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Discussion Starter #1
Good day all!

I am going to be building my first layout and I need some help. I work at a Home Hardware so have access to most everything I need to build the base for it.

I have built a few things before including 4 work benches, but I thought I would post here to get some opinions on it.

The main part is going to be 11 feet long by 28-32 inches wide and then another section along the other wall will be attached to it and will be 5-6 feet long by 32 inches wide.

I was going to build this all using 2x4's, but looking at pictures, it looks like most people are just using 1x4 and 1x6 boards, but it is hard to find decent pictures for the shelf type that I am making. I am always wondering for the top if I should use just standard FIR plywood or Good 1 side FIR (one side has been sanded). I was going to go with 1/2" thickness for the top. I was going to make it 40-42 inches tall as the top of the shelf already on my wall that I am going to add two tracks on and use as a storage yard is 48 inches from the floor.

I was also thinking that the main outside frame I would make out of 1x6 and then the support members would be of 1x4. How would you recommend doing the legs and how far apart should I space them?

Thank you everyone for all the help
 

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Good call on NOT using 2x4.

Width... My bottom level is 24" (to fit all the staging tracks I wanted) which made the top 30" wide. I am not enjoying working near the wall at all. Agrivating even with a step stool. Consider not going over 24" to much if you at all can.

Instead of 1x4 boards I'd say use a 3/4 plywood sawn length wise to 3.5" (or 4" if you so desire) strips. It will help if you have a table saw, a helper and precut the sheet to 24" width at the store.
Plywood will be much more stable dimensionally and unlikely to warp. Even the Select grade pine can warp just a bit.

Depending on your construction quality Legs every 3-4 feet will be sufficient. No need for 1x6 at all.

Good luck.
Make sure you post your space and plans.
 

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2x4 construction is enormously over-engineered for a model railroad. Save that for framing a house.

1x lumber is more than adequate. Consider using L or T girder construction, which pins a 1x2 and a 1x3 with the grain perpendicular to make the shape of the letter. This construction is plenty sturdy, and much lighter and cheaper than 2x4's.

Instead of a plywood surface, consider using 1" or 2" extruded foam insulation panels. Again, plenty strong enough, and much lighter and usually cheaper than plywood. It's also easier to make small elevation changes around your track with this method.
 

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Discussion Starter #4
I should of posted my pictures here as well, sorry about that. But here is a sample of my layout that I was planning... Dimensions are on the inside side of the tape. And the empty shelf I should be able to stick two tracks on it and use it for some staging area, with a switch at the one end and a single track leading up/down....

I work at a hardware store, so no problem cutting stuff as we have a panel saw and a chop saw to cut the other stuff. Almost all of our lumber is stored outside. And then as for the foam insulating boards, we have the solid blue ones in 3 thicknesses... 1", 1.5", 2"... I was thinking of making the base with 1/2" plywood, then thought I could put like a 1" thick foam board on top if I wanted to increase the elevation....

I was trying to do some research and people seem divided on whether to use plywood or foam board.

As for the legs, I guess I could easily cut 3/4" plywood..... but it is a bit more expensive then 1x4 or 2x4 boards....

And thank you for the help and advice so far!
 

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Discussion Starter #5
So after doing some thinking and reading some posts on here and my other post, I have decided to clear this room out completely and use the whole room for my layout.

The room is 11 feet long and 10 feet deep (looking in from the door). I think it would be cool to make it a continuous track. Maybe make it one long continuous run or make it a u style setup. What would be your recommendations?
 

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I would do around the room for sure. So a U shape with max 2 feet deep on the DVD wall, window wall, and computer wall. This is where the bulk of the layout is. Then a lift up section to span the doorway completing the loop. You could do potentially different towns on the opposing DVD/computer walls so that you can pretend to have passenger service or freight deliveries to and from.
 

