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@RSJB18 posted:

Welcome to the forum Tall J. Looks like you've made a good start. The additional bracing on the modules might be a bit of belts and suspenders but it's your RR your Rules. Just remember to drill holes for the wiring before putting the tops on. You will glad you did when you are under the table doing the wiring.


Yes Justin, the alternative to the holes in the cross braces is to fasten plastic wire clamps to each cross member and run wires through them.  I have already ran more wires than I ever did on a layout and, next time I think I'll go with the holes drilled in the wood like Bob suggested.  Regardless which way you go, plan for more wires than you would think you will need - lots of holes or clamps. 

Time for a post-holiday update!

The benchwork is officially wrapped up! The last pieces of Homasote were just attached.  I had a bit of an issue making sure its level since the basement floor was unsurprisingly un-level.  But its done!  I missed my goal of getting trains running by the first of the year, but I'm ok with that.  Since we're officially in the throws of winter, I think I'll be progressing pretty quick otherwise.

I built everything in the modules and tied it together with 1/2in lag bolts.  I put levelers on the legs but skipped the castors for now.  I also put in wire passthroughs in all of the 2x4s.  I'm going to take Mark's approach and use the plastic wire holders under it as well.

Also, shout out to Mark Boyce and Calvin on the deals on Fastrack!  I officially have all of the track necessary for the outer loop and a good bit of it for the inner loop.  I think I'm almost down to just the switches now.

Now the fun begins!


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Justin, the benchwork looks great!  That is good you drilled wire pass-through holes in the cross members.  I did not, and it meant I had to put in up to 3 plastic wire holders in some places.  However, they are all at the very front of the cross members making wire pulling fairly easy sitting on my roll around stool in the aisle.  I'm glad you got all the Fastrak you needed.  Buying O gauge track all new for even a modest sized layout can run into a lot of money.

Looks great. I'm interested in the same track plan for future expansion. Starting with a 4x8 now, but could see going to a longer setup like this in the future. Or one of Ken's L-shape designs, also on the table for future expansion. But not until I get my basement water under control - normally dry, but a very heavy rain (typically once a year type event) will see some water seep in through the floor/wall joints. My basement is close to 1,500 sqft, and I'm getting quotes around $9,000 to install interior french drain with two sumps around the entire perimeter.

@MarkVB posted:

I am also following this with interest. My bench work is remarkably similar at 6x16 that narrows to 4 ft in the center. Different track and switches but I am still learning a lot from this thread.


Do you squeeze O-72 into the ends? I like the idea of an O-72 dog bone shape if space allows...or if not, at least getting out to beyond O-54 which accommodates a lot of scale equipment.

@VJandP posted:

Great work! This looks awesome. I’m in a similar scenario so will be following your updates.   Question… how tall is the bench?   Looks like the track will be around 40” from the floor?

Not to takeover another thread, but since we are following each other as well, I used 36" legs which makes my table height 37". Which actually feels like a comfortable height for me, since I'm not terribly tall, but I could see going 4-6" higher than that, as well, depending on one's height and reach, or preferred viewing angle.

Thanks Everyone!  I'm still kind of in shock its up and ready for track.  I do have a few things I failed to mention in my original post.  I have an electrician coming tomorrow to get all of the outlets installed in the basement.  Right, now, the entire thing only has 2 outlets, not including our dryer outlet. My wife's home office, which is right next to the layout gets its power from a power strip in an extension cord.  So, we're putting in 9 new outlets throughout the basement and 2 on the exterior of our house.  I'm also going to install some track lights by the layout over the next few weeks.

One thing I'd love to get input on is the right amount of grade to raise the back loop.  Right now, I'm thinking to start the grade about halfway through the curve, and then have it hit the level I want it at (about 4-6 inches) at about the 4-5 linear foot mark. I need to do some math to get the grade right, but my goal is to add in the Lionel Truss bridge in the back for some dynamic site lines and a stream area. Any thoughts on it are welcome!

@VJandP The legs are 36in.  With the levelers and the table top height, its probably close to 38-39 in or so.  I can measure it next time I'm downstairs.  I'm about 6'6 and can easily reach the back of the table. I didn't want something too low that my back will hurt every time I lean over to do something, or something too high.  After messaging a few folks on IG, I settled on 36in.  Plus I can add a second level off to the left hand side because...thats right, I left some room for expansion.

@MarkVB  Happy to have you aboard this journey! I may do some tweaking here and there, but hopefully I'm not cutting any more wood....for at least a few months.  haha

@GregK Ken has some absolutely amazing layout templates.  I studied a lot of his before I finally went with this one.  Had I used a different area, I probably would've done his version of the 1957 Lionel Catalog layout. I do hear you about waterproofing.  We're in the midst of getting estimates for our house.  We only have 1 wall that has a problem right now, but we don't have any sump pumps.  I think we'll take a phased approach to installing it.  I'm hoping extending the gutters and installing rain barrels help abate the issues.

