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I started out my layout with some vague ideas. I wanted a hi-rail thing but with Lionel tubular track. I only had space for a 16x17 foot platform. Around the walls wasn't practical because of my "old house" basement. So I bought Lionel tubular. Then I discovered that the geometry of tubular track and turnouts is such that I could get 3/4ths more layout in the same space by switching to Gargraves. This I did...and slowly sold off all the Lionel tubular I had bought.

Then I tried to design the layout on RR Track software. I got really frustrated. I wanted to run trains--not sit in front of a PC screen for endless hours. I gave up on RR track (no reflection on the software. It's just my impatience). Instead, I canvased every book and magazine with track plans that I could lay my hands on. While I did this, I built the benchwork using a metal frame that I had in the garage (it was originally a rack for VHS tapes in a Blockbuster store! I bought it at their going-out-of-business sale). Then I made the platform out of 2 inch styrofoam and 3/8 inch plywood--making a THICK sandwich. I wanted to deaden noise with my sandwich.

Also during my research phase, I bought mostly used Gargraves track and turnouts. Little did I realize that my purchases would have been good for a layout TWICE the size of the one I had space for. But my research paid off and I found an old Armstrong plan for the Milwaukee road and Avery yard that fit my general ideas. I extracted the yard design, which is on a curve, and laid the yard on my platform. This and the engine terminal are just about the only flat portions of the layout. The rest is all grades, bridges and tunnels. Of course, at the time, I knew none of this--there was no plan. I just wanted grades, bridges and tunnels.

In fact...everything was done to excess. It is my first (and last!) layout. I had no idea what I needed. So i bought built structures and kits enough for at least double the layout I space I had available--yeesh. And in the middle of my buying orgy, I found a guy who had dismantled a layout and had the Ross switches from it for sale--mostly used, but some new, mostly with 2500 switch machines but some DZ-1000 with 1008 relays. The price was too good to pass up and I am thinking these could improve my layout reliability 100%. It was a package deal for 50 switches, all in original boxes. Many curved switches included (I didn't realize how much curved turnouts can improve a layout design until I started applying these). The upshot is that now I have 50 or so Gargraves switches I have to sell--ugh.

So here it stands--unorthodox benchwork supporting a platform sandwich, on the occasion of the end of track-laying. The track is done. The engine terminal track and tentative structure arrangement (very important to me) took months. I have a couple things to fix (MORE mistakes!). Pix of the metal frame benchwork, the platform sandwich, my 3-bridges-over-the-river-cry and the almost-trackworked-but-far-from-done IMG_0618IMG_0617IMG_0616IMG_0034IMG_0563IMG_0562IMG_0561engine terminal are below. Lots of mistakes, but a good milestone.

Don Merz


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Thanks for all the kind replies--boy I LOVE this forum! The answer is....I dunno. Trains are not running yet. I am wiring the track. I laid out 12 blocks for purposes of locating shorts quickly. The power is 12 180W Lionel bricks feeding 3 MTH TIUs in super mode with all outputs FIXED (no need for variable outs with no conventional operation), with a TMCC base dangling off the back. My locos are all DCS or TMCC--No Legacy and no conventional.

Each TIU output terminates in a box with terminal strips and PTC protection. A green LED is on as long as the PTC hasn't tripped. The green LED goes out anytime the PTC blows (or so the theory goes--I have yet to test it--but the internet is never wrong...right?). Each terminal strip goes to the track sections for one block. It's all pretty simple. But it takes time to put together.

So the upshot is that without trains running, I can't say for sure about the sound deadening. That is still TBD. But to be clear, most of the layout is Gargraves/Ross laid on Midwest cork on 1/8th inch luan supported by blocks of 2 inch foam cut to the needed height vertically. The foam blocks are gorilla-glued to the platform  at the bottom of each block and to the luan at the top (Gorilla glue does not attack the foam).

I read all the stories about guys using 3/4 inch thick plywood bolted to L-girder benchwork with 1x3 risers supporting the track and I KNEW that wasn't for me because I am bad with wood. I measure twice and cut once--and still come up a half an inch short! The foam blocks supporting the luan with gorilla glue at both top and bottom--that structure is very forgiving--the glue expands to make a good bond. Anywhere you don't feel is properly supported, just add more foam blocks! You could theoretically have 100% of every grade glued solidly to the platform. But that isn't necessary. with the blocks 8 inches apart, the structure is very strong.

Yes, the screw tips stick out...sigh...more work for Mr. Dremel.

I hope the pix make it clear. But I digress....back to wiring...

Don MerzIMG_0621IMG_0622IMG_0623


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