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I have spent some time over the past couple weeks working on my benchwork.
There will be a long peninsula wall in the middle of the room. The layout will be double decked in this area with the lower level track height being 39” and upper level 59”. In the rest of the room the layout will be one level and track height is going to be probably 48” – 50” (not 100% sure yet).
If you look at my earlier post about my approach on how to do this, (https://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/node/38610) you’ll see that my intent is to not have the layout go all the way to the ceiling with a bulkhead – I want the area above the top level to be open so you can see across the room if you stand on your tip toes. For me I think this makes the room feel more open, lighter, and better air movement. I thought about making the wall out of 2x3’s, but the longest that the home stores have is 8’ and I needed to be able to tie the wall to the celling so I went with a standard 2x4 stud wall.
You can see here that the wall is tied to the ceiling every 8' or so.
For the benchwork, I am using 3/4” plywood ripped to 3” boards built into open grid.
I like this method as the boards do not warp and it is a bit more economical. My plan is to build the open grid in sections that can be relatively easily taken down if/when I need to do that. Not modules per se, but close. So for example, if I have a run that is 24” wide, I’ll build multiple 8’ x 24” boxes that will get bolted together. I also had planned to use pocket holes to put these together – I like the idea, but in practice it was a bit of a challenge. The first sheet of plywood I bought was BCX grade, and it had way too many voids and knots in it to make using pocket holes practical.
Actually screwing in from the end into the plys is always a challenge using ply wood, and with that BCX grade it can really be a problem. So I then got ¾” ACX grade sanded plywood from Menards. It is much better and if you are patient and a good wood worker you could drill pocket holes and use that method. I decided it was not worth the hassle for me. The primary reason I had for using this method is if I had move a stringer to facilitate the placement of a switch machine. If I find that I have a stringer in the way when I get to that point, there are other methods available to work around that so I’m taking a “I’ll deal with it when/if” I need to.
That's 3 - 3/4" 4x8 sheets ripped.
Some of the areas of the layout will just be “tabletop” style. One area I am going to put ½” osb, then 1” foam on top, then cork roadbed. Some areas will have more cookie cutter style. For me the down side of cooker cutter is you have to have a pretty good idea of where you want your track placement to be, and once it is cut and laid, if you want to later change it that can be a lot of work. Alternatively if you just used stacked foam you could move your track around until you settle on what you want then go ahead and carve away to create scenery and variation in hills etc… I am going to probably use both approaches depending on the area of the layout and what I think makes most sense. For one big yard I will have, I am putting homasote on the ½” plywood. I like homasote as it allows you to spike down track and again, you can move it around and let things, particularly turnouts, “float” until they settle after some time. I know lots of people like to glue their track down immediately and it works for them, but I personally try to avoid doing that.
Here are some areas of benchwork I have put in.
If you look closely you can see the bolts holding two boxes together.
To avoid using legs and have the area under the layout as open as possible, I am using angled braces to hold things up. The boxes themselves are screwed directly to the studs.
The area you see open between two boxes I built in place as it is an odd shape. It will also be ~3" lower as there will be a river scene and bridge in that area.
This article first appeared on model-railroad-hobbyist.com
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