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I must have done something wrong when I built my last layout. It was built using 1/4 luan and 1x2s spaced every 12" topped with Homasote  with everything glues and screwed using Titebond and drywall screws. With support around the edges and a couple girders running down the center it could more than support my weight while I walked/worked on it and it had a 60" width . I did it this way to make it easier to disassemble and transport it when it came time to move and it worked out great. I was able to build and move a 5 1/2 x 10 1/2 foot 3 level layout by myself.

You can see some of the frame construction from these pics take during its disassembly a couple years ago. The main base was traditional 2x4 and 1/2 OSB but I realized if the rest were built like that it would get real heavy, real tall, REAL QUICK! So I came up with this construction technique and for some reason it worked out well for me, your results may vary!



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Last edited by baltimoretrainworks

Everyone has their own opinion and what works for one may not for another. For me my vintage prewar table is 7 x 10. The frame is 2x4 construction on 2 foot centers. The top is sanded 1/2” plywood, maybe 5 or 7 ply. My legs are double 2x4s braced and on rollers. I can easily roll this out to gain access to the back side and to my display shelves. I’m not having any dance party’s on the table but have been on it without any issues. Its plenty solid.



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Last edited by Rich Wiemann
@Merlin posted:

I live in a split level and only have half a basement. My wife said the biggest layout I could put down is a 5x9. I’m hoping 060 fastrack will fit the curve on 5 feet. My problem is where do I get a piece of 5x9 3/4 plywood at? Does anybody know where I could find that size? It would be truly helpful as I went to several lumber yards and didn’t have any interest in helping me with one sheet of plywood. I live in NJ and can drive a long way to pick it up. Thanks

This may be a long shot or not , but check out your local neighborhood for sale posts . an old pingpong table is  the size you are looking for . I actually have one , 5x9x 3/4 heavy as **** but plenty sturdy  that I have used as a platform .  Pingpong may be a thing of the past now but this post may steer you in the right direction .  Good luck . 

If you are building a lightweight layout (i.e. modules) 1/4 Luan can work as long as there are sufficient joists.  My 2 ft x 4 ft modules use 1x2 joists for 24" spans on 16" centers.  .  On larger modules I may use 1x3 joists.  The module surface remains flat and supports the trains on top, but won't support my weight.  For larger tables, I go to 15/32 ply for 4 ft x 4 ft tables with no joists - just a frame made with 2x4s under the edges.  That size of table is pretty much at my weight limit for moving at the end of a show.  I regularly walk on these 4x4 tables during setup.  I have built 3 ft x 6 ft modules from 1-1/2" foam board with the edges framed with 1x3s ... and these are still in use after 25 years.  Bottom line is you can build strong and rigid tables out of light weight (quality) materials and good technique.

A key factor is material quality.  What normally passes as softwood plywood in the big box stores does not normally qualify.  Baltic Birch and domestic Birch hardwood ply is a good alternative.  I haven't see any Luan in recent years that matches what I bought years ago, but I found that two layers of 5mm underlayment ply (currently available) glued together makes a rigid 2 ft x 4 ft table surface for modules.

The O.P. was looking for a piece of 5x9 ply.  I cringe when I think of the handling problems - it would take 2 people and a truck to get it home in one piece, let alone getting it into a basement.  Far better to make three 5x3 tables. (or six 32" x 36" tables that would barely fit O-60 track).

No offense....but 1/4" luan is one of the worst recommendations you can make for a table top....even if it worked out in your particular instance.

FWIW:  note how the above and the 3/8" plywood previously mentioned were combined with Homasote.  1/2" Baltic Birch needs no additional subsurface or substrate.

Over 20 years now, never had an issue on all the portable modules.

Last edited by SIRT

No offense....but 1/4" luan is one of the worst recommendations you can make for a table top....even if it worked out in your particular instance.

@SIRT posted:

Over 20 years now, never had an issue on all the portable modules.

Mine held well for almost 20 years, walked on it extensively during the construction at my mother in laws house after which I dismantled it and took it over my dads where it again went thru several of us walking on it setting it back up where it remained for a couple years until it was taken down again and transported to where I live now and went thru the entire process for a third time along with various reasons for walking on it such as maintenance or to redo a scene. Never once did it groan, creak or crack under any load, warp or twist or begin to come apart despite my early fears it might, in fact after a while I treated it no different than any other layout I have built using more robust construction you could park a car on!  I've been watching a good number of maker YouTube videos and all the truly good ones don't shy away from innovation because the "conventional wisdom" tells them otherwise. A construction technique doesn't work "just for you", if it works it works and can be duplicated by anyone, I didn't do anything more than come up with a rock solid light weight construction technique and put it out there for others to try if they want, I didn't just "get lucky".


Metal framing is interesting, with a lot of different tools, and screws.  Metal can be different gauges/thickness.  Mechanical contractors, electrical, plumbing, etc. use a stud punch, which speeds additional holes.  There are also, an assortment of plastic bushing, for the holes, to eliminate the effects, of sharp metal edges, on non-metallic sheath wire, or Pecks Plumbing.

Vise-grip, C-clamps are used to position metal boxes, to metal studs, before screws are applied.   You can do metal studs with a drill/driver.   A good driver, and the right screws, work best.

Driver kit pictured.

Have fun, IMO, Mike CT.  Decent pair of gloves, and a box of band-aids, need to be added to your tool box.   Cutting metal studs is another discussion.

Last edited by Mike CT
@johnstrains posted:

Same here exactly. My PW style layout is 5x9 built on a Mianne benchwork kit. Tim gave me the cut #s for fitting pieces of plywood and fastening it all together. Very sturdy and happy with the results.

I added locking leveling casters to the Mianne legs so I could easily move the layout away from the wall for access.  I was impressed with the transformer cart as well.  I was able to attach a power strip using wire ties to the back of the lower support beam to connect my ZW-L and CAB 1-L system to the power outlet.

In order to be able to move the cart away from the layout if necessary,  the power connections from the transformer to the track were made using “jones” plugs.


I'm with you on this one!   Cut two sheets to fit, screw the sheets down,  let the lumber dry out for 4 weeks,  then fill in the seams with a flexible but fast drying caulk.  Then paint.  If you can still see the seam, then put some landscaping dirt or grass or whatever on top to cover it.

It took me two hours to buy the lumber for my table, four hours to pre-cut all of the pieces, and then four hours to assemble it.  Done in 10 hours.

The table was constructed in two halves, and then the halves were bolted together underneath with 3/8 inch bolts.  All legs and diagonal supports were attached with self-driving 3.5 inch number 10 screws.

The legs can be removed in 30 minutes, the table unbolted and returned to halves in 30 minutes, and then the two convenient halves easily moved (about 43 pounds each) IF anybody ever wants to move it to a different house.



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