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So I'm going to start building my benchwork and I need to know if I'm doing this right.  I'm using 2x4s (I know its not ideal for most, but cost-wise it works for me) and going with what I assume is L-Girder - like.  I'm planning on building a frame and then setting other 2x4s on top that risers will attach to.  Am I doing this right?  I plan on mounting the outside 2x4s of the frame to the wall studs.  Also, do you screw the 2x4s that the risers will attach to, to the frame?  

Note: I posted this in my build thread, but I know some that may be able to help may not look there.

Frame and Track
Track on top of frame

Frame and Cross Pieces
Frame and cross pieces (not sure what they are called)

Breakdown
Frame and cross pieces separated


Screw

Are these attached together?

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Images (4)
  • Frame and Track
  • Breakdown
  • Frame and Cross Pieces
  • Screw
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

I'd say your doing just fine so far.  If I understand your sketches correctly, the base frame is made up of 2 x 4s running perpendicular to one another.  Then on top of that you're mounting another layer of 2 x 4s.  This upper layer will support your roadbed and scenery level.  

Yes, you should fasten the upper most 2 x 4s to the base layer as shown in your last sketch.

Mike,

The videos show how I did my L-girder years ago.  In the last video, pay attention to how he handled where his sections along perpendicular walls meet.  That looks like how you could handle yours instead of fanning the cross members like you have.  I see you commented on it back in 2014.  I have done the same thing.  Recently I questioned something, then when someone referred an old topic, there I was and had totally forgotten!  

Thanks Dave for the link to that topic!!

Well Dan, it's one thing if he already has all those 2x4's on hand, but if he has to go out and buy them, he's eating up any savings by using almost twice the total material as he needs.

I'm also a little concerned with the "toe screw" connections. Legs are typically attached with the flat surfaces touching. I still say 1x4's are best, even if they cost a little more. They are lighter and easier to work with, but still have great strength. You also don't need long screws to make connections. Regular 1-5/8" drywall screws get most of the fastening done.

Thank you for all of your replies.  

I understand that 2x4s are overkill, but my reason for using them are for expense purposes, not stability.  Also, I have many on hand, therefore it makes sense to use them and not go out and buy plywood to rip down or 1x4s.

If I were to simply use "open grid" it would not allow me the flexibility that the L-Girder does.  While what I have is not actually L-Girder, it looks and works very similar, if not the same?  That is my reasoning for combining like I did above.  With the above comments and link to the other thread (thank you), I changed what I had a little bit even though, for money purposes, I'm sticking with 2x4s.

Does the below image make more sense?  I'm trying to see if my thoughts on this are correct, I understand its not conventional.

Attempt

E
lliot, 

I just saw your reply.  The toe screw would be to mount the 2x4s that the risers will mount to, to what would be the girder in L-Girder construction, not the legs.

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Images (1)
  • Attempt
Last edited by mjrodg3n88

I'm with you Elliott, it's NOT just the extra material...all those boards may be obstacles for access or wiring.  I do "L" girder along walls as well...the 2 x 4s are the girder boards with the 1 x2 flanges and 1 x 4s are used for Joist boards---use these to vary distance from the wall outward...just be certain that when everything is in place NO POINT ON THE LAYOUT IS MORE THAN 30 INCHES FROM REACH.

John C. posted:

I'm with you Elliott, it's NOT just the extra material...all those boards may be obstacles for access or wiring.  I do "L" girder along walls as well...the 2 x 4s are the girder boards with the 1 x2 flanges and 1 x 4s are used for Joist boards---use these to vary distance from the wall outward...just be certain that when everything is in place NO POINT ON THE LAYOUT IS MORE THAN 30 INCHES FROM REACH.

That makes sense.

The 30 inch thing... Thats going to be tough.  I just have to add access holes in places.  I'm very limited with my space, track (realtrax....), and need (having 2 loops interconnecting).

Mark Boyce posted:

I wish I could find my copy of Westcott's book.  I would loan it too you.  

Your new drawing looks much more like it to me.

