Skip to main content


I've haven't started rebuilding the Pennsy and Pacific RR since we've moved to our new home in Louisville, KY. I was sidetracked by building an RC B-17E on commission for an RC pilot and building a museum scale USS Missouri model. Butnow that project is reaching an end and I've been instructed by my wife that I should get cracking putting the trains back together before the grandsons are too old to help or enjoy them. Here's a drawing of the old layout as it was in our Pennsylvania home. It was 27' X 13', two-track main line, min. diameter at O-88 and all Ross trackage. It was conventionally powered with an MTH Z-4000, but no DCS. The RR was entirely L-girder construction using shaped plywood sub-roadbed panels with Vinylbed roadbed. For the move all the ply and vinyl was scrapped.


L1 final


As you can see it had some problems. Using the native track spacing of 4" center-to-center, my ultra-long engines had some intimate love affairs with long cars on the outer loop. Specifically, my 3rd Rail H-8 Allegheny and the MTH centipedes and coal turbine, all kissed trains on the outer track. It did some minor damage to the H-8 and in some cases did worse things. 


The design also had a mainline crossing running through a yard track which meant all trains on that yard track had to be broken in two or they fouled the main. 


Lastly, the big yard tracks were unreachable which made handling trains very difficult. The RR was not senicked. While I was procrastinating this task, it was fortuitous since we eventually moved states when I retired in 2009.


The new basement is 50% larger than the old, better situated, with no columns, unlike the old one which had the layout in the middle of the room with two columns interfering. Here's the new design done with RR Track software (highly recommended).


1408 New 5 Rev.


I attempted to use as much track from the old layout as possible which accounts for the similar design. My operating philosophy is long trains that go around and around. I don't get excited by scale operating sessions, but love to watch trains go by (real ones too). The original design was all one level which was necessitated by it being originally built in a house in Germany where I worked from '99 to '02. It was then moved back to Philly and 6' added. In this case another 11' are being added to length and 2' to width. I am restricted in the new space width-wise which really constrains large-radius designs. I'm using 0-96 for the large curves and that's 8 ft just to make a simple circle.


I've expanded all track center-to-center distances by at least a half inch. I eliminated the yard-track crossing, and made a large open center with a duckunder (ugh) to get to the lard tracks. And to make things a bit more interesting, the outer track is raised for the back half of the layout coming back on level in the front where the RR station is. One smaller note I brought all #cross-over switches to the front so they're easily accessible. These switches can be areas of trouble and I wanted them near the operations center. The back of the layout is against a wall which means that I can actually do some backdrop work which I couldn't do in the old house.


I will have to add track, a few more switches, and 11 sheets of plywood and all new Flexibed. I'm estimating that the new rendition will cost about $2,000+. This doesn't include tons of plaster cloth and roadbed gravel.


The rebuild also gives the opportunity to use Star Wiring instead of ground-loop which configures it properly for MTH DCS (plus a Lionel TMCC add-on) so I can take advantage of the latest engines that I have with PS 2.0 and TMCC. My previous wiring did not have equal length out and back leads and I didn't relish rewiring it. Now that I'm basically starting over... no big deal.


I've designed all the subroadbed ply on Corel Draw. It exactly matches the track profile that was imported in-scale to Corel Draw. The question became how to cut the ply so it conforms to the design. My nephew, the artist, suggested projecting the images of each piece, full-size, onto the ply directly from the computer. I just so happen have an In-Focus projector, that after a $300 repair bill will work. Once I buy and have the ply delivered, I will project the piece images in the garage, use a Sharpie to outline each piece and cut them in the garage. I have a sharp bend in the cellar stairs and don't think I can handle a 4 X 8 sheet into the basement. I will cut them and then carry the sub-roadbed pieces downstairs. I did the same thing in Germany, cutting the pieces out in the foyer and then carrying to the basement myself. My wife was back in the States visiting at the time AND the foyer was large with a tile floor, in case anyone is wondering how I pulled that off.


I just tried uploading another picture but the system seems to be in trouble. I'll load it in a separate entry. Since I've cut no lumber, if there's  any corrections or ideas I will easily be able to incorporate them, so have at it.



Images (2)
  • L1 final
  • 1408 New 5 Rev.
Last edited by Trainman2001
Original Post

Replies sorted oldest to newest

Here's the subroadbed design as drawn in CorelDraw. And here's how it looks in the space. I drew the room design in MS Visio. This is really helpful in understanding what works and what doesn't.


1408 Construction letter sized


Here's the room:


1408 layout 1 rev


I'm planning a mountain in the back right corner and some more aggressive landscaping on the left-hand edge where the outer loop is at a higher level than the inner. I didn't want the elevated level to block the view of the inside so I've limited it to the back where it's elevation will make it easier to see.


Images (2)
  • 1408 Construction letter sized
  • 1408 layout 1 rev
Last edited by Trainman2001

I think the new design is far superior to the old one. It has distilled what you were looking for into a very practical and logical scheme. I also enjoy watching trains go by and this layout makes for some operating variety without "going crazy". Is the yard at the same elevation as the mainline or does the yard lead go over or under that crossing?

It looks great, are the white areas walking space?


How will you turn your engines, the loop on the left side area (of the yard) can be used, but can you place a Wye closer to the yard or maybe a turntable?


I recently saw Keystoned Ed's PRR 2-rail layout nearby in Williamsburg and large layouts like his and yours are simply fantastic.  His rendition of Horseshoe Curve had more track in it than my entire layout


Hope to see more progress photos soon!

There are double reverse curves in the design which lets trains turn in either direction. Also a train can be brought from the yard to any section of the layout. I have really big, really heavy motive power and don't like lifting them to put them on the tracks, ever. Just like the real ones. I will take my time. My main goal is to get the trains running again. I don't like all of them sitting in their boxes with their batteries (leaking). At least NiMH batteries don't leak like the old carbon zinc batteries in Lionel 1950s Santa Fe's....(experience).

Hello trainman2001, i will have escrow close on our need house this friday, do not know were the trains will run, my wife let me know today she whats booth of girls trains will run on the new layout, one is the 1957 girls set and the other is girls k-line set, plus all the trains i all ready have, when  think i have handeld, more suff on the new layout, Richard Yegan

Originally Posted by Trainman2001:

Here's the subroadbed design as drawn in CorelDraw. And here's how it looks in the space. I drew the room design in MS Visio. This is really helpful in understanding what works and what doesn't.


1408 Construction letter sized


Here's the room:


1408 layout 1 rev


Perhaps someone can shed some light on why these didn't load in the last post...


I'm planning a mountain in the back right corner and some more aggressive landscaping on the left-hand edge where the outer loop is at a higher level than the inner. I didn't want the elevated level to block the view of the inside so I've limited it to the back where it's elevation will make it easier to see.








Images (6)
  • DSC00842
  • DSC00844
  • DSC00845
  • DSC00846
  • DSC02635
  • DSC02636

Your welcome ! If you need more pictures or other information just contact me and I will be glad to help. Don't forget curved turnouts by Ross, they make your straights longer. You could probably make them fit in the lower right corner where duck under is. I have a curved turn out on this swinging access and all curves are super elevated. 

Last edited by clem k

Here's a quick drawing showing the swing out in that corner. The lower left corner has too much going on although it is more accessible. There is a Lally Column near the right corner and I'm showing it in this sketch. The opening would be a maximum of 25" not taking any framing into consideration.


Swing out Proposal


I didn't change any of the L-girders. That can wait until you review the actually opening and let me know if it's feasible.


Images (1)
  • Swing out Proposal

I don't know how to separate the photo's or write under them, I don't have a power off on the swing out I should do that, I had a dead line to meet and just never did it. I have a curved turnout on this gate.  Angle the casters to match your arc.  2x4 on each end of the joining tables set the height they actually lift the table slightly and 1x4 attached to the gate inside edge hinge end line up the table horizontal another 1x4 attached to the table inside edge on the closing end, keeps gate from closing to far.

I didn't see any latching system. How to you hold it closed? Do you have any tracking problems with all those switches leading to the swing-out?


When you insert the pictures, you can insert them inline with the text. It's a check-box in the download box. You can then annotate each picture as you develop your post.


Do you have an overall track plan? Also, that looks like a vinylbed roadbed product... what is it?

Good morning...You can see the latch in the first photo's I sent you, it's silver and looks like a buckle (also available in black) The latch draws it up tight and the track matches perfect every time. I did have to shim the ends of the track in a couple of places but ballast covers it all. The road bed is homasote that I cut in straight strips, for curves I just cut across the strips with band saw about an inch apart and two thirds across the strip then just bent it and stapled as I went. I posted a video on the three rail site. Do you mind  if i send you an email? I can send photos and video easier there. 


You might be able to use two latches.

I sent you a video the way it moves together, the last inch just kinda slides together. I cover my latch with lichen. Also you have to keep the ends of your table from moving. The tables on either side of the gate are weighed down with books and catalogs on one side and hardware supplies on the other. All legs have carriage bolts in the bottoms for levelers   

I have a video on the three rail forum (double head steam) posted on Feb 18. That will take you to my youtube site once my video comes on click the youtube...icon.. and then click the grey box on top that say's....eleven video's...


Last edited by clem k

Thanks Clem... I answered your eMails and saw all the videos. Nice work! I use levelers under all the legs also. I have a little 4-wheeled scooter that I bought in Germany (it was a flower pot stand for the garden) which I use to do underneath wiring and move under the layout to the inside, but it's getting harder to get down on it and get up again... So a swing-out would be the answer.

I'm also trying an idea to make a counter-balanced hatch using a gas spring for support. it seems simple to conceive, but I'm not sure about the separation at the hinge line. I'm specifying concealed hinges that will allow an inset door. I don't know if it will lift the door enough so the hinge end rail on the main platform won't foul as the hatch lifts. Here's the drawing I put together. I calculated the loading at the gas spring attachment point as about 100 pounds. The total panel weight is 25 pounds based on the sheet weight of 19/32 OSB at 64 pounds.


I want to put a picture here, but it's not responding correctly. I submit this and add the picture in a second post.


It was suggested by a friend that I paint the concrete walls before putting a layout in front of them. So I'm spending time with concrete patch filling all the holes in the wall. I can't afford to do what I really want to; finishing the basement.


I was going to project the images of each sub-roadbed piece directly on the OSB from my PC Projector, thereby eliminating the tedium of laying out each piece. That idea did not work as plan. There was way too much distortion on each piece; in many cases more than 1". This defeated the purpose so I went back to doing a full X-Y layout on each 4 X 8 with each piece measured from a lower-left origin. Here's what that looks like:




Plan C


Images (1)
  • Plan C

Here's the picture I wanted to add of the hatch details. This drawing was done to scale in CorelDraw.


Hatch Closure DetailT

The air spring is one offered by McMaster Carr, sized to 100 pound lift and an 8.00" maximum travel. The hatch weight does not include roadbed, track, ballast and scenery which would add another 5 to 10 pounds approximately.


In looking at Clem's rotating door idea again, I may go back to that. My problem was that I was trying to do it in L-Girder too. Instead, I could make it much simpler with a wooden frame and the one leg with the casters that Clem used. It would be much cheaper? Between the cylinder, brackets and hinges, we're almost at $50 for this scheme.


Comments at this point are expected...


Here's another view of the bracketed wall mounts for the rear walls of the layout. By using brackets, I'll avoid legs getting in the way in the back. This drawing was done to scale in SketchUp. If any of you haven't tried it, Google SketchUp is an amazing, FREE, 3D drawing program that isn't hard to use and does wonderful rendering.


L-girder Wall Support


The back part of this part of the layout will be elevated 5", but for simplicity, I didn't show it here.


I'm going to blog most of this construction as I go along for you edification. 


Images (2)
  • Hatch Closure Detail
  • L-girder Wall Support

I finished the patching of the back wall in preparation for the nice sky blue paint (suggested by Gayl Rotsching of Cincinnati). The walls were a mess and took two tubs of concrete patch to fill all the holes. They're a little lumpy, but better than holes. Next I'll put a coat of Behr concrete primer and then Behr one-coat concrete paint tinted a nice sky blue.


I patched just as far down as the railroad will be up so as to save labor and $$$. No one will see what's below that line and no one will care. It's all an illusion, isn't it?


Patch Walls


I've marked the floor for the camera tripod so I can take time lapse photos from the same spot each time. It should be interesting to see it growing over the next several months. 


The more I think about, I do think I'm going to use Clem's roll-away access door instead of the swing up door. It will be less expensive and less complicated.


Images (1)
  • Patch Walls

The walls are painted, but the patches do show since they're higher than the surrounding concrete. I don't think it will be too noticeable from the distance people will be looking at it (+10 feet), and the clouds and other backdrop painting will further confuse the viewer.


Painted Walls

In this picture, the paint wasn't yet dry (flat) and it was wetter on the patches since they didn't absorb the water-based paint at the same rate as the old concrete. Notice how I saved lots of paint (and labor) by only going as far down as the railroad is going up.


I was originally going to use Tapcons to hold the angled brackets to the back wall, but was advised by some colleagues that they're not to be trusted in pull-out loads. They're okay in sheer, but I may come down the basement one day and find the back of the layout on the floor. I took them back to Home Depot and bought 1/2" wedge bolts. Those will not break loose.


Well... today I bit the bullet and got into the garage to start cutting out the OSB roadbed pieces. I built another set of sawhorses just to hold a second 4 X 8 next to the one I'm laying out. Many of the curves have centers that fall off the primary sheet. I clamped two pieces together so I could locate the off-sheet center point with my Rotape compass rule. 

Doubling up the sheet's a bit of a pain since I can't reach all the way to the center, but if all goes according to plan, I will only have to double up the sheets this one time since the pieces I cut have the radii that I'm using for all the rest of the curved pieces and will serve as templates. I just have to locate the starting and ending points of the curve, hold the correct radius piece up to those points and then trace the curve without having to use the Rotape. In fact, I'm going to hammer in some brads at these end points so I just push the curve up to the brads and trace away. It should speed things up since it took longer to lay out the piece than to cut it.

I laid out and cut all the pieces of sheet A. That was five pieces including two large sweeping curves. My computer locations came out very close to the real world and that was a relief. I used the circular saw to do the straight cuts and my 30 year-old Sear Craftsman saber saw for all the curves. That saw is USA made with an all aluminum housing, variable speed trigger and build like a truck. It just keeps going and going. My circular saw is new and is a Skil with the laser alignment thingy (that's a technical term). 

I was glad to see how clean cut sheet edges are. I was worried about using OSB instead of plywood, but so far so good. My original layout used plywood (sperrholz) that I bought in Germany. Their standard lumber is a higher quality than standard US lumber. The ply was 7 layer instead of 5, and was completely knot free.

Funny story here: When I built the first layout in Germany, I laid all of the pieces out based on what I thought a metric-sized plywood sheet would be. I just assumed that they would have something equivalent to a 4 X 8, which I figured was a 1 X 2 meter sheet. I get to the builder's supply store and show the associate the plan, and he claims, "Falsch, falsch!" meaning, "wrong, wrong!", and I ask "Warum?" (why?) so he takes me over to a piece of ply, pulls out his tape and measures it. Guess what? It's a 4 X 8, it just measured in metric. So it comes out to 1.22 X 2.44 meters. So it was "back to the drawing board", literally! It killed another whole week since I was working full-time, and they closed early like all other German businesses with very truncated Saturday hours and no Sunday sales. I had to re-draw all the cutting templates since the sheet size was so different than my assumption. But none of their other dimensional lumber was an English measure shown in metric; they were all true metric sizes. But not the plywood.

It's a bit of a challenge to throw a 4 X 8, 19/32 piece of OSB onto those horses all by myself, but I persisted. It's not that it's so heavy (64 pounds), but it's so unwieldy. My first attempts would have been great on "America's Funniest Home Videos". The saw horse fell over towards me a nd


almost smashed my toe, but almost doesn't count.

I'm keeping all the scrap of a usable size and proportion. There's going to be all sorts of opportunities to use all sorts of pieces of OSB during the construction.

It will get easier going forward since it's always the planning and worrying that seems to take all the mental energy. Once you get into action it becomes easier with each piece. I've spent almost 3 years thinking about this rebuild, and at some point it almost seems like an impossibility.

