Construction Begins

June 8, 2013

This week I started construction on the new layout. This is my second real layout – we won’t count HO track-on-plywood pseudo-layouts I had as a kid. The first layout was built in November/December 2012: O gauge, L-shaped, 15 feet wide by 7 or 10 feet deep. Although it never got past track and a few structures directly on unpainted plywood sub-roadbed, it was a great learning experience. More about it in a later post.

The new layout is 17x14, also O gauge, and in another, larger room. I tore down the old layout and cleared the new room with almost unnerving efficiency.

Once the room was clear I set to reusing large chunks of the old layout’s benchwork. The first layout’s L-girder benchwork was a design interpreted from bits and pieces of what I’d been able to find online (not much). Model railroading is a strange hobby in that there’s not a lot of information online. There are forums, and some great material on YouTube, but the best information seems to be in books. (Most of my other hobbies aren’t old enough to have books.) One of the books I bought was Basic Model Railroad Benchwork. If you’re considering building a layout for the first time and you’re of the generation that expects to find everything for free (that’s me), I’d suggest that you buy the book. I should have bought it the first time along – it would have taken all of the guesswork out of my first layout’s benchwork.

One thing I learned from the book was that I really didn’t need quite so many legs. The old layout had 8 legs; the new one has 4. In part I’m able to get away with this because I don’t plan to climb on it. The 2x4 legs support the 16-foot L-girders, upon which the 10- and 12-foot joists rest.

For this layout the sub-roadbed will be 2” extruded foam. My local big box home improvement store carries the Owens Corning Pink 4x8 sheets. Why foam? Another bit I picked up from Basic Model Railroad Benchwork: Bill Darnaby’s method for using a hot wire foam cutter jig to cut ditches around the track. It seems like a brilliant way to add a lot of depth to the layout, and I think there will be lots of other opportunities to add depressions and so forth to the landscape. More on this as I experiment.

At this point I have the L-girders supported by the legs, and about 30% of the joists in place. Enough to experiment with the 2” foam and get a feel for the height of the layout.