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Discussion Starter #7
I would do around the room for sure. So a U shape with max 2 feet deep on the DVD wall, window wall, and computer wall. This is where the bulk of the layout is. Then a lift up section to span the doorway completing the loop. You could do potentially different towns on the opposing DVD/computer walls so that you can pretend to have passenger service or freight deliveries to and from.
Okay, so here is a sketch I just made up... to scale as well, let me know what you think.

I would build it in 2'x8' sections as then I only have to buy 2 sheets of 1/2" plywood and 1 sheet of 2'x4' to make this and then I will also put 1" foam on top of the plywood :) There is a 1 foot gap on the one wall as there is a window there and the heat register is there as well
 

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foam indeed can be the sole surface without any plywood. 3/8-1/2" plywood however can be beneficial for holding screws if one intends to mount equipment such as switch machines, wire management or electronics on the underside. 1/2" foam can go on top of that.

I have decided to clear this room out completely and use the whole room for my layout.
good call. around the room with a swing gate entry can provide for a lot of layout for the real estate. Start with "Red Rock northern" and tweak to your exact available space

 

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How are you going to get in and out of the room and also in and out of the closet area? Having to crawl under the benchwork gets real old fast. Smaller thin swing up/down sections are a bit harder to build but more convenient.
 

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John

I would strongly agree that with the space you now
have consider using the whole thing.

Build a benchwork that permits a mainline to follow
the walls. Add in yards and a number of industrial
spurs and loco service areas. For maximum operating
fun, make your mainline single track with at least
four passing sidings. This would permit train A running
clockwise and train B running counterclockwise...a
feature you get only when powered by DCC.

I also would suggest supporting your layout using
the modular system. Assemble frames of various
sizes and shapes from 1 X 3" lumber. Make legs
of same lumber in an L. Bolt these in the corners
for stability. Bolt the frames together and you
have the base for your layout.

It is important that you provide a 'lift up' bridge
for easy access to the center of your room. Don't
even think of 'crawl under'. You would quickly
tire of that. Hinged bridges can be built easliy.

Don
 

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Suggestions toward a better plan

Okay, so here is a sketch I just made up... to scale as well, let me know what you think.

I would build it in 2'x8' sections as then I only have to buy 2 sheets of 1/2" plywood and 1 sheet of 2'x4' to make this and then I will also put 1" foam on top of the plywood :) There is a 1 foot gap on the one wall as there is a window there and the heat register is there as well
johnvosh;

Since you have the whole room available, I can now see why you're set on HO-scale enough to be shopping for HO-scale locomotives. I still think that, even with the whole (but still fairly small) room available, you would be better off using N-scale than HO-scale, but that's just my opinion, and it's your choice to make.

The 2' wide aisles are too narrow, in my opinion. I think 3' is the bare minimum width for an aisle.

The 2'x4' section poking out in the middle of the room, seems to serve no practical purpose for the railroad, and forces all the aisles to be too narrow for people to pass each other. I recommend eliminating it. It is too narrow for an HO loop of track. That requires a bit over 4' of width even using very tight curves. To have a loop of track with curves big enough to operate big diesels reliably, you would need five feet of width. That projecting peninsula is also very short for an HO-scale yard. A turntable, and minimal roundhouse, might be squeezed in, but the modern railroad you want, wouldn't be likely to still have a turntable, or a roundhouse, since they existed to support steam locomotives.

From your plan, it looks like you are making the very common mistake of trying to fit as much table into the room as possible, and then trying to design the railroad to fit the table. While this has been done many times, it's actually better to design the railroad first, (within the room limits) and then design the supporting table/"benchwork" to fit the railroad.

I suggest you use 4' long sections, rather than 8' ones. They will be easier to get into the room, and easier to work with.

Have you considered using foam on a pine plank grid made of 'L' girders? The same 'L' girders can also be used as legs.
The plywood isn't really necessary if you use 2" thick foam over a grid with stringers every 16" or so. If you want plywood below the foam, to mount wiring and switch machines, 1/4" Luan plywood will do the job, and it's lighter and cheaper than 1/2" conventional plywood.

