Model Train Forum banner
1 - 18 of 18 Posts

·
Registered
Joined
·
71 Posts
Discussion Starter · #1 ·
So I'm getting ready to start planning the build for my train layout, it's all N-scale.

My plan was to start buy building (some) benchwork, using either 1/2" or 3/4" insulating foamboard (seems like that's the only way to go for the bench-top). I'm going to build stringers, framing and supports out of 1x4's I already have, I think.

My general thought is the following:

1. Build a section of benchwork out of foam (probably the "yard" area first, since it's going to have the least terrain work anyway).
2. Prototype the route with the track (no permanent nailing yet, just laying it out to make sure that things flow/fit well). For other sections, this will include any grading that needs prototyped, etc. This will also include putting electrical connections in, and determining where all the permanent electrical connections will go.
3. Place corkboard where it'll belong. Because this is a yard area I think I'll only have cork on one section of the mainline coming in and out. The rest of the first section will be "yard leveled."
4. Run permanent electrical wiring.
5. Replace track on corkboard, and begin permanently nailing and gluing down. This will also including placing the permanent servo's at each switch / turnout.
6. Model terrain over / around track. (Likely this will be the longest part, terrain and detail work seems to take forever.)
7. Ballast track. (I figure I could do all the ballast at the end if I really wanted to.)
8. Paint anything that needs touched-up.

Am I missing anything? Am I thinking about it the right way (or not)?
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
This was my planning some time ago. I already have my bench work down and now i'm getting ready to lay track down to see what fits best. My only suggestion for you is not use nails. I have read many articles that preach against nails for the transferring of sound. Otherwise you sound like you're on the right track (pardon the pun)
 

·
Registered
Ohio Central Systems
Joined
·
1,681 Posts
As long as you are happy with the basic shape of the layout, it sounds to me like you have a good plan! The 1/2" foam boards are not very rigid. You may want to go check it out to see if it will be rigid enough by itself. You may need to go up to 1" to be happier.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
My benchwork was actually 1/2" plywood then a 1/4" of foam composite which I glued to the plywood. After I lay my track and decide on the right configuration, i'll be making a rough pencil outline so I know where to lay my cork road bed. After I lay those...then comes the track....then my electrical....then my trains....then i'll see about scenery. Shouldn't take me more than another year or so...lol
 

·
Registered
Ohio Central Systems
Joined
·
1,681 Posts
BTW, I used 1/2" foam on top of 2" foam. 2" foam is great for building tunnels. Just leave a void in the 2" layer, and cover it with 1/2" to make the upper surface flat & level. The 1/2" stuff is rigid enough to be the top of a tunnel, but I wouldn't want to span much more than about 6-8" with it.

For the transition from mainline to yard, I used the first 8-10" of Woodland Scenic incline Starters. They rise 1/2" in 2', which is right at a 2% grade. So I just lopped it off where it was about 1/8". I never did use the inclines for anything other than a 1/2" rise and then decline, just so one of my statement piece structures would sit higher than the rest of the layout.

You can also use a wooden shim. They usually rise about 1/8" in 6-8" which is a pretty tolerable incline at around 2% also. You can get a package of them at Home Depot or Lowes for a few dollars.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
71 Posts
Discussion Starter · #7 ·
My only grade is a 2.4% (for my programming track because I have it open up from a "mountain" and drop into my mainline). I'll probably build my own risers for it, I have the tools to do fine-detail woodwork.

I'm starting to feel like my layout is "complete" in the sense that I have all the main pieces I want together, now I just need to build it...lol

We move into the house in 30 days (unless the current owners get out sooner), and we found one that will be our "forever" home, so this layout will be a pretty permanent one, probably for about 30 years...
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
15 Posts
My only grade is a 2.4% (for my programming track because I have it open up from a "mountain" and drop into my mainline). I'll probably build my own risers for it, I have the tools to do fine-detail woodwork.

I'm starting to feel like my layout is "complete" in the sense that I have all the main pieces I want together, now I just need to build it...lol

We move into the house in 30 days (unless the current owners get out sooner), and we found one that will be our "forever" home, so this layout will be a pretty permanent one, probably for about 30 years...
Nice...Congrats
 

·
Registered
Ohio Central Systems
Joined
·
1,681 Posts
[snip]

we found one that will be our "forever" home, so this layout will be a pretty permanent one, probably for about 30 years...
Good strategy. Our first house was one we could have lived in forever, but considered a starter home, as the schools weren't the best. When our kids got to be around 3, we figured we better move into a better school district, in a house we could stay in forever if we had to.

