Quick Thoughts on Garage Layouts
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Brief ideas on layouts to share the garage with a car
One can build a fine layout in a garage, even if it must share space with the family cars. I wrote a long article about it in the Layout Design SIG's Layout Design Journal # 28 (Fall 2002). I'm building my current layout in the garage. Here are some quick garage layout ideas:

The best layout investment I've ever made was replacing my old tilt-up wood garage door with a sectional insulated door. Not as cheap, but worth every extra penny. The new door has reduced the temperature swing in the garage by 10-15 degrees per day, making it a more pleasant place to be more of the time.
Because my garage really bakes in the afternoon sun, I installed an attic gable fan inside the garage, exhausting to the outside. This helps draw in cool air in the evening and early in the morning. It was a little work figuring out how to mount the unit against the inside wall, but it's been a big help.
Click image for fan notes in .pdf file

Dust Control
The sectional door helps, look also for other gaps and cracks and fill them. If you have open rafters to the roof, consider an inexpensive suspended ceiling. Cheap removable dust curtains made from shower curtains or other material hanging from the ceiling, valance, or upper deck can help keep dust off the layout.
If you have the typical vents cut in the side walls, consider inexpensive furnace filters over the openings inside to keep out the majority of the dust.
Others have recommended painting the garage floor with paint designed for that purpose to seal the concrete ... I have not yet taken this step.

Use the "Big Aisle"
Too many designs simply split the garage in half and use one section for parking the car and the other for the layout. Look at ways to cantilever part of the layout over the hood or even over the roof of the parked car. If you are willing to stipulate that any serious operation or construction is done while the car is parked elsewhere, the resulting designs will provide more in the same space. Use that "big aisle" where the car parks to best advantage in your design. I wrote about this in detail in the LDJ article.
In this rough sketch of my overall layout, the long horizontal peninsula will extend over the hood of the parked car.

Expansion / Contraction
Despite many old wives' tales, I'm convinced most of the expansion/contraction issues in garage layouts are due to moisture changes and not variations in temperature. Be sure to leave gaps in long track runs to allow for changes in wood subroadbed and (small) changes in rail length when the hot, dry summer comes.
Benefits of Garage Layouts
The good news about building in the garage is that it's usually a large space with few central obstructions. There are also fewer other demands on the space from other family members, so that can make the right-of-way negotiations easier.
And of course, in the west and in much of the country, there are no basements. So the garage may be the one "land grab" possible to suit our layout design dreams.
Please contact me if I can help you find a home for your layout in among the holiday decorations and old magazines in the garage.
Copyright 2006 by Byron Henderson

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