I strongly recommend you read at least some of the pdf files I sent you in response to your first introductory post, before going any further. There are sketches in the "part 3&4" segment of the "How to build a better first layout" series that I think will fit your room quite well. That same segment also has a lot of information on the various types of door-bridging sections, and the advantages, and disadvantages, of each type.

The photos below show what this 'L' girder is that several of us have recommended to you.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:

L-girder 3.jpg

L-girder 2.jpg

L-girder 6.jpg
 

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Discussion Starter #12
How are you going to get in and out of the room and also in and out of the closet area? Having to crawl under the benchwork gets real old fast. Smaller thin swing up/down sections are a bit harder to build but more convenient.
I am making the base about 44 inches high, so going underneath for me isn't a big deal. Plus it will be high enough for my young nieces to get under with no issues. But thank you for the idea, that I completely didn't even think about. I may still end up doing a lift out or something like that

johnvosh;

Since you have the whole room available, I can now see why you're set on HO-scale enough to be shopping for HO-scale locomotives. I still think that, even with the whole (but still fairly small) room available, you would be better off using N-scale than HO-scale, but that's just my opinion, and it's your choice to make.

The 2' wide aisles are too narrow, in my opinion. I think 3' is the bare minimum width for an aisle.

The 2'x4' section poking out in the middle of the room, seems to serve no practical purpose for the railroad, and forces all the aisles to be too narrow for people to pass each other. I recommend eliminating it. It is too narrow for an HO loop of track. That requires a bit over 4' of width even using very tight curves. To have a loop of track with curves big enough to operate big diesels reliably, you would need five feet of width. That projecting peninsula is also very short for an HO-scale yard. A turntable, and minimal roundhouse, might be squeezed in, but the modern railroad you want, wouldn't be likely to still have a turntable, or a roundhouse, since they existed to support steam locomotives.

From your plan, it looks like you are making the very common mistake of trying to fit as much table into the room as possible, and then trying to design the railroad to fit the table. While this has been done many times, it's actually better to design the railroad first, (within the room limits) and then design the supporting table/"benchwork" to fit the railroad.

I suggest you use 4' long sections, rather than 8' ones. They will be easier to get into the room, and easier to work with.

Have you considered using foam on a pine plank grid made of 'L' girders? The same 'L' girders can also be used as legs.
The plywood isn't really necessary if you use 2" thick foam over a grid with stringers every 16" or so. If you want plywood below the foam, to mount wiring and switch machines, 1/4" Luan plywood will do the job, and it's lighter and cheaper than 1/2" conventional plywood.

I strongly recommend you read at least some of the pdf files I sent you in response to your first introductory post, before going any further. There are sketches in the "part 3&4" segment of the "How to build a better first layout" series that I think will fit your room quite well. That same segment also has a lot of information on the various types of door-bridging sections, and the advantages, and disadvantages, of each type.

The photos below show what this 'L' girder is that several of us have recommended to you.

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
After doing more reading, looking, measuring, and all that, I think I will be making my main layout N scale now, but I am still going to buy a bunch of HO scale cars as well for display and eventually make a loop around my living room ceiling.

Laying out a tape measuring on my desk and seeing what a 10 car length train would be in HO scale and N scale and like you said, I think N scale would actually look better and run better.

I am still going to go with the around the room layout still as I want to make use of the room and in the middle will be a 6 foot square basically. I am probably going to make one section 32 inches wide in stead of 24 inches wide to make a yard area.

My main frames are going to be made out of 2x4 as it is cheaper than 1x4 and 1x6 and my cross members will be made out of 1x4. As for the top I was going to go with 1/2 " plywood and then 1" foam on top, unless I don't really need the plywood? How would I attach the foam to the base if I just went with that method?
 

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You would lay a bead of adhesive across the joists and lay the foam onto the table framework.
 

