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I also started with Mianne as my base, and then things spiraled out of control!   Plywood has come down, but not nearly where it was two years ago.  I bought my 1/2" Baltic Birch multi-ply 5 x 5 sheets for less than $24/ea, this is furniture grade 11 ply panels.  I'm sure it's still way more than that now.  However, my feeling is not to skimp on the base as I'm putting thousands of dollars worth of track and switches on top, then running thousands more worth of trains on it!  I love the rigidity of the multi-ply, warping is simply something that ain't gonna' happen here!

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I agree with John - I have used 1/2" / 3/4" Baltic birch for years for shop cabinets and as the sub base for my layout with homasote on top. Not only multi-ply but each ply is laid down with its grain pattern 90 degrees to the ply below. This is what makes it so strong and warp resistant.

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Bottom cabinet is 2x4 framing with Baltic Birch drawers. The top cabinet is all Baltic Birch

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As comparison the cabinet doors on the left are pine.

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I also started with Mianne as my base, and then things spiraled out of control!   Plywood has come down, but not nearly where it was two years ago.  I bought my 1/2" Baltic Birch multi-ply 5 x 5 sheets for less than $24/ea, this is furniture grade 11 ply panels.  I'm sure it's still way more than that now.  However, my feeling is not to skimp on the base as I'm putting thousands of dollars worth of track and switches on top, then running thousands more worth of trains on it!  I love the rigidity of the multi-ply, warping is simply something that ain't gonna' happen here!

Hi gunrunnerjohn

I love the look of your 1/2" Baltic Birch multi-ply! Beautiful!

I have been checking out prior posts looking for bench work. I am starting from scratch and need benches before I can attach 1/2" Baltic Birch multi-ply. What recommendations would you have? I don't have the tools to build benches myself, so I am considering buying benches already made by someone else. Any thoughts or suggestions?

Thank you!

Well, I started with the Mianne benchwork, it worked out fine.  There are several other places that have ready-made benchwork, but I have no experience with them.  You could also consider doing modular benchwork that can be built elsewhere and brought in.

As far as tools, you really don't need may specialized tools for the job.  I did spring for the DeWalt 10" jobsite table saw, and I had a 10" miter saw we used as well.  A jigsaw, sander, and maybe a router for the edges should complete the picture.  Oh, and I did use a power stapler and a nailer as well to secure the top to the benchwork.

Wow, I love it. So with Mainne, I could buy everything precut and then just assemble it in my basement? I would guess that they sell piece packages based upon layout sizes? So, for example, maybe I tell them that I want three 4x8 platforms and they would supply me with everything to assemble those three 4x8 platforms?

You just sketch out what you think you want the layout to look like, and send it to Tim at Mianne.   He feeds it into his CAD program and generates a BOM for your benchwork and a price.  Here's a couple of shots of what I got back for mine.  I did some changes on the fly after the fact, but here's where I started.  I ended up adding length on either end and eliminating the 2nd level shelf in favor of a train yard.  I also filled in part of the middle on the right.  When you get your Mianne shipment, it comes with assembly instructions for the job, quite a slick operation.  No sawdust until you start putting the top on...

If you have an afternoon to kill, you can see my build in excruciating detail here!

New Train Room Finally Getting A Layout!

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Manny

My layout benchwork is similar to a deck layout

I used;

2X4 standard grade (not the cheapest) for legs and cross pieces

1/2 plywood for top sanded one side Not particle board because I don’t like particle board dust and not hardwood covered for cost reduction and cause it’s covered anyway

Have also used steel 2x4s made for framing in past for longer runs, over 8 ft

Pros; Cheap, easy to design multiple sizes, readily available sturdy and easily covered with homasote or pink board

Cons; Have to cut, heavy(relatively), hard to make pretty outside curves,maybe harder to transport

Your 4x12 ft will layout well off 4x8 sheets

Hope this helps

Steven T

Happy Holidays

Last edited by train steve

Thanks, Steve. I watched a video made by Lionel for framing up a 4x8 sheet of plywood and it looked pretty simple. I would probably need to have the home center do all of the cutting because I do not have any power tools to do the work. If I had access to a woodshop, it would make the job seem pretty easy. I am going to look into the Mianne options and go from there.

I am also a big fan of the Mianne benchwork. Very nice, well made, good quality and goes together quickly and easily, all with no mess!  I also did just what you are suggesting for the plywood, had the home center cut it all to size for me.

Mianne is also quite versatile if you ever want to add on or make any changes. I've ordered a few more things from them and added on to my original benchwork. And as GRJ said above, they also provide detailed instructions and drawings of how to assemble it.

Last edited by rtr12

I try to keep it light, but use a sandwich of materials.   Immediately on top of bench work I used a 3/4” maple/birch plywood with a foam core.   This material is super light, and very flat, but you can still screw into it well.  On top of this I glue 1-2” of styrofoam - the pink or blue or green stuff.   Sometimes I use two layers of 1” for various terrain or just a single sheet of 1” or 2”.  Finally, I install 1/2” Homasote with glue.  The Homasote is roughly the size of the roadbed and I route a channel into the foam to recess it.  The depth of the recess varies from 1/2” on industrial sidings where track would be flush to less for branch and main line track, where roadbed would be raised.   I am working with 2 rail handlaid track, so if you were doing 3 rail, you could just stop with foam.    I’m going to try to attach a photo of the materials I’m presently cutting for a shelf layout -  From left to right - 1/2 Homasote; 1” foam; 3/4” maple plywood with foam core.  

