle brackets. I used my old 10" miter saw and a metal cutoff blade to cut them into twenty-four 24" long pieces.  I then cut off the front bottom corner (in order to try and avoid giving people lobotomies if they reach their head under the middle level shelf) and I used my bench grinder to smooth all the cuts.  Next I drilled 4 holes in each (3 to mount to the studs, 1 to screw into the 5/8" plywood shelf).  I then sanded the loose rust, cleaned with acetone and them applied a thick coat of Ospho. Ospho converts Iron Oxide (rust) into Iron Phosphate (a hard, inert substance).  FInally I spray painted them flat black. IMG 2867 IMG 2869  After spray painting flat black. IMG 2871  These are the Closet Maid double track shelf mounting brackets I will use to mount the 16" shelf brackets to the drywall/stud walls. I started with five 84" shelf tracks and cut each of them into 5" segments. I then used the bench grinder to grind all the cuts/burrs smooth.  Finally I drilled 2 mount holes in each one. I plan to make 5"x1.5" pieces of 1/4" plywood to mount between the 5" shelf bracket and the drywall walls. I plan to use two 2.5" Spax #10X screws to attach these bracket mounts into the studs.
IMG 2873  After spray painting the 5" bracket mounts. IMG 2878  I mounted the middle level shelf brackets to the center platform studs. IMG 2883  Given the wide span across the corners of the center platform, I plan to fabricate and mount pieces of 1.5" steel right angle brackets to the bottom of the 5/8" plywood to help support the plywood (prevent sag). IMG 2898  October 18 2015 - I have mounted all the Closet Maid wall tracks and 16" shelf brackets into studs to support the middle level.
IMG 2900  I ended up installing 70 of the 16" shelf brackets. I used two Spax 3.5" 10x screws to mount each 5" track through the drywall into the studs. IMG 2904  I also cut access holes into the 5/8" plywood panels that cover the windows. If necessary I will be able to cut through the 2" foam to access/unlock the windows and then we can open the windows from the outside for maintenance purposes. IMG 2905  I had a cat helping to mount shelf brackets. IMG 2907  I have begun installing the 19/32" plywood that will form the base shelf for the flat terrain areas of the middle level. I will install sheets of 3/4" Foamular 150 rigid insulation on top of the plywood. I had planned to use 1" Foamular 150 sheets however only 3/4" is available in Florida (unless you want to special order a case of 48 sheets).
IMG 2909  One of the engineering challenges I had not solved was how to support the corners of the middle level shelf around the center platform. With just the right angle brackets mounted to the exposed studs there was considerable deflection when you pull down on the 19/32" plywood. I have decided to use one of these 13"x20" heavy duty brackets for each corner.  I created a 13" 2x2 out of a 2x4 and mounted it on the INSIDE of the plywood wall of the center platform and then I used three 2" 10x Spax screws to screw through the plywood into the 2x2. Then I used 3/4" screws to mount the bracket to the 19/32" middle level shelf.  It is very sturdy and the shelf does not deflect at all. I started thinking about how I was going to mount the coved concave backdrop with the bracket in the way and I realized that when I'm ready to mount the backdrop I should remove the shelf bracket, mount the coved backdrop so it's touching the plywood wall corner, and then mount the shelf bracket to the backdrop. I can paint the shelf brackets the same sky blue as the backdrop. IMG 2910  I designed the nominal track height of the middle level (62") so that it's just an inch or two below my eye level so it will put me "in" the layout when operating the layout. IMG 2914  The middle and right side of the lower level here will be a locomotive (steam and diesel) service facility. If you look close you can see I drew in the approximate location of the 130' turnatable and 12 stall roundhouse. Because this area is much too deep to reach the back sections the two wall panels behind this area are removable (each panel is held in place with 6 wing nuts). IMG 2916
IMG 2917 IMG 2938  Nov 22 2015 - Building the wall panels and coved backdrop for the upper level 'wings'. IMG 2941  I will install a 5mm plywood panel on the outside of the upper level wing and 1/8" masonite for the backdrop on the inside of the wall panel. IMG 2942  Eventually I plan to paint the layout wall panels the same off-white as the room wall color.
IMG 2943 IMG 2946  This photo shows the LED strip lights and the room T32 (6500K) fluorescent ceiling fixtures on.  The room lights are clearly brighter than the layout LED strip lights because you can see a much brighter area across the front of the benchwork where the room lights are hitting. IMG 2950  I installed an 8ft length of the LED strip lights I have planned to use for the lower and middle level layout lighting.  It's two parallel strips of 2835 LEDs (60/meter). They don't put out quite as much light as I was hoping. I will try adding a third row and if that doesn't provide enough light then I may go to 5630 LED strip lights (which use twice the power as the 2835 LEDs). This was a test of both the LED strip lights (mounted at 30 deg from horizontal) and a test of the backdrop paint colors. Update: I noticed the 20AMP 12V power supply I was using was only putting out 11.4 volts and it had a switch to change between 220v and 110v AC input and it was set to default 220v input. After switching it to 110v input the power supply put out 12.4v and the LED lights became much brighter. IMG 2957  Nov 23 2015 - I'm working on building/installing the wall panels and backdrop for the rightside upper level 'wing'.