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Discussion Starter #14
You would lay a bead of adhesive across the joists and lay the foam onto the table framework.
That's what I thought, just wanted to me sure. Thank you :)

Would you say that foam is better to build on with N scale or would plywood be the better material? And if I choose foam only, should I go with 1", 1 1/2", or 2" thickness? Thanks!
 

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I can't answer that. I have always used wood for table construction. Either flat sheet or L girder construction.
 

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I am making the base about 44 inches high, so going underneath for me isn't a big deal. Plus it will be high enough for my young nieces to get under with no issues. But thank you for the idea, that I completely didn't even think about. I may still end up doing a lift out or something like that



After doing more reading, looking, measuring, and all that, I think I will be making my main layout N scale now, but I am still going to buy a bunch of HO scale cars as well for display and eventually make a loop around my living room ceiling.

Laying out a tape measuring on my desk and seeing what a 10 car length train would be in HO scale and N scale and like you said, I think N scale would actually look better and run better.

I am still going to go with the around the room layout still as I want to make use of the room and in the middle will be a 6 foot square basically. I am probably going to make one section 32 inches wide in stead of 24 inches wide to make a yard area.

My main frames are going to be made out of 2x4 as it is cheaper than 1x4 and 1x6 and my cross members will be made out of 1x4. As for the top I was going to go with 1/2 " plywood and then 1" foam on top, unless I don't really need the plywood? How would I attach the foam to the base if I just went with that method?
johnvoss;

We have a saying in this hobby, "Your railroad, your rules." All it means is that each modeler can, and should, decide how to build, and operate, their individual layout any way they want. I believe in this idea, but you did ask for advice. (always a dangerous idea! :laugh:)

I think you have the wrong lumber sizes for the L-girder construction that several of us have recommended to you. The L-girder in the photos I sent is not made of a 1x4 and a 1x6. That would be a waste of very oversized lumber, and as you correctly point out, a waste of money too. The photos show an L-girder made with a 1x2 and a1x3. That's a common size, and more than adequate for model railroad benchwork.

Yes, you can probably find some 2x4s that are cheaper, but the cheap 2x4s in most stores are often warped or "green" (meaning not kiln dried) and therefore just waiting to warp, as soon as some moisture has gotten at them. L-girder has the distinct advantage of being highly resistant to warping. That's the main reason I recommend it. It is also lighter, and stronger than a 2x4.
Considering the amount of money,($ hundreds $) time,(years-decades) and effort,(plenty!:eek: ) that goes into building a model railroad, most people, want the railroad to last.
I also strongly recommend making any model railroad in small, (2'x4' or 32" x 4' max, for your yard) lightweight, sections. This is for a related reason. If you ever have to move, (the American average is 11 moves in a lifetime) you can take all that money, time, and effort, you invested in your railroad, with you. The all too common alternative is to destroy the model railroad you have put all that time, money, and effort, into.
Then, in your new home, you get to start over and invest more money, more time, more effort, etc. in building a new layout. This procedure strikes me as well, ....... dumb! :goofball:
What do you think of it?

Building an around the room layout is a great idea! Ducking under the layout, even at 44" off the floor, is a lousy idea. (Please read sections 3&4)
From the way you casually say "Going underneath is no big deal for me." I gather you are still young and (on this point at least) foolish. Here's some facts for you to accept, or ignore, as you choose. People get older. :eek: When they get older, they get less flexible. :eek:hwell: A real mean guy named "Arthur Irits" comes to stay with them, for the rest of their lives! :(
Have you ever heard the old adage "You're not getting any younger?" There is a lesser known, model railroad corollary to that adage. It goes something like this, "Don't build a duck under!"

Still, "Your railroad, your rules." Sometimes newbies get antsy to start, "building something now!" What they're building, How big, permanent, heavy, and immovable, it is, or what more experienced modelers advise them to do, doesn't matter. That's your right, and I will respect your right to make your own mistakes, and learn from them the hard way. At one time or another all of us did the same thing. Some of us try to prevent newbies from making all the same mistakes we did, but at some point we have to accept the truth of another old adage, "You can lead a horse, (or even a stubborn mule) to water, but you can't make him drink."