I have a book that I bought from Dewey (not sure which one it is), but since I have 2x4s I sort of went off on my own.

mjrodg3n88 posted:

Thank you for all of your replies.  

I understand that 2x4s are overkill, but my reason for using them are for expense purposes, not stability.  Also, I have many on hand, therefore it makes sense to use them and not go out and buy plywood to rip down or 1x4s.

If I were to simply use "open grid" it would not allow me the flexibility that the L-Girder does.  While what I have is not actually L-Girder, it looks and works very similar, if not the same?  That is my reasoning for combining like I did above.  With the above comments and link to the other thread (thank you), I changed what I had a little bit even though, for money purposes, I'm sticking with 2x4s.

Does the below image make more sense?  I'm trying to see if my thoughts on this are correct, I understand its not conventional.

Attempt

E
lliot, 

I just saw your reply.  The toe screw would be to mount the 2x4s that the risers will mount to, to what would be the girder in L-Girder construction, not the legs.

Mike, I like this design much better. Now if you just make the L's the way they were intended, you can still use your 2x4's on top.  A lot of people do it that way. Then they can be attached by screwing up through the flange.

The plywood in my previous post was about decking, not necessarily about support members, though it would work well in that application too.

There a number of ways to deal with the trapezoid access opening in the upper right.

Last edited by Big_Boy_4005

Mike,

Since you have the  2x's on hand, just build the frame. You aren't doing elevations and detailed terrain to require the additional work of the joists.

Perhaps double up on some of the adjoining sides and build separate sections that bolt together for easy disassembly.

The decking can overhang and permit shaping with a jigsaw and attaching a Masonite fascia board.

You may be able to get away with one leg of a doubled 2 x 4 in the center with the perimeter attached to wall studs. Should be solid to dance on.

 

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It may be tough man...I appreciate that...but don't do it to yourself.  don't climb on top of your layout either.  That mistake has been made dozens of times.  

The thing I can tell you 100% without fail is the hardest spot to reach will bethe place where you will experience the most issues.  That's 45 years and 9 layouts telling you that; not to mention all the other layouts I'd advised on...  Don't do it to yourself.

If you do true "L" girder there will be enough separation between joists to reach.  I recommend 24 inches.  You can get away with 18 if you are not a huge person.  TEST your own fit.  Make vertain you can reach everything, because sooner or later you will need to.

I'm giving you GREAT advice and guess what I did.  My most difficult point to reach at only 26 inches away was a switch placed ON TOP OF A GRADE--another mistake.  After many choice words to myself because I know better I changed my arrangement.

God I wish I listened to myself!  :-)  LESSON LEARNED, again, again.  :-)

 

Thanks again, everyone.

Elliot,
So if what I showed in my last post were 1x4s, then it would be a lot closer to L-Girder, correct?

Carl,
You seem to be really good with SCARM.  Thanks for the images.  One thing that I'm not 100% sure if I'm doing or not is elevating some of the track, so risers may actually be necessary.

John, 
Great advice, thank you.  When you are referring to 24" or 18" are you talking about the opening that I will need? 

If you re going to cut corners on your effort I would suggest NOT to do it with the very foundation on which your RRing is being built.  That approach may very well reach out and bite you.

Cross members on 16" centers will allow most hand tools access for drilling holes or driving fasteners.

I would avoid pine plywood decking.  A sheet of plywood will yield thirteen  3 1/2" X 8' frame material.  Take the price  of any quality plywood and divide by 13 to get your unit cost.

Dimensional lumber will warp.  It is only a matter of time and severity.

This works for me (one of them survived intact from a tailgate drop @55mph) :

Richard Karen's linkIMG_7814

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Images (2)
  • Richard Karen's link
  • IMG_7814

Mike:  John, 
Great advice, thank you.  When you are referring to 24" or 18" are you talking about the opening that I will need? 

 

YES.  I recommend 24" circle...just as an example.  You may be slender enough to do 18" comfortably...test yourself for "fit."  Lay off cookies and other assorted goodies if you can make 18"

mjrodg3n88 posted:

Thanks, Tom.
Birch plywood, I assume?