IMG 2959 IMG 2961  As expected this aisle area became noticeably darker after I closed in the upper level wings and blocked those two fluoresecent light fixtures.  This area is currently lit with a single 4ft dual T32 fixture. I will probably replace it with a quad 8ft T32 fixture and see if that 'fixes' the room lighting situation in this area. IMG 2962 IMG 2965  The ultrawide 10-22 lens can make for interesting perspectives. I need to patch/sand the screw holes and seams and then paint the backdrops.
IMG 3082  I use many different sizes of Spax t-star screws.... IMG 3093  December 31 2015 - My original goal was to have all the basic benchwork completed and the lower/upper return loops and helix track installed and functioning by the end of 2015, but that didn't happen.  I have completed 98%+ the benchwork and I also installed most of the lower/middle level lighting. IMG 3094  I have started construction of the large steel bracket that will support the middle level 1x3 benchwork above the city where the middle level nolix track crosses the aisle and heads up into the upper level. The piece of wood crossing the aisle shows the planned relative height of the track crossing the aisle. I have ordered a 96" long 3" wide by 1.5" tall steel A-36 U channel which will be used to simulate a (long) plate girder bridge to span across the aisle. IMG 3095  The middle level will have a 'nolix' along the outside wall to climb from 62" to the upper level 82" elevation. The track will be climbing along this stretch of middle level benchwork until it's about 14-15" above the benchwork.
IMG 3097  I have also started experimenting with installing coved backdrop corners for the lower and middle levels.  I'm using 3/16" hardboard/masonite for the middle level fascia. IMG 3098 IMG 3101  I have also completed the 1x4 upper level benchwork in the upper level 'wings'. IMG 3103
IMG 3104  You can see the LED light strips I am using the light the lower/middle levels. I am using 2835 LED strips and I mount 2 rows of LEDs to 30 and 40 degree mounts that I rip from 2x4 studs.  Each 2x4 creates 4 mount pieces.  The yellow/orange 12GA wire is the LED lighting power bus. I am using four 20AMP 12V power supplies to power the LED lighting buses. IMG 3105 IMG 3106  The basic layout of the tracks along the main division yard. IMG 3108  There was a single 4ft dual T32 fluorescent fixture on the ceiling here which was not providing enough light so I replaced it with an 8ft quad T32 fixture which provides much better room lighting (although it overpowers the LED layout lighting).
IMG 3109 IMG 3110  In areas where the middle level is built with 5/8" plywood and 3/4" foam and supported by Closetmaid 16" shelf brackets I have to run the power buses wires over the shelf brackets. Ugh.   In areas where the benchwork is 1x3 or 1x4 open grid I can run the bus wires through the benchwork boards (much better). IMG 3111  You can see the LED lighting power bus running through the benchwork. IMG 3112
IMG 3113 IMG 3114 IMG 3116 IMG 3117  You can see some of the 40 degree LED mount boards sitting on the left side benchwork.  For the middle level nolix benchwork I plan to install 5" tall hardboard fascia to the 1x3 benchwork and then mount the LED mount boards to the back of the fascia that will light the lower level.
IMG 3118 IMG 3119  This is what the LED lighting looks like before installation.  I wire the two LED strips together so it needs only one power connection. IMG 3121  The LED light strip power connection. I use Scotchlok 'suitcase' connectors to connect to the 12V LED layout lighting bus wires. IMG 3122  This is the view from the upper level where the bridge will cross over the aisle to the middle level 'nolix'.
IMG 3123  Upper level left-side wing IMG 3124  Upper level right-side wing IMG 3125 IMG 3126  With the room lights turned off.
IMG 3127 IMG 3128 IMG 3129 PlywoodCuts  I used 3rdPlanit CAD to try to figure out the optimal plywood cuts for the helix.  The helix will be constructed with two overlapping layers of 15/32" sanded plywood and it will be 4.5 revolutions.The left option would take 36 1/4 arc segments and require eight 4x8 sheets of plywood. The middle option will require 24 1/4 arc segments and 16 1/5 arc segments and it would require six plywood sheets.  The right option (1/3 arcs) will require 27 1/3 arc segments and nine plywood sheets (and waste the most plywood).