Good luck eeyore,

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Either or both

That's what I thought, just wanted to me sure. Thank you :)

Would you say that foam is better to build on with N scale or would plywood be the better material? And if I choose foam only, should I go with 1", 1 1/2", or 2" thickness? Thanks!
johnvosh;

Either plywood, or extruded foam, will work just fine with any of the common scales. There is no difference between what makes a good base for N-scale and what makes a good base for HO-scale, for example.
Foam has the advantage of being able to be carved out for, "below-the-track" scenic features like rivers, or road underpasses.
Plywood has the advantage of providing a convenient, continuous, surface that will hold the screws normally used to fasten things like switch machines, and cable clamps, to the bottom of the layout. Some modelers use only foam and glue on small plywood squares to screw their switch machines to, wherever needed.
Others, combine the two materials by gluing the foam onto a piece of 1/4" thick Luan plywood. The 1/4" Luan is pretty light and inexpensive, compared to thicker, conventional plywood. However its able to hold screws well, so you can mount whatever you need to, wherever it's needed.
There is no "best" layout base. Foam and plywood are both good, and you can use either, or both, as you choose.

As for thickness of foam, that depends on what kind of scenery you want, whether, or not, you are using Luan under it, and your budget. An N-scale foot is about 1/16". One inch foam is therefore sixteen N-scale feet thick. If your scenery will be representing a fairly flat prairie, then the 1" would be adequate. However, if you want high hills and deep gorges, then using 1.5" or 2" foam would be a better choice.
A 2" thick piece of foam is strong enough to be self-supporting, and even man-supporting, when laid over a grid with stringers 16" apart. Thinner foam is also self-supporting, and putting the Luan, or conventional plywood, under it just increases the overall strength. Remember, unless you plan on crawling on top of your railroad, (Bad idea!) the base only has to be strong enough to support model trains, and they're pretty light.

good luck, have fun;

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
 

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Discussion Starter #18
johnvoss;

We have a saying in this hobby, "Your railroad, your rules." All it means is that each modeler can, and should, decide how to build, and operate, their individual layout any way they want. I believe in this idea, but you did ask for advice. (always a dangerous idea! :laugh:)

I think you have the wrong lumber sizes for the L-girder construction that several of us have recommended to you. The L-girder in the photos I sent is not made of a 1x4 and a 1x6. That would be a waste of very oversized lumber, and as you correctly point out, a waste of money too. The photos show an L-girder made with a 1x2 and a1x3. That's a common size, and more than adequate for model railroad benchwork.

Yes, you can probably find some 2x4s that are cheaper, but the cheap 2x4s in most stores are often warped or "green" (meaning not kiln dried) and therefore just waiting to warp, as soon as some moisture has gotten at them. L-girder has the distinct advantage of being highly resistant to warping. That's the main reason I recommend it. It is also lighter, and stronger than a 2x4.
Considering the amount of money,($ hundreds $) time,(years-decades) and effort,(plenty!:eek: ) that goes into building a model railroad, most people, want the railroad to last.
I also strongly recommend making any model railroad in small, (2'x4' or 32" x 4' max, for your yard) lightweight, sections. This is for a related reason. If you ever have to move, (the American average is 11 moves in a lifetime) you can take all that money, time, and effort, you invested in your railroad, with you. The all too common alternative is to destroy the model railroad you have put all that time, money, and effort, into.
Then, in your new home, you get to start over and invest more money, more time, more effort, etc. in building a new layout. This procedure strikes me as well, ....... dumb! :goofball:
What do you think of it?