I've hit my goal! I wanted to get a loop of track down and test the Fastrack before MLK weekend. Success! I put the outer loop up, minus the switches (still need to order those) and hooked a few leads up to an MTH terminal block. To test it, I used a Lionel NH ALCO set that I saved up, which seemed for ever, to get back when I was a kid. The passenger cars were a Christmas gift from my dad that year too. It probably hasn't been on the rails in 20-25 years. One side note: when I put the full vista dome car on, the car itself buzzes and nothing else gets power. I'm going to take it apart and see whats going on it.

Here are a few pics and a video.


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Hey everyone! Happy Sunday!

I thought it would be a good day for an update! I've been working on thinking through what the grade would be and how to build it.  After thinking of a million different ways, I realized, go the P-A-Y route instead of the DIY route and order the Woodland Scenics riser kit.  Voila! I ordered the 4% grade risers, and then 4in platform risers.  I haven't glued anything down yet as I'm still mulling over my next question and acquiring track.

I'm debating on putting. 1in layer of foam down on top of the homasote for scenery purposes.  I know as far as cons, its harder to get the track to screw in and tie in. I think the foam could be good for cutting out inlays where the buildings will go and give me some flexibility in cutting in a river/stream that will run from the back of the layout down towards the front.  What is everyone's thought on that? I keep going back and forth and would love some insights.

I've also tested out the majority of the engines I have at my house so far, and they can all transverse it.  Here are some pictures and a quick video!


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Justin, the layout looks great as you tested it out before fastening things down.  I used the 4% risers and found that I had to taper the top of the grade and shim the bottoms for gradual transitions for my small steam engines to handle it,  The pilots would touch the rails at the bottom the grades causing a short circuit, and the pilot wheels would lift off the rails at the top of the grades causing derailments.  Initially I didn't have any trouble with my 4 axel diesels.  My track that is at the lowest level is right on the Homasote.  I'm just cutting out sections of Homasote for below grade scenery.  Then I am stacking Styrofoam up to fill in scenery above the lowest level of track.

Your video says it is private.  You can probably see it, but need to make it public for us to see.

@Tall J posted:

...I'm debating on putting. 1in layer of foam down on top of the homasote for scenery purposes.  I know as far as cons, its harder to get the track to screw in and tie in. I think the foam could be good for cutting out inlays where the buildings will go and give me some flexibility in cutting in a river/stream that will run from the back of the layout down towards the front.  What is everyone's thought on that? I keep going back and forth and would love some insights....

Putting foam over the homasote on the entire layout would defeat the purpose of using homasote in the first place - sound deadening and screw holding.  Keeping track solidly in place on foam requires glue, which will add work if/when you want to reuse the track. 

Depending on how the underlying framework was built, you may be able to cut openings for a river.  You can also add foam on top of the homasote in selected areas to build up the scenery.  You can "plant" buildings by adding plaster/joint compound/etc. around the bases.

Hey Everyone! How about a midweek update.

I've got some good

I've got some bad

And some questions

First, the good. Things have progressed really quickly around here.  I officially have 99% of all of the track that I need (still deciding if I'm going to add 1 more switch and 1 more siding) and was able to complete both loops and can officially trains on both. A big shout out to the forum members that sold me track and to Star Hobbies in Annapolis, MD, Mario's Trains, and Engine House Hobbies where I was able to get the last bits of my track.  Here are a few pics of the progress getting everything together. I've been running my MTH Railking GG1 beer train set, and have found a few more reefers while I've been inventorying everything. Again, all of this is currently temporary while I was mocking it up.  More to come on that in the "bad" section.

So, now onto the bad.  My wife an I pulled the trigger to get waterproofing done in our basement. Initially, it was going to be done in a phased approach, but we're moving forward with getting the whole basement done. What this means, is I'm going to have to take the layout down during construction. That shouldn't be too bad considering its built modularly and nothing is nailed down or permanently wired. The worse part is this:

We're going to finish the basement, so I need change the configuration of the layout into an L and tuck it back into the corner that I showed back in the beginning of this epic. I had this in mind when I started down this path. In the Track layout book there is a corner variation for this layout. I've been working on trying to get this figured out, but am stumped on the dimensions for the back corner. @Ken-Oscale Would you be able to give some details on the corner variation? I've tried to build it out in Railmodeller Pro, but haven't had any luck. It looks like its only a 2x2 section which would work PERFECTLY, but if its not, I may have to try to get it to that.

Looking on the brightside here, if the dimensions DO work out, I have a really cool idea for a trolley line that would go through a residential area with two long spur sidings off of the lower left corner *fingers crossed*.

As far as my questions go, I'm planning on using DCS (when I find / buy a system). I've heard / read about the star wiring pattern that gives the best signal. I'm planning on doing drops ever 3-4 feet on the Fastrack (soldered into the connectors), but was back and forth between that and running a bus wire. Is there any draw back of using the bus with DCS or not?