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Thanks JMusser

Wow - you have a lot of layers there. Is there a reason why you use so many layers? Are you trying to reduce noise or vibration?

I was thinking I would use 1/2" Baltic birch as my first top layer on top of the bench and then a layer of 1/2" Homasote on top of the birch. I would then place strips of cork bed underneath each track line. I am planning on using GarGraves track and Ross switches. I know some guys who use 1/2" plywood and put the cork bed right on top of the plywood. I am not 100% sure about the layers I want yet, but I am sold on the GarGraves track and Ross switches.

Apples55, I like your layout. I like that it is open and you can reach all areas of the layout. I plan on using 072 GarGraves  curves so that everything made will run OK and look good. I want to have a separate track line for my 1953 Lionel 736 Berkshire to run with Madison passenger cars, and then another track line for my Lionel Legacy locomotives.

@DILLI posted:

Apples55, I like your layout. I like that it is open and you can reach all areas of the layout. I plan on using 072 GarGraves  curves so that everything made will run OK and look good. I want to have a separate track line for my 1953 Lionel 736 Berkshire to run with Madison passenger cars, and then another track line for my Lionel Legacy locomotives.

Thanks. I used Mianne’s 30” wide version which made access to any part of the layout relatively easy (the center island engine yard is 48” wide, but is accessible from either side. Of course, as is typical with me, I added a 24” freight yard on one side of the layout which makes accessing one area a bit of a stretch - literally!!! I used O-72 and O-84 curves, so hopefully, there is nothing I can’t run even if some of the 21” cars do look a bit odd on the O-72 lines.

Apples55

I am super interested in the Mianne system. I am calling them tomorrow to begin the conversation and get an idea of how they work.

Interesting that you mention the 21" cars. How do they look in the 072 curves? I am keenly interested in this because I have yet to buy my GarGraves tinplate track and I want to make sure that I buy the right curves. Someone suggested that I go with 072 so that everything would look good, even longer locomotives or cars. What is your feeling with regards to the 21" cars? I assume they are passenger cars. How do they look in the curves?

@DILLI posted:

Apples55

I am super interested in the Mianne system. I am calling them tomorrow to begin the conversation and get an idea of how they work.

Interesting that you mention the 21" cars. How do they look in the 072 curves? I am keenly interested in this because I have yet to buy my GarGraves tinplate track and I want to make sure that I buy the right curves. Someone suggested that I go with 072 so that everything would look good, even longer locomotives or cars. What is your feeling with regards to the 21" cars? I assume they are passenger cars. How do they look in the curves?

I’m no rivet counter, so they are fine by me, but I’ll go down to the layout tomorrow and take a couple of pics on my O-72 and O-84 curves.

Hi Dave - I also have a weakness for passenger cars. Right now I have a set of 2008 Lionel Madison, Irvington, Manhattan, and Sager Place passenger cars that are modeled after the old Madison-style cars of the postwar era. I love them because they look just like the originals and I use them with my 1953 Lionel 736 Berkshire and they look great together. Everyone has their own unique likes and dislikes, and for me, I like passenger cars without silhouettes. These passenger cars do not have silhouettes and the windows are opaque, so I love them. They are only about 14.5", which actually seems pretty big to me, but they are an absolutely perfect match for the Berk. Both the cars and the Berk say Lionel Lines as well, so they look like they were made for each other and together they form my one and only postwar line.

I am looking to get modern passenger cars and modern hopper cars because I also like the look of a unit train and I want to form unit train systems for my other locomotives, which are all Legacy. It was recommended to me to go at least 072 so that future purchases, as well as people bringing things to my layout to run, would be almost bullet proof in terms of working well and looking realistic. Interesting that you mention 084. I had not considered that before. The only issue with such wide curves becomes having room to have curves and still have a manageable track layout. Definitely something to consider. I still have not made my GarGraves tinplate track purchase yet, and it will be a big purchase once I do, so I am glad we are talking about this now. I need to be aware of everything.

It will be interesting to see Apples55's photos.

Hey Dilli   Love the Madison style cars , had a few back in 70/71.  The Burk is a good pairing with the cars, I had a 763 and then a scale out side 3rd rail which i converted. The problem I ran into, is that  they , dwarfed the Madison cars , so the next step for me was the old Walthers heavy wht. cars, and I was hooked on passenger!

As far as the Modern cars an engines, they are long , and in my opinion,  look off, even  on O72.  If you use the Gargrave , or any flex track, you can ease your curves from the lager to the minimum, you chose.

I am glad we are talking about this because I will consider this when buying curves. I have no track right now and I have not designed my layout yet, so the curves are still up in the air. I am thinking about a U-shaped layout where I can walk right into the middle and yet have the ability to make long track lines by having them travel along the entire U perimeter.

I want a long and flat dedicated track line for my 736 Berkshire and the Madisons. Then I want another track line that is longer and much more sophisticated for my other locomotives, which are all Legacy. With the Legacy locomotives I will have the advantage of being able to run more than one locomotive on the same track line as well as incorporate climbs and descents. Curve size is my #1 consideration. The Madison cars that I have looked OK on 036 track, but I think they would look better with a wider curve size.

I am not buying anymore postwar equipment. I love the 736 Berkshire and the Madisons because they function well, look great together, and serve as my link to the past and the history of model railroading, but I only want modern equipment (passenger cars and coal hoppers) now to run with my Legacy locomotives. Minimum curve will be 072 without question, but I will now consider going 084 or even higher.

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