Also, sheet A was one of the more complicated with 5 pieces. And none of the pieces will have trouble getting down the cellar steps.



Fix'n to cut some wood


Images (2)
  • Painted Walls
  • Fix'n to cut some wood

3 down and only 8 more to go... OSB sheets that is. I got three sheets laid out and cut today. I tried the improved method of using a previously cut piece as a curve template for the next sheet thus avoiding the off-sheet center-point problem. To make it more stable, I hammered in some small nails at the apexes and just bumped the template against them to make the curve. It worked nicely and made it easy for me to do the curves without a helper.

Curve method 1

In addition, it was gratifying to see how closely the actual layout conforms to the computer design. Here's a close up of the template after being bumped up against the pins, and how close the curve comes to the sheet edge. Above it is the drawing with the coordinates. Note that the edge of the piece in the drawing touches the edge of the sheet, just as the real one does. It's within a 1/4". The sharpie that I'm using makes a line an 1/8" wide so being within a quarter inch is quite acceptable.

Perfect curve fit

Here's the third sheet completely laid out prior to cutting. It's a relief to know that I'm not making fine furniture. Any blemishes, or not-so-hot cutting will ultimately be concealed under layers of track, roadbed, ballast, paint, ground cover, foliage, etc.

Laid out sheet

And here's a closer look.

Laid out sheet 2

Now for some fun... I'm working with the grandkids to build a large jigsaw puzzle on the floor of all the sub-roadbed pieces to get an idea of how it all fits in the room compared to all the plans. My 10 year-old said it more "sawing than jigging".

As the time goes on this picture will fill up. Then all I have to do is build the trusses that will hold it all up. The frame construction is more fun than cutting out all these slices.

Subroadbed puzzle 1

Since I already have a Visio drawing showing the layout placed in the room, this "puzzle building exercise" will give me another reality check. "Does it really fit with the clearances I need." I can fix it at this stage more easily than if the framing was started.

I have work tomorrow. Will get back to cuttery on Wednesday. At the rate I'm working all the pieces will be cut by the end of next week.


Images (5)
  • Curve method 1
  • Perfect curve fit
  • Laid out sheet
  • Laid out sheet 2
  • Subroadbed puzzle 1

Thanks! I will try!


This morning I woke up thinking that something was wrong with the ply pieces at the back. I had forgotten that the rear track was to be elevated so the large sheets needed to be split in two with a large forward piece and the 8" wide rear piece. Luckily, I haven't cut these yes so I redrew them in CorelDraw with a new set of coordinate measurements, so no harm, no foul. I find the period of semi-awakeness in the morning is my most creative time. It always has been.

Thanks Clem! I'll keep at it.


Some updates:

Got all the sub-roadbed pieces in the basement with the help of my son in law. Believe it or not, I actually laid out one of the biggest pieces half backwards. I was looking at the plan drawing upside down as I was laying it out and got the curves on the wrong side. I had to put the piece in upside (rough side) down to get it to almost fit. Now I need to adjust the other end. I'll figure something out.


Big Boo Boo 1


You can see that the narrow end's angle is now going the wrong way. Here's a shot of the other end and it too is going the wrong direction. In the picture is it passing under the piece on the right.


Big Boo Boo 2


I don't think that the rough-side is a big problem since it will be completely covered by everything else. I've got lots of scrap and will be able to make all kinds of patches to fix this. This problem would never have happened had I been successful with the projection idea. Oh well...


On Friday morning I woke up mentally building all kinds of things for the layout. I developed a different way to build the wall brackets and I decided that I would have to cover the ceiling with Tyvek since the basement is rife with spiders. This is a "poor-man's" drop ceiling. Between the Tyvek and the Tyvek tape on all the joints, there will be no way for the spiders to wander around the joists and drop down on the layout. It also keeps the dust from coming down. And it brightens up the space a lot. I did this in the old house and it worked very well. It's a lot of work and I thought that I could get away without doing it here, but my rational brain won. Here's a view partially completed. You can see how much brighter it gets. The Tyvek is tough and all the graphics are on the other side and it's opaque so you can't see it.


New Tyvek 2


It should be done in a couple of days and then I'll start erecting bench work. After laying all the pieces out on the floor, it appears that the swing-out entry gate that I'm going to construct based on Clem's design will completely clear the lally column and will be able to open fully. Before long I'm going to have to make a big order to the Vinyl Bed people and Ross Custom Switches.


I've looked at the new Ross roadbed. Can anyone tell me about it? It seems that it would cost me a lot of money, but I love that it fits all of my switches perfectly. It could greatly reduce the amount of time to build the layout.


BTW: I learned something about cellar spiders. They make all those nasty cobwebs. Instead of building a neat web and waiting in it like the orb-weavers, they throw up their stuff all over the place and periodically check back to see if they've caught anything. That's why you never actually see them in their cobwebs. Kind of like how lobster fisherman work... And they don't belong on my railroad.


Images (3)
  • Big Boo Boo 1
  • Big Boo Boo 2
  • New Tyvek 2

Wow!  What a great layout, and you are blessed to have enough space to build such an empire.


I have only one thought that may, or may not, be useful to you.  And I can see that you are well along building the plan so I might be too late to be of any help.


Trains running clockwise on the outside loop can't enter the inside loop, and trains running counter clockwise on the inside loop can't enter the outside loop.  I would suggest moving the inside loop switch located at the duckunder to the left, so it is west (left) of the outside loop duckunder switches.  I think it would give you some additional operational flexibility.


I sure hope I'm making sense here!

Not only are you making sense, but you picked up an interesting error.It's not too late to change this.


Your solution would work. Here it is with the change installed. Going from the outside to the inside when travelling CCW puts you into an interesting series of "S" curves which I am concerned about since I have long stuff, but it's really the only way to get in and out from both directions. Putting the cross-over in the back won't work now since they are on different levels separated by more than 5 inches. I also realized when studying the design that travelling the inner loop ALWAYS requires going through that switch in the turned position. That tells me that the inner loop is going to be the primary freight track with the high-speed through trains running on the outside. I attempted to change the alignment, but that didn't work either, so I think I'm stuck with this setup.


1408 New 5 Rev 3


Images (1)
  • 1408 New 5 Rev 3
Last edited by Trainman2001

You certainly have an interesting problem on your hands!  I see two other options, both of which would certainly have their drawbacks.


1.  Have the right (east) side of the inner loop come off the third track from the bottom rather than the second, and maybe build a ladder from the outer loop switch up to the inner loop switch (if there's room) as this would eliminate your S curve problem.  But I'm afraid that this may reek havoc on your duckunder.


2.  Move the relocated switch back to where it was. Remove the left-hand switch on the second track on the lower left hand end of the layout (outer loop), and it's corresponding left-hand switch on the third track (inner loop).  Basically, the two tracks (second and third from the bottom) are back to where they were in your earlier drawings.  Then, put a right-hand switch on the third track (inner loop) coming out of the lower part of the reversing loop, and a corresponding right-hand switch on the second track (outer loop).  You are essentially "flipping" or "mirroring" the existing switches.


I hope this makes's tough to describe this clearly.  Anyway, hope this helps and best of luck with the layout. 

I think I understood what you wanted me to do. I realigned the tracks so the inner loop shoots straight through. I lengthened the distance between the cross-over switches and then added another #8 to rejoin that center track. I wanted this arrangement specifically so I could have trains either stop at the station that's going to be there or be an "express" that would pass the station without running next to the platforms (like the real trains do). It works nicely, changes the one piece of OSB at the new section. BTW: I'm completely eliminating the duckunder using the "swinging door" idea that Clem uses. The only drawback: I have to buy another #8 switch. I've got to buy a lot of additional track. Ross is going to love me.


New Lineup


As you can see, I just moved the curve upwards. I was hoping to have bridges on that end, but it's unwise to have curves leading directly into bridges...that is if you don't want wide-swinging big engines from taking down the infrastructure. I had to substitute another #8 because the 7.5º angle made using the #11 not work.


On another topic: This drawing is now from RR Track Version 5.0. Russ Becker outdid himself with this version. I just installed it tonight and it actually has a train simulator in it to let you run trains through the layout. It worked nicely except it seems to have a problem recognizing Ross #8s. It kept insisting that this was an improper track and crashed the train. I've been communicating with Russ to sort it out.


Images (1)
  • New Lineup

The RR Track train simulator function is working perfectly now. Russ Becker found the problem was with "old" switches in the layout. It had something to do with their lantern location. By deleting the troublesome switches and then reloading them from the library, the problem was solved. It not only lets you build trains and run them, but it also has a timer that runs which lets me know how long of a run can be had without retracing steps. I was able to size the sidings and passing sidings, plus it let me practice switch alignments which is some cases with this design can be tricky. I'll have several months to practice running before I have real trains on tracks. Here's a screen print of the layout with a passenger train with two FP40s on the lead. I gives you an idea of how tight curves and clearances will be.


RR Track Simulator Screen Print


I did some playing around with the scenery. The town is elevated, but the station and factory area is not. I had to realign the main street that was going north. I had forgotten that the rear track is elevated 5" so the road would have to have risen 10 or more to give it clearance. This would have looked silly, so I rerouted the streets to quickly come down to the lower level. One street leads to the train station, and the other to the industrial zone. I may change this whole thing again. Other than taking some time, making at this stage costs nothing. I imported the RR Track bitmap into Coreldraw to draw the inclined roadways since I know of no way to do this in RR Track. Perhaps Russ will give me some pointers about how he renders inclined surfaces. 


Roadwork 3


Roadwork 1


Roadwork 2


The slopes are clearly too steep, but most of this is a fantasy since the whole layout isn't much more than a 1/3rd of a mile long. One loop around the outside is only 3/4 of a mile.


If you're interested, go see my post in the Real Trains forum. We were in LaGrange, KY today to go to an Arts Fair on the Courthouse Lawn. For those who don't know, LaGrange has the CSX mainline running right down the middle of Main Street. It's a rare thing in today's world. Rich Melvin tells me he's driven the 765 down that street. It's so cool that I may redesign the entire village concept and have the trains run down the middle of the street. It's busy... 3 trains in an hour. The roadbed is very solid... you don't feel vibration in the buildings.


photo [11)


Images (5)
  • RR Track Simulator Screen Print
  • Roadwork 3
  • Roadwork 1
  • Roadwork 2
  • photo (11)

As noted yesterday, I've decided to scrap the "elevated town" scenario. It was a remnant of the RR when it was 11 feet shorter and was the only real estate that was big enough to hold a town. When I reset my thinking, I realized that I have a lot of real estate on the "east end" of the layout and could build a nice main street, and still leave a big space for entering the inside the layout to reach mostly everything. Here's what all this looks like. RR Track crashed on me several times, and of course it was after I'd done a lot of things and lost all of them. I started saving after doing anything. I don't believe it's RR Track's problem. I think it's my laptop's. Here's what it looks like now.

 1408 New Town 1


 1408 New Town 2


 1408 New Town 3


 1408 New Town 4


Where the town was is now either a quarry or a nice lake. The quarry idea gives me the opportunity to use some nice 1:48 construction equipment. Also notice I've moved some light industry to the front side of the layout and installed a chemical plant in the space. There's room for another spur or two on that side to service that plant and that will definitely be a Phase II project.


Images (4)
  • 1408 New Town 1
  • 1408 New Town 2
  • 1408 New Town 3
  • 1408 New Town 4

Very nice layout plan


I presently have a 11.5x12 foot layout and I've found I have too many industries I'm trying to model.  I would be happy to model just 1 industry completely than the 4-5 industries I have now that are at most partial representations of the real deal.  I could possibly go to a 12x30 plan, but it would take up the entire upstairs space (I do have a plan already drawn, just in case ).


Seeing large layouts like this is just too cool.  I saw Ed Rappe's PRR layout this past February and was overwhelmed at all the work he put into it.

I feel your pain! The room comes with its own problems...$$$$ and time. I was playing with turning the upper level in the back into a series of masonry arches. Wow! It would be a huge task to make the entire run into an arch system. I draw these things out in CorelDraw using the 3-D pictures from RR Track as a starting point. Just drawing the arches was exhausting. Be careful what you wish for.


I did get back to putting up the ceiling. The right side room is fully Tyveked, but not taped. It instantly brightens up the room.


 Tyvek 6


I've now started on the Left side room. This job is complicated by the heating duct and the PVC intake and exhaust lines from our high-efficiency furnace. I had to use narrower strips and the results aren't pretty, but after taping they'll be passable. Besides, no one's going to be looking at the ceiling.


 New Tyvek 4


We took a nice three-day trip to Chicago in the mid-part of last week. We played tourists and even went to the top of the Willis Tower and walked out into one of the glass boxes that is cantilevered 1,300 feet above ground. The first step into the box is a bit disconcerting, but not as bad as if I were skydiving... which I won't do.


 Willis Skybox


While I realize that the following isn't model railroading, it is modeling and it's with the younger generation. I've been working with #1 grandson (Alex) on his 1/32nd Super Hornet. Alex has inherited my sensibilities regarding machines and models. He loves trains and planes, and he and his younger brother are going to help build the railroad. But we're also working on scale models.


This model has detailed GE 414 jet engines that are completely out of sight now that the model is built, so Alex had me do a cut-away and I removed a vent area over part of one engine. We also opened up the nose cone to show the electronically scanned phased-array radar. The unfinished looking area on the nose is where the refueling probe is to be installed.


 Super Hornet Progess


It's a big, detailed model, but had some fit problems. Many Trumpeter models have those problems. They include many parts and details, but lack some of the fine engineering of Tamiya and Hasegawa. But the Chinese companies learn fast and they're getting better and better. Next we're going to coat the model with gloss Future Floor Wax to prepare the surface for decals. Decals adhere better to gloss surfaces than matte. Then Tamiya flat spray goes on to seal the decals and restore more-scale-like matte finish. Future has become a standard technique with plastic model guys. It's cheap, dries perfectly clear, and dries fast. It's even used restore finish to clear parts like canopies.


A few more days of work and the ceilings will be done. But first I'm taking Alex to the [U]National Museum of the United States Air Force[/U] in Dayton, Ohio, next to the Wright-Patterson AFB. It's only 2.5 hours from Louisville. Moving here has presented some interesting opportunities. We've been to Chicago twice (5 hour drive), two weeks ago I went to the Indy 500, and now the Air Force Museum. The last two are places I would not have gone to if I were still living in the Philly area. It's also gotten me closer to some fantastic train folks like Gayl, Bob and Bill in Cincinnati. You have to make your own opportunities.


Images (4)
  • Tyvek 6
  • New Tyvek 4
  • Willis Skybox
  • Super Hornet Progess

Finished putting Tyvek on the 2nd half of the train room. Put two full strips of today to finish the job. Here's that half of the room.

Name: Tyvek 10.jpg Views: 2 Size: 79.7 KB

Then I was ready to tape all the seams and edges. I opened the first of three roles of Tyvek Tape only to find that it has "Tyvek House Wrap" text written all over it. This wouldn't work! So it was back to Home Depot. I had the original receipt and they took back all three roles including the unwrapped one. I then bought 3M White Duct Tape, which I then remembered I also used at the old house. It was much cheaper! I saved $33. So after that interruption I was back in the basement and taped one half of the train room before dinner. Taping goes much faster than putting up the sheeting.

Here's that half of the room:

Name: Tyvek 8.jpg Views: 2 Size: 62.1 KB

It's a bit wrinkly, but it works. It's bright and clean, and keeps dust and unwanted visitors off the trains. I chose not to entire cover the duct work. I did this in the old house and it was not worth the effort. Here, I just bring the Tyvek down a bit and tape across the edge. It dresses it up a bit and looks semi-finished. Those cellar spiders are going to have their work cut out for them when they want to drop down on my new layout.

I want to paint the clouds backdrop. I bought the Caboose Hobbies cloud templates, but am thinking about doing it more artistically. I did some research on painting clouds. There're lots of YouTube vignettes on cloud painting AND they led me to the website of the Cloud Appreciation Society. You read that right! The Internet has something for everybody even people who get off on clouds!


