Since I like to run model trains rather than spend my time building exquisitely detailed scenes, I built a suspended railway that goes all the way around my basement gameroom about 8.5 inches below the dropped ceiling. See Picture 1. This old timer is chugging along with its three passenger cars over what looks like a heavy metal support system.
What you see is a 1-in x 2-in white pine board lying on its side. When I purchased these 10-ft boards, I bought the best grade of pine without any knots that Home Depot had in stock. Carefully, I eyed up each piece to make sure it did not bow.
Next I bought a 4-ft x 8-ft sheet of quarter inch plywood and had Home Depot rip it lengthwise into 4-in wide long strips. Then I smoothed the sides with an electric sander. During construction of straight sections, I simply glued and screwed the plywood to the pine board. In effect, this creates a very strong angle iron. See Diagram 2 and Picture 5.
Where sections overlapped, I added a second piece of 1-in x 2-in board behind the spot where the white pine joints occurred and screwed them in place. They cannot be seen from the front. See Picture 5.
So what keeps it suspended? Also from Home Depot, I bought a number a L shaped shelf brackets that I mounted to the studs in my gameroom walls. I cut holes with my saber saw in the 1-in x 2-in I-beam boards so that as a section was completed, it could be lifted over these brackets. These indentations must be cut before adding the 4-in wide plywood on top. I put a nut and bolt through the plywood and the bracket in several places to insure the mounted piece could not fall free.
I had to lay the track and wire each section before lifting it into place because 8.5 inches was too difficult a space to work in from the top with a screwdriver and drill. As a result, I had to mark the wires so they didn’t get mixed up when going from one section to another. I tested the wires to make sure everything was working in that section before going on to the next. The wires cannot be seen because they run behind the wooden I-beam. Diagram 2 points this out.
If you have space to suspend the superstructure farther down from the ceiling, that would make the project easier. You could leave off the bottom piece of plywood and add it when all wiring is done. In addition, you would not have the same difficulty I had of labeling and keeping track of wires.
In one area, my suspended “layout” tunnels through a long closet behind a series of six bifold doors. In addition, there are places where I’ve built loops, and dead end parking areas. Diagram 4 shows the entire track system.
When I sit down at the control panel inside an old free-standing radio cabinet that belonged to my grandfather, I am living a dream with this large layout. From my vantage point in a corner of the room, I can run the trains to my heart’s content, but never fast enough so that they plummet to the floor. Surprisingly, I have had very few accidents for two reasons.
1. I powered up my turnouts to throw instantly when needed. They operate at a higher voltage than that needed to run today’s trains.
2. I’ve also built huge track signals which are completely out of scale but they look like the real thing. These tell me when tracks are occupied which I cannot easily see. See Picture 3.
In future articles, I will explain how I powered up my turnouts and how I built the oversized signals.
Although it seems like a lot of work, if you love to run trains rather than getting involved with finely detailed model railroad building, then a huge suspended railroad is the ideal pastime for you. Dust is never a problem because no one can actually see the train track. I have never dusted up there. Running the trains in a darkened room is a thrill like not other, especially if you’ve installed small lampposts or other lights.
If you want the thrill of a lifetime, try building a large suspended railroad!