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Discussion Starter #1
I have been toying with a few ideas on track, and this one is for indoor elevated layouts.

I have seen many layouts suspended from the celing.  The big issue is the decking that supports the rails and ties take away from the view od the train, especially when it runs directly overhead.

I was thinking, and I'm sure I'm not the first...  How about suspending a six inch deck of plexi-glass, with the rail grooves routed out.  This way the train will really seem suspended, and floating in thin air...  I'm thinking the noise might be an issue, so perhaps a very high density foam strip along the grooves to help deaden the sound.  Just an idea....

Has anyone done or seen anything like this?
 

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   I've seen a layout where the tracks were installed on plate glass, with metal rods for support. Classy looking, and very expensive. Plexiglass will also cost far more than wood, and is more bendy, thus the supports will have to be closer together and/or the thickness will have to be increased, adding to the cost. Maybe you just build certain sections of the railroad on plexiglass, like above doorways, etc, and build the remainder on wood.  If you add 'framing' to the underside to make the structure stiffer, that will block the view from beneath the train and defeat your purpose.

   I have experience with using PVC materials for an elevated railroad. It was outdoors, starting at the basement window, and ending at ground level about 100' away, where the terrain was higher. It included a 6 track yard area with a yard lead that accomodated 60 cars. About 500 running feet in all. Anyway, rather than lay the material flat (too bendy), I cut two inch wide strips using a panel saw and stood them on edge. Three of these strips supported the track, and my posts were about three feet apart. It was built in-place as a continuous spline, and was ideal for transition curves and various radius of curves. Tracks were secured with wire ties. Plastics (PVC and plexiglass) will expand 4 inches in a 100 foot run, assuming a temperture change of 100 degrees F, so expansion joints were imperative. That shouldn't be an issue indoors where the temps don't vary. Just want folks to understand plastics have much different properties than wood or metal. 

   US Plastics in Ohio will sell sheet goods to individuals like us, but be prepared to pay for motor freight. Routing grooves in the plastic and eliminating all trackwork is a novel idea, but you won't have any switches, just round and round. My storage shelves are built this way (but wood instead of plastic). Let us know what you come up with. I've only seen one other railroad, besides mine, that used plastic, so you will be a pioneer on this project.
 

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Discussion Starter #3
Thanks for the feedback. I was more wondering if it has been done. My goal is to start an elevated track this Spring, with a focus on live steam
 

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I'm sure it could be done, especially if you're going to use battery power.  Things to consider:

1) Make sure you maintain a perfect, or near perfect width throughout the train deck, including and especially on, the curves.  There is virtually no way you'll be able to route a channel freehand and expect it to stay consistent throught the layout.

2) You'll probably need plexiglas at least 1/2" thick to support the weight of the locomotive without buckling enough to cause traction loss.  a thickness of 3/4" would be even better.

3) Your run should be dead flat throughout and even with that, you may need to either rough up the plastic where it will contact the wheels so that you get decent traction, or you will need to use locos with traction tires.  

4) Six inches may not be wide enough in the curves depending on what materials and design you plan on using for your support mechanism.

5) Keep a healthy budget available for your decking.  My source here in Ann Arbor, Michigan has plexiglas available in 4 x 8 plywood sized sheets for about $750 for 1/2" and around $900 for 3/4".

All that considered, If you do decide to proceed with this undertaking, I have an aesthetics suggestion  that will truly enhance the look.  Sand all cut edges progressively with higher grit sandpaper until you get to around 320 or 400 grit.  Then take a small propane torch to the sanded edge until it begins to melt.  This will give you a polished edge that is as clear as the top and bottom.  Also, do not remove the protective paper until all cutting, sanding, and melting has been accomplished.  This will protect your plexiglas from being marred during the build.

Mark
 

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US Plastics has clear acrylic 4x8x1/2 sheets for under $300. each, see below. Edges can also be polished after sanding by buffing with a cotton wheel and some polishing compound. I agree that the grooves for the flanges are critical for good operation of the train. Do not attempt this freehand. An edge guide mounted on the router is essential. And the measurement for the 2nd "rail" must be perfect, You only get one chance to make it right. If I was building this, I'd use chromed 1/8" hanger rods and chrome acorn nuts beneath the acrylic. What they attach to depends on your ceiling. (My previous layout used lamp rod threaded on both ends, painted white, readily available and comes in various lengths). Don't forget to post some pictures.
Acrylic Sheet 48" x 96" x 1/2" (.472) Thick
Qty 2: 5% off; Qty 4: 10% off; Qty 12: 15% off;
Sheet [script removed] $277.72
 

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Regarding live steam, you should visit a few live steam layouts, if you haven't yet seen them in operation. Two things come to mind. There needs to be a ready track, where the setup is done of the locomotive - adding water, fuel, starting the engine, adjusting the heat, monitoring the pressure. It seems to take 5 or 10 minutes to get these babies going. And the operator needs to be able to easily see and reach the controls on the engine, which usually means eye level, not overhead. The second thing is they're messy, just like prototype steam engines. They leave a residue of water, oil and dirt on any layout they run on. Most track powered guys won't let live steam run on their railroads for that reason. So your beautiful plexiglas shelf will be covered in stains after awhile. I like your idea of on-board batteries much better.
 

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With regard to routing the curves, I recently found this jig at one of my new favorite stores: Rockler. I plan to get this for woodworking projects. It could be useful in creating those nearly perfect curves for the overhead plexiglass layout. Click image for more details.

 
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