So I copied about 20 pictures of nice, white, puffy cumulus clouds that I can use as models if I decide to do it the old fashioned way. Here's the URL:


They have pictures of thousands of different cloud types from all over the world.

I'm still here!

Summer travel kept me out of the basement, but I did do some stuff. I finished the taping of the entire ceiling so that's done. Yesterday I decided to add some lighter color at the bottom of the wall mural to make the sky look a bit more "natural". I could have even done more of this. I'm now ready to lay in the clouds and then onto constructing the platform itself. It's getting time to make some sawdust. Here's the wall with the added shading.

Name: Wall Adjustment.jpg Views: 1 Size: 78.7 KB

Next work session will have more interesting things to show. I realize that all this prep work is terminally boring.

As for the spiders & etc I use the 4" X 7" glue boards with the wax paper peel  off top protector for insect control. 


Placing about 20 of them around a 2k sq ft basement it is revealing of the assortment of undesirable visitors you have.  Every so many months I replace the glue boards.  Really makes for a greatly reduced bug environment.  Lining them along the floor/wall crevice seems to yield the most productive catch. 


I notice once a bug gets snagged on one board that poor stuck critter draws a crowd.  Not sure if it is for dinner, reproduction or just to laugh at'em.  In any event some traps only get a few, but the rest of the traps have a crowd.


Haven't found anything good enough to cut down on certain relatives. tt

Originally Posted by Tom Tee:

As for the spiders & etc I use the 4" X 7" glue boards with the wax paper peel  off top protector for insect control. 


Placing about 20 of them around a 2k sq ft basement it is revealing of the assortment of undesirable visitors you have.  Every so many months I replace the glue boards.  Really makes for a greatly reduced bug environment.  Lining them along the floor/wall crevice seems to yield the most productive catch. 


I notice once a bug gets snagged on one board that poor stuck critter draws a crowd.  Not sure if it is for dinner, reproduction or just to laugh at'em.  In any event some traps only get a few, but the rest of the traps have a crowd.


Haven't found anything good enough to cut down on certain relatives. tt

what a great idea!   I dont have an infestation by far, but just enough to give this idea a try.  Thanks Tom

Google Catch Master insect or mouse traps.  About $27.00 for a pack of 75. on Amazon.  I usually get them at Modern Exterminators in Holmes Pa. 


Very effective.  Just be careful when handling them.  They stick like a bad reputation.  The Terminex people around here will not sell them to you.  They want you to buy their periodic service.  Their service guys say that these things are the only thing that really works. 


To get more miles out of them I slice them in half length wise before I remove the wax paper.  Then place the raw glue edge against the wall.  Bugs can not go along the wall w/o getting caught.


They are ment to be folded up like an empty match box shell but I find their effectivity lessens that way.  I have caught a couple  of mice, lots of camel or jumping crickets and all kinds of spiders over the years.


Put them away if you are sawing.  The saw  dust cancels out the stickie somewhat. tt 

We have an exterminator and he puts these little cardboard boxes around that are sticky inside and serve the same function as the glue sticks. They do work, but don't eliminate the problem entirely. We also get the occasional water bug and centipede. The ceiling is working. The only place you run into webs is the places without the Tyvek.

I took the plunge yesterday and started painting the clouds on the wall. They're tougher to paint than they look. Here's the first attempts (I'm about 1/5th done).

Name: Wall Clouds 1.jpg Views: 2 Size: 109.0 KB

The lower clouds have a bit of sunset tinge to them. Kind of looks like the opening scene of the "Simpsons".

Then I decided to get cute and represent a thunderhead. I'm not so sure about this one and it's nothing that a swipe of sky blue paint won't cure. I'll see what my blog readers say about it before making changes. My wife thinks it looks just fine, but then she thinks this whole "cloud thing is silly and I'm wasting time that I could be using building a train layout". I explained that building a train layout is ALL these things, not just putting down track. I'm still not convincing her.

Name: Clouds 3.jpg Views: 2 Size: 97.1 KB

Name: Clouds 1.jpg Views: 2 Size: 90.8 KB

So... I need feedback. Lots of feedback.

I like the idea of the thunderhead, I think it turned out pretty good, can you get lightning? And Ben franklin with kite? Then some utility trucks with flashing lights? and some trees down, with sparks on down wires then you can make the town lights blink and the sound of little generators. people cutting tree limbs. The lionel remote crane clearing the right of way. of course the orange barrels and yellow caution tape. A train of flat cars with FEMA housing units. Maybe a tornado in the distance. I think you need more room    

The clouds are now finished, at least as finished as I want to make them. From the "revised" thunderhead to the right are the clouds from last session. The ones to the left of that are all today's work. I perfected my technique a bit with Bob Ross' help. He does make it look easy. It's really not. I also toned down the first ones that I did since they looked a bit "extreme" to me. The biggest challenge was figuring out how many of them looked good versus how many I felt like painting. I really want to build a railroad, not be a mural painter. My wife thinks the whole "cloud thing" is silly.

This a horizontal panoramic shot which photo-stitched pretty well. 

Name: Clouds Finished 2.jpg Views: 0 Size: 83.5 KB

I made the thunderhead fatter and took away the "atomic mushroom cloud" look a bit. It's still weird, but my grandson and some of the readers liked it so I didn't paint it out of existence.

Here's another shot of the room.

Name: Clouds Finished 1.jpg Views: 0 Size: 72.7 KB

Starting tomorrow, I'm going to start building. I'm also helping my now 11 year-old grandson (birthday yesterday) finish up the super hornet. It had a massive amount of decals and some very large which were beyond his skill set to handle.

Last edited by Trainman2001

Today is momentous day, The Olympics started. Besides that! I began actual construction on the layout. I cut the wood for the four brackets that will be mounted on the back wall to support the rear part of the layout. The brackets are supported by a 2 X 2, with two 2 X 3 arms and a 2 X 2 angle brace. The main components are fastened together with 1/4" carriage bolts. The angle bracket to upright connection will be with Spax wood screws and gussets.

The end brackets will also have a horizontal sway brace facing outwards that will make the whole think more rigid. Once all the ply pieces are in place, that will also stiffen any horizontal motion. It's nice to have a good chop saw and I just added a big, DeWalt 18 Volt Li-ion, 1/2" hammer drill. This thing is a bruiser and has three modes and three speed settings. I needed to up the horsepower to handle the concrete drilling tasks AND handle the fastening of thousands of screws. That's a fact, it's over 1,000 fasteners to hold this thing together.

Name: Side Brackets 2.jpg Views: 0 Size: 68.8 KB

The bottom of each upright has large diameter carriage bolt feet. I epoxied "t" nuts into the bottom and then screw in the bolts with a lock nut halfway in. This gives me a lot of adjustment for uneven floors. This is the same scheme I used in building the existing part of the layout.

Name: Side Brackets 1.jpg Views: 0 Size: 45.1 KB

Here's the bracket fitted with the diagonal brace. Even though it's only a 2 X 2, when properly braced and having the load directly into the length, it's very strong. Kind of like building an airplane rather than a barn.

Name: Side Brackets 3.jpg Views: 0 Size: 59.7 KB

In the next couple of days I'll finish the assembly, break them apart to more easily mount the upright to the wall and then reassemble them in place. The uprights will be held on top with a 1/2" wedge bolt, and the bottom with a smaller (lighter) Tapcon. With a cantilevered bracket, the main load is on top, and through the angle bracket to the foot.

Finished building all four brackets and then decided to attack mounting one on the wall. Needless to say, I'm out of shape. Hopefully, as I keep working at this I will be less worn out. The back is quick tender from crawling around on the floor on my knees and boring that 1/2" hole in concrete. That was hard!

I also built the first sway brace and mounted it too. The result is a very strong assembly that easily supported my 185 pound weight without deflection. They will work as designed.

Here's a completed bracket:

Name: Side Brackets 5.jpg Views: 3 Size: 76.9 KB

The top of the vertical is held to the wall with a massive 1/2" wedge bolt. To mount this you drill a 1/2" hole 3.5" deep into the concrete, hammer the stud into the wall, put the wood over it, and tighten with a deep socket wrench and finally tighten to 55 ft. lbs. with a torque wrench. Since I was fastening it into wood, it was difficult to get to that tension since the wood was crushing. It's actually at about 45 ft. lbs. and is very tight to the wall. The tension on the top bolt is almost all pull-out. It was why I went with wedge bolts since their pull-out is very high. I was told to not trust Tapcons for pull out. They're better in sheer. I first drilled a clearance hole through the wood and marked the center onto the cement. I then used the smaller Tapcon carbide drill to start a hole to secure the location. I double-checked its alignment with the hole in the wood, and then removed the wood and went at it with the 1/2". The DeWalt hammer drill performed well and battery life was terrific.

Name: Side Brackets 6.jpg Views: 3 Size: 60.1 KB

The bottom is held to the wall with a long Tapcon. In the bottom location, the stress is much lower so a lighter (and easier to install) fastener works well. In this picture you can also see the gussets holding the diagonal brace firmly to the base of the vertical. This method is used throughout building leg sets when creating an L-girder model RR. I figured 8 screws are sufficient to hold the both side of the gussets. To do all the drilling I had to disassemble the bracket. I may use a washer under the Tapcon to enable it to support more. Also note that I'm using 1/4" ply for the gussets. That's actually a sheet of German plywood that was unused and moved back with me from Germany in 2002. Never throw out good wood!

Name: Side Brackets 7.jpg Views: 2 Size: 92.2 KB

While the bracket appeared to be very strong in a straight vertical load, it was very unstable side to side so the sway braces that I decided would be needed, were in fact, needed. I used the left-over ends of the 8', 1 X 3s that I used for the horizontal member. I cut 45º angles on the end for neatness, and made a 2 X 4 mounting block that would serve as a backing for the lug that was to hold the sway brace. The mounting block is held to the wall with two long Tapcons. While there is some pull-out loading, at least half of it is sheer. There's also no dead load on it like there is with the top wall bracket bolt. Once the ply is in place, there will almost be no lateral loading unless someone falls into the layout. After I mounted the block, I cut a chunk of 2 X 2 for the lug and mounted it will some long deck screws. I always drill pilot holes when fastening anything. It ensures that the upper piece pulls down tight and makes it much easier to drive screws. I use three power drivers which makes for less drill bit swapping.

Name: Side Brackets 8.jpg Views: 2 Size: 60.4 KB

And here's the other end. Four 2" cabinet screws hold this end of the sway brace in place.

Name: Side Brackets 9.jpg Views: 1 Size: 58.8 KB

Just three more to mount and then it's onto building some new L-girders for the rear of the layout. The large stud will be hidden because there's a lot more stuff that goes onto the bracket that will raise the height of the layout to the finished 42", so I probably won't have to paint the vertical sky blue.

As a birthday wish... I worked on the railroad today. I started with the first trip to Home Depot to buy the wrong length Tapcons, some new Titebond Glue, a better 5/16" nut driver that won't round out when driving Tapcons, and some shorter deck screws.

I then began work. To make it easier, I moved my temporary work table—an actual park of the train old layout that will be returned back to its initial purpose—into the middle of the room where I could assemble and drill the brackets without crawling around on the floor so much.

When I tried to chuck my long, fancy 1/2" Bosch (made in Germany) hammer drill bit it wouldn't center and wobbled all over the place. it was actually doing that when I drilled the hole for the first bracket, but it didn't dawn on me why. So I looked at what was going on and realized that the Bosch bit was designed for their heavy duty hammer drill and it had four milled grooves on the shank to lock into the Bosch unit. But four doesn't go into three and the three-jaw chuck couldn't center the bit so it ran horribly off-center.

So it was back to Home Depot before I could go any further. They took both the wrong Tapcons and the lightly used Bosch bit. I then bought a hammer-drill bit that had a straight shank. It also didn't have to be so long. I had originally thought that I'd have to drill through the 2 X 2 and then the wall for more than 3 inches with this bit. But that's not how I'm doing it. I'm pre-drilling the clearance hole in the 2 X 2, marking the hole with a sharpie, moving the wood aside, pilot-drilling a little hole with the Tapcon drill, and then using the big drill to make the 3.5" hole.

As a result of experience being a great teacher, I got two more brackets mounted, and started preparing for the brace that's going into the inside corner on the back wall.

Name: Side Brackets 11.jpg Views: 1 Size: 83.9 KB

I then noticed a slight problem. On the existing layout pieces, the L-girder's bottom is 34" above the floor, but on my brackets it was only 29". I don't know where the error crept in, but it's not serious. For the first two I mounted, I will simply mount the L-girders onto a 2 X 2 bolted vertically in between the two horizontal braces high enough to match the height of the other girders. For the back two brackets, I just raised them off the floor so the horizontal braces are 34" off the floor. All of the load is handled by that massive wedge bolt and the Tapcon. Very little load is transmitted to the floor anyway (I hope).

Name: Side Brackets 12.jpg Views: 1 Size: 85.2 KB

For the setback wall, I was going to simply Tapcon a 2 X 4 to the wall that would stick out the same distance as the brackets, but I didn't have a 58" piece of 2 X 4 so I decided to make a short L-girder and use that. The line on the wall is at the 34" level.

Name: Side Brackets 13.jpg Views: 1 Size: 84.9 KB

L-girders are very strong and when properly braced have very little flex. I first clamp the 1x2 to the edge of a 1x4. I used enough clamps to try and eliminate as much warp as possible. I then install wood screws about every 8 inches. These will be removed eventually. After the screws are in I removed the clamps, remove the screws and take the two pieces apart.

Then you put on a layer of Titebond (or other carpenter glue) and resinstall the screws to hold it all together and aligned. When the glue dries the next day, remove the screws since they're no longer needed. You could leave the screws in, but a) they cost money, and b) when you're drilling and fastening the joists you will invariably hit one of those now-not-needed screws, so I take them out and reuse them.

Here's the newly built L-girder before I remove the screws.

Name: Side Brackets 14.jpg Views: 1 Size: 78.3 KB

I'll document this corner wall brace next work session.

"Picture's worth a 1,000 words..." I described how the corner brace was going to work. I had an hour after I got back from work today and installed it.

So... 4 down and one to go.

Name: Side Brackets 17.jpg Views: 1 Size: 86.7 KB

I love how structures get stronger and stronger as you add diagonal members. It's a great lesson in geometry.

With the additional bracing it's very strong. I was going to use three 1/4 X 2-1/4 Tapcons, but you only see two. It appears that my super DeWalt drill can break them off when over torquing. I'm also using washer under the heads to spread the load onto the wood.

Here's one view showing the L-girder attachment points. Even with two Tapcons, that beam isn't going anywhere. It also shows the mounting block on the wall for the diagonal support brace. It's held with two Tapcons.

Name: Side Brackets 15..jpg Views: 1 Size: 75.3 KB

Here's the other side showing the sway brace. I was able to have the bracket sway brace mounting block perform double duty. The brace is held with some 2" drywall screws on both ends. The small mounting block on the right end is held with the long deck screws. I like the deck screws because they use the Torx held slot which is very hard to cam out. You don't need a lot of vertical pressure on the power driver like you do on a Phillips head screw.

Name: Side Brackets 16.jpg Views: 1 Size: 77.6 KB

Just for the pictures, I laid one of the old L-girders from the previous railroad across the corner bracket and the right-most bracket, and then measured how level it was across. Taking care to measure the mounting height produced a perfectly level line from those two.

Name: Side Brackets 18.jpg Views: 1 Size: 89.1 KB

Name: Side Brackets 19.jpg Views: 1 Size: 70.4 KB

While this attention to detail may be a bit anal, I find that the more carefully all this infrastructure is laid in, the easier it is to level the subroadbed when it's time to install all of that. Plus, it makes for a very tight and light construction that will last for years and years. The nice thing about L-girder is there are almost no parts that must be cut to a specific length since all members lie across one another and there are no butt joints.