Thanks for reading! Hopefully I'll have more updates soon!


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Justin, Nice looking work as you fit everything together temporarily.  Well, now is the time to get all the waterproofing done and finishing the basement to what you want for the rest of the time you are in the house.  I run DCS and used star wiring.  I have read here that some folks have used bus wiring and didn't have trouble, but others did have trouble and had to rewire their layout.  I wouldn't want to risk that.

Good luck Justin. The waterproofing is the way to go. I am doing ours in a few months. Until then it’s just a 4x8 for me. Probably expanding after that to a larger temporary layout once I know I won’t have water in the basement again. Then in 1-2 years finishing a large portion of the basement. Then construction on the permanent layout will begin. I pitched a 22x17 L or a 22x13 U to my wife with a track plan similar to @Chris1985 (RBPTrains) and I was met with… let’s just say some resistance. But I’ll get it. 😁

@Mark Boyce Thanks! I've gone back and forth so much, but I feel like I should probably go star pattern. I also have two MTH terminal blocks so I guess it makes sense to do it anyway.

@GregK I'm actually pretty excited for the waterproofing. Its expensive as all get out, but its going to be the base we need to finish the space. They're going to take off all of the old paint, put in the internal french drain, 2 sump pumps, fix the one weak spot, and cover the walls with a protective vapor barrier.  The nice thing is, once we get it all finished and if the layout can go into the corner, we're going to put in a hang out space next to it, so it'll become more a center piece of the room.

Long time since an update and no time like the present!

A lot has happened since the last update.  Sadly, the layout is fully put away right now. Track is stored in tubs, and the tables are still apart., but we have a dry basement! Waterproofing is a super intensive project. We lived with an open trench for over a week while waiting on a county inspector to come before the contractor could seal everything up.  Here are a few pictures of the project.  Essentially, they cut out 20in from the wall, buried an interior french drain in the channel, installed two battery backed up sump pumps, vapor board, and a full vapor barrier wrap of the basement walls. The downside, we're still cleaning / dusting the basement. . Here are some pictures of the project.

The upside is its given us a lot more clarity of what we want to do to the basement. Our plan is that we're going to finish the basement ourselves starting this fall and winter.  If all goes according to plan, we'll only have to sub out electrical. Now, you're probably wondering how does the layout play into this. Originally, I was going to build my layout in this little semi-finished room in our basement (11.5 x 14). We decided that it would be best suited to be her office. Now with the basement finishing in play, and her going into the office 3 days a week, that room is going to be designated as the train room! In the next few days, I'm going to move the modules into that space and plan out building out a new module. I included a picture of the corner: I'm using 060 and 048 curves to make it work. If my measurements are correct, it'll add a nice space for some dynamic scenery in that area. It also gives me an idea for a uniquely western PA module off the curved section at the bottom.  More to come on that once I get everything else in place

Oh! And how about some train pics to keep this on topic!


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Well worth it Justin. Mine are going in the end of June. Going to be a big mess and a ton of work prepping the basement. Started putting my trains away as well. Tho life and work have been priorities so I’m off the train bandwagon for a little while. Maybe pre-orders will rekindle me later this year. At least the basement will be dry by then too.

Good luck with the rest of the project. I like the L. That’s basically a L variant of the initial plan right?

@Mark Boyce posted:

Justin, I'm sorry you had to get the interior French drains put in.  My mother-in-law had to get that done a number of years ago.  Corners had been cut when the place was built, and the homeowner had to pay the price a few years later.  Your layout plan looks good.  I'll look forward to seeing your progress when the time comes.

Thanks Mark! I actually am happy we invested this money.  I grew up in a house that always had a leak running through the basement and it completely unusable outside of a deep freezer, laundry, and a shower stall. I'm happy with the results so far.  We got about 2 inches of rain over the weekend, and the sump pumps did their job.  Our dehumidifier is also running a lot less (only emptying it a few times a week vs almost once every other day) and is keeping a constant humidity between 50-60. On the layout, I'm hoping to get the modules into the room and mocked up in the next few weeks so I can work on it during any rain spells. Hopefully my other project doesn't eat up too much time either

@GregK posted:

Well worth it Justin. Mine are going in the end of June. Going to be a big mess and a ton of work prepping the basement. Started putting my trains away as well. Tho life and work have been priorities so I’m off the train bandwagon for a little while. Maybe pre-orders will rekindle me later this year. At least the basement will be dry by then too.

Good luck with the rest of the project. I like the L. That’s basically a L variant of the initial plan right?

Fully agree! Good luck on your project. My biggest piece of advice, get as much out of the basement as you can before it starts.  It'll be a dusty mess afterwards. And take the time to do some super thorough cleaning.

Thanks! It's just the L variant. Luckily, this new room fits it MUCH better than me trying to squeeze it in the other space.

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