Benchwork section progress

Most recently built.

As mentioned, I’ve been building benchwork sections for the new layout. I’ve employed a uniform design for five sections and all are nearly complete. The image above shows the last two sections. These sections follow some of my layout project rules.

  • Keep it Simple
  • Reuse what is on hand
  • Build to be flexible for future projects

The five sections each measure 2×4 feet. The endplates are six inches deep and follow the Free-mo standards. The siderails and joists are three inch deep. All framing wood is ripped from three-quarter inch Birch plywood. The siderails and joists are attached to the endplates two inches below the top of the endplates. This leaves room for two inch thick styrofoam to be used for scenery below the subroadbed on a future project for these sections. Here are three of the sections as just the basic grid. Click on the image for a larger view.

3 basic sections

This layout will have minimal scenery to follow the Keep it Simple rule. Each layout section will be topped with a 2×4 foot piece of Luan 5mm plywood. A raised joist is installed at each benchwork section joist to support the Luan plywood. A metal channel was used to ensure the joists were installed even with the endplates.  Click on the image for a larger view.


Once the raised joists are installed, the Luan top is attached. Here’s an image after a couple of the benchwork sections were done and the track switches were lined up to check how they fit for the staging yard.

staging yard throat

The benchwork is supported by leg units made from 2×3 studs and scrap plywood.These leg units fit into pockets in the benchwork sections. The pocket is a space between the endplate and the first joist that is 3.75 inches wide. Using scrap pieces of the three inch wide, three-quarter inch thick plywood, I make an L-shaped piece that fits into the benchwork pocket. These are mounted onto the top of the 2×3 studs that are cut 48 inches long. Here are images of these pieces and how they are mounted on the studs.

plywood els

top of legs

Two lateral pieces are added to the 2×3 studs to create one leg unit. The lateral near the top of the legs is set three inches below the top of the legs. This piece actually supports the layout section. I read about this technique in a Free-mo article authored by Pierre Oliver and published in the October 2008 issue of Railroad Model Craftsman.

The other lateral is attached about five or six inches from the bottom of the legs. Lots of careful clamping was done while these pieces were attached to ensure the legs were parallel to each other and perpendicular to the bottom of the benchwork section. The last pieces to attach to the leg units are a set of U-bracket levelers from Woodcraft.

leg feet

The layout top and the leg units are all painted. I need to cut the fascia pieces and paint those to match the legs this week. All construction and painting is done in the garage to keep the mess out of the house. These layout sections will be used in a spare bedroom and I want the layout to look good from the start.

At this point, I have one last benchwork section to build, but I need to check the room measurements to build it to the correct length and width. It’s a corner piece and will be a little less than 2×4 feet. Three more leg units are also on the construction docket. It’s going to be a busy week of building here. I’m headed out on travel part way through the week and will lose a few days of work. We’ll see how much I can complete in a handful of days.

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