Trainman2001,  have you had a chance to visit the Air Force Museum yet?  I went last year, in September, on my way home from the O scale convention in Indy.  I was truly IMPRESSED!!!!!!!   My favorite plane is the F4 Phantom and they had, at that time, a cockpit of the F4 that you could actually sit in.  I didn't want to leave.  Truly a MUST see for any Air Force fans.  I was checking out these 2 jet fighters and thought it got kinda dark all of a sudden.  When I looked up to see if the lights went out I realized the 2 jets were under 1 of the wings of the B-52.  WOW!!!


Anyway, Have a great trip.   Rick

Yes we did! Between my grandson and me,  we took almost 300 pictures which I triaged down to about 230. I had lots of favorites; all the B's (17, 36, 52, 29, 2 and 1b) and the thermonuclear weapons that they carried. It was a very spooky feeling being up close and personal with a mockup of a multi-megaton bomb. I also like looking at all the different landing gear and studying the details within the wheel wells. My grandson loved the Valkyrie as did I and lets not forget the F-22 and it's F-135 P&W engine on display next to it.


Here's a shot of me standing next to the B1-b's monstrous landing gear. (I know this isn't in the theme of this thread, but you have to admit, it's pretty cool).


 B1-b Main Gear - 1


My grandson wants to go back again. This time maybe we'll take his dad and little brother. 


Images (1)
  • B1-b Main Gear - 1

Back to train layouts...


Installed the last wall bracket today so all the concrete drilling is now complete...gladly.


I did some checking. The pull out and sheer strength of the 1/2" wedge bolts is both 4,600 pounds. The weight of the entire railroad won't be anything like that, so I have no worries at all that the brackets can't do their job effectively. The wood itself will shatter before the bolts leave that wall.


Side Brackets 20.


Here's all five wall brackets now in position.


Side Brackets 21


With the brackets in position, I was ready to start making L-girders. I don't have a work table available for an 8 foot girder-making job, so I put the brackets into good use already.


I'm supporting the 1X4 on its edge by inserting a 2X2 between the horizontal bracket rails held with a c-clamp, and then clamped the girder web to this.


With the web stabilized, I was able to clamp the 1 X 2 flange on top in prep for screws and glue. This process goes pretty fast and I was able to glue up four girders that will stretch the entire length along the wall across all brackets in a little over an hour.


Girder Construction 2

Girder Construction 1


Here are four girders waiting for the glue to dry. I offset the flange by 3 cm so the flange and web don't fall directly in line with each other. The longest run which goes across the back wall from one end to the other will use 3.9 girders spliced together so these four represent 1 long girder.


Girder Construction 3


While they were drying, and before I remove the screws, I decided to start figuring out how to mount them onto the brackets. As noted earlier, the first brackets I installed are about five inches lower than they should be, so I need to put a riser in place to end up with a level girder. Here's the riser in place that levels the girder with the corner bracket (which is at the correct height).


Girder Construction 4


Notice how neatly the 2 X 2 sandwiches between the bracket horizontals. I'm going to use one or two carriage bolts to fasten the riser to the brackets and the girders to the risers.


Here's another riser at the other end. Each riser is 10.5 inches long and the flange rests on the top when level so putting it together will be a snap.


Girder Construction 5


Nothing's in its proper place here, but the theory is now proven. Next session, I'll remove the clamping screws from the flanges and start mounting the girders AND splicing them together. In Kalmbach's Benchwork book, they talk about using a piece of web that 2X its width in length to bridge between to girders to make a splice. When I built the layout in Germany, this is how I did it, but when I enlarged it in Pennsy, I used Simpson Strong-tie metal hardware to make the splice. It worked well and was easier to work. Splice plates are used on both sides of the web with lots of fasteners.


Images (7)
  • Side Brackets 20.
  • Side Brackets 21
  • Girder Construction 2
  • Girder Construction 1
  • Girder Construction 3
  • Girder Construction 4
  • Girder Construction 5

It's amazing what you can accomplish when you have three solid hours to work on the project. I got the two rear-most L-girders in place, leveled and tied in. This required building two more 8' lengths and installing them. I used two different means of tying the girders to the support structure: deck screws or their equivalent, and 1/4" carriage bolts. For the rail that butt up against the bracket vertical support I used the deck screws since there was no effective way to get behind the bracket for the other side of the bolt. But on the free-standing connections I used carriage bolts which are immensely strong and really lock the structure together. The long 32 foot girder is not dead straight when sighting down its length, but it doesn't have to be. The joists that go on top, just lie across the girders and are fixed at each end with one screw. The amount their ends stick out doesn't matter.


Here's today's progress looking from both directions.


 Girder Install 13

 Girder Install 11


Here's some details of the joinery involved.


In the first instance, I used carriage bolts to hold the riser to the beam since I could see both sides.


 Girder Install 10


This next one is a full, free-standing support. You can't help noticing that the carriage bolts are wayyyyy long. I'll trim them with the Dremel and a cut-off disc in the next work session. I was getting tired and didn't want to tackle a step that could easily get a little out of hand. I didn't want to rush it.


 Girder Install 09


The last example is using deck screws into the bracket upright. You can see that it's sitting above the bracket due to leveling requirements. Note also, the relief cut I made so it would clear the sway brace. When I chose to install the sway braces on top of the brackets, I realized immediately that I needed to add relief. I used the saber saw to make the cut. The other choice was to mount them on the bottom of the bracket, but I didn't relish the thought of putting in the screws upside down.


 Girder Install 04


While the straightness of these long girders isn't critical, it is important to make sure that they are square. I trued up the free-standing with a machinist angle block. Even perfect level isn't critical at this stage because the T-blocks and their risers are individually leveled and cross-leveled before the sub-roadbed is laid on top. I just like stuff level as I go along since it ultimately makes everything a little easier.


I used Simpson Strong-tie splice plates to hold the girders together. The plates are on both sides with 8, hex-head, self-drilling sheet metal screws holding them in place. They hold the girders very securely. I've used up my stash from the previous layout and I'll have to buy more. I have Phillips head screws that are designed to fit the holes in these plates, but they're too long and leave sharp points sticking out whenever I use them.


This waste pipe caused a slight field alteration. I had to space the girder off the bracket upright a bit so it cleared the pipe. On piece of 1X2 between the girder and bracket was sufficient. I just drove the screws through both pieces. I always drill clearance holes through the piece to be fastened so they pull down nice and tight. The layout turns 45º from the end of the back girders. There is a crudely constructed shelf just out of view on the left in this picture. It's holding all of the trains in their boxes right now. Once the layout is finished, I'm going to demolish it. I will give me more train space, or more access around that curve. The train boxes can be stored under the platform.


Girder Install 07


You can also see that the girder is lifted about five inches above the bracket. In an earlier post I explained that for some reason I built the brackets too low. I looked at my drawing and realized that when I first sketched it out in CorelDraw I wasn't actually worried about the height, I was just playing around with the structure's design. Somehow, I had forgotten that this was just a notional sketch and I took measurements off of it. Of course they were wrong since I never used any when making the design. In the other two brackets, I compensated by raising them higher up the wall so I didn't need to lift the girders.


Images (6)
  • Girder Install 13
  • Girder Install 11
  • Girder Install 10
  • Girder Install 09
  • Girder Install 04
  • Girder Install 07

Finished putting up the three girders that line the back of the layout. It was a very productive day. On the right end of the third girder it's sticking out into space so it needed an auxiliary leg. I thought about how I wanted to extend the wall bracket another 24" to capture the leg and came up with a simple approach that was facilitated by have the double horizontal pieces. I simply inserted a 2 X 2 in between the horizontals with 5 inches captivated and five extending outwards. This was clamped with two carriage bolts. I then added the two 24" extension horizontals and bolted them the same way. This made it easy to capture the vertical 2 X 2 which was going to be the leg.


Before cutting the leg, I wanted to have a leveling foot. Unfortunately, I used up the last T-nut on the wall brackets, but on the last two wall brackets, the ends weren't even resting on the floor so the T-nuts were superfluous. "Ah..." I thought. All I have to do is get it out now that it's epoxied in. With some prying with a screwdriver and sheer determination, I got it out and glued it into the end of the new leg. In this case I used Gorilla Glue instead of epoxy.


Here's the detail shot of the extender in place. No comments about the clean shop please... I just vacuumed the entire place. My wife hates the shop vac. I actually tossed the one I had at the old house because it screamed so much. I bought a new Craftsman that was supposedly quieter. It is, but now it's only 100db instead of 120.


 Girder number 3 leg extension


To brace the leg in the width direction I added another 2 X 2 angle brace that was also sandwiched in the now-added horizontals with a single carriage bolt just like I did with the wall bracket diagonals. For the other end I used the gusset method. I needed to cut more gussets and I knocked them out with the circular saw this time, which was more consistent than the saber saw for this purpose.


 Girder number 3 leg 1


Even more critical with legs than the wall brackets, the legs need another brace in the longitudinal direction. Here I used the same process as in all the other legs previously built; a gusset at the leg end with 6 screws and three screws at the top end directly into the L-girder.


Here's the detail of the upper end.


 Girder number 3 leg 2


And here's the detail of the connectors on the other end of this assembly where I had to make up for that 5" drop as explained earlier. Two carriage bolts in each direction make this structure solid as a rock. (Sorry about the focus on this one)


 Girder Number 3 install 03


So here's the entire rear array looking from both directions. I've decided to go with the grade based on keeping the railroad less boring. Next step will be to start designing the joists and risers to support the sub-roadbed planks on the backside of the layout.


 Girder Number 3 install 02


Girder Number 3 install 01


I hope you can start to see the elegance of L-girder construction. It looks frail, but it's quite strong. 


Images (6)
  • Girder number 3 leg extension
  • Girder Number 3 install 03
  • Girder number 3 leg 2
  • Girder number 3 leg 1
  • Girder Number 3 install 02
  • Girder Number 3 install 01

Let me start by noting that I made a big mistake... I decided to spend yesterday evening reading all about Patrick K's layout progress and now feel completely inadequate. I think he is super-human. No one can build that much layout in that short length of time. I simply can't understand it. I was even thinking that who would care about my puny effort after seeing what he's done. But then I thought, yes, but... what I'm building is far more in the reach of average railroaders so I will continue posting.


By appearances, yesterday's work session didn't accomplish anything resembling Saturday's marathon session, but looks can be deceiving. I unpacked all of the old L-girders that will comprise the rest of the framework. They were all duct-taped in bundles from when we moved. I have most of the girder lengths noted on the master print and if they're missing I get them from the computer drawings. My original plan had the new girders and old all mixed up since I was attempting to use the old girders in their actual length. I was going to use new girders to fill in the missing pieces. But as Clauswitz said, "Strategy ends when the first shot is fired". Once I started building the wall supports I decided to build all the new girders for the back wall and use the existing ones to build the rest. As it stands now, I probably have enough old ones to complete the layout. I have materials for three more 8 footers if needed.


Tomorrow my grandson's coming over to finish up his Super Hornet. He and his family just got back from London where they watched the Olympics. It was quite a trip and the kids should have a lot to tell their class when they answer the perennial question, "So what did you do with your Summer?" While he's working on the plane, I'm going to work on the railroad.


 Girder Array 1


I then started laying out all the girders on the floor based on length in their respective locations. After that I'll set them up at their correct separation distance and compare that to the leg sets that are already constructed. To save labor, I'd like to use as many intact sets as possible. If I have to adjust their separation distance, I'll reset the cross-braces to the needed width.


 Girder Array 3


I have to keep reminding myself that the work table in the middle of the room is actually part of the new layout. As I mentioned before, I cobbled it together as a work table to build the wings of the 1:16 scale RC B-17 that I built in 2010. Right now I need that table for plans, tools and screws.


The goal is to get OSB onto the back girders ASAP so that it can be enlisted as the new work surface. Then I'll dismantle the existing table and incorporate it into the layout.


Images (2)
  • Girder Array 1
  • Girder Array 3


Whereabouts in town are you located?  If you were to need some assistance with your project sometime, feel free to ask.

Have you paid a visit to Roundhouse?

I see you like all things Aviation.  Are you aware that the Collings Foundation Wings of Freedom Tour is at Clark County Airport, through tomorrow (Wednesday 8 Aug 2012).  They have a B-17, B-24, & P-51C in attendance.

I live about a mile north of Roundhouse just off of Brownsboro, Rd near where it intersects with Seminary Drive. I've spent some time at both Roundhouse and L&N, but it was all before I finally got started on the rebuild. The next visits are going to buy stuff.


I believe I can use help and it won't be long now. We can take this off line. My email is I didn't see how you can send private messages on this forum. Is there a way to do it?


Is that Clark County, In?


One of things that made me happiest (besides being less than 2 miles from our daughter and her family) moving to Louisville was the presence of two good train stores and at least one great hobby shop. In Bucks County, PA where we moved from, good hobby shops were getting harder and harder to find and they were much farther away. There were trains stores, but considering the population of the region (almost 5 mil.) there should have been more, much more. Louisville is a great modeler's city.

I finished laying out all of the girders on the floor, and went back to the computer to determine some reference points as the erection process begins. I measured from the back walls to the extremes of the front girder and marked that distance on the floor. I also measured off where the leg sets would go (5 of them) at 8 ft. intervals. Eight feet seems like a reasonable span for the girders. When all braced up, there's no downward deflection at that spacing.


The front main girder set has a girder face to girder face distance of 40". My old legs sets are somewhere about 24" apart, so they needed to be reconstructed to work in the new design. Here's the "before" girder picture. I wanted to use the old legs since they already have the elevating screws and t-nuts installed on their bottoms so why reinvent them.


 Leg Sets 1


I removed the X-bracing, saving the 5-50 Spax metric screws (these go back to when the layout was originally constructed in Germany), and the lumber which will be put to good use making joists that lie across the girders. I then cut a 48" piece of 1 X 3 that served as a spacing beam. The legs were made of German metric-sized lumber. Their 2 X 2 is 44mm square, and is more substantial than our 1.5" dimensional lumber (38.1mm). I fasten one screw on one corner of the spacing beam, and square that corner up. When square I drive another screw to lock the geometry. I again used #8 X 2" Deck Mate screws with star drive. I can remove them and re-drive them over and over without destroying the star drive socket. When the first side is tight and square I did the same with the other leg.


Leg Sets 2


When I first starting doing this task, I was doing it on the concrete floor with my rubber knee pads. My back was letting me know that this was not the best approach, so I got a piece of OSB, threw it on the back installed girders over a few 1 X 3s and did the work standing up. Much better!


I cut the X-braces from fresh 1 X 3s since they're pretty long. There is no worry about losing square since the two screws on the spacing beam were tight so it was just the repetitive task of lining up the X-brace, clamping the near end so I could position the far end, screw far end tight and go back to the near end, put it one screw, remove the clamp and then put in the other screw. Turn the entire assembly over and put on the opposite X-brace the same way. The ends are beveled and I'm careful to not let it extend past the leg as shown here. The reason for this is to not foul the gusset plate that's going to be installed at the bottom for the longitudinal braces, and to not interfere with installing the girders on the top of the legs.


Leg Sets 3


Here's the two braces installed.


Leg Sets 4


Once the X-braces are in place the spacing beam is removed since the legs can no longer change geometry. I used the spacing beam for the next set of legs ensuring that all the leg sets for this part of the layout would have the same spacing. All five sets took a couple of hours to reconstruct. Here's four of the completed legs.


Leg Sets 5


When I finished the legs sets I turned my attention back to the girders. I used the wooden splice blocks from the old RR to tie together the separate pieces of girders making up the system. I re-used the 5X50mm screws on these plates, but they are a tad long leaving a nasty sharp point sticking out the back side. I don't like sharp pointy things sticking out of the wood so I again brought the Dremel out with its cut-off wheel and ground them flush with the surrounding wood. Here are those sharp points.


Girder Construction 6


With the legs for the front part of the layout complete, I started messing around with setting it up. Using clamps you can actually put this together with one person. You lift a girder and clamp it to one side of the leg. While keeping the leg from collapsing, grab the other girder and clamp it to the other side. Go to the other end, and do the same thing with the second leg set. If all goes well so far, you have a very rickety structure that's just barely hanging together. From that point, you have to set the girder height and then temporarily clamp a longitudinal diagonal brace to start squaring it up. I was all set to make new diagonals and then I remembered that all the previous diagonals were sitting in the other part of the basement with the gusset plates still attached. I was careful when taking this apart for the move so much can be re-installed.


