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train bench 01Train table 02

I've been rolling this bench around and around in my head since I bought this house several years ago and I am finally getting started. A couple of weeks ago I decided to get started on the benchwork - with my wife's blessing . My grandfather's trains have been stored for 30+ years and they will ride again! The shape of the table was partially dictated by needing to leave access to a utility closet and house electric panel.  I have only ever operated conventional and am reading up to learn about the newer remote/digi operation systems. Maybe a new control system is in my future, we'll see. I've purchased a used ZW-C to go with a couple of post-war ZW's that are in good shape - one is rebuilt, the other might get rebuilt soon. I am lucky enough to have more Lionel trains and accessories than I could ever fit on a table four times this size. I have loads of old/used Gargraves phantom flex and 20+ Gargraves 100 switches that are very serviceable. After I get the light rustiness off of the Gragraves phantom it might look more like tinplate . The old NJ dual solenoids I have are all bent and cruddy (and were problematic when they were last used) - the box got damp and they were just tossed in on top of each other in a box. I'll be buying new switch motors - what is your favorite switch motor these days?
One of my challenges in designing a track plan is that the 100 switches use up so much space. Is anybody unloading switches with gargraves-ish looking ties and lower radius turns? The attached pic of a layout idea below is probably the 100th idea that I've had so far - and it's unfinished. I haven't decided on what I will actually do with track yet, but the outer loop will look just about like that, and this seemed like about the most table I could fit in the space. The inner area/yards/industry tracks are all 'up in the air' for now. I'm probably going to try to get the outer loop on the table in the coming month and see how everything looks and feels and modify the "plan" as I go.

I have enjoyed the support and ideas I have already gotten from this forum and I'm looking forward to getting some choo-choo's running again! I am going to try a post progress pics as I go along.

2022-11-20 [1)



Images (4)
  • train bench 01: Bench work and shelves
  • Train table 02: Table top painted
  • 20221120_123603: a few trains on the shelf
  • 2022-11-20 (1): track idea no: 100+???
Last edited by woodsyT
Original Post

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@PRRick posted:

... like the storage shelves ...

this room looked like a cement dungeon a year ago. after fitting the walls with planks & insulation and scraping three layers of glued linoleum off the floor we stained the cement and painted it all up. The storage shelf lumber is reused from a ol' closet that used to occupy this space and the near shelves support the table too.

Regarding switch machines: I have used twin coil machines for the last 30 years - mostly OK, but back then they could be had for $4 - $8 each and I needed almost 30! Since then I've replaced10 with Caboose Industries ground throws, am in the process of replacing 11 or 12 with DZ1000's from Trainz, and the remainder are scheduled to get Tortoise machines (for under table mounting in inaccessible locations). I found the twin coil machines to have been a pain to get operating smoothly and required a capacitive discharge unit for positive operation. If you're planning on mounting them on the table surface, I'd say go with the DZ1000's.

Last edited by modeltrainsparts

Congrats on getting started!

I've never heard a bad thing about Tortoise machines, so you probably can't go wrong with those. You could save yourself some wiring by putting Caboose ground throws on the more accessible switches if you'd like.

Looks like a fun plan! The shape of your table would lend itself to a crossover in the middle for reversing options. You could also go vertical if you wanted longer runs and more interesting scenery!

@Mike0289 posted:

Congrats on getting started!

You could save yourself some wiring by putting Caboose ground throws on the more accessible switches if you'd like.

Agreed!  Give this some serious consideration.

If you're looking to operate your trains from a central location, twin coil switch actuation is a classic are newer devices mentioned...DZ1000, Tortoise, Atlas, etc..  But, if you see yourself with remote in hand walking about as the trains travel, setting out cars on stub sidings or parking them on parallel sidings, looking for more easily reached interaction...even with grandkids help!!...then manual throws (Caboose Industries) are less costly, easier to install, eliminate wiring (back-breaking undertable work as one ages!...and don't we all?), etc., etc..

I bought/installed all my Ross switches with DZ1000's...but, thankfully did not immediately wire them all up to a common panel!!...only to realize as I began to run trains that about 50% of the switches could've been designated manual control from the git-go!  Plus, after crawling around on the cold floor, killing my back, wiring up the necessary mainline routes, I was more convinced to remove the remaining DZ1000's and quickly installed CI manual throws...and have been VERY happy  I did!  Think about it.

BTW, nice craftsmanship!  Nice use of recycled material (shelves)!  Nice assortment of your granddad's trains already on display!  You're well on your way to a whole lot of FUN!!!

Keep us up-to-date on your further progress, please!  Continue to inspire others!


Last edited by dkdkrd
@BenLMaggi posted:

Can you access the back of the layout? ...

