Sunday, July 19, 2015

Multi Multi-Decks and Multi Puppet Theaters ?

The last post described the dissatisfaction experienced with a prior layout caused by the very limited operational possibilities that I had unwittingly designed into it and a list of "druthers" to aid in the design process of the next. Although 75% additional square footage is available for the new layout under construction, the layout room and myself are far short on "givens" to achieve modeling the Berkshire Line in it's entirety. Therefore, only a few choice segments of the line that offer the most interesting operational value will be modeled.

A walk-in layout footprint that best fits my available space is a shelf type built on one of the longest walls, plus a free standing two sided peninsula situated long ways down the center of the room. This design is similar to the prior layout but with a more expansive length, I could again choose three locations on the Berkshire and this time have room for reverse loop staging on both ends to support line operations. I chose three run-thru locations that offered the most opportunity for local switching then drew a scale plan on graph paper. This plan had the operation interest that I thought I was looking for plus some nice scenery possibilities.

The number one priority for my new layout plan is to be able to operate the Berkshire Line prototypically. The new plan drawn had three rural run-thru towns, offered good prototypical operations in each but I again was overlooking the one location that is integral to the operations of the entire Berkshire, the line's hub at Danbury Connecticut.

What an oversight! Danbury has the most active schedule of daily passenger and freight trains anywhere on the line, being the operations hub this small industrial city must be included in any layout plan I design for the sake of operational interest longevity.

Danbury yard and station are approximately 1/2 mile in length, the tracks radiate outward compass east, west and south from the station building. The question is how to include Danbury into the design of a three location layout with the footprint available. Would modeling only three locations now be enough to support prototypical operations?


During the time I was trying to come up with a satisfactory layout plan there had been several articles in the hobby press covering Bill Schneider's NYO&W layout, "The Old Woman in the Back Bedroom". Bill is a good designer and I was impressed by how much he had realistically modeled in a small space using a multi-deck design.

I had never considered a multi-deck layout, I guess the thought of one modeled world on top of another just did not register with me. If I was to use a multi-deck design though, I could double the locations modeled and possibly operate the layout more prototypically. The more I thought about the advantages of a multi-deck I became convinced this was the way to go for my interests.

I worked on a design again using the footprint that best fit the available layout room. Two helixes would be necessary to transfer trains from one level to the next. Adding to the number of turns up, down or in the center of these helixes in conjunction with the modeled levels had the bonus of providing a pathway to the several staging yards needed to operate the amount of daily traffic on the Berkshire prototypically.

The advantages of a multi-deck layout now clear and out weighing any aesthetic issues I may have though I had, this type design was decided on.


In the UK it is not unusual to build small portable layouts to display at train shows rather than having a fixed in place layout at home. Many of these portable layouts feature a single location in a puppet theater sized enclosure with indirect lighting. Live action/operation on the "stage" is supported by  hidden sector plates in the theater wings allowing the shuffling of various scheduled trains on and off stage right or left. I personally admire this single location theater concept and the amount of detail both scenic and operational that can be applied within the confines of the stage.

Here we can see attendees at Model Rail Live in the UK obviously enjoying one of these theaters.

What if this concept was adapted to a fixed layout with several different locations utilizing connecting staging in the place of sector plates?

I made the decision to also give a try at this theater idea with the six locations on the new layout, these locations connected to each other in the proper prototype sequence thru staging. I could then check off two more "druthers", one I could use indirect lighting at each location and two, not having to model the in-between station stops that I have no interest in modeling.

1 comment:

  1. This is a great idea, Joe - and I've seen it done before. A friend had a wonderful layout that employed shadowbox design so that he could control the viewing angle and provide an elegant means to separate scenes that were miles apart in reality but only inches apart on his layout.
    Here's a link to a post on my blog that includes some photos of his shadowbox treatment:
    - Trevor (Port Rowan in 1:64)