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Weight capability can increase with closer cross member spacing.  Talk to Tim about that.  He can arrange any assembly configuration.  I would think that 16" spacing of cross members no longer than 30" should prevail.

However, my primary concern would be to design a layout that would not require any need to get up on it.

If you need to get up on the layout, IMO, there was a design oversight.  None of us gets any younger or more agile.

However, before you make any bench work commitments look at the web site of custom model railroad benchwork.  An OGR advertiser.  They make custom curved flowing framework to suit any available room.

I am considerable larger than GRJ and crawled all over his platform that has wider support spacing than I would design,  but there was no discernible flexing with my weight over the 1/2" multiply Birch.

I’ve been able to reassess the size of my room and will be able to build a slightly larger layout.

I will now be able to have a 5x12 layout.  This should make a difference in the number and size of the sheets of plywood.  How should they be cut so I have a slight overhang.

Also John,  I contacted the lumber yard you got your plywood from and they said they no longer stock the birch plywood at their Reading location they only have it at their Delaware location.

The 40" is the length of the legs.  The I-Beams hang down from that 3 5/8", and the leveling feet will increase that height.  The top of the benchwork will be in addition to the length of the legs and the height of the leveling feet.  Since my top is 1/2" multiply birch and 1/2" Homasote, it added one inch.  Also for me, since the floor is anything but level, at places the leveling feet and/or spacing blocks I used added up to 2", depending on location.  The top of the benchwork is level to within about 1/8", or at least it was when it was completed.


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Birch veneer plywood is nice, but for a train platform, I think there are plenty of options that you can get at your local big box.  Seems like overkill to go all the way to Reading to get plywood.  Just scanning through the selection at HD, I see 12mm sanded plywood, 18mm sanded plywood, ¾” maple veneer, ¾” MDF and ¾” oak veneer that I wouldn’t hesitate to use.  I’ve built cabinets with oak veneer from HD.  It’s not the best in the world, but if you screw it down to the benchwork, it should be fine.

The reason I went with the Birch multi-ply was the rigidity of even the 1/2" sheets, also the 5x5 size fits better with building with the Mianne benchwork.  I agree, thousands of layouts have been built using any number of materials and they've turned out fine.  Out local big box stores didn't have that form-factor, and also Russell Plywood had much better prices than either HD or Lowes on any size plywood.

I went to the big box stores to buy plywood for the layout about 15 years ago and mostly all of it was warped to the extent that I considered it difficult to use. I ended up buying perfectly flat 1/4 inch peg board and covering it with indoor/outdoor carpet. It's not good if you weigh 250 lbs, but it's fine for me. And I can poke a wire through it within one inch anywhere on the layout. I would buy the birch if I had not thought of this. After all why skimp on the foundation?

@cjack posted:

 After all why skimp on the foundation?

I thought the same thing.  The difference in the price of the wood using the "good one side" plywood from HD and using the 11-ply birch was less than $100.  The difference in rigidity of the HD plywood and the multi-ply is considerable.  I'm putting a few thousand into new track and Ross switches, it didn't seem like the place I should try to save a few bucks.

I'd like to point out that baltic birch plywood and birch veneer plywood are two different things. For our purposes, the veneer of the plywood is immaterial. Unless you are planning to clear coat it and see it, it will be covered by scenery of some kind- paint at the minimum. What is important for quality is the core, and Baltic Birch is generally manufactured to higher standards with more plies and fewer voids. But for train tables, almost anything will suffice, honestly. 

If you plan on walking on it, you are making a deck. You need more cross members, more legs and thicker ply. If you are not planning on walking on it, you are making a table. My small layout is a table and it is 1x 4 framing with 1/4" ply. so I can put it away after Christmas.  I have a 1" layer of foam on this, so it is as flat and rigid as it can be.

It's definitely possible to over-engineer a train table. The HO guys use L girder construction- very light and flexible for design, but that is a whole different discussion.

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