Thursday, June 14, 2018


Because my layout is really just a long shelf railroad on two levels, the benchwork could be simple.  The upper level benchwork needed to be thin and be reasonably stiff as it extended out from the wall.  The benchwork would need to be only about 12 inches deep in some places and up to three to four feet deep in others.  I settled on a simple grid approach made up of 3/4" plywood strips standing on edge.  I used better shop grade plywood with 11 plies.

Sort of like a modular layout, the benchwork was made in eight foot sections (the length of a sheet of plywood)  The front edge of the section and the "ribs" were made from 2" wide strips.  The ribs were generally spaced 12" apart (while this was great for supporting roadbed, I quickly found it to be a real pain when I wanted to stand up through the bendchwork with my 18" belly).  The back edge of the benchwork module was made from a 6" wide piece of plywood.  I did this to provide a wider surface to screw into the wall studs.  All the plywood pieces were joined with pocket screws; two screws for each joint with no glue used.  If you haven't used this technique before, it's quick and strong.

A 2 by 4 curving wall was built through out the room to separate the aisles.  The 2 by 4s were laid flat to take up less space.   The included photos should show all this better.  Each benchwork section was assembled in the downstairs shop and carried upstairs to the layout room.

The eight foot sections were screwed to each other as well as the wall studs.  The lower level benchwork was set at about 36" and the upper level at 61".  Rail height on the lower level is about 42" and the upper level the rails are about 64".  For the lower level, it was easy to support the benchwork with 2 by 4 legs.  The trick, of course, is to support the upper level.  For the narrow sections of the benchwork, the 6" back edge provided enough rigidity without any additional support.  However, the wide sections needed additional help.

I tried to solve this problem using two approaches...  by supporting the upper level with support legs from the lower level benchwork.  The other approach was to use 1/8" metal rods from the ceiling joists down to the upper level benchwork.  (Before the drywall was installed in the layout room, I marked on the floor the location of all wall studs and all the ceiling joists as well as any other special items like electrical and pipes.  This provided easy reference later when I needed to find them).   The rods are threaded and include a turnbuckle so I can adjust them if the benchwork starts to sag under more weight.  These supports will be kept behind the backdrops so they won't show.  While the upper level isn't as stiff as I'd like, I think it will be okay, but I may need to take additional steps as the project moves along.

The center wall from early days of construction.  Blue tape on floor marks the edge of the benchwork.

Benchwork section showing 2" wide plywood front and ribs.

Upper level benchwork. screwed into wall studs.

Pocket screws attaching rib to front edge.

Pocket screws attachinng rib to back edge of section.

Back of benchwork section attached with drywall screws into wall studs.

Close up of screws into wall.  Benchwork section resting on ledger previously set at correct height.

Upper level bracing rising up from top of lower level benchwork.

Metal rods supporting upper level benchwork suspended from ceiling joists.  Turnbuckles close to ceiling.

Sunday, June 10, 2018

Layout Progress and Information

Updated as of June 10, 2018

                                 Lower Level         Upper Level            Total


Benchwork                     100%                    100%                   100%

Roadbed                         100%                    100%                   100%

Track                                99%                        0%                     60%

DCC & wiring                100%                      20%             

Trains running                  99%                        0%

Layout lighting                   1%                        0%

Backdrops installed            0%                        0%

Fascias installed                 0%                         0%

"Base" scenery                   0%                         0%

Backdrops painted             0%                          0%

Turntables                          0%                          0%

Bridges                               0%                          0%

Buildings                            0%                          0%

"Final" scenery                   0%                          0%

"Tree" scenery                    0%                          0%


Rolling stock

Fast Clock                                                                                   0%

Phones                             100%                      100%

Stop Order boards           100%                      100%

Dispatcher desk                                                                         10%

Flooring                                                                                      0%

Skirting                                                                                       0%


Size layout room                                                                  2,400 sq ft

Layout surface                1,200 sq ft              800 sq ft         2,000 sq ft

Mainline track                   558 ft

Sidings & yards track        451 ft

Total track                       1,009 ft

Turnouts                               75                        30                     105


Maine Central track

Maine Central turnouts           8

Friday, June 8, 2018

New Blog Updates Coming


When my daughter, Shannon, established this blog for my layout back several years ago it seemed like a good idea....  At the time, she entered several posts using photos etc I already had.  Then it was left to me to update, which of course I never did.

