Sylvanau ... Benchwork

Train Room 2
Train Room 1

The Room

The train room is half of a 20'x20' basement rec room. Two walls are panelled with wood. A third wall has stonework with a couple of ledges. The fourth side is the middle of the room.

During the Christmas holidays, I finally started the construction. During my ten days off work, I managed to set five days for model railroading. I still drive a hatchback car, which is quite practical for hauling cargo, including lumber. I was even able to carry five sheets of plywood cut into 8'x2' and 8'x1' pieces with the hatch completely closed! (I'll never understand why hatchbacks and station wagons aren't more popular on this side of the Atlantic.)

The first step was to clean out the room and mount my original 8'x2.5' N-Scale layout on wheels close to the floor. I'll keep this layout underneath the new one. The wheels will allow me to roll the old layout out of the way while working under the new layout.

Lumber included 1"x4" and 1"x2" pine for the L-girders and joists, 1/8" hardboard for the background, 2"x2" pine for the legs, and 4'x8'x11mm plywood. Some lumber stores (such as Home Depot) sell 1"x2" pine in 3' lengths, which was very convenient for the joists. It is also possible to find 2"x2" pine in 4' lengths. (The shorter pieces are a bit cheaper per foot.) Knotty pine is cheaper than clear, so is often a good choice. It is often just as strong, and the faults don't really matter anyways since the pine will be covered by either paint, scenery, or some other wood.

Train Room 6
Train Room 5

L-Girders Complete

The layout is built using L-girders, which consist of a vertical 1"x4" board with a horizontal 1"x2" glued on top. One L-girder is nailed to the wall, and the other is positioned 3' out from the wall. Steel angle brackets are used to join the L-girders at the corners. Legs are made from 2"x2" pine braced with 1"x2" pine.

The wood is screwed together using #8x1-3/4" flathead Robertson screws. Robertson screws and screwdrivers are well-known to Canadian hobbyists. A cube at the tip of the screwdriver fits snugly in a square hole in the top of the screw. This allows the screw to fit on the tip of the screwdriver without the need for another hand to hold the screw while driven. For some applications this is important when a third hand is unavailable. (If you're not within driving distance of a Canadian Tire store, check the better woodworking catalogs for mail-order sources for Robertson screws and screwdrivers.)

On two walls, the background board is nailed directly to the wall. On the other two, the background board is glued to 1"x2" risers attached either to the back L-girder or to the joists.

Although the L-girders are 3' apart in most sections, along the wall with the stonework, the stone ledges prevent the L-girder from lying flush with the wall. This complicated the mounting of the background board a bit. Along this wall, steel angle brackets are used to mount the 1"x2" risers supporting the board to the joists.

Train Room 3
Train Room 4

Starting to Lay Tracks

The background was painted with a flat latex blue paint. There was enough area to need a full gallon can of paint. The front panels of the layout are made of plywood cut 12" wide. The plywood is attached directly to the L-girder, which adds strength to the construction. This is important for one section where the legs need to be more than 8' apart to allow access to my old N-scale layout.

The roadbed is 11mm plywood, cut into the desired shape using a Rotozip tool. The Rotozip works much like a jigsaw, but offers a cleaner cut and more flexibility in the shape of the cut. It can also cut directly into the wood without the need for a starter hole. But it is noisy and the bits need to be replaced often. In order to get the curves to conform to the minimum 30" radius, I've cut out a sample 30" curve out of 1/8" hardboard.

The roadbed is attached to the joists via 1"x2" risers.

Cork roadbed is glued to the plywood and sanded before the track is glued down. Gluing down the track avoids the need for ugly track nails, but it is important to get the track positioned correctly before it dries. (I have to redo one section of track that's not aligned 100% correctly.)

Already, I've started to diverge from my final plan, with an additional siding.