The plan looks good, like you say general plan.  They just about all chandelier while building.

Benchwork!  You will find lots of opinions, but I think it comes down to two camps, but a custom kit offered by several reputable sources or go to the lumber yard and build your own.  I have always built my own even though I have limited skills and tools, but this time I have ordered a kit off the shelf from Mianne, but will build my own section that I can roll from the wall that I don’t even know how to tell a custom builder what to do.  I found the kits can be relatively inexpensive, but when you get into custom design it can get into some cost with someone else.

So tell us if you are handy with basic wood tools and construction and then we can know better how to help.

I'm going to throw out a few more questions to see what you are thinking and what background you have.

What background do you have in layout benchwork building? 

Do you mind attaching the benchwork to walls for support hopefully eliminating some legs, or would you rather keep everything freestanding so you don't mess up the pretty walls?

Are you going to want any track to follow any grades up and down?

Do you want to totally cover the top with plywood like a table top, or do you want to leave an open grid which can make for easier wiring and putting scenery below track levels?

That's a start.  I hope this get s some conversation going with others.  Once you get a few people following, then the ideas just start poring in on this Forum.


It will have to be free standing.  I am not allowed to put a bunch of holes in the wall. It would be nice to not have so many legs.  As far as grades go I wont be able to do that because of the sloping ceiling. Where I am at now is framing for the benchwork.

To get the conversation moving, here's some initial ideas for framing and leg placement. As you can see, this favors building in modules that can be bolted together and then topped with decking that will have some overhang in various areas. Note that I indented the legs along the walls to account for the carpeting tack strips, assuming they were used. And speaking of carpeting, have you given any thought to the legs leaving pretty much permanent indentations in the carpet?




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I agree with Dave on building modules you can unbolt and move around or out if you have to move to another home.  So it sounds like you would do well to make a bunch of various sized tables with 1x3s or 1x4s then cover each with plywood or OSB.  Then put legs with angled cross braces where Dave shows, and you would be ready to lay some roadbed and track. 

I put mine at 16" centers.  Some people put them farther apart, but that is if they are using a thick plywood top.  I have used 2x2s for legs.  Some folks have made "L" shaped legs using a 1x3 and a 1x2 saying they are more stable.  I think either is good.

Food for thought, no endorsement either way:

An alternative to using 1x3s or 1x4s (which are never straight) is to rip 3/4" plywood into 3"-4" strips to use for framing. You can also glue/screw them together to form an "L" for legs and attach them to the corners of the framing using cleats (yellow/orange in 1st photo). That way all the weight rests on the legs and not on screws. Unfortunately, this would leave "L" shaped indents in the carpet.

Also. if you use 3/4" plywood for the decking and shrink the modules so there is 6" overhang along the front, those legs will be out of your way as you walk around.

An alternative to cross-bracing, etc., is to simply add rails 12" or so off the floor for shelves.

I forgot to consider the bridge. That area needs to be configured so the section below the bridge can be lowered (2nd photo). 





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 I'd take the time to do the L, One piece legs just warp too easy unless its carefully prepared and chosen

You can add a square or V piece of wood for a pad under an L leg. It will help wrap even more as that end is the weakest place on the desgn. 

Cut extra and halve those into Vs added mid height if the wood might be under-dried and warp prone. 

The L-s are much less likely to warp over time than a 2x2 as each board width  keeps the other board from being able to warp. The seperate grainings at the joint  add strength too; so if you can visually oppose grains during selection, do it.

.   The widths give more more natural crossbrace at the upper corners and the thinness makes lower crossbracing easier and can help prevent leg twist.

Glue is a huge joint boost, but not really "needed" unless you go to 1/2"x 4 imo.  

A few of the 40yr old 2x2s used for mid layout support have lifted their footings from warp. They hang free now.  With an L, the widths also add much more length sooner as the leg goes out of plumb; loosing footing further from plumb than the 2x2s

You might say Im partial

"Still trying to not shoot my eye out"


"Nursing insomnia one railcar at a time"

My aroma therapy? Smoke Pellets.


Mark Boyce posted:

Nice drawing of that Dave.

Thanks. Here's a little different rendition with triangular-shaped cleats for added lateral support and with the floor protection piece Adriatic mentioned. I intend to add wheels to the floor protectors when I build my 4x8x12 "L"  for the craft room this summer. That way I can roll the whole layout away from the corner when I need to work on it.

I haven't decided yet if I'm going to add shelving, but I'll probably add rails along the back and sides. Then I'll add some roll-out carts to store the empty boxes from the trains, buildings, etc. That way I'll be able to easily clear the underside when I need to repair wiring, etc.

On a side note, my framing is going to have an overhang along the front and sides to keep the legs out of the way.



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Gotcha. I dont have a table saw as of yet. I will have to haul all of the decking over to my dads. My first plan is to figure out the decking and when I rip it down to widths use the leftovers for the legs.  Thanks Dave for the drawings of the legs. I like the idea of setting them in a little for clearence.  I will take my time.  Along the walls are 1/2” trim and also carpet tack strips.  I plan on making the tables in 4ft sections so I can get it all upstairs without tearing up the walls and paint. The object is to stay out of the doghouse.  