Building an around the room layout is a great idea! Ducking under the layout, even at 44" off the floor, is a lousy idea. (Please read sections 3&4)
From the way you casually say "Going underneath is no big deal for me." I gather you are still young and (on this point at least) foolish. Here's some facts for you to accept, or ignore, as you choose. People get older. :eek: When they get older, they get less flexible. :eek:hwell: A real mean guy named "Arthur Irits" comes to stay with them, for the rest of their lives! :(
Have you ever heard the old adage "You're not getting any younger?" There is a lesser known, model railroad corollary to that adage. It goes something like this, "Don't build a duck under!"

Still, "Your railroad, your rules." Sometimes newbies get antsy to start, "building something now!" What they're building, How big, permanent, heavy, and immovable, it is, or what more experienced modelers advise them to do, doesn't matter. That's your right, and I will respect your right to make your own mistakes, and learn from them the hard way. At one time or another all of us did the same thing. Some of us try to prevent newbies from making all the same mistakes we did, but at some point we have to accept the truth of another old adage, "You can lead a horse, (or even a stubborn mule) to water, but you can't make him drink."

Good luck eeyore,

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
I didn't mean any disrespect or anything like that. Sometimes I can be a bit stubborn.

I actually work at a lumber yard, so I get staff pricing on lumber, which is nice. All of our lumber is Kiln dried, but it is all kept outside. Right now it is winter here, so it is usually got snow or ice on it, depending on how used the lift is. Our 1x product is somewhat protected from the elements and all our 2x and up product is basically open to the elements. We have two grades of 2x4's and for the most part they are usually fairly decent. But because I work there, I would take and pull the straight ones for myself!

I've already moved at least 16 times and I'm only 34 years old! My brother owns my condo unit I am living in & I rent from him and so I don't plan on moving anytime in the next 5 years at least. I am also single and anyone who wants to be with me is going to have to live with my model railroad taking up an entire room!

My plan is basically to build the base, then I'm going to wait probably until the swap meet in April to purchase rolling stock, a couple engines, track, etc.... I want to try and have at least something running by the time my mom comes to visit at the end of July. But this is all new to me and I need to learn. I have to watch lots of youtube video's on how to make the scenery.

johnvosh;

Either plywood, or extruded foam, will work just fine with any of the common scales. There is no difference between what makes a good base for N-scale and what makes a good base for HO-scale, for example.
Foam has the advantage of being able to be carved out for, "below-the-track" scenic features like rivers, or road underpasses.
Plywood has the advantage of providing a convenient, continuous, surface that will hold the screws normally used to fasten things like switch machines, and cable clamps, to the bottom of the layout. Some modelers use only foam and glue on small plywood squares to screw their switch machines to, wherever needed.
Others, combine the two materials by gluing the foam onto a piece of 1/4" thick Luan plywood. The 1/4" Luan is pretty light and inexpensive, compared to thicker, conventional plywood. However its able to hold screws well, so you can mount whatever you need to, wherever it's needed.
There is no "best" layout base. Foam and plywood are both good, and you can use either, or both, as you choose.

As for thickness of foam, that depends on what kind of scenery you want, whether, or not, you are using Luan under it, and your budget. An N-scale foot is about 1/16". One inch foam is therefore sixteen N-scale feet thick. If your scenery will be representing a fairly flat prairie, then the 1" would be adequate. However, if you want high hills and deep gorges, then using 1.5" or 2" foam would be a better choice.
A 2" thick piece of foam is strong enough to be self-supporting, and even man-supporting, when laid over a grid with stringers 16" apart. Thinner foam is also self-supporting, and putting the Luan, or conventional plywood, under it just increases the overall strength. Remember, unless you plan on crawling on top of your railroad, (Bad idea!) the base only has to be strong enough to support model trains, and they're pretty light.

good luck, have fun;

Traction Fan :smilie_daumenpos:
I think I'll probably just going with 1 1/2" foam and then if I have anything underneath I'll glue some small pieces of plywood to the foam. I do want to have at least 1 bridge on my layout. I think it would be cool to do the huge trestle bridge at 53°54'29.0"N 115°01'24.4"W

Thank you for all your help and advice, it is helping me out a lot!
 
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