But like everything, times change. We decided to pay less property taxes once our kids graduated from High school, so we moved out into the country. When we moved out here, we also thought it could be our forever home, but 5 years into it, and I don't believe I want to mow this much grass when I'm in my 70s, let alone my 80s. But the basement here is huge, so I have a good place to play with trains, lol!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
71 Posts
Discussion Starter · #10 ·
Good strategy. Our first house was one we could have lived in forever, but considered a starter home, as the schools weren't the best. When our kids got to be around 3, we figured we better move into a better school district, in a house we could stay in forever if we had to.

But like everything, times change. We decided to pay less property taxes once our kids graduated from High school, so we moved out into the country. When we moved out here, we also thought it could be our forever home, but 5 years into it, and I don't believe I want to mow this much grass when I'm in my 70s, let alone my 80s. But the basement here is huge, so I have a good place to play with trains, lol!
We don't have kids yet, but plan to in the next 2-3 years, and we just found a nice house, in a good school district, with affordable property taxes, and great square footage, 4 bedrooms, as well as a large, finished basement, and 3-1/2 car garage. At this point, we couldn't ask for more.

The garage has a 2-car door that goes 21' deep, and 1-car door that goes 24' deep. I get the entire 1-car door all the way to the back for my workshop (wood working, welding, auto tools, etc.). We can both still park our cars in the 2-car side without issue.

I also have about 260 sqft in the basement for my office & trains. I'm using around half of it for trains, the other half for my desk, printer, file cabinet, electronics bench, and water cooler.
 

·
Registered
Ohio Central Systems
Joined
·
1,681 Posts
We currently have 7 garage bays (2 are really long in a free standing garage with a double door on one side and a single door on the other). They are all full: 2 cars, 1 truck, a golf cart, 2 4-wheelers, a zero-turn and a tractor. Plus a towable generator, a towable 3" trash pump, a utility trailer, a 23' pontoon boat, not to mention all the tools and work benches. We tend to gather things, lol. I never imagined having a need to store so many things. It's nice to have a place to work on things... I like to do my own maintenance. No point in paying someone a couple hundred $$ to change brake pads and rotors when I can do it myself in an afternoon.

Congrats on the house! This is an exciting time for sure!
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
71 Posts
Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Yeah, I do all my own work too. I've never had a car at a shop for anything that wasn't warranty work or free and covered by a promo.

We have to put a roof on this house, got a quote from a company for around $20k, called my brother, he said all-in on parts I'd be around $9k deep, and he'd come help me and the two of us could knock it out in a week for $3k in labor.

We're staying in the Toledo, OH area which is nice as I can call him and get help, her Maryland assignment didn't end up working out.

Definitely saves a lot of money when you do it yourself, as long as you know what you're doing.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
10,020 Posts
As others have said...don't use nails...not for the
track, not for the benchwork. Use only small dabs
of glue to attach roadbed and track. Use screws
and bolts for your benchwork.

Build your benchwork using modules of various
sizes...2 X 5, 4 X 5, as examples. The 1 X 4's you
have are perfect for this. Bolt the modules
together...drill holes in the laterals so you
can run wires. You can change your design easily
using this system.

Don
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,816 Posts
Here is what I would do if I was doing my first with all the to-date knowledge retained.

Definitely an L girder system instead of an open frame.

I’d start though with just the foam top. Cut it to whatever size desired, but work on it without benchwork. Whether it’s in a table or whatever.

Meanwhile; screw & glue two L girders together. Also L legs screwed & glued. The height is questionable. I’d start with 48” as no cuts are required. Bare in mind you may decide you want them shorter when screwing & gluing them. So a screw around 46 or 47”, and the next around 37, the third around 24”. Cross bracing and leg bracing will be helpful, screwed only, so they can be moved if needed.

The reason I suggest this odd approach is a couple or three reasons. For scenery etc it is easier to work on a lower table with access to all 4 sides. The benchwork, at this initial stage, functions as a storage system when scenery etc is drying. BUT it also gives you an idea of reach and viewing height. You may decide you need to cut a few inches off the legs to improve arms reach.

There’s 2 ways to position the legs for later additions. The traditional method where legs are at the extreme ends, and get bolts to the legs of the adjacent section, or spaced in 3.5 inches, and a 1x4 splice plate screwed to the L girder to support the adjacent L girder. This method reduces the number of kegs needed by 50%, but is still a 1 person task to disassemble benchwork if/when you mortgage additional Right of Way.

If you use 1x4 cross bracing atop the L girders (most folks use 1x2) you’ll have clearance for putting in drawers between them; for electronics or removable car loads etc. Leg braces can be positioned to provide shelf support for under-layout storage regardless. Or alternatively, a lower layout level/2nd unconnected layout.