On a side note we hung some of the artwork and pictures I have.  The water color of the General is from a friend of my moms John Haber. C8242E9E-5401-40CE-A3F6-2A78672FEFB641AA8D26-93A9-4C75-AEE6-2E796D26850AF029BB27-D68D-44E3-B8D4-205DDE45397A72FEB23F-4C84-4422-8D9F-9739329A3D96


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I'm not trying to push ripping sheets of plywood, just passing along a technique some use. The same with the leg methodology. I've only used inexpensive 1x3s/2x4s from HD or Lowe's and found both to be very uneven. Even the poplar 1x4s I've looked at were very uneven.

Anyway, here's a couple of more renditions of both the layout and modules.

The 1st photo shows the layout a possible configuration of 18"x48" and 24"x48" modules. As you can imagine, this would then be covered with plywood decking that would be cut to shape. Module options are in the upper right. Obviously, some custom sized modules would be needed in places and could be used in other places to fit everything evenly.

The 2nd photo shows a 3D view of the layout with track height set at 36", note the modules peeking through.

The 3rd photo shows versions of  the modules with extensions:
The lower module is 18"x48". It includes the full set of legs complete with cleats, etc. One set of legs for the extension doesn't have the cleats because the leg would be sandwiched with the full leg on the main module.
The middle module is 24"x48". It includes the cleats on one end, but no leg on the other because the end frame rails would be attached to each other.
The upper module is also 24"x48", but could easily be trimmed to 18"x48". It has no cleats because the legs are full height and attached inside the framing. Truth be told, that's probably all you really need, especially if you add the optional shelving.

I've included the layout file as well as the module file so you can take a closer look at just the modules if you want.






Thanks, Mark, Just wanted to show it's possible to cover most of the layout with just 2 sizes of modules and 4 custom modules. Here's a little better rendition of where I'd put decking no matter that kind of benchwork is used. I should also mention that I believe HD and Lowe's will make up to 2 cuts per sheet of plywood for free. That means the sheets could be cut in half lengthwise to make handling easier for ripping. If they offset the cut a bit, each 4x8 sheet should yield 15 strips 3" wide or 11 strips 4" wide. If there are going to be legs every 48", I think 3" is probably wide enough. For $1/cut, I think they'll do all the cuts, though it doesn't take much to run a half sheet of ply through the table saw.




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Thanks dave for the drawings.  I went back to work on the 23rd. Work schedule doesnt leave too much time for fun at the moment. Working us 13 days one off.  On a side not. Hitting the halt button on the remote will not stop a lionchief plus engine.  Hung the first of some freefloating shelves in the nook. 28C3AF14-5997-425C-B861-55524837DADBD464CC3F-2142-4149-9E73-37BE960FE697


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imageWell framing has begun.  I am starting with the double pratt bridge at the window and working my way around from both sides.  I have built the first two modules to go on either side of the bridge.  Predrilled the holes for wiring.  678914F4-69DB-45BA-A523-5551B01808E6I will get a better picture when i get them upstairs and legs under them. 


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Maybe give some thought to some sort of over/under action.  You have a lot of linear run.  Consider a fly over or two.

Mike CT has a fine clean example in a space which appears not as spread out as the above prints.

Also think of cosmetic curves and right of ways which are not parallel to the platform edge.

Variation heightens the interest.

On the track plan below we canted the right of way to run at an angle to the bench work.

Place viewing obstructions to interrupt continuous viewing.

Benchwork I to VIII

Gracious curves flying over lower tracks can provoke interest.


Eternity is a long time to have been wrong.


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TomTee I really love the sweeping curves and over under idea. My biggest issue is having the sloping roof on both sides.  I will probably have a elevated line for my fathers train but thats about it.  I will be doing some half curves so the long runs wont be straight.  Right now just i am just getting the bench going to get the general shape made.

If you strongly desire the idea of elevated lines but you can not fit in the additional 6" of height due to a knee wall, then consider just making the entire main deck 6" lower. 

Also, instead of a raised section  consider a subway tunnel to cross a mainline under instead of over another one.

If you are using section track consider using flex track just for the cosmetic curve. In my experience, the MTH Scale Trax makes the easiest to install 3 rail cosmetic curves.  I have  used Atlas 3r flex but it is stupid difficult to work with.  GG bends nicely against templates for fixed curves but tends to be kinky for cosmetic  curves and takes a while to work it for a smooth  ultra gentle curve.

For cosmetic curves I use 800" and 1100" radius templates.

Eternity is a long time to have been wrong.

DoubleDAZ posted:

BTW, what is going to be used for power and control? DCS? TMCC? Conventional?

Hey Dave, I tried to get rid of all my fasttrack and switches etc. Nothing has sold.  So I guess I am stuck with using it. I have a complete circle of 072,060,048 and plenty of 036. So I am starting off using what I have. I am gonna use regular tubular track inside the attic to cut down on costs inside there. I am gonna go around the Hvac also to get rid of the liftout.  Basically inside the room will be fastrack except for the double pratt bridge. Can I just use 072 switches for the crossovers and 072 wyes for the yard or will switches fit better in the yard for a longer yard? Im thinking 072 outer and 060 for inner loops. Just trying to figure out the s shaped corner now.

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