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When I built my indoor large scale railway in the early ‘90s, I built tables with 1/2 inch plywood and 1 x 4 pine lumber. Unfortunately the tables were quite heavy and amplified the noise made by the trains. If I had to do it over again, I would build modules using rigid insulation instead of plywood.

The tables were 48 inches off the floor so that the patio furniture could be stored underneath during the winter months. As the patio table and cushioned chairs make a great railway crew lounge, the height of a new railway would be reduced to something visitors could view from the chairs.

I have a space about 2 x 32 feet along one wall which would make a good layout for switching and testing locomotive power conversions. Shelves or base cabinets would be used to support the modules and hide all the junk that model railroaders accumulate. Enclosed cabinets would also help to muffle the train noise.

I made the mistake of gluing the ballast down. It was difficult to remove the track without damaging it when changes had to be made, and the track and switches never came clean. I would look first for soft foam preformed ballast forms to help muffle the noise and eliminate the piling gravel on the layout. A second option would be a raised fascia across the front face of the tables to hold loose ballast in place. Our club layout uses fascia for this purpose outdoors and it works very well. The fascia is only raised the height of a tie so it does not interfere with close running trains and cars.
 

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If you consider an overhead layout, be aware that some visitors may be taller than you. A section of Ric Golding’s Kaskaskia Valley Railway is indoors, and one track traverses an aisle about 6 feet above the floor. The roadbed is made from two pieces of 3/4 inch plywood laminated together.

While attending the Annual Fall Railway Operations, I managed to walk into the edge of that 1 1/2 inch thick roadbed and gave my head a terrible whack. After reaching up to rub it, my hand came down covered in blood. A second or two later the blood began to running down my face.

Unfortunately there were a kitchen full of ladies between me and the washroom and I really didn’t want to walk through them looking like something out of a chainsaw movie. I did find an alternate route to the washroom however, and was able to stop the bleeding and clean up without scaring anyone.
 

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Les, if you are considering the tin-plate style of bolt together metal shelving please consider the vinyl shelving instead.

The bolt together tin-plate shelving is a pain to assemble even with a battery powered screwdriver. The braces and the shelves are easy to dent, bend, scratch, and they will rust over time even in a fairly dry basement.

The new vinyl shelving taps together with a rubber mallet in minutes. Felt pads can be stuck to the wide feet to level the bays on uneven floors. These shelves are stronger than the tin-plate ones, won’t dent, bend, scratch or rust even if you spray wash them. If you ever have to move them, they disassemble quickly with a rubber mallet and pop together to form a rigid box with the risers inside.

I am currently getting rid of 15 bays of metal shelving and replacing it with vinyl. The costs of the good vinyl shelves at Wal-Mart or Costco is about the same or less than the tin-plate ones. Wal-Mart sometimes has them on sale. So if you are going to buy a number of them, ask when the next sale is scheduled.
 
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