It was getting late and I was getting worn out. I was attempting to run a level from the newly installed rear girder to these old girders to set their height. My foot bumped one of the legs and the whole shebang came crashing down. That was a sign! Quite while you're ahead and I stopped work for the day and went up for dinner. Next time, I'll use the big C-clamps since they have more grip than the quick clamps I was using.


This part of the work goes very fast. It will slow down again when I start installing all those joists and their risers.


Images (6)
  • Girder Construction 6
  • Leg Sets 5
  • Leg Sets 4
  • Leg Sets 3
  • Leg Sets 2
  • Leg Sets 1

Thanks! I'm more a frustrated engineer. Didn't have the math smarts in high school so ended up going to Michigan State to become an industrial designer. That morphed into graduating with an industrial arts education degree where I taught shop classes for seven years after graduation. That morphed into a career in industrial education working up through a series of larger and larger companies. My German sojourn was the result of being the head of training for Henkel at their corporate headquarters in Düsseldorf. But as a model builder and teacher of skills to others, it's in my nature to be precise and a bit obsessive. I do find that working carefully leads to a nice-running, reliable layout. Also, it made it easy to build it in one place, tear it apart, rebuild it in another place and then tear it apart again and build it a third time. Like my career, each time it comes back bigger than before.


As far as the jeans. Most of the work now is going to take place off the floor, but thanks for the lead.

OK, a few days back you asked for opinions on level or raised for the far back track.

I would definitely go with raised despite the extra work.

For a run that long you really don't want it constantly out of view.

Having a mountainside here and there you cut into will make it more realistic as well.

Cuts, tunnels, trestles, all add to the scenic delight of the viewer.

Russel, you are correct! I'm going with the grade. The layout's big enough to have lots of interesting things going on. My only regret is I'm doing it very old school where the track is basically running in parallel lines following the table perimeter. I looked at Howard's and he got continuous curves. Not to be argumentative, but there are also railroads in this country, lots of them, where the tangent tracks are quite long. In fact, if railroad planners had way, there wouldn't be curves since curves each up tremendous amount of horsepower. Besides, I really like looking as the whole train in all of it's glory. I'm going to have some cuts and fills and maybe a mountain too, but it won't be West Virginia railroading. It's a great hobby and we each design our layouts to serve our needs and desires.


Now onto today's progress report...


With a little help of the grandkids to keep the first part of the 2nd module from collapsing before I get real fasteners in place, I got the far end of the 2nd (main) module started. As I was looking at it, it didn't seem right. It was too wide! It was supposed to be 40" from inside girder to inside girder and it was 48". 48" inches is not good! It puts the ends of the joists right on the girders if I want to get two joists out of every 8 ft. 1 X 3. But supporting a beam right at the ends is the weakest method of supporting it and will promote sagging in the center. It wasn't too late to fix this problem. Only two out of five legs sets were incorporated in this part. Since I had put the longitudinal diagonal braces in place, the legs were stable, so I removed the X bracing, took my original spacing beam and marked a 40" line, and with the help of grandson #1 clamped the legs at the new distance. I put the X-Brace in place and marked off the new (shorter) angles and cut them down to size. It worked well and I then restarted the production line to modify the other three leg sets with the correct distance.


With that out of way, work progressed quickly. This main module makes a modest 23" offset about a 1/3 of the way along as the railroad widens towards the left end to compensate for the 24" step out in the back wall. In my previous design the main girder also had a similar bend so I had Simpson Strong-tie splice plates that already had a bend in them.


I was now working alone so I need to develop a nice way to erect the rest of the module without yesterday's collapse. I screwed the splice place to the end of one girder and using a nice c-clamp to temporarily fasten the mating girder to it with the other end of the mating girder laying on the floor. Then I moved about halfway down the girder (this was a long segment) and using a hefty c-clamp, tied a leg set to the girder at an approximate level with the leg close to vertical.


I left this leg alone for a while since it was not in its true position, but it was just adding stability. I then went to the true location and attached another leg set with quick clamps. The leg sets are spaced about 8 ft. apart. At this point I did fine leveling of the girder and cross-leveled with the opposite girder. If a hit with the soft-headed hammer was sufficient, that was good, but often I had to release the clamp and hold it all together with the level lying on the girder and try to get it close.

I then put it one carriage bolt and tightened it to enable me to get the quick clamp out of the way. I put the level on the leg's side and plumbed the leg and then drilled the second hole for the other carriage bolt. With both tight, the leg was reasonably stable and didn't need further clamping until the longitudinal braces are installed.

Speaking of longitudinal braces, here's a pile of them ready to unpacked and re-used. It's neat that a lot of this layout was first created 13 years ago in Germany. Many of the pieces still have the German bar code stickers on them. All of the carriage bolts I'm using for these leg sets are 6mm sets from the original layout. Each rebuild is incorporating pieces of the old and besides being a nostalgia trip, it's saving me a bunch of moo-la.


 2nd Module 4


After the legs are tied in and every thing is ship shape, I went back and added fasteners to the splice plates and removed the small c-clamps. There will be a second splice plate on the backside of each girder which will make the splice complete. Here's the splice plates in use.


 2nd Module 7


I repeated the above steps for the left hand part of the main module. I then un-clamped the leg in the temporary position and moved it further left into its final location. It was going to lie in the left hand bend, which wasn't there at the time I used the leg to support the mid-section. That leg will be fastened tomorrow. I did a lot of stooping, and bending today and my back let me know that I did enough today.

Notice on these pictures the wooden splice plates I originally used to join girders. They were clunky and used a lot of screws, but they were strong. Using the metal plates is entirely sufficient.


Here's several views of this module. It's big! The final amount of offset will be determined by the connecting it to various cross girders that tie both sides of the layout together. After I get the final deviation, I'll install the second layer of splice plates which will help lock in the angles.


 2nd Module 6


 2nd Module 5


 2nd Module 3


2nd Module 2


When all the legs are complete, I'm going back with the saber saw and trimming off the tops of the diagonal braces so they won't be in the way. I seem to be mounting the gusset a little higher up on the leg this time resulting in all the diagonals sticking up about the girder. This layout's been assembled and disassembled three times so there's markings on the girders from its previous incarnations.


Tomorrow I'll finish that one leg and start working on the end modules. Once all the girders are in place, I'll start laying out where all the joists will go based on what they're supporting. And I have to order the foam roadbed, lots extra track, plus about 500 feet of wire. I'm going to wire the railroad in preparation for DCS and TMCC. I don't own any Legacy equipment (yet) so I'm not heading that way.


If you've all read so far, I have a question... Should I use twisted pair cabling for the DCS instead of either zip cord or individual leads? Twisted pair cancels digital interference (or so I've been led to believe.)


Images (6)
  • 2nd Module 7
  • 2nd Module 6
  • 2nd Module 5
  • 2nd Module 4
  • 2nd Module 3
  • 2nd Module 2

You can tell I'm on a roll, I've posted for three straight days. Having this being the 3rd rebuild (and enlargement), I'm getting very good at it. I don't have to think a whole lot about how to joint part A to part B, or what's the best way to join girders meeting at 90º, I just do it.

I remeasured and reset the positioning on the 2nd (main) module on the floor using the back wall as a datum and double-checking against a chalk line (without the chalk). The offset was supposed to be about 23" and it's within the margin of error for that. Once I got the offset where I wanted, I went back and added the 2nd set of splice plates to lock those bends in that position. While doing this, I got the saber saw and sliced off the offending diagonal braces that were sticking up above the girders.

I then set up the longitudinal positioning by taking a reference point from the left end of the wall girder and the end point of the main module's left end. The main module is to extend past the wall girder by 2'-6". I used a 1 X 3 with line at that distance clamped to the wall girder and the inner girder of the end unit (3rd module). Again used the chalk line to get the distance right. The layout is still light enough so with a good tug I could pull the entire main module towards the left without assistance.

Now it was time to build the 3rd module which comprises the layout's left end. I needed two leg sets that had a 2'-6" separation distance (it's a coincidence that it's the same dimensional as the left end offset), so I took another set of legs from the previous layout and adjusted them. Since this distance wasn't so much larger than the previous version, I was able to simply remove screws from the diagonal braces—2 from one side and 1 from the other—swing the diagonal to a new position to meet the other leg, and then screw them down in the new position. I still use a spacing brace to hold the position as before.

The inner girder was already clamped into position on the end of the main module, so it was a snap to position the outer (and shorter) girder on the legs sets that I just built. The outer girder was to extend rearward from the inner girder by 3". I measured and marked this off on the outer girder and clamped the leg on that spot.

Here's the clamping scheme.

3rd Module 5

While I could have fastened the inner girder to the ends of the main module's girders by screwing into the end of these girders' 1X4, I don't like putting screws into end-grain unless I absolutely have to. It's just not as secure. Instead, I like to install a mounting block which is screwed into cross-grain and then use carriages bolts for added strength.

3rd Module 4

This was the outer edge. The inner girder connection is done the same way.

So here's the end module completed. I'm now working on the corners. The front left corner is going to have two small L-girders that will be interconnected on the bias. The rear left corner is much more complicated. It will have the girders drop down about 10". This will be the location of the layout's main bridges and the deep channel will be where the waterway will be. Of course I'll document this is agonizing detail.

Here's the whole deal as it appears so far.

3rd Module 1

Today was also a good day for my grandson, Alex. He officially finished his F-18E Super Hornet. It was an eight month project and it wasn't easy. It was completed over a lot of interruptions including school, camp and family vacations, but he didn't give up. He asked for help and got it when he needed it, but did almost all the assembly himself. He relied on me to manage the airbrush and to scratchbuild two missing parts. He was very proud of the accomplishment.

Alex and Super-Hornet 2


I just edited the detailed construction drawing to ensure that it matched the "as-built" structure that's going on in the basement. The joist layout is an approximation. I make joist assignments on the layout itself and I evaluate the stress points under each sub-roadbed panel. This is a PDF and I don't know if it will work. Can't hurt to try. It will help folks understand the geometry. 


I take the track plan from RR-Track as a screen capture. Paste it into CorelPhotoPaint and then save it as a GIF file with a transparent background. I import this file into CorelDraw and enlarge it to the exact size of the layout as noted in RR Track. I can then overlay the track over the sub-roadbed panels and still see through it. If you keep it as a JPG or Bitmap, the background is opaque white and hides what's below it. It's how I design the sub-roadbed panels with confidence that the track plan will fit as designed. It works! You can also do these same steps (with slight differences) in Adobe Illustrator and PhotoShop. I have both products loaded on my laptop, but am more familiar with Corel products so I default to them.


To keep the momentum going I actually got some RR work on both weekend days. These session included finishing the left-end module, fitting up and completing an auxiliary module, and getting started on sorting out all the joists and beginning the process of attaching the sub-roadbed panels.


Here's the auxiliary module all clamped together to get the geometry right. I clamped a false leg in the corner to set the height, and clamped a 1 X 3 across the top from the existing girder to set the width. I notched the flanges on the girders so they nested together and then clamped the ends, and then was able to get the leg fashioned. On the original layout, I didn't want to keep building girders so I made a really long joist and then made it into a simple truss with a diagonal that ran back to the bottom of the girder. It worked, but it was touchy. With additional width I have now I was able to fit a respectable girder into the space to better support the inside circle.


 aux girders 2


And here it is fully fastened in. Again, I made good use of the Simpson Splice Plates for the non-square corners. For the square corner at the end, I again use the separate block screwed to one member and carriage bolts in the other direction.


aux girders 7


Then there was how to fasten the leg to the odd-angled member. I made a block that brought the angle back to square. The first time I did this, I didn't spend the time to drill pilot holes and the screws promptly split the block in two. My second attempt was much better and the pilot holes prevented splitting.


aux girders 6


Here's the block:


aux girders 3


And here's what it looked like after I blew it up.


Girder Array 4


In addition to the railroad work, my grandson and I started another model in the inventory: a beautiful Hasegawa 1:48, F-22 Raptor. The model is spectacular with beautiful cockpit, tailpipe and weapons bay details. It also has add-on photoetched for the weapons bay doors and the titanium sides of the variable exhaust nozzles. Alex did a real nice job on the pilot and the photoetched seat belts. His skills and patience keep improving. I'm reliving my childhood through him ( son was a pretty neat kid too, and a wonderful eye surgeon now).


Something else comical happened. You'll notice that block at the right-angle corner, well... I put it on, quickly, and was tightening down the carriage bolts but noticed the girder was still floppy. Then I saw it. I had put both sets of screws into the same beam instead of being 90º from each other. In other words, the girder wasn't connected yet. After smacking myself in the head for rushing. I disassembled the mistake, drilled clearance holes on the correct face for the 9 X 2-1/5 Deck Screws and then reattached it correctly. Now the girder was solid.


aux girders 5


In the picture you can see the wrong holes too. If that's not proof that I'm not perfect I don't know what is, although I suppose you could ask my wife


I also build some other auxiliary girders to fill the corners. Again, in the original version I used elongated joist cantilevered out into the curve. Since I've gotten so good at making girders, and have the extra material to do so, I just knocked a few out. Here they are:


Corner Girders 2


aux girders 1


When I disassemble the back table and incorporate it into the layout, I'll make some more small girders to fill in the back right corner.


And then finally I started working on joist placement, and figuring out how best to use the old joists. After reviewing their status, I'm going to have to redo the placement of the risers and how their fastened. In the 2nd iteration I resorted to using furring strips for the 1 X 3 joists, but they're not milled and the edges are not square so they don't make such terrific joists. Furthermore, I used a Simpson wide-head, phillips screw that was quite long enough. This resulted in a sub-par assembly. I'm going to redo all of them. The riser shoe top should be 42-1/2" off the floor. I'm going to set them up using a water-level so they'll be at the same height over the entire room. It takes time, but it's not particularly hard...mostly production line stuff.



Joist and Risers 01



Images (9)
  • Joist and Risers 01
  • aux girders 7
  • aux girders 6
  • Girder Array 4
  • aux girders 5
  • aux girders 3
  • aux girders 2
  • aux girders 1
  • Corner Girders 2

After taking the "Building the BV 1940s Gas Station" diversion, I'm getting back to building the layout itself. I posted a detailed build thread on the gas station in the Buildings and Structures forum, so I won't belabor the point here.


Yesterday I started to actually install joists and risers while the grandsons were occupied working on other projects. I'm building the layout with the table level a little over 43" from the floor. Therefore, the heads of the risers need to be 42.5" inches off the floor. After I installed one, I leveled the next to it and so on, periodically checking the floor to riser height just to make sure there's no collective error creeping in. The joists are 16" on centers like normal stick-built home construction. To level risers at remote distances from this first, "Home base", riser, I'm using a water-tube level that will set the height many feet from this point. It's a bit challenging to use, but it works and ensures that the entire layout is on the same plan, unless I want to change the grade. I'll document it's use when I get to that point.


I already made a slight error that was good to catch at this early stage. For some reason I had in my head that the elevated track portion in the rear most part of the layout was 5.5" inches above the base level and made the first two at that height. But I was doubting my memory so I checked the plans on RR Track. Yup! I was wrong! The height is 5.0" above base level. I was restricted to this dimension if I wanted to keep the grades at 2º or lower. At the termination of both ends of the grade are switches. I didn't want the grades to pass through them so I had to stop one track length in front of each, which created the height restriction. As you guys know, as in real life, railroad design is one compromise after another.


Joist and Risers 03

Joist and Risers 02


I square up the joists with the girders and square the riser heads to their risers. This isn't critical, but it's just the way I work. Any out-of-squareness in the head would be adjusted as I level the heads when fastening the riser to the joist.


I use clamps all the time, the quick-connect kind. I clamp the joists to the girder before I drill a pilot hole and screw them with a single screw at each end. You only need to stabilize them before the ply goes on top. Once the ply is screwed with two screws to each riser head, and with the load basically straight down, nothing really moves. It becomes a very strong inter-connected network. And it's one of the read advantages of L-girder construction in that it minimizes construction materials about as much as possible while maintaining a light and strong structure. Then I clamp the riser to the girder and use the soft hammer to tap to the correct height and level. I fix one screw and remove the clamp. Then I level it to its neighbor and put in the second screw.