John,
I can easily do 18", but by goodies I think you mean beer 
My room is small, 100" x 117"

I like the beer thing.  You are young and can do that.  I had to give it up, because I was 80 lbs heavier in my beer days.  :-)

Have you given any thought of designing a switching arrangement in your space?  A lot of people seem focused on going round and round.  A continuous run...

It is fun, entertaining and realistic to operate a switching layout.  And the best thing would be you could have a shelf 2-feet wide extend around the perimeter--3 sides ONLY of your area in a "U" shape and you could walk right into the middle of it through the door.  No ducking, crawling, access holes needed.  You could buy either of the new MTH engines:  44 tonner or 0-4-0 steam switcher (or both!--two people could operate at the same time!) and create a realistic operation--like a board game.

If you feel that you want to have a continuous run, you have two options:  

Option 1: fastrak on the floor that you can pick-up when done--easily move about.  

Option 2: Build your switching layout about 30 inches high and operate while seated in a rolling chair--ideal.  Build continuous loop overhead where you can nod-under (lower your head) and walk into the room while it circles above.  It could be about 66 inches up where standing viewing would be the norm.

I'm going to offend sensitivities here so I'm treading as lightly as possible, but most guys grow weary of watching a train circle the same space--not all--but a lot.  And, what is the train doing?  What is its purpose?  What will you or others be doing to interact with it?

I would respectfully suggest to you to consider other possibilities; like a switching arrangement around your walls.  Your present track arrangement is going to be un-friendly as far as access/maintenance is concerned.

In your area, it would be exceptionally cool to pick a real railroad somewhere and base your switching operations off of reality or at least pattern your line based upon reality.  You could arrange it so that two people could actually be controlling the trains versus watching them circle.  

I'm big on: Plausibility, Purpose and Participation to maximize your enjoyment. 

My two cents and butting in when I'm NOT asked... 

 

 

Last edited by John C.

Mike,

The newer design is much better. As Elliot alluded to, one reason for the "L" in L-girder is to be able to attach the decking from underneath so you don't have to figure out where the screws are beneath the landscaping if/when you need to make changes. You can still do that using small angle brackets they sell at Home Depot. Another reason for the "L" is to make the 1x4 more stable. Since you are using 2x4s, that isn't really needed for stability.

IMHO, there's nothing really wrong with using 2x4s, etc., that isn't what I meant by overkill. I meant the extensive framing and then more extensive crossmembers. I get why you want the crossmembers, to deal with the irregular shaped aisle. Your latest design deals with that much better and with a lot less work involved. I think you've got a workable solution, just consider attaching the decking from below rather than on top, unless you're sure you'll never need to make changes.

You still have to deal with the access panel because you've added a rail there. good luck.

Mike,

   As others have advised you are over engineering your base frame work, however if you have the money to invest there is really nothing wrong with doing it, especially if you plan to making this a permanent layout, that will be up for many many years.  My bigger multi level layout was up for about 12 years, and I used 2x6's to mount to the wall studding and the outside platform edging, with 2x4 cross members 3' apart, the under pinning was simply new plastic saw horses, which the 2x4's sat on.  The deck top was 3/4 finished Ply Wood.  On top of the plywood was the old Acoustical Ceiling Tile, covered with indoor/outdoor carpeting, to completely deaden the sound of the FasTrack layout while the trains ran.  In this manner I kept the building cost down, and still engineered a very strong multi-level layout.  If you let it, building your layout structure can cost you big money, however, it can be done for reasonable money in the manner I just described.

PCRR/Dave

 

 

 

Last edited by Pine Creek Railroad
Big_Boy_4005 posted:

Well Dan, it's one thing if he already has all those 2x4's on hand, but if he has to go out and buy them, he's eating up any savings by using almost twice the total material as he needs.

