Overhead Storage and Lighting

I feel that I’ve reached another minor milestone with my layout depicting North Tonawanda NY.  I’m ready to proceed with laying more track, but there’s a back-story that I want to tell.

Back on July 30th, I posted about my quandary over layout lighting.  Thanks to those of you who responded to that post with ideas and opinions, by the way.  It was one particular response from Tim Swaddling, via this blog’s link to my Facebook account, that prompted an important shift in my thinking.

Tim suggested that I consider using LED lighting on the underside of shelf built above the layout.  LED lighting sounds like a promising technology, but it was idea of a shelf above the layout that appealed to me immediately.  The existing and future parts of my layout consume valuable storage space, and this will be a point of contention if I choose to expand the layout beyond the scope of the first phase.  You can check out a conceptual drawing of my plan by reading my post from July 21 2014.  The idea of capitalizing on otherwise wasted space above the layout presented an excellent opportunity to prove that the layout can co-exist with other uses for the room.

I didn’t follow through with the LED lighting scheme that Tim suggested.  I don’t have enough experience with LED lighting, and I don’t have any on hand with which to conduct experiments.  In the interest of moving forward with the layout construction, I decided to go with a continuous strip of single lamp T8 flourescent fixtures.

I considered having cabinets built above the layout, but that was soon proven to be a prohibitively expensive and impractical extravagance.  Once the notion of cabinets was ruled out, I was back to Tim’s suggestion of a shelf.

For the front edge of the shelf to be generally above the layout facia, the shelf would have to be 16″ deep.  I didn’t want shelf brackets on the wall underneath because that would mess up the flat surface for my layout backdrop.  The combination of ductwork above the layout and the fact that I had already finished the wall for the backdrop meant that I would be looking for ways to hang the front edge of the shelf from the ceiling and somehow attaching the back edge of the shelf to the wall.

I decided that a solution involving hanging the wooden shelf with steel rods and angles would be worth trying.  I got a great deal on a sheet of blemished cabinet-grade plywood, and also bought some threaded rod, nuts, bolts washers, lag screws, slotted steel angle, and then set about experimenting.  Eventually, I settled on the approach shown below.


Here’s the basic skeleton. I used lag screws to fasten some slotted steel angle to the underside of the joists, directly above the most shallow edge of the benchwork. Then I used lag screws to fasten the some angle to the wall. I bolted the threaded rods into place along the angle that was fastened to the joists, and then hung a strip of slotted angle from the ends of the rods.


The angle that’s hanging in mid-air was leveled, then I cut the plywood into strips to fit. Here you see the first sheet resting in place before being fastened.


Both shelf strips are in place here. You can see that I had to do some work to allow the rod to pass through the wood. The wood is held down to the steel angles by gravity, and then numerous 3/4″ wood screws were used to fasten the wood to the angles. These screws are only necessary to fix the shelf horizontally. The steel angles and rods hold everything up.


I’m experimenting with different valance heights using foam core board. My aim is to keep the valance as small as possible while still hiding the entire underside of the shelf. This image was taken at my eye level. The space between the bottom of the temporary valance and the top of the benchwork is 17 inches. I might try making the valance another inch larger.


I’ve spent most of the summer framing walls, wiring up outlets and lights, building this shelf, and installing the layout lighting. The next step is to move that heat register from its current location above the shelf to about two feet out, so that it dumps air into the aisle instead of onto my shelf.  Eventually, I’ll off the shelf and the space below the layout with black fabric.  Having worked all summer on the room, I’d like to spend some time actually working on the layout.  I think I’ll get to work on building more switches.

Layout Lighting Quandary

I’d like to hear some opinions about my approach to room/layout lighting.

In my concept drawing, below, you’ll see that there will be an aisle with benchwork “shelves” on either side in this first phase of my layout.  It may be a very long time before the layout grows beyond this space.  Whatever I do for lighting in this part of the layout should be consistent with the way the future sections of the layout are illuminated.

layout schematic1 copyHere’s my quandary.  My layout is being built in an open basement room.  Regardless of how large it does or doesn’t become, it will always be in a space that is shared for other uses.  I think that the more conventional approach to layout lighting (lighting directly over the layout behind a valance) works well in a layout room, but I’m not sure it will work in a shared space.  Also, I like the clean look of a suspended ceiling with drop-in lighting.

Below is a photo that was taken along the newly framed wall looking into the narrow part of the room where I will start the layout.  As you can see, there are a number of utilities that complicate the ceiling a bit.  I plan to install a suspended ceiling at a height of about 7 feet in that narrow space, which allows for a few inches of clearance under that duct.  Out in the main room, the ceiling will be almost a foot higher, with a bulkhead providing a clean transition.

IMG_3061In the above photo, you can see the benchwork for the International Paper plant on the right.  Notice that the duct is directly over the benchwork on that side of the aisle, which forecloses on any opportunity to put drop-in lighting over International Paper.

My plan is to install a continuous row of drop-in florescent lighting directly over the aisle (the lighting you see in the photo will be removed).  I recognize that this flies in the face of conventional wisdom, vis-à-vis layout lighting.  Does anyone have experience-based wisdom to share?