To finish the grade, I'll install the riser at the end of the straight run in the back with it's specific height. Then I'll run a string line from the top riser to this one. All the intermediate risers will be fastened touching the string. This will ensure a nice smooth grade. When it goes around the corner it will be a bit trickier since the string will need something to hold onto while it bends around the curve.


Sometimes, the screw heads on the riser head are obstructed due to other structural pieces blocking the way. For these instances, I bought a flexible shaft adapter for my cordless drill that lets me bend the driver around corners and still drive the screws. Also, in these instances it's good to use the star drive screws since they forgiving when trying to drive them slightly off access. Can't say the same for Phillips head... off access and you'll strip out the screw head.


Images (2)
  • Joist and Risers 03
  • Joist and Risers 02

I had a rare Sunday work session today and got more work done on that first part of the back layout. I set the grade with a series of risers based on the dimensions that were called out in the RR Track design program. I made that plan into a GIF file so I could import into the CorelDraw image of all the infrastructure. For the uninitiated, GIF (and PNG) files allow to save files with a transparent background. In this way, the layout can sit above all the plywood in the drawing, but you can still see what's beneath. This diagram provides good reference points for the location of grade start and stop, and critical check points. Here's a slice of that drawing showing the track grade heights. The heights are shown from the track section's end. An important reference point is the L-girder that extends from the jog in the back wall. The entire layout is being keyed to this point.


Grade Detail


This next shot shows how I use a level to align risers of equal heights. You could use a straight edge, but the level gives me another check point to make sure there's not drift. And again, you can't have enough quick clamps. They make working alone very easy. All you do is bring the next riser up to the level, clamp it, put one screw it it, and check cross-level, unclamp and put the second screw in and re-torque them to ensure their tight. All the other joists along this part of the layout are all screwed down. I did them all while sitting on the scooter so I didn't have to keep getting on and off of it.


Joist and Risers 04


This last series shows how I ran a chalk line (without the chalk) from the last riser at the 5.0" elevation to the riser at the start of the left end curve. Beyond that riser you run into the area where the bridges are going. I'm not doing anything there until the work along the entire back is roughed in. Once that end is closed in, the only other way into the middle without using my scooter... or being 8 years old... is at the opening on the front right end where the swing-out section is going. It's a long railroad and walking about the entire perimeter each time I need to get in or out, is a lot of walking. Once the back is done with it's track and roadbed, I'll close the left end in and create the bridges. This also goes for the track that crosses in the middle which will also be a bridge.


Joist and Risers setting grade 2


I really don't care about the heights of all those intermediate risers. Once I establish the start and finish points, the chalk line ensures that all the intermediates are at the correct elevation.


Joist and Risers setting grade 1


This is a very accurate way to set up grades. When I sighted down across all the risers, I noticed that the last one I put in was slightly lower than the others. I fixed it. The quality of the OSB fit is directly related to how smoothly and evenly the risers are installed.


Images (4)
  • Grade Detail
  • Joist and Risers setting grade 2
  • Joist and Risers setting grade 1
  • Joist and Risers 04

I had a rare Sunday work session today and got more work done on that first part of the back layout. I set the grade with a series of risers based on the dimensions that were called out in the RR Track design program. I made that plan into a GIF file so I could import into the CorelDraw image of all the infrastructure. For the uninitiated, GIF (and PNG) files allow to save files with a transparent background. In this way, the layout can sit above all the plywood in the drawing, but you can still see what's beneath. This diagram provides good reference points for the location of grade start and stop, and critical check points. Here's a slice of that drawing showing the track grade heights. The heights are shown from the track section's end. An important reference point is the L-girder that extends from the jog in the back wall. The entire layout is being keyed to this point.


Grade Detail


This next shot shows how I use a level to align risers of equal heights. You could use a straight edge, but the level gives me another check point to make sure there's no drift. And again, you can't have enough quick clamps. They make working alone very easy. All you do is bring the next riser up to the level, clamp it, put one screw it it, and check cross-level, unclamp and put the second screw in and re-torque them to ensure their tight. All the other joists along this part of the layout are all screwed down. I did them all while sitting on the scooter so I didn't have to keep getting on and off of it.


Joist and Risers 04


This last series shows how I ran a chalk line (without the chalk) from the last riser at the 5.0" elevation to the riser at the start of the left end curve. Beyond that riser you run into the area where the bridges are going. I'm not doing anything there until the work along the entire back is roughed in. Once that end is closed in, the only other way into the middle without using my scooter... or being 8 years old... is at the opening on the front right end where the swing-out section is going. It's a long railroad and walking about the entire perimeter each time I need to get in or out, is a lot of walking. Once the back is done with it's track and roadbed, I'll close the left end in and create the bridges. This also goes for the track that crosses in the middle which will also be a bridge.


Joist and Risers setting grade 2


I really don't care about the heights of all those intermediate risers. Once I establish the start and finish points, the chalk line then ensures that all the intermediates are at the correct elevation.


Joist and Risers setting grade 1


This is a very accurate way to set up grades. When I sighted down across all the risers, I noticed that the last one I put in was slightly lower than the others. I fixed it. The quality of the OSB fit is directly related to how smoothly and evenly the risers are installed.

As I stated last night, once the girders are up, construction moves along quickly. You get into a rhythm. I finished all of the risers for the middle OSB sheets and started bolting them into place. This started with the elevated portion and moved down to the base level pieces. As you can see, I added extenders to several joists that didn't extend far enough out to support the edges of the panels.


 Rear Sub-roadbed 02


In the picture, the continuing pieces of the elevated section are just clamped in place to see how it looks. By not having the panel seam at the crest of the slope, leaves a nice smooth transition from grade to level. This was not planned. It just happily came out that way.


 Rear Sub-roadbed 04


Rear Sub-roadbed 03


The portion to the left of the panel shown below has risers exposed. I'm probably going to add some surplus OSB going forward to support landscaping and building. The track is not going out there as it stands now.


Rear Sub-roadbed 01


I'm including a closeup pic of the DeWalt bruiser that I'm using along with the flexible drive. I'm using the drive almost exclusively working underneath since it can work around obstructions. It's a bit difficult to handle when you try and put the final torque on the screw since it wants to wrap up the flexidrive into a pretzel.


The Bruiser


One annoying problem that I have to correct is when using a screw that's too long. The riser heads are of two different kinds of stock (and thickness); the original German pieces (thin) and the ones created for the second iteration (thicker). Even when I use the correct length, they still penetrate enough to be a safety hazard if you happen to lean on the layout in the wrong place. What I do is take the Dremel with the big cutoff wheel and cut them flush with the OSB. It's not hard, just a pain in the butt and you need to wear serious eye protection.


Screw Problem


Got the word from Hobby Innovations that they got my check and my roadbed is on it's way. So I have to keep cracking to get enough OSB down that can receive track. I also want to paint all the Ross track running rails. I bought this cute little paint roller at York some years ago that I'm itching to try out. On the old rail, I'll have to clean it pretty well. Shouldn't be too hard on the new rail.


Images (6)
  • Screw Problem
  • The Bruiser
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 04
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 03
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 02
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 01

Had a good long session today and got more done. I completed the left side of the rear layout high line, then mounted the lower base level that runs sort of parallel. I also screwed down the middle piece that I fitted yesterday. I used Simpson Strong-tie plates to join OSB panel edges to stabilize the edges.


 OSB Panel Joint ex


Now that the OSB is screwed tight, this part of the layout is becoming rigid like a rock. It is enormously strong. I frankly don't know why folks use 2 X 4s in an egg-crate arrangement, when L-girder gives such a strong, light and uses much less resources to make it so.


 Rear Sub-roadbed 05


After this session, I got the Dremel out, put on the goggles and the dust mask and cut all those dangerous screw points that were protruding from the surface. I used the dust mask as well as the goggles since the last time I did this without the mask I was blowing my nose and getting steel dust in the results. I didn't like that.


I cleared all the junk off of the panels that were just lying on the left rear end and started laying in the joists and building the high-line in that portion. This portion is a constant 5.0" above the base. Again, joists are 16" on center. I'm using stock from the previous iteration of the layout. I've stripped the previous risers and heads from them, re-cut them to a new length and will reattach the risers. I'm replacing all the phillips head screws with the Star drive ones since they're so much easier to torque properly especially when working underneath. Notice my scooter... I'm getting back in shape getting my butt up and down onto it by using the girders to hoist myself up. The layout's getting stronger as more members are in place so it's a firm thing to hold onto when getting up and down.


Rear Sub-roadbed 06


Here's the right end high-line being fitted. 

High Line Right rear


Here's a long shot showing progress so far. Once the rear panels are all in place, I will clean off the table in the back of this picture and reconfigure it to be installed at the right end. Should be there in a couple of days.


Progress shot 9-19


I'm getting quite a pile of old joists that are too short for this new design. I have new lumber (1 X 3s) for this purpose, but I want to conserve it so I don't have to buy more. Therefore, I may simply splice short ones together to make longer ones. If the overlap is enough, they're very strong. The screws I'm using have a 350 pound sheer strength. Three screws = over 1,000 pounds. Plenty strong for joists on a model railroad.


Images (5)
  • High Line Right rear
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 06
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 05
  • Progress shot 9-19
  • OSB Panel Joint ex

Today's session, while very important, doesn't photograph so well. First let me say that the additional track arrived from Ross Custom Switches. Once the vinyl roadbed arrives we'll be able to start laying track.


I fastened the right rear high-line and spliced it to the existing piece.


Rear Sub-roadbed 07


Then I started preparing more risers... lots and lots of risers... using the old risers and some new stock. I have almost 60 of them now, but will probably need more. Here's the pile of joists without their risers from the old layouts. As I noted in last post, I will probably splice these together to make longer ones so I don't consume precious resources.




And here's the riser pile. When possible I'm using the torx screws instead of the old Phillips. Many of the old screws already are suffering from cam-out problems. I opened  up all the screw holes in the riser piece to 11/64ths clearance for the #8 Spax torx head screws. While you don't even need a pilot hole for this brand of screw, I find that having a clearance hole on one piece makes drawing the parts tight much easier. If you don't use a clearance hole, and if the parts are not tightly clamped together, it is possible for the screw to be tight without the parts being drawn together. If you try to torque it tighter, you actually have to strip the threads out on the riser, which is hard to do and it may also strip the threads out of the joist.




Next session will be more interesting since I'll be actually mounting stuff on the railroad.


Images (3)
  • Joists
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 07
  • Risers

Got three panel pieces permanently fastened which almost completes the right end. There are two more high-line pieces in that corner and they'll be installed in the next session. This session fixed a big piece (one of the largest). Instead of putting in all the risers then flopping the piece over them like I did when doing the original build in Germany, I attached a splice plate on one end and clamped the panel to it, then with the level sitting on top, shimmed up the other end with a riser and clamped it when it was close to level. I then went to the middle of the panel and clamped a riser there until it was exactly level. Once I got a few risers positioned so it was level and cross-level, I screwed the splice-end tight and went back and started to fasten the risers permanently also. In this way, I worked my way back to the free end and made sure everything was tight.


 Rear Sub-roadbed 09


I've started using wooden splice plates since the Simpson Strong-tie sheet metal plates were flexing too much. I also replaced the Simpson plates on the high line since there as a small dip in the grade area at the splice. It's still not perfect and I think that one of the risers is a bit low and needs adjusting. It may not matter operationally.


 Panel Splice


I will say this, my back and hands are sore! It's a lot of moves that I'm not used to making to get under the layout and position yourself to reach all the screws. And one more thing: I've already put in hundreds of screws. Without power drivers I can't imagine doing a project like this.


On the high line I also fixed another small problem that occurred when I installed the wood splice. There was a small difference in thickness between the two pieces of OSB. This little bump may have replicated itself when the track was laid. To correct, I put a cardboard shim under the thinner piece which brought it up to an exact match with the thicker one. All the other panel-to-panel joints were on the same plane.


Here's a shot showing how long this railroad's becoming. Sorry about the focus. Next time I'll set the camera on the tripod, take multiple exposures and then use the focus stacking software for an infinite depth-of-field.


 High Line Perspective


Here's an underneath shot showing all of those risers! Another nice thing about L-girder; if the girders aren't level, it doesn't matter since each riser cleat is individually leveled. This cancels out any irregularities in the girder system. If it was an egg-grate frame, the frame itself would have to be level and even throughout.


 Risers 2


This is a good time to assess where we are are and how much more we have to go. I estimate that we're at the 25% completion point (for the platform only). Best to show a diagram to explain this.


 Progress schematic 1


Nine pieces have been installed so far (piece 1 and 2 were split since the rearmost portions on both are on the high line). The upper left end will be the second to last area to be finished since I like having the opening there to get to the chop saw. The last part to be finished will be the swing-out session at the lower right. I want the railroad to be stiff and stable before building that. With the pieces installed today, I'll be able to clear off the end table and make the modifications needed to match the new design. That shouldn't take long. Then I turn my attention to the front side of the layout. There's a lot of work to do there, but there is access from both sides. The table height of 43" makes a great stand-up workbench for doing all sorts of assembly operations. It's very convenient.


Images (5)
  • Progress schematic 1
  • High Line Perspective
  • Risers 2
  • Panel Splice
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 09

Put the last pieces of OSB in place today and started rebuilding the right end. The downslope of the grade starts right at the end of this elevated section.


 Rear Sub-roadbed 10


In this case I fastened the splice plates to the OSB BEFORE I hoisted it up onto the risers. I also added a brace to one of the base level pieces when I found a "soft" corner that needed reinforcement. You see a tube of "caulk on the table. It's Loctite Heavy Duty Construction Adhesive that I'm going to use to glue down the vinyl roadbed to the OSB and the track to the vinyl. While it would be faster to fasten the track down with screws, it makes the railroad noisier. O-gauge trains are noisy. If you put the screws through the vinyl, it completely defeats the roadbed's sound-absorbing properties and the screws carry the sound directly down to the OSB. Acts like the bridge on a guitar. Once this glue sets, you won't easily move anything so you better get stuff located right the first time.


With the back OSB in place, I cleaned of the right end table. I removed the ply sheeting which was used as the B-17 building table. This is going to be re-purposed as an elevated work surface for the workbench (future project). At first I thought I could use the right end table almost as it was with just changing one of the girders. I was wrong. I'm really rebuilding it completely. The only thing that's not changing is the width.


Here's the before picture.


 Right end 01


In order to get the dimensions correct I jerry-rigged the outer curved OSB by clamping to to the high line end, building a temporary support leg held with a c-clamp and laying the free end onto the right end framework. The plan's dimensions called for 29" from the end of the curved piece to the right hand leg. This leg is going to ultimately support the piano hinge for the swing-out section. I move the table rearward so it equaled this dimension. I then measured from the outer rear girder to the same leg set which gave me the length of a new girder that I need to make. The right-most girder was also replaced with a longer one. I also pushed out the leg spacing about 2 feet to make it a little more stable and facilitate getting underneath.


 Right end 02


I temporarily held everything together with a couple of bolts and lots of clamps and then it was time to quit. Tomorrow, I finish off the right end.


Images (3)
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 10
  • Right end 02
  • Right end 01

Worked on trains today too.


Right end is shaping up. Using the RR Track drawing that spells out the track elevations. It gives the elevation at the center of each piece of sectional track. My risers don't necessarily match up 1 for 1 to those track pieces so I had to interpolate the elevations which fell at other locations. Again, like the straight run, I set up a lower riser, an intermediate one and then used the string line to establish the position of all the rest.


Before I did this, I had to finish up the foundation work. I tied the right end girders at two points with right angles using attachment blocks and carriage bolts like I did with the angular girder way down at the other end. I had to extend one of the rear girders so it reached he right end's girder. I also attached a diagonal girder across the angle which gives me a strong point to attach as set of radial joists which support the curves.


Here's a shot that shows the radial joists. When I build this layout before, I didn't do it this way. I just ran joists diagonally across the corners and mounted the risers edge-wise to them. This was not very secure, but it avoided making more girders. This new method allows risers to be mounted conventionally to each.