Wiring can be run along the underside of the L girders; that is, bus lines anyway. This means all bus lines and terminal strips are near the front edge and you needn’t crawl under. If you’re building benchwork in a modular fashion, terminal strips at one or both ends are essential to daisy-chain bus lines to adjacent sections of benchwork. But the main consideration is keep wiring towards the front edge whenever possible, i.e. feeder-to-bus connections. Also, put in some sort of pvc or other type of straps to organize wiring early on. Think of them as roadbed for your wiring. Most folks wait to do this until they have a tangle of confusing wiring to attempt to organize.

Very important: When shopping for foam, check it for warping just like with lumber. Foam can warp from improper storage (I think is the cause) as I discovered the hard way.
As for lumber, avoid the cheap rough construction grade pine. You’ll know these by the rounded edges. Spend an extra dollar or so and get milled birch. The corners are sharp 90s and the boards are less prone to warping.

Lastly, buy the boards, put them in the room the layout will be, and leave them on the floor for 2-3 weeks to acclimate to the room humidity/temp/etc BEFORE screwing & gluing them together. They will adjust, but if you raced home to assemble things, that adjustment could lead to splitting.

Additional note: Pilot holes for screws. Clamp the boards in place. Drill a pilot hole narrower than thread width thru the first board & into the second. Then unclamp the boards. Use a wider bit that is minimum thread width to open the first board hoke only. Screws should fall thru that hole to the screw head stops it. The reason is the screw grabs the second board, the screw head pulls the first board to the second board. No screw-jacking will occur (gaps between boards). I recommend counter sink bevels as well, which can be done cheaply with a third bit wider than screw head, just to divot the board. No need to buy a special counter sink bit.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
5,696 Posts
My only grade is a 2.4% (for my programming track because I have it open up from a "mountain" and drop into my mainline). I'll probably build my own risers for it, I have the tools to do fine-detail woodwork.

I'm starting to feel like my layout is "complete" in the sense that I have all the main pieces I want together, now I just need to build it...lol

We move into the house in 30 days (unless the current owners get out sooner), and we found one that will be our "forever" home, so this layout will be a pretty permanent one, probably for about 30 years...
Never say "never", or "forever."
I hope you love your new home, but I would still build your railroad in sections that can be taken apart, both in case you ever do have to move, and to make "under the table" work a lot easier by turning a section upside down to work on it. Also, its possible that you may need the layout room for other purposes, in the future.

Traction Fan
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
71 Posts
Discussion Starter · #16 · (Edited)
Here is what I would do if I was doing my first with all the to-date knowledge retained.

Definitely an L girder system instead of an open frame.

I’d start though with just the foam top. Cut it to whatever size desired, but work on it without benchwork. Whether it’s in a table or whatever.

Meanwhile; screw & glue two L girders together. Also L legs screwed & glued. The height is questionable. I’d start with 48” as no cuts are required. Bare in mind you may decide you want them shorter when screwing & gluing them. So a screw around 46 or 47”, and the next around 37, the third around 24”. Cross bracing and leg bracing will be helpful, screwed only, so they can be moved if needed.

The reason I suggest this odd approach is a couple or three reasons. For scenery etc it is easier to work on a lower table with access to all 4 sides. The benchwork, at this initial stage, functions as a storage system when scenery etc is drying. BUT it also gives you an idea of reach and viewing height. You may decide you need to cut a few inches off the legs to improve arms reach.

There’s 2 ways to position the legs for later additions. The traditional method where legs are at the extreme ends, and get bolts to the legs of the adjacent section, or spaced in 3.5 inches, and a 1x4 splice plate screwed to the L girder to support the adjacent L girder. This method reduces the number of kegs needed by 50%, but is still a 1 person task to disassemble benchwork if/when you mortgage additional Right of Way.

If you use 1x4 cross bracing atop the L girders (most folks use 1x2) you’ll have clearance for putting in drawers between them; for electronics or removable car loads etc. Leg braces can be positioned to provide shelf support for under-layout storage regardless. Or alternatively, a lower layout level/2nd unconnected layout.

Wiring can be run along the underside of the L girders; that is, bus lines anyway. This means all bus lines and terminal strips are near the front edge and you needn’t crawl under. If you’re building benchwork in a modular fashion, terminal strips at one or both ends are essential to daisy-chain bus lines to adjacent sections of benchwork. But the main consideration is keep wiring towards the front edge whenever possible, i.e. feeder-to-bus connections. Also, put in some sort of pvc or other type of straps to organize wiring early on. Think of them as roadbed for your wiring. Most folks wait to do this until they have a tangle of confusing wiring to attempt to organize.

Very important: When shopping for foam, check it for warping just like with lumber. Foam can warp from improper storage (I think is the cause) as I discovered the hard way.
As for lumber, avoid the cheap rough construction grade pine. You’ll know these by the rounded edges. Spend an extra dollar or so and get milled birch. The corners are sharp 90s and the boards are less prone to warping.

