Sturdy benchwork supports all your design and planning.
As my previous layout was an around-the-wall type with a central peninsula, I wanted to avoid a duck-under this time. Even though track crossed my entrance at two levels, I decided to build a swinging gate. It is strongly hinged with two large garden hinges and is cut at an angle to facilitate closing. A latch is used to secure it. The ties on either side of the opening are circuit board ties with the rails soldered to them for stability. Humidity can change the position of the rails slightly so there is a "go slow" order for all trains. There have never been severe derailments. Engineers must visually inspect the rail ends to make sure they line up correctly before crossing. Electrical cut-outs have not yet been installed but signals provide a warning.
Here's an example of an interlocking bridge. One of the sturdiest entrances I've seen is this swinging gate on the Otter Valley Railroad in Aylmer, Ontario, owned by Roger and Lorne James.This layout was on the tour during the Niagara Frontier Regions's (NFR) convention held in Woodstock, Ontario in April, 2009. Sturdy bolts maintain alignment. A door lock set is used for positive and secure latching. Electrical hookup through the locking mechanism guards the track approaches.
I'm still a homasote fan for subroadbed benchwork even though it is sometimes hard to find. Some sections of my layout are built on foam. It's especially good for flat areas or to reduce weight but a problem for mounting switch machines. And never use contact cement on it unless you want a creek! You can follow along as I rebuild my layout at layout construction.
My favourite method is to use spline roadbed for mainline and curves and 1/2 inch to 3/4 inch plywood underneath yards and other flat areas. Then it's easy to build up scenery with foam layers or hydrocal over a cardboard web. See my scenery tips and techniques.
Portable layouts such as HOTrak, NTrak and free-mo deserve special consideration. If you're building a diorama or want to link up with other model railroaders' layouts, there's a ton of information on the Internet. I'll supply some good links for you in the near future.
There are excellent "how to" books from Kalmbach and other publishers. One I have used many times that covers most of the phases of building a model railroad was a two-volume book by Robert H Schleicher called the Model Railroading Handbook , Chilton Book Company, Radnor, Pennsylvania, 1975 (ISBN 0-8019-6167-X).
This was pre-DCC so you'll have to look elsewhere for current electronic information.
To the right is a picture on my layout. Note plywood triangular bracket in background supporting upper G scale corner curve and metal shelf bracket in right foreground. The backdrop has not been added. The stone wall behind the Finescale building Rollin Sawyer Chemical still needed to be painted and installed in front of the foam when I took this photo.
Looking in the opposite direction to Valleyview is Youngstown. This area of mines is partially finished. You can see the bottom of the upper deck that carries the G-scale layout. The wires hanging down are for the G-scale control panel.
There are some very good ideas for sturdy benchwork on the modular layout page describing the Nottawasaga Model Railroad Club's portable layout and ideas from other pikes.
The aisles in the photo below are on Tom Hood's layout that I visited during the Niagara Frontier Region (NFR) 2008 convention in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada.
In the aisle Tom has incorporated a sliding drawer for car storage.
I used a similar idea for overflow during operations. My solution was to buy a set of drawers from Home Depot and line one of them with felt. The others are used for basic storage of supplies. On that same layout tour I photographed some novel benchwork solutions on John Mitchell's Canada Southern layout.
John disguised pipes between these double decks by creating the illusion that they are part of the industrial complex.
Sector plates are common on British and European layouts where space is at a premium. John puts the concept to good use here.
Another idea is John's sliding transfer table to stage trains.
Dave Smith built a sector plate for his ON30 Ontario and Eastern layout. He demonstrated it for me during the Muskoka 2009 layout tour.
In the photo you can see how the track ends curve at the edge of the sector plate so that each will line up perfectly as the plate is moved.
The front end of the plate uses chair castor wheels that rotate along a board underneath the plate.
Dave used an aircraft bolt and nut for a secure pivot at the center of the sector plate at the far end. The bolt simply passes perpendicularly through the sub roadbed cross member. Drilling the hole correctly is critical.
I discovered this simple, yet effective method of building a transfer table on Roger Chrysler's layout during the NFR's Woodstock Turn convention in April, 2009. Roger used a couple of drawer slides to make the table for staging trains.
You could make this table any length by adding more drawer slides.
Here's an ideaI borrowed for use on my Utopia Northern RR — the use of Christmas light bulbs hung from the upper deck to illuminate the lower deck.
More photos from the Ottawa convention can be found at the Bytown Bobber layout tour page.
We usually have an unsightly mess underneath our layouts--bits of wood, boxes, track, scenery stuff and just plain junk we are reluctant to throw out in case we ever have a need for it. I've seen some pretty fancy cabinet work below some layouts. On the other hand, if you're looking for a cheap, effective skirting, check out this idea that I saw during the Muskoka Layout tour, 2009 on Scott Reid's HO scale Great Northern Mesabi Division layout. This is an impressive layout. You'll find other photos on the Muskoka Layout tour page.
Notice on the left side of the photo that Scott has hot-glued a wooden clothespin to the back of the masonite fascia.
An inexpensive black cloth skirting is held by the clothespin. It's easy to unhook the skirting when you need to and it is forgiving if you bump into it because it has some "give".
This is not a new idea, but I'd never seen it in action. Some modelers accomplish the same thing with velcro. Scott's method is less expensive and works just as well.
On the right in the photo you can also see the blank maintenance record sheets that are clipped underneath the layout. Another good idea!
Share your creative idea with other model railroaders.
I've added some simple instructions in the HELP boxes. Click on the ? for examples.
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