 Right end 03


To be sure about how far out the elevated curve OSB had to hang out over the end structure, I broke out some actual railroad track. This was a major event since it was the first time this track saw the light of day in 3.5 years. I put together the corner curve and the little bit of straight section that runs across the back and—with the curve OSB temporarily clamped into position—aligned the track with the center of the OSB and moved the OSB outwards until the curve looked right. Here's the track.




After positioning the OSB curve I started to fasten the risers to the piece. In a couple of instances, I had mounted the risers too far in, so I removed them, repositioned them and re-fastened them.


With the top piece down tight, I started to attach the inner, base-elevated OSB curve. This piece was easier to position since all I had to do was make sure it was level with the existing parts of the layout. I mounted the end splice blocks onto these pieces before putting them on the layout since it's easier to screw them when face down, instead of underneath the layout facing up. I still have to do that for the mating piece, but that's only one instead of two. In this picture, it's just sitting there. I will be fastened in tomorrow.


 Right end 05


 Right end 04


I have one correction to make. As I mentioned a while ago, I had changed the way I was drawing the tangent line to draw the ends of the curved pieces. I thought I was doing it better, trying to draw a line from the imaginary center of the arc inscribing the curve, but I was wrong. I will make a small filler piece to fill this gap. I will have to do this a few more times since the curves at the other end also have the same errors. Not a big deal, just a bit of a pain.


 Right end 06


As you readers know by now, I don't just show you the good stuff, I show you all the stuff. The good, the bad, and the really ugly. 


I now know the reason to maybe NOT use OSB for model RR construction. It's an "instant splinter driver". If I just look at it the wrong way, I get a splinter somewhere. Whenever I handle it, I wear serious leather work gloves, but as soon as I take them off to pick up a screw or something. BAM! I get another (&#%_)%T splinter. It's no wonder... the entire board is made of nothing but splinters! It is very strong! It's also very rigid and will ultimately make a great layout once it's all covered with scenery so no one can ever touch it again.


Images (5)
  • Track
  • Right end 06
  • Right end 05
  • Right end 04
  • Right end 03

Today's work consisted of finishing up OSB installation on the right end. The down grade piece consisted of two pieces that I made from leftover scrap. I had originally wanted to put bridges on that part, but reconsidered and had to put in solid planks. Since the down grade angle was already well established, I was able to clamp a straight edge (my 48" level) on both the fixed end and the new unfixed part. I pushed up the end so the run was completely straight and clamped a riser at that point. With the line nice and straight, I removed the plank and put in all the intermediate risers. I also level them cross-wise before putting in the second screw.


 Rear Sub-roadbed 11


Right end 07


Both curves on this end come to a sudden, square end. This is the hinge end of the swing out section. I'm still not done all the engineering on this part, but I'm leaving it for last so I know exactly what's going to be happening at each fixed end. 


Rear Sub-roadbed 12


With this work out of the way, I went back and filled in that ugly gap I wrote about yesterday. When I use either my circular saw or saber saw, I use the layout as a sawhorse and clamp the pieces to be cut to the joists. I'm careful to evaluate the cutting path to ensure that I don't cut through something that would be bad it I cut it in half. I also trimmed up the corner near this point that was clearly mismatched. I still have to grind off the screw points that protrude here and there. It's very difficult to get screws that exactly match all of the different thicknesses of material I'm using.


Repair 1


Lastly, a couple of the screws that hold the cleats to the underside of the OSB were even too cramped to use the flexible extension shown at the bottom of this picture. So I resorted to the right-angle head that I bought when building this layout in Germany. It works! There's a little adjustable thumb rest that helps stabilize the head when using it. I've got to tell you, this DeWalt is the best cordless driver I've ever used. It's very heavy, but I'm getting used to it and building up forearm strength.


DeWalt Attachments


The flexible shaft actually makes putting in overhead screws easier since I don't have to support the weight of the driver over my head, but can hold in at chest level and used the flexible shaft in my left hand to drive the screws. This really works well when using star-drive screws which need very little inward pressure to develop lots of torque. With Phillips heads, you've got to press inwards heavily to keep the bit set in the screw.


At the end of today's session I started planning how I'm going to proceed. There are differences in the "as-built" versus the "as-drawn" structure and I'm not sure why. For example, I thought the right end would be 2'- 7" from the right end wall. It turns out to actually be 4'. This isn't bad since more space at that end is a benefit. But, I wonder what's the cause. I also noted that the middle crossing bridge pieces is about 9" too rightward. This doesn't make sense. If I mounted the wall pieces off by some amount, the distance to the wall would be less, not more. This makes me worried so I'm going to proceed cautiously. I think I'm going to start in the middle with the spider piece and work in both directions. That's a critical piece and ensuring that it's in the right place is important. I've got to actually work tomorrow so the next session will be on the weekend or Monday. 


Images (5)
  • Repair 1
  • DeWalt Attachments
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 12
  • Rear Sub-roadbed 11
  • Right end 07
Last edited by Trainman2001

Today, I started building the front side of the layout. First thing I did was take one of the large right front curved pieces...the outer one, clamp some stock on the end so it could hang onto the existing right-end piece, and then test to see where the curve actually intersects the front assembly. As I suspected, the entire front assembly was about 9" inches too far to the left (facing the layout). Since nothing was mounted on this assembly other than the spindly girders, I was able to slide the whole after rightward. I was also a little bit too forward so I moved it back towards the middle of the layout. This move was sufficient to put that bridge piece directly over the girder it was supposed to be over based on my drawings. So the drawings were correct.

I checked on more thing. I swung the curve in an arc that would be the same when the swing out portion is installed. It clears the column by about an inch. I was very pleased. Swinging this out will give nice access to the insides of the layout.

Name: Front Joists 01.jpg Views: 15 Size: 99.3 KB

With that out of the way, I checked all the dimensions and decided that the front side joists had to be 65" long. I decided to consume all of the old joists before cutting any more new 1X3s. 

Since none were even close to that length, I spliced two together in various ways to give me the correct length. I made some marks on the existing platform as a guide and just got to work. 

Name: Front Joists 02.jpg Views: 15 Size: 93.4 KB

Pretty soon they were all gone. 

Name: What's Left.jpg Views: 15 Size: 105.2 KB

I laid them out on the girders and did some final fitting. Then I went and checked the clearances to the other columns. As I foresaw, the clearance is a tight 19", but passable. Any closer and we'd have a problem. There's adequate access to the furnace as planned.

Name: Front Joists 03..jpg Views: 15 Size: 76.9 KB

Then the grandsons came over and I put Jack to work. I have that small power screw driver from Black and Decker and it's perfect for a kid. So Jack and I went to work clamping the joists, drilling the holes and driving the #8 X 1.5" SPAX Star-head screws. I clamped and drilled and Jack drove the screws home. He likes that and he got a chance to roll all over the place with the scooter and I didn't have to get up and down. We're on schedule to get trains running by Thanksgiving (or thereabouts).

I'm designing latching methods to hold the swing-out portion to the main layout. Here's a drawing showing two variations. I would greatly appreciated additional input. Clem uses a large case-type latch. Where did you get it?


Latch Design


Images (1)
  • Latch Design

Hello Trainman 2001

Hey your progress is great. I bought my latch at the local Do It Best hardware store, they are available in black or metal (silver). The black looks better.   I use the latch because it draws the two pieces together, I don't have to push on the table. In a operating session I just put Lichen over it. 

Clem K

 Hey Trainman 2001,


I just came across your thread on building your new layout.  I like that you're documenting your progress for others to watch.  After reading the entire thread I only have one question.  Why didn't you build a wall infront of the basement wall so you could insulate & sheetrock for warmth?  I like your idea about using Tyvek in the ceiling, I'll make sure to use your idea on my new train room.  Keep up the great work.



Thanks Chuck and Clem. Before I get into today's session, I'll answer your question. It was strictly a budgetary decision. I simply didn't want to spend the $$ to do construction in the basement. I couldn't have stopped just at that wall and would have done much of the rest and this would have been more than 10 grand. It would have delayed building the trains again by a year at least. The basement's dry and not too cold. It's actually colder in summer than winter since the air leaking from the ducts push some air-conditioned air into the basement. In the winter it's heated air which tempers the room nicely. If I wasn't down there all the time, I'd want to plug those leaks since it's not very efficient. 


I'll look for those clasps, Clem. I'm probably over-thinking this.


As to the build thread. I built an RC, B-17 (78" span, 1:16 scale) for a local RC pilot. I blogged the build on RC Apparently, great builders all over the world write detailed threads on the entire construction of these scale models. Some thread take years since some of the models are museum-level construction. I liked this and blogged my build. Then I did the same thing for my USS Missouri build on So it just seemed natural to do the same on OGRR's site. It helps me think through the project to document each session's progress, plus lets others learn from my techniques and mistakes.


Now to today's progress of which was substantial.


I finished putting all the joists on the front module. This included making some longer ones to span the widest part of the layout. At first I tried to make since pieces, but an 8-foot piece of 1X3 was not long enough to overhang properly on both ends. So I split the joists and had them overlap in the middle. I'm on the scooter the entire time doing this. I clamp and end, square it up, drill the pilot hole in the L-girder flange, put the screw in, then scoot across to the other end, clamp, drill and screw. The whole thing takes a little over a minute.


Spider panel 1


I clamped some scrap onto both ends of the bridge piece that carries rail across the middle of the layout to the "spider panel". I threw the spider panel onto the joists and aligning its mating end with the bridge piece. When positioned, I clamped a temporary risers to elevate the spider panel to a height of 43.25" off the floor which is the height of the OSB on the opposite side of the gulf. Finally, I clamped the bridge panel to the spider to stabilize it a bit. 


Spider panel 2.


With the position correct, I started clamping real risers to various joists that lie under this panel, each time bringing it up to 43-1/4". Usually a hit or two from my rubber-headed hammer nudges them to the correct height.


Spider panel 4


Once all the risers were clamped, the panel leveled and the height correct, I put one screw into each riser holding it to the joist and letting me take off the clamps. I removed the bridge piece and the spider panel setting it aside. With the risers now exposed, I use the head of a combination square which has a little level to level each head independently and then put in the second screw that holds everything in that position.


Spider panel


Before I removed the spider I marked the location of some strategic risers underneath so I could replace it in the same spot with having the re-clamp the bridge piece. I put the spider back on aligned on these marks and clamped it in a couple of places. I drove the 2" screws to hold the riser cleat to the OSB. Once all the screws were in it was solid and level. This piece will set the relationship of all the pieces on the front module as the layout construction expands out in both directions.


Spider panel 3


I'm not going to describe this process any more since it becomes repetitive. I detailed this one since this piece needed to be positioned in relationship to the bridge with set up the relationship between the front and the back modules.


Here's another process schematic shot showing how I'm doing. 


Progress Schematic 3


Images (6)
  • Spider panel
  • Spider panel 4
  • Spider panel 3
  • Spider panel 2.
  • Spider panel 1
  • Progress Schematic 3

Thanks Rich!


Clem, I'm looking for them, but so far haven't found the kind that you used. Give me a week and I'll take you up on the offer. 


Yesterday, I threw (literally) all of the OSB onto the joists to get an idea of how it all fits. Some of the panels look very warped. While there is some warp, it's exaggerated by some of the legs sticking up beyond the joists. Once the risers are in place they pull the panels down nicely.


Progress shot 10-3


As I noted way back in the beginning, so of my layout changes caused some poor panel fits, but I now had a panel permanently fastened in place which set up the relationship of all the others. While most was predicted by the plans, there was one surprise... the last piece on the right extended about 10" further out than it should be. So much that the right hand curve (the swing-out door curve) overlapped this panel by a bunch. I don't know where this error comes from since all the panels leading to this one were tightly butted up to each other. If I pushed the end panel back, I would push all of them 10" and put them out of alignment. So what to do? I'm going to actually lay down the track to that point and see how close the actual track follows the build plan. Once I see that I'll be able to decide if the track plan needs adjustment or simply hack off some of the OSB. I am reluctant to cut that OSB until I understand the impact of that decision.


On the other hand, some of the more predicted poor fits were easy to identify and fix. Here's an example of one such adjustment.


 Front Panels 01


The reason for these defects was a change I made in laying out the curved pieces. I changed the end cuts from a line that was parallel to the side of the layout to one that was radial to an imaginary center point of the circle of track it was inscribing. Unfortunately, this change wasn't made accurately and I missed changing both sides of the joint. So instead of a clean joint, I have some joints with some triangular spaces between them.


Here's the O-88 circle that involves the cross-over and the one of the reverse loops. I was concerned about making repairs to the joints that could change the diameter and cause a poor fit for the track. So I broke out the O-88 track and stuck them together  to see if they fit. They did.


Front Panels 03


Here was one of those joints that I trimmed to get the fit right.


Front Panels 02


Next step will to elevate all those pieces and put risers under them. For the smaller panels I can put the risers directly under the panels, but on the bigger panels which are quick heavy, I'll move them out of the way and put the risers in, then flop them back on. I'm still waiting for the roadbed. Once that arrives I'll start laying track.


Images (4)
  • Front Panels 03
  • Front Panels 02
  • Front Panels 01
  • Progress shot 10-3
Last edited by Trainman2001

Didn't have much time to work today and got one more sub-roadbed piece tied in, plus positioned another one. It was time to break out the "water-tube level'.


 Left end 01


Besides using the carpenter's level, I periodically take a measure with a tape from the floor to the top of the OSB. It's supposed to be 43-1/4". This is just a check since I have no idea how level the floor actually is. When I put this piece in I noticed that the floor-OSB measure was over 43-1/2". I don't want any errors to start stacking up since the layout is so big it could be a couple of inches off at the other end, so it was time to break out the water-tube level. I used this originally in the layout's German iteration. If you've never used one, it's a great way to capture a level reference point and replicate it over a large area.


It works on the principle that water in a curved tube will always seek the same level at each end. You fill the tube with water and make sure there's no entrained air. Hold the two ends together and bring them to the reference level point. Find a way to affix one end of the tube next to this reference point and use a sharpie to mark the water level in the free end of the tube.


Water Level 1


Carry the free end to the point you want to measure, making sure there are no kinks


Water Level 2


There's a little stopper you put in the free end so it won't spill when moving. At the working end, align the water level with the Sharpie reference mark and hold it up the piece you want to level. Use a clamp or tape to hold the tube there so you can clamp the riser at this location. The two points are now at the same point regardless of what the floor is doing. Make sure you remove the stopper before taking the measure since the water won't move with the stopper in.


Water Level 3


I won't have to use it everywhere, but will use it every so often just to make sure there's no systematic error creeping in. An easy way to fill the tube without air bubbles is to siphon the water into the tube. I filled the utility sink, put the tube in and laid the rest of the coil on the floor. Suck on the end of tube to get it going and just watch the tube fill up. When it reaches the end, you're done.


Here's an interesting before and after showing how all the old layouts have now been subsumed into the new one.








And here's the progress schematic pic for today.


Progress Schematic 4


Little by little, OSB panel by OSB it's starting to fill in.


Images (7)
  • Progress Schematic 4
  • Water Level 3
  • Water Level 2
  • Water Level 1
  • Left end 01
  • After
  • Before

I've been working on the railroad almost the entire week and have made significant progress on the benchwork. I've have six pieces of conventional benchwork left to install with the rest being the swing-out portion and the area for the bridges. I've got a lot of pictures today.


After I measured and laid down the left end elevated curve (actually its a grade that returns to base level) I was getting suspicious that all was not right. So I clamped up some pieces to better visualize what was happening and here's what I saw.


 Bridge end before


You can clearly see that both ends leading up to the gorge do not meet. I'm not sure why since I measured from the center of the inside circle to the center of the outside and used this dimension to position the outer curve relative to the rest of the installed road bed. So I removed all the screws holding the OSB to the risers and pulled the whole curve assembly out about five inches. I basically just sighted over the corner and stopped pulling when they lined up. It took less than a half hour to make the adjustment.


Here's the after picture. While it's still not perfect, I can work with it.