Lastly, buy the boards, put them in the room the layout will be, and leave them on the floor for 2-3 weeks to acclimate to the room humidity/temp/etc BEFORE screwing & gluing them together. They will adjust, but if you raced home to assemble things, that adjustment could lead to splitting.

Additional note: Pilot holes for screws. Clamp the boards in place. Drill a pilot hole narrower than thread width thru the first board & into the second. Then unclamp the boards. Use a wider bit that is minimum thread width to open the first board hoke only. Screws should fall thru that hole to the screw head stops it. The reason is the screw grabs the second board, the screw head pulls the first board to the second board. No screw-jacking will occur (gaps between boards). I recommend counter sink bevels as well, which can be done cheaply with a third bit wider than screw head, just to divot the board. No need to buy a special counter sink bit.
I'll use pocket holes anywhere I need to join, I already have the jig and it takes 30 seconds for me to drop pocket holes across 60" of board.

I have some power distribution terminal blocks I'll be using, they have ports that make them easy to chain so I can run a main power-feed into the first, and then from block->block, so I can run two series of them, one for the mainline, one for the programming line, and put them in useful spots on the layout.

I'll probably run 16-18awg for the main power feeds, and 22-24awg for each connection to the rails. Based on some other conversations here, I'll be soldering direct to the rails, so hopefully that connection is good on all the rail sections. I'll be making sure there are generally no more than 2 joints between each power section, with limited exceptions. I'll also be isolating every section of the power grid, and every frog-end of a turnout will be insulated, so lots of insulated joiners will be used. My math shows 72 power sections for the total track right now, so it'll be all sorts of fun to solder.

Edit: after taking inventory, I'll be using 14 awg for all the main-bus power, and 23 awg for all the individual power drops to the track. I have an enormous amount of Cat6 ethernet cable, which is solid-core copper, and has 4-pairs of 23 awg conductors, so I can run to 4 individual rail power nodes from one cable. This will also help keep it clean, as the cable is already bundled.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
1,816 Posts
A trick I’ve seen in the past credited to Jon Grant, although it requires plywood base.
For his exhibition layouts, which equally applies to modular benchwork, at each section end he’d run brass screws down through the plywood so the brass heads were seated just below rail bottom. Spaced in from the section end an inch or two. He’d then lay flex across that (HO) section seam, soldering the rails down to the screws (2 each side of the seam). Then he’d razor saw the track. Under the layout he’d solder his feeders to the brass screws.
This eliminated the wires in the rail web, and also stabilized the rail at the seams of sections. Of course home layouts don’t get disassembled & moved often, but it’s a neat trick. One that my layout will probably get anyway. Obviously doesn’t work, nor needed with Kato track.

EDIT: if you use Kato track, I had no problems using their feeder rail joiners. No soldering needed. Crimp stay-cons on the ends & it’ll be good.
 

·
Registered
Joined
·
14 Posts
So I'm getting ready to start planning the build for my train layout, it's all N-scale.

My plan was to start buy building (some) benchwork, using either 1/2" or 3/4" insulating foamboard (seems like that's the only way to go for the bench-top). I'm going to build stringers, framing and supports out of 1x4's I already have, I think.

My general thought is the following:

1. Build a section of benchwork out of foam (probably the "yard" area first, since it's going to have the least terrain work anyway).
2. Prototype the route with the track (no permanent nailing yet, just laying it out to make sure that things flow/fit well). For other sections, this will include any grading that needs prototyped, etc. This will also include putting electrical connections in, and determining where all the permanent electrical connections will go.
3. Place corkboard where it'll belong. Because this is a yard area I think I'll only have cork on one section of the mainline coming in and out. The rest of the first section will be "yard leveled."
4. Run permanent electrical wiring.
5. Replace track on corkboard, and begin permanently nailing and gluing down. This will also including placing the permanent servo's at each switch / turnout.
6. Model terrain over / around track. (Likely this will be the longest part, terrain and detail work seems to take forever.)
7. Ballast track. (I figure I could do all the ballast at the end if I really wanted to.)
8. Paint anything that needs touched-up.

Am I missing anything? Am I thinking about it the right way (or not)?
Since I was building a small N scale layout to start off (about 30" by 60") and I had a 2 ft by 4 ft train board with 1
x3 framing and topped with homasote, I made a freeform piece of 2 inch thick insulation foam and glued some long strips of 2 inch foam on the bottom to parallel the edges of the train board. They strips were not closed but allowed me to place the piece of freeform foam on top of the train board securely. This allows me to have curves along the margins of the foam board for better looking scenery (When I get around to doing the scenicking!!) I feel that 2 inch insulation foam board is good. It has some rigidity but still does not weigh very much.
 
1 - 18 of 18 Posts
Top