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I am planning my first O scale layout (I currently am an HO modeler). I want something simple to start, so I was going to build four sections (each of which will be 3' x 6') that can be arranged in pairs lengthwise. A backdrop will run down the middle. I will then put some 180-degree curves at the ends built by Model Railroad Benchwork ( to make essentially a large oval layout. The end curves will fit 0-54 track, which is sufficient for the trains I want to run.

Each side of the layout will have one scene that is essentially 3' deep and 12' long (fitting on 2 sections), and I will be able to walk around the layout and see two separate and distinct scenes. All track will be near the outer edge of the layout to maximize access. I will make each of the benchwork sections separate so that they can be disassembled if I move, and should I want to add more sections or rearrange them I can do so without much loss in effort.

I was going to frame each of the sections with 1x4 lumber, and use cross braces every 16-18" made from 1x3. It will be topped with 1/2" plywood. I don't think I need to use 1x4 lumber for everything, and using the smaller 1/3 stock for the braces will save on weight. I don't need to walk on it or anything.

Any thoughts to my plan? Thanks. 

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Here is a suggestion on how to make a module:

If your target is light weight, strength,portability and durability consider using 1/2" Birch A-B plywood .

Have the shop take a 3' X 8' rip, a 3"  X 8' rip and a second 3" X 8' rip that will supply your deck and two side frame members.

Then take the 3' x 8' and cut a manageable deck length like 5' for a 3' X 5' deck.

From the 3' x 3' cutoff have the shop rip five 3' X 3" cross members on 16" centers.

Predrill all cross members prior to assembly for wire management holes.  Always confine all holes to the center third of any material.

Use the precision cut deck panel as an assembly pattern,  lay out the side members and trim to fit, position the cross members and trim to fit.

Cut some glue blocks.  Lay the deck on a perfectly flat surface and shoot it together with clamps and polyurethane adhesive.

Model Railroad Benchwork is a very reasonably priced company.  I would consider asking them if they may supply a pre cut kit.  Or even have them make the straights for you.

I would not think to use dimensional lumber for model RR bench work.  No telling how the wood may warp.  May be OK, may NOT be OK.  'taint worth the gamble IMO.  Remember you are looking for repeatable R&R of the modules.  You need dimensional integrity.

Also, think to request predrilled wire management holes for your curved ends.

Sample photos:


Tight bond for a clamped assembly or polyurethane for a brad shot assembly.  Use corner glue blocks.

IMG_7814Two additional photos 002

Add a bottom skin for an absolute rigid module much like a hollow door blank.

RichardCopy of download [26) [1)


Images (4)
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  • IMG_7814
  • Two additional photos 002
  • RichardCopy of download (26) (1)
Last edited by Tom Tee

1x3 would be fine for cross braces, that table would likely be able to take your weight, mine is constructed similarly (ladder rail construction, 1x4 for frame and cross members, braces I think I used 1x3), and I have gone on the table and I am not a lightweight, my legs are 2x2. 

As far as warping goes,there are a couple of pieces of advice I have.1)No matter where you shop, don't get pine, get a hardwood of some sort. It will cost more, but they don't warp as much IME. Kiln dried pine should be fine, but these days honestly the quality just isn't there, especially at a big box store (Lowes and HD to me are neck and neck in terms of race to the bottom with that). I would recommend a lumber yard, I got my lumber there and while it was more expensive than the big box store, it was good quality and has held up. My basement has temp swings, and does have humidity swings even with a dehumidifier, and the word has held up beautifully. I used a 1/2 plywood top as well.

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