I'm also a little concerned with the "toe screw" connections. Legs are typically attached with the flat surfaces touching. I still say 1x4's are best, even if they cost a little more. They are lighter and easier to work with, but still have great strength. You also don't need long screws to make connections. Regular 1-5/8" drywall screws get most of the fastening done.

The toe screw connection is of the two layers of 2 x 4s, not the leg/frame interface.  Granted, toe nailed or screwed connections have become almost obsolete these days, due to the myriad Simpson type connectors available.  In my career, as a carpenter, toe nailing was the accepted practice.  Most of my work was of the renovation or restoration type.  And the carpenters that came before me used even more toe nailed connections.  I used to come across joists that were toe nailed to their supporting beams.  let me tell you those connections were as good as the day they were installed.  

Using screws for toe connections is good as long as he pre-drills for the screw.  If using nails the point should be blunted first.  Both of these will prevent the wood from splitting.

rockstars1989 posted:

MJ Here is how my benchwork is put together.Yes I agree it is over kill but hey I just love building my Layout!I have to get up on my layout I weigh 210lbs 6 ft.Have fun.Nick

Man you should think about a plan where you could access your layout without climbing on it.  It is very inconvenient and the issue of damaging scenery, track or whatever is always.  You may be in great shape now, but down the road you are going to wish you wouldn't have done this to yourself.

It looks like you have good space for aisle ways and access.  As long as I've been in this hobby, I can't figure out why especially in "O" guys make these layouts way too wide to reach stuff.

I hesitated to write anything because I don't want to make you mad, or anyone else.  I'm just trying to share a little age-old advice.  My days of climbing, ducking/crawling are over.  

Sooner or later, it occurs to everybody....you don't have any track/scenery yet...

I apologize for butting in when not asked.   

John,

Your input (and also because I have my benchwork 90% complete) has made me rethink the access hatches/areas.  I moved the track where I was going to have an engine house to another space on my layout and instead of one access point, I will now have three.

I stuck with my 2x4 construction, all I have to do is build the "door" to enter the room and add my risers.  Cutouts

Mike

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Images (1)
  • Cutouts
mjrodg3n88 posted:

John,

Your input (and also because I have my benchwork 90% complete) has made me rethink the access hatches/areas.  I moved the track where I was going to have an engine house to another space on my layout and instead of one access point, I will now have three.

I stuck with my 2x4 construction, all I have to do is build the "door" to enter the room and add my risers.  Cutouts

Mike

I'm glad you decided to think of your access.  You will be glad you did.  One thing I know for certain is you have to reach everything.

Just two days ago, my wife bought some twenty-inch-long passenger cars.  One of these cars hated one curve area on my layout.  Even though everything else worked, I re-did, re-worked the curve/grade.  This car finally makes it.

The sliver of good news is my curve was "rough."  It was the first Gargraves track that I ever cut.  It was good, but not great.  It is now great, and/because it was easy to reach.  :-)

John C. posted:
rockstars1989 posted:

MJ Here is how my benchwork is put together.Yes I agree it is over kill but hey I just love building my Layout!I have to get up on my layout I weigh 210lbs 6 ft.Have fun.Nick

Man you should think about a plan where you could access your layout without climbing on it.  It is very inconvenient and the issue of damaging scenery, track or whatever is always.  You may be in great shape now, but down the road you are going to wish you wouldn't have done this to yourself.

It looks like you have good space for aisle ways and access.  As long as I've been in this hobby, I can't figure out why especially in "O" guys make these layouts way too wide to reach stuff.

I hesitated to write anything because I don't want to make you mad, or anyone else.  I'm just trying to share a little age-old advice.  My days of climbing, ducking/crawling are over.  

Sooner or later, it occurs to everybody....you don't have any track/scenery yet...

I apologize for butting in when not asked.   

NA your not butting in at all.When your'e right your'e right.I can "just" reach both sides of the area that is shown.But yes even if you install access panels and etc.It is still a PIA to get down on the floor crawl across and come back up through a hatch.So yea it is VERY advisable to build what you can reach.Nick

Last edited by rockstars1989

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