Monday, February 29, 2016

Construction Report: Feburary 28, 2016

If there's a section of this layout plan that causes me anxiety, it's the Adena wye area. I can finally say the cause of concern is not the track plan but the underlying benchwork that will support the wye.

For some background see the January 1st post "Mocking Up Adena Wye" which explains the function and planning for this area.

This is a really deep scene, much deeper than you might typically find on many of the multilevel "shelf style" layouts I follow in the model railroading press.  As you can see in the photo below, the section of wye track in the front spans over 6 feet from the NKP Caboose on the right to the lower left corner where the track rejoins the basement wall benchwork.

Adena Wye
Because there is a planned lower level which will follow the path of the Adena Railroad to St. Clairsville and perhaps Neffs, the wye track really does need to "span" the gap. It can't create too much an impact on the future level below with "conventional construction" methods.

 After spending a good amount of time brainstorming, googling ideas and browsing Tony Koester's "Designing and Building Multi-Deck Model Railroads", I found a solution.

Like others have done but in a different way, I would combine a metal track shelving system and the popular L-girder wood benchwork construction. I came across a formula from Lynn Westcott's "How to Build Model Railroad Benchwork" regarding l-girder maximum spans. I can't find the information to link it, but based on a L-girder built from a 1x3 with a 1x2 flange, I could  span the 5 to 7 feet needed with minimal deflection. Weight shouldn't be a problem anyways since my roadbed and scenery material will be pink foam, it really only needs to support itself.

A few weeks ago I built the L-girders and today I finally put them into action.

First was to attach the shelf track standard for the other wall around the corner from the Adena wye, as seen below. I bought a long standard to use for the lower level in case I wanted to create another span from that location as well.

The attachment points for the spanning L-girders were full 1x3 L-girders to partially wrap around a 20" shelf bracket. This piece in the below photo is 30" long.

Level again!
To pencil in the cuts I would make with my miter saw, I clamped the spanning L-girder to the bottom of the supporting L-girders.

Measure and double check 8 times, cut once.
 At this point in the below photo I realized I needed some different clamps, ones that can hold things at an angle. I made do with these cheap bag o' clamps from Home Depot.

Ugly but it got the job done.
 The finished product!

It's just as sturdy as I had planned and somehow everything turned out pretty darn level according to the 4' bubble level!

As an even bigger plus everything still lines up with the plans.

On target!
While I was on a roll I added some opaque window film to the basement windows. Since the backdrop will not cover these windows, this will help hide the spectacular view of my window wells from distracting guests from the trains.

For this phase building the L-girder span was really getting the hard part out of the way first. Everything else should be easy following conventional shelf style layout construction.


  1. Chris,

    Congrats on starting the benchwork! Glad to see things go from thoughts and plans into reality!

    Looking forward to seeing more progress.

    Tim Moran
    Akron, OH

  2. It is pretty exciting taking that first step with some real benchwork. Luckily I have the materials on hand to make quick work of the rest of the the Adena area.

  3. Yeah, good to see you got some benchwork going.

    I've often wondered if you could reinforce longer L-girder beams with angle iron to prevent or at least minimize sagging in the middle. I've also wondered if making the L-girders out of 3/4" hardwood plywood might reduce sagging.

    I'm also wondering if you have experienced any issues with leveling the shelf brackets. At my old house I used a laser level to locate the plumb line but found the brackets still were off level when I put a hollow core door on the shelf. Not 100% sure but I still somewhat suspect my laser level wasn't really level.

  4. Using 3/4" hardwood plywood is a good idea if I needed to support more weight. I even considered using electrical conduit support struts. Those are very rigid but also very heavy. Also the metal struts are pretty expensive and I'd have to buy a metal cutting saw blade. Wood wins here.

    I'm surprised how level everything turned out. The Adena Yard side L-girder support is deflected upward just a hair but that's because the bottom of the shelf bracket is resting on a screw head that holds the track standard to the wall.

    It's the cheap stamped metal L shaped shelf brackets that give me leveling issues they all seem to have a upward slant.