 Bridge end after


With that fixed, I glued filler pieces into the v-shaped gaps that showed up as I "bent" the curved piece to conform to the new pattern needed for the bridges; which BTW have been ordered and are in transit. They're kits by Plastruct and look pretty real. I may have to shorten their 30 inch length since I still don't have enough straight track leading into the bridges. My long steam engines have some significant overhang on the outside of corners and they may hit the bridge. Being kits of a bunch of structural steel replicas, I may invert the bridges and make a truss deck bridge. With all the structure under the tracks, the engines won't have anything to hit. I will have to make the gorge deep enough to give realistic clearance under the bridge.


Working around the curve, I tackled the big piece that I laid out backwards. It required a "radical" fix, squaring up the angular end that was backwards, and pulling in a filler piece that matched up to both pieces.


 Right end patch


And here's the splice plates underneath that stiffen up the whole assembly.


 Left end large fix 3


I'm using ply and OSB for splice plates instead of the Simpson Strong-tie plates, partly because I have too many screws sticking through that I need to grind off when I use the thin sheet metal plates. They're also stiffer. I'm making sure that I put the splice plates on each piece before it's onto the risers. It's easier to put them on at least one side when I can flip the OSB upside down and work standing up. Once the piece is one, I still have to put the screws into the other half working over my head, but it's only one side.


I then moved on from sheet to sheet. I'm now having to handle some pieces that are almost a half sheet of OSB and they're heavy; too heavy to push up in the air with a riser in my left hand and a quick clamp in my right. I needed a tool to help me out. This morning I realized I could make a simple jig that would support the sheet at the proper height making it easier to fit the remaining risers underneath. Remember; one end is already resting on the splice plates of the previously installed OSB panel, so I just have to raise the other end under it's level. The sheets are bowed in both directions, so I put the level between the high spots and push a riser into the middle until there's no gap under the middle of the level. Here's the jig.


 Setup Jig


I just lift the sheet, slide the jig under it and supported across a joist. It works. It greatly sped up the installation of the big pieces with less wear and tear on me. I don't place all the risers under the sheet. I Just install one at each joist with one screw. I then take the OSB off, level the riser cleat and put the 2nd screw in to fix it. Then I clamp the level to the top of the installed risers and clamp the other riser on the joist so it's pressing up against the level. I fasten this one with one screw also, level that cleat and then put in the second screw. This insures that all the risers are dead flat and at base reference. When I put the OSB back on top and start screwing the cleats to the OSB from underneath, it usually pulls out all of the warp and the sheet is dead flat. Neat!


Here's what it looks like when the OSB is pulled off and all the risers are in place.


 Riser Forrest


Here's the progress shot showing the sheet that was just being installed in the above picture.


 Progress Schematic 8


The next piece went in cleanly. The piece after that needed a little trimming to align perfectly to its neighbor. Here's a shot showing the edge that I needed to trim with the saber saw. It's getting easier to saw stuff since I have a lot of study tables all over the place to clamp a work piece to use the saber or circular saw. Speaking of saws, I think something's going wrong with my Craftsman Power Miter saw. After cutting a lot of pieces in succession, the auto-brake is not working or working intermittently. It just started doing this. It's not to scary since the saw has an effective blade guard, but I have to be careful when bringing the saw down to align another cut.


I've photoshopped this picture to highlight the area.


 Joint repair


And here's the schematic showing where we are now.


 Progress Schematic 9


The gray OSB panels are added since the original design. When I added the run-through rail yard, I needed to put some wood into the gap. I'm also adding some rectangular OSB to fill in what would be just open joists. There are buildings and structures that are going into these spaces. All of the OSB will be done by the end of the month. We're taking a trip back East and my wife and I going to York. I used to attend them religiously even when I was living in Germany, I got the York show. Since we moved to Louisville, it became a bigger deal to get there. This will be my first visit in 3 years. Unfortunately, I've dropped so much cash on the rebuild so far that I may not be able to buy anything.


One thing that's sure when you almost double the square footage of a layout... it takes tons of risers and cleats. I've completely consumed all the risers from the earlier versions and now in production making new ones. Here's what that looks like.


Risers-stinking risers


I thought I had enough 1X3 stock to make the riser leg. I had four 8 foot lengths of furring strips that I've had for years. However it is warped on it's length, and very dried out. When I screwed the cleat into it, it split in half. I chucked the whole lot of it and am using the fancy, primed finger-jointed stock, which I am now out of. I'll need some for the bracing on the bridge end and the swing-out so I'll probably get another 6 pieces. Having a drill press is an essential tool in this project.


The target is still to get trains running by Thanksgiving when my son and his family come to visit. My oldest granddaughter, Anna, is tech savvy and the trains.










Images (10)
  • Left end large fix 3
  • Right end patch
  • Progress Schematic 9
  • Joint repair
  • Riser Forrest
  • Setup Jig
  • Bridge end before
  • Bridge end after
  • Progress Schematic 8
  • Risers-stinking risers

Today's session involved some young helpers. My grandsons actually helped. Jack (8) did some fastening of splice plates using the small B&D cordless driver, and Alex (11) did some serious work using the big DeWalt. He put in all of the underneath screws holding on three panels. We actually got more done with the two of us. I was pleasantly surprised. He really wanted to get to work on the railroad and today we were able to.


Here's a progress schematic of project status. Notice there are only a few pieces left.


 Progress Schematic 10.


I need to hit Home Depot tomorrow for some more lumber (1 X 4, 1 X 3, and 1 X 2); not much just a few pieces. If I didn't have to scrap those old furring strips, I would have been fine. Alex also drilled splice plates and assembled a bunch of risers. I did a count today and I have 12 more, but need 30, so I have to build 18 more. There could even be more needed since I don't know how many are going to be consumed on the swing-gate or the bridge end. I haven't done a final tally, but I'd bet that there are 100 plus risers holding up this system.


 Progress shot 19


Here're some shots from today's work. Everything is nice and level. There is some slight height differences between some pieces of OSB, but I think I'm just going to fair them in with the belt sander. The kids really like the progress so far, and Alex is constantly commenting on how much bigger it is than he thought it would be. Funny... my wife keeps saying the same thing. The nice thing about the size is there will lots of clear space around the tracks so it won't feel all cluttered.


 Center front 2


Center front 1


In the above pic you can clearly see the splice plates waiting for the next adjacent piece to be installed. I'm making them out of OSB now since it's very stiff in short sections like this, and I've got lots of scraps to consume. I used 6, 1-1/4", #9 Grip Tite star-drive, Deck Screws on each side of the plate. They're not going anywhere, ever!


It's getting harder to see progress in these overview pics since it's all taking place at the other end. I've been building a PowerPoint presentation showing the time-lapse evolution of the layout. It's pretty neat, although, my positioning and lens settings varied slightly between some of them. I'll share it with those interested when the layout is further along (read... having some track with trains on it).


I've got to buy more screws today! While the SPAX and GripTite screws are great, they aren't cheap and I'm going through a boat load of them.


Images (4)
  • Progress Schematic 10.
  • Progress shot 19
  • Center front 2
  • Center front 1

We got back from our 11 day trip back East on Sunday. We drove the entire trip in one gulp (11.5 hours) to stay ahead of Superstorm Sandy. It was a good decision since West Virginia, where we would have stopped for the night was experiencing some pretty weird weather themselves. Finally got back to building the layout today with the piecing together of various sizes of scrap to fill in the final areas of the main platform.


The reason for this "jigsaw puzzle construction" was this. I originally didn't have any OSB on the section near the swing-out door. After I was designing the place for the town, I realized that all that real estate needed to be paved over. But I didn't have any large pieces of OSB left so I used up some of the saved scrap and pieced it together.


Before doing that I had to make a fix. The last big piece I put on didn't have enough risers/cleats under it and it was pretty badly bowed in both length and width. The bow was down in the center as seen in this not-so-good picture.


[Warp 1


It's not so easy to see in the picture, but the dip was about 3/16" in the center. I tried to put additional risers in the middle and push them up to remove the bow, but it didn't work. At first I said, "what difference does it really make?", and then my perfectionism kicked in and I decided to make a permanent fix. I figured it would be easier to pull the bow down instead of trying to push it up. So I removed a zillion screws and removed the sheet. I then went back and added a full set of risers in the center of the sheet and made sure they were dead level. I turned the sheet upside down so the bow was up, and fastened it all down again. The result: Bow is gone and sheet in dead flat in both directions.


warp 2


With that out of the way, I started piecing together the "jig saw" which is what I'm calling the multi-piece assembly of scrap to make a large flat section. I fastened the various pieces together using splice plates, and then set up the riser field. Here's the splice plates holding a couple of pieces together.


Jig saw 1


And here're the risers in place


Jig saw 3


Here's all the pieces laid in place.


Jig saw 2


Only one problem... it seems that I've been getting some height stack up. The new pieces are somehow 1/4" higher than the big piece they're abutting to. While it seems like a simple thing to just lower the risers a quarter inch, but the last piece next to the jig saw is leveled perfectly with them AND the pieces down the front side. If I lower the jig saw risers, they won't be level with the front panels. So... I'm not sure what I'm going to do yet.


So here's the map showing where I am now.


Progress Schematic 11


It's quickly becoming the time to construct the swing-out gate. I've got the structural designs pretty close and I'm still working on the latching scheme. I bought a bale type case latch which should work. So, for the moment, I won't need to exercise Clem's offer. Clem's latch is much more robust than the one I bought, so it may still be needed.


I'm also designing the interlocking circuit so the power is shut off when the gate is opened. Dale's many relay posts have been very helpful! My grandson suggested tying the microswitch directly to the latch bale. This way as soon as the latch is moved, the power would shut off, even before the gate started to move. I believe I can do this. I've been researching some relay schemes with or without timing circuits so the trains would activate with some delay to let you get away from the gate. I'm also researching whether to use digital control (or not). I've read the manual and have decided I am going ahead with it. It will require using twisted pair 14 gauge wire for the best signal propagation.


Images (6)
  • Progress Schematic 11
  • Jig saw 3
  • Jig saw 2
  • Jig saw 1
  • warp 2
  • Warp 1

That certainly sounds easier. I've got all of the parts to put the interlock together so I'm going to give it a try. 


I finished fastening all the pieces of the Jigsaw. I had to raise the panel next to it so they met correctly. I then turned my attention to making the swing-out gate. I did some re-design to make it deeper. It came to me that scenery could be installed on the gate so the space could be used effectively. Here's the final plan. When opened it gives almost two feet of clearance to access the inner parts of the layout.


New Door


Two fixed casters are shown. I'm also installing a smaller caster under the yellow piece to support the other end of the hinge line. I didn't want to have any torque stress on the piano hinge. The fixed hinges will be mounted on the radius line from the hinge so there will be no scuffing when the door is opened. Here's a sketch showing some more construction details.

New Gate


For the sake of brevity and time, I didn't add any thickness to the members, but I wanted to understand the geometry. Here you can see the small fixed wheel on the hinge side. Just before I finished this afternoon I decided to check the level between the far right end on the curve and the platform that I just finished on the other side of the gap. As I feared, there had been some "level creep" so the right end which was completed months ago, was about 1/2" lower than the part I just finished. Rather than mess with a zillion risers, I'm going to adjust the leveling screws on the bottom of the legs. A 1/4" down on the left side and a 1/4" up on the right. I can change the value over a broad area so there won't be any grade inserted in what should be level track.


I used a temporary fence and the circular saw and sliced of the edge of the new OSB so it was all even AND on the same line as the structure below it. Then I fastened a 1 X 4 below that will act as a "door jam". I then built the first part of the gate itself, the front L-girder beam. Each piece was mitered at 22.5º and held together with wide Simpson Strong-tie splice plates on both sides. I finally bought screws that won't poke through to the other side. Lowe's had a good selection of Lath Screws which work nicely with Simpson plates. I dropped a line directly down from the jam area on the left and the hinge point on the right and made marks on the floor. I then measured and cut leftover old L-girder material for the beam. The back beam is a single piece and won't need any splice plates.


swing gate 1


The last thing I did today was to start working on the hinge post. The problem with L-girder (if there are any) is that the structural members are few and inset from the edges so I had to create a hinge point. My first attempt wasn't good enough. I want the post to fall as close to the corner of the roadbed as possible. My first attempt used the wrong thickness of wood to space the post in the fore and aft direction. I also neglected to leave space for the movable part to butt up against the post so the hinge can be assembled.


swing gate 2


I removed this first attempt, used the correct sized packing pieces and realigned the mounting holes so there's a space for the mating part to the hinge. This space may still be too small. I find out next work session.

swing gate 3


The broom will not be part of the final assembly. I'm going to add a sway brace running 45º back from the hinge post to the girder behind it. This should add some rigidity. If not, I'll have to add some more boxing on the other side of the post.






Images (5)
  • New Door
  • New Gate
  • swing gate 1
  • swing gate 3
  • swing gate 2

Good evening.... That hinge post has to be rigid. the sway brace will help. Maybe you can run a couple of 1x4s across the width of the table on the hinge end, tie all three legs together. kinda like making those short pieces of OSB longer. You might have to do that on the other side of the table legs.The extra wheel isn't really needed. I made my swinging gate table top first to make sure it was the right size, held in place with temporary legs and the 2x4 rest's on each end of the unmovable tables, then but the running gear and hinges on. Remember the latch has to pull the pieces together if you push the gate closed you could move the table ends. I have shelfs under my table. On the hinge side and the latch side I store heavy stuff so the ends of the table don't move should I bump into it. The gate I keep has light as possible. Take another look at my photo's. I can send you more pictures of any part you need more detail on




that's a good suggestion. I woke up this morning thinking about applying your ideas and working on the assembly sequence. I too am planning on putting the top pieces in place temporarily and working downward. I'm not working today on the layout which is a deal made with my wife that I don't spend nice weekend days in the "cave". But I'll will have the swing door built by next weekend.

Based on Clem's feedback I revised the hinge post...again. This time I ran the supports across the entire face of the legs. I then ran a diagonal from the back. Between these two changes, the hinge post is quite rigid and I think it will work okay. It's also nicely in line with the corner of the outer OSB end point. I wanted the hinge point to start exactly there since I know everything clears the lally column. The spacers under the horizontal braces are there to pack it out to the same point as the ends of the OSB.


 swing gate 4.


Here's the diagonal brace. As before, I like to fasten these kinds of assemblies to cross-grain wood, not end grain so I added the block under the brace to capture the screws properly. If this brace isn't sufficient, I can add another one deeper down the leg. It will join at a funny angle on both ends so I would fasten it with Simpson Strong-tie straps bent to conform to the various angles.


 swing gate 5


With the hinge post in place I was able to get back to building the upper framework. The piece I cut yesterday on the left side was too short so I to cut another one. Of course I had to make the 22.5º miter again. And of course if there a least four ways to cut the miter either in the wrong direction or the wrong end, I made three of them. I was still using left-over L-girder from the older layouts and didn't want to use new stock which I'm saving for building the structure under all the bridges.


 swing gate 6


I going to finish the framework, position and clamp it in position and then build downwards towards the wheel assemblies. Won't be able to work tomorrow or Tuesday, but may get some work in on Wednesday. My consulting "semi-retirement" just got busier with the addition of another project. I'm finishing up one and starting another. It helps the cash flow, big time, but more "real" work time means less train building time.


I tried adjusting the 1/2" difference between the two sections of the layout, but was unable to shorten the leveling screws on the high end very much since they were already near the end of the inner travel. I should have paid attention to their position when I was initialing putting the legs into position, but it was a detail that I missed. I did raise the low end a bit by lengthening their screws, but didn't want to add too much to that side since it would "unlevel" this part of the layout. It's not going to affect the grade portion since it's already unlevel. The ground level portion will require some adjustment. 




Images (3)
  • swing gate 6
  • swing gate 5
  • swing gate 4.

Believe or not, I actually had a little over an hour today to do some work between a dentist appointment (hooray...not cavities again) and a work related meeting. I finished the top works frame for the swing-gate and reinforced all the joints with double Simpson splice plates. Then I put the whole thing into position and leveled it. I added a temporary leg in the front and made measurements for the middle support that's going to have the casters. I cut the OSB plank that's going to hold the wheels and support the legs.