I have been working on the layout...  perhaps I haven't gotten as far along as I should have, but I am making progress.

As most of you know, the Narrow Gauge Convention will be in Sacramento in 2019.  The hotel convention site is about 90 minutes from my house.  I'm planning on having my layout on the tour, even though it is still in it's early days.  So in the spirit of getting the layout as far along as I can before the convention comes to town, I decided I should also document the progress so far on this blog.

More about the convention in a future post.

I've got about 30 entries planned for the blog update.  The idea is to work on each of them in the evenings while watching TV and post every week or so over the next few months.

You know when convention organizers provide information on layouts for the tours they always give a few stats on the completion of the layout to help the visitor know what to expect and also decide which layouts to visit...  Well, I think my first new post will be one for "Layout Progress and Information".  It will let you know how far along the layout is and I can always update the posting as progress is made.

Thanks for viewing,

Thursday, June 5, 2014

This is a video taken by Ric Collins on his backyard Mt Greta 32mm railroad.  I had taken my 5/8ths scale Roundhouse #24 over to Ric's for it's maiden trip.  The engine had been steamed up before, but I never had a 1.25" gauge (32mm) track to run on.

I  hope to have a garden in the backyard in a few years and will then have a place to run it and my other 2 foot engine, an Argyle #20, also in 5/8ths scale.

Sunday, June 1, 2014

SRRL Layout Tour Farmington to Rangeley

Last month I finished the lower level roadbed which runs from Farmington to Rangeley.  I have not yet put down any 2 foot track, only a bit of P48 track for the Maine Central in Farmington.

The decidedly low tech video above is a "helicopter flight" along the lower level's 455 feet of mainline.  The video gives an idea of the mainline, sidings and yards.  The first gap in the roadbed just north of Farmington yard is where I have to install a lift out bridge into the workshop.  Further along the line there are 3 more gaps where bridges need to be installed.  Here and there I've temporarily placed some buildings just to give the layout a bit more of a railroad look.  These buildings are from John Rogers' and Ric Collins' former layouts.  There isn't any layout lighting yet, only the light is from the overhead aisle lights.  You pass two windows on the trip which will disappear behind the backdrop later in the construction schedule.

Also along the mainline there are three branches; Madrid, Barnjum and Eustis.  While you don't see the Madrid branch on the video, you can see portions of the Barnjum branch as you approach Perham Junction and Eustis Branch between Eustis Junction and Dead River.

An interesting note on the sound track I've included...  In the late 1980's or early 1990's, I was lucky to have a cab ride during one years' Railfan Weekend at Edaville.  That day they were double heading with #8 in the lead followed by #7.  I was riding in the cab of #7 and made a video recording of the entire trip.    While there isn't any track down yet, at least the sounds are genuine Maine 2 foot.

Hope you enjoy the video.... track laying next!

Tuesday, April 8, 2014

Layout Room

Here are some photos of the layout room.  Please ignore the clutter, some will be moved out of the layout room and some will go under the benchwork.

This is the separate "train room" door that leads upstairs to the layout.

Inside the door, the stairs leading up...

Stairs coming up from entry, located in middle of layout room.

Layout room looking North before starting on room finishes.

Another early view looking North.  By using roof trusses no support columns were needed.

Early view from middle of room looking South

After room finished, standing at Farmington looking North.  Blue tape on floor defines benchwork edges.

Looking North, headed towards Strong at the end of the room.  Here can see the interior walls I built to define the space.  Walls only go 7 feet high to allow air circulation space above.

A view of the early mockup for the level heights.  The top level is there to hold the layout lights illuminating the upper level.  Windows will be blocked off behind backdrop.

Interior shot of future home for Phillips

Shot of interior section of layout.  Good shot of overhead LED lights over aisles.  They dim for operating sessions.

View looking South headed for Rangeley on the lower level and Bigelow on the upper level.

Track Plans: Upper Level

Here are the upper level track plan.  Covers from Strong to Bigelow.