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Several years ago I engaged Ken to help design a smaller sized layout for my finished basement.  He was tremendous help in designing something that would fit the space well and not interfere with the other uses for the basement, primarily a entertainment room and a woodworking shop.  Around the same time Ken created a design he shared with the forum that fit the same space, but incorporated elevation changes.  I was now conflicted and decided to build both designs on the floor space for experimentation.  The flat layout design is better for conventional, while the elevation changes provide more interest to me in both building and watching.

After experimenting  the two options, I decided on Ken’s Chippewa Central design:


I did make some modifications.  Figured out how to eliminate a few switches without impacting functionality.  Also eliminated one of the two Lionel removable truss bridges to improve access to the middle.  Last modification was the removal of the yard in the right loop for open park space for a carousel and an N scale train for O scale children to ride. I moved the yard to the right back corner, off of the layout design. It will be a three foot, two line yard that runs along the wall into the basement corner.

Next step was to document the modified design by tracing out the design onto paper from a large paper roll I picked up from Amazon. I marked all the pieces and power drops on the full scale design to help once the tables are built.


It was at this point that my healthcare job got in the way and construction was delayed until this month.  


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This point is when the build got interesting.  A good friend is a long term CEO of several children’s museums.  She was discussing the hypocrisy of children’s museums teaching kids how to play and be creative with repurposed items laying around the house, but at the same time spending large amounts of money on having professional displays built for their museums.  Our conversation turned into a challenge.  Build a layout with items easily found in a Habitat for Humanity Re-store.

After searching through my house and the local Re-Store, I built the layout table out of repurposed porch columns, 4x4 replaced deck railing, plywood scraps, and old doors.   Also found a couple of drawer cabinets from an old office to act as storage and support for the layout.  Leg levelers were added to all the legs to allow final adjustment.  Due to the size of the legs compared to the 30” and 36” doors, I straddled two or more doors with each column.


Because of the rigidity of the doors, the plywood was not as necessary to support the top, but gave rigidity to the legs, by providing aprons to attach each leg.  Most of the plywood had reliefs cut in them to provide wire access and support for the wire runs.  Each tables was added and secured together with a few screws.


3ea 30”x80” and 2ea 36”x80” tables created a layout that was within an inch of Ken’s design.  The table size provided 24” hallway access on one side and 36” access on the other.

Next, I positioned the full scale paper template and traced the layout edge on the new table for final trimming.  The outside curves were cut and repositioned on the inside to provide the curved support for the inner loop.  There was no door material wasted in the construction.


Next step is to install homasote to the top to help with sound and give something to attach  scenery.


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Last edited by jstraw124

Progress Report:

Since the last post, added sheets of homasote, leveled the seams and painted.  Picked the reddish paint to simulate our area that has lots of red clay.  Plan is to add other colors with real dirt as needed.  Foliage will be fall colors.


Next on the plan was to build supports that would reduce the 80” open area for the outside loop down to the necessary gap for the removable Lionel Fastrack truss bridge.  That’s where my woodworking hobby kicked in and built supports out of cherry that will eventually match the cherry recycled cabinets and mimics the rest of the house that is timber framed. The bridge supports need to be very stable to keep any accidental bumps from causing derailments.  So they’re beefy, built out of 3” and 1” old  cherry I had in my inventory.


Next, we set up the lower level layout  as tested and see if any issues developed from building the tables.  Only minor changes necessary.



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Since the layout shares basement space with finished common area, including media room, the boss wants it to look nice.  So, plans also include curved shelving units on both sides below the layout that follows the table curve.  It will be for train display on a 072 curve.  Helps that the woodworking shop is only feet away from the layout area for these projects.


progess has been mainly on wiring and control systems.  The lower level is divided into two loops with separate 180 Lionel bricks powering each.  The control system is a combination of DCS and TMCC.  The later of which will be upgraded to a Base 3 when available.  Wiring is in the star pattern out of Berry’s DCS book.  The mounting location is a recycled built in file cabinet.  I cut the drawer front even with the drawer sides, and installed a board that fit into the hanger file rails.  That allowed me to mount the DCS on the top and then install the TMCC and power bricks in the bottom of the drawer.  I also cut a hole in the drawer front below for access, airflow, and signal strength. Cherry veneer edging will be added to the cuts and finished to match the rest of the cabinet.


The removable bridge is made out of 4 Fastrack girder bridges and a Fastrack removable truss bridge.  It is supported from both sides by cherry arches made out of some leftovers of another project.


I wanted to add a disconnect to prevent accidents if the bridge is removed during operation.  But, the truss bridge is not designed for that so I had to get creative.  The bridge was designed with an option to be permanently wired by use of holes between the bridge and the pier.  The holes align with a 3/8” gap between, and are out of view from above and below by the decking and pier overhang.  


The switch is mounted to the inside of the pier with a bLock of wood secured with a couple of screws.  The hole on the pier side was elongated into a keyhole to allow the switch arm to travel.  To trigger the switch, a bolt was added to the bridge side through the hole intended for wiring.  The switch is compressed by the bolt head when the bridge is placed onto the pier. The last pic below is an attempt to show how the bolt head compresses the switch when the bridge is in position.



To wire the switch I isolated a block for the bridge leading up to both sides.  The block is powered by a drop under the layout just before the bridge.  The switch is wired to the center rail wire by the way of a speaker wire that takes the power out to the switch and returns it if activated.  The wires are hidden by a groove cut into the underside of the support arm and up into the pier at the end.


Other improvements to the layout include the programming of the command switches and mounting the remote switch controls onto the side of the cabinets.  One the last day of York I stumbled onto a deal on some sensor track pieces and the needed cables.  Those have now been installed.

Finally, I started to layout the park area that will include an N scale loop for O scale children to ride.  It will also include Lionel accessories of the carrousel, pirate ship ride, and balloon ride.


Next up is building the upper level.


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Last edited by jstraw124

@jstraw124  Great build thread and great craftsmanship.

As far as the missing pictures, same here, first four pics are missing.  This is what we see...

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The remaining 11 pics at the bottom of your reply do show up.  This Image Not Found message can sometimes happen when coping and pasting pictures.  The fix is to Edit the Reply and click the [Add Attachments] link and upload the pics again directly through that interface.


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I second the bridge arrangement! Looks fantastic! I'm sure watching trains rumble across that arrangement is a joy.

Your installation of the switch in the truss bridge is very well thought out and executed as well! I have a truss bridge across my layout's inside access as well and I'm constantly scanning when I remove the bridge to make sure I won't have a train, especially expensive Legacy locomotive(s), tumble to the floor. If I do something similar in my next layout, I'll definitely steal your idea

Using the Melrose Park Station from Menards with the N scale loop is also a great idea - it fits right in!

Thanks for all the feedback.  The N scale train was on my wife’s insistence.  She likes small trains and wanted one on the layout.  I had to figure out how to make it fit with an O scale layout.  Found the idea through a forum search and ran with it.  Plan is to build benches into gondolas for the O scale figures to ride.

The bridge configuration is right off of Ken’s design.  Really liked the presentation it gives to the front of the layout.

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