Until I get some track down - I can. It is currently about 12~14 inches from the wall. Almost the entire table has 36" reach access and I should be ok after I get some track down to push the table in to the wall. I have plastic slider-feet underneath all the legs and shelf supports so that I can slide it in/out if needed. It slides easily now... I wonder after I get it filled in..
Yesterday evening I got the control table/area mounted. It has plenty of space for a couple of ZW's or one ZW and rows of operators or a 7-space control panel, etc.


ignore the 'inner loop/yard' - it is a plan in progress and I'm toying around with redesigning it


Images (3)
  • 20221121_162850: table painted, with control table
  • 20221121_170557: table painted, with control table
  • 2022-11-21: ignore the inner loops and 'yard' they are being re-designed/planned

...Consider the Tortoise Switch Machines, they're bulletproof ...

yeah, the  tortoise's seem like a good setup. I've also been reading about the walthers servo/switch machine - I am curious to know if many folks have tried them out and what any experiences OGR folks have had so far.  There isn't much info about folks experiences with buying/using them when I search.

Why shoot the dice?  The Tortoise machines have a stellar reputation, and they've earned it over many years.  I'm really sorry I didn't go with them for my build, I opted for convenience and used the DZ-2500's, and I'm sorry I did that!

It's really hard for me to believe the Walthers switch machine is better than the Tortoise, and as you say, not a lot of reviews...

An elevated loop might be in the future someday. I had visions of bridges and trestles, but it might be a minute before they have a chance to appear on this table. I have been clicking around in AnyRail a good bit, planning and re-planning. I am having a hard time not cramming every inch of the table with track so - I have measured some of the accessory bases and forced myself to leave some space for things.  I managed to cram a way to reverse from both directions - but this feels a little bit cramped too. AND I have decided that I gotta pick up some tighter radius switches - my available gargraves 100's were kind of difficult to work into this space. I am still going to use several 100's, but I'll be picking up some 36-45-54-72 radius turnouts.

BTW - Blue Ridge Hobbies has a good deal on Tortoise motors and other Circuitron stuff. I took advantage of that and bought my new train table a holiday present.



Images (1)
  • 2022-11-29
Last edited by woodsyT

Nice start! I'm glad to see you making progress from your post a few weeks ago. Like I mentioned in that post, we used 100" switches on my dad's layout. They worked nicely on the main lines for crossovers. They actually didn't take up as much room as you would think. I like what you ended up coming up with for a layout. Looking forward to your progress.


The table is currently a MESS! But I have built and set the outer loop in preparation for the holiday visits from my family. There are eighteen of us when we all gather, and only a couple of them know that my grandfather's trains will be running again - it should be a fun surprise  It is wired and working (albeit temporarily) I tried four different post-war loco's and all of them are begging for a commutator cleaning or rebuilt e-unit (they have all been in boxes for 30 years) or both. So I grabbed the only modern engine I have, a K-line MP-15, to run a few test laps around the track.

Track cleaning: After working at cleaning the older rusty Gargraves track and switches I have and testing the track performance I decided to buy a new box of Gragraves Several sections performed acceptably (see my "Rusty Gargraves track & switches..." post) but maybe half of the sections had enough delaminated tin-plate or pitting from rust spots that engine running tests showed that the tracks would arc/spark enough to be a headache with dead stops or e-units popping over, so I bit the credit card a bought a fresh box of Gargraves.


Images (2)
  • 20221217_155833: messy work, outer loop set-up
  • 20221217_155840: messy work, outer loop set-up
Videos (1)

The two large open areas could be creatively developed as DOWNTOWN and SUBURBIA, with streets and buildings placed as deem appropriate; perhaps linked by a point-to-point trolley line with a bump-and-go trolley. For visual variety, connsider installing the streets at 45 degrees to the edge of the platform.

You are well along in the process.  Carry on ....

Mike Mottler   LCCA 12394

@MartyE posted:

Interesting choice of 19” rack panels.


Because I will be adding and building out the table over time - and adjusting things as I go - I thought I'd use toggles. They can control almost anything O-scale-ish - SPST, SPDT, DPDT, latching/momentary, etc to control blocks/cabs, lights, uncouplers, accessories, etcetera. This way as my table grows I can add or expand or re-arrange the controls as it suits me.

EDIT: also, the rack panel operators and DIN terminals appeal to me - I built electric control/PLC panels for a couple of years and the serviceability and flexibility of that setup is influencing how I am planning to wire up this table

Last edited by woodsyT

OK, track plan revisions. My family has all weighed in and wants to know why there aren't any mountains with tunnels, or bridges, or elevated trestle sections. So I made my kids (kids - two daughters 21 & 23yrs) show me how to make it fit, "draw it up", I said. So - this is kind of what they came up with, and I think I can pull it off. The grades work out to 3.9~4% - but I have enough magnatraction and traction tire locomotives to pull most up that (I think)  I am still fussing and thinking through the ground level smaller loop with larger reverse loop/dogbone. Whaddya think? Suggestions?

yellow track is ground level - red track is incline - blue track is elevated

there is a crossover...


2023-01-20 [2)


Images (2)
  • 2023-01-20 (2): 3D
  • 2023-01-20: 2D
Last edited by woodsyT

4% will probably pull just fine. Just watch your transitions. It looks like you have gentle slopes so you should be ok. Going from grade to flat suddenly can cause issues.

It's a cool track plan nonetheless. You have a lot of operating potential! You can have two trains looping (one on the inner right loop, one on the elevated line) while you do switching on the left. That makes for more exciting operations in my experience.

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