Category Archives: Benchwork

Yup, I’m still alive…

Yup, I’m still alive. I just haven’t gotten much done on the layout. I did get the two short cabinets done on the flair out on the end of the peninsula, but not the half round that would complete the peninsula. I had hoped to have the basic bench work done by years end. With the amount of time I had between Thanksgiving and December 31st, I figured finishing it was a no brainer. However, as they say, life happens.

One of the things that got in the way was a week in New York city on business. And then once I got back there was all the catch up work that piled up while I was gone. Toss in all the things that go into getting ready for Christmas and there goes the time.

The upside is while in New York I was able to do a couple of things that were train related.

First was a trip to Grand Central Terminal or Station, depending on who your talking to. My wife ( yes, we work together and usually travel together ) wanted to go because they have a bunch of pop up shops in the concourse during the holiday season. They have about 60 local artists and craftsman selling their wares. There are some cool things, but I covered the shops in very little time as I wasn’t really looking for anything. Kind of how I shop, if I’m not looking for anything, then nothing is truly interesting  and no reason to look too hard. So, as my wife was inspecting every little thing I meandered down to the museum. It is pretty neat, especially if your into tin plate, as they several cases displaying a variety of different name trains in what I have to assume is different scales within tin plate.

The other thing they had was a layout set up running Lionel O-27 trains. Half of the layout depicted Manhattan, centered on Grand Central Station. They other half was a mountain / country scene. The city scene was well done, all though not quite to scale. The buildings were right in relationship to each other but not with the trains. You will have to excuse me, that’s the critical part of me. The overall detail was very good especially for a display layout.

It was fun to watch the trains running, but it was more fun to watch the kids watching the trains run. They did a great job as they had a half dozen or so trains running at the same time. They had them set up to run with a signal system, with a red signal the train would stop and then proceed on the green. The city scene had surface, elevated as well as a subway trains depicted.

Below are several photos:

The city scene with Grand Central Terminal as the focus.
The city scene with Grand Central Terminal as the focus.
Clearer shot looking down thee aisle.
Clearer shot looking down the aisle.
The country scene.
The country scene.

Next up was a stop at The Red Caboose Hobbies ( theredcaboose.com ). If you have been there then I won’t say anything, but if you haven’t then I would highly recommend a visit if you are in Manhattan. If you look it up on the web then you might run into the reviews of the place. I would recommend that you ignore them. They are right, the owner is a bit obnoxious and abrasive at first. The store is cluttered and tight. If you have claustrophobia then I would recommend that you don’t go. How this place passes a fire inspection is beyond me.

But once you start looking around you will be amazed. The layers of merchandise is amazing. And layers is the best way to describe it. Model railroading is represented in O scale all the way to Z scale. The amount of Z scale he sells at first amazed me, but then I realized with a 500 square foot apartment renting at around $3000 a month, it makes total sense. I’m sorry, back to the layers. HO is the predominant scale carried, and in that scale you find representations of everything. In the cases with the engines, you will find the latest offerings to old AHM engines on display. The shelves are the same way, again the latest offerings mixed with almost any older brand you can think of.

In the back of the store is a case with old O scale brass engines. How do I know they are old, because there is a stack of old, dust covered boxes stacked in front of them. The place is a treasure trove, if you want to take the time to poke around.

The part that really intrigues me is at one end of the store there are a couple of back stockrooms. The doors are always open and the lights are always off. But from the looks of it, they too are layered with older stock. Since this store has been in existence since 1946 one has to wonder or dream of what is back there.

And far as the owner, once you have been there a few times, you get use to him. Strike up a conversation with and he loves to talk and is quite knowledgeable on many subjects.

Below are some pictures that I took of some HO buildings that were done for display purposes that in a case at street level. I haven’t asked who did them but they are very good, with an excellent eye towards detail. I didn’t take any pictures inside the store as I felt a little weird if I did. I do believe  there are pictures online if your interested.

DCF 1.0

Well done overall, but great detail in the windows.
Well done overall, but great detail in the windows.
Great scene with a lot of action going on even though it's a static model.
Great scene with a lot of action going on even though it’s a static model.
Nice kitbash of the building with good detail in the open loading doors.
Nice kitbash of the building with good detail in the open loading doors.

Anyways, Merry Christmas to all and a Happy New Year. I’m looking forward to making far more progress in 2015 and I hope you will follow along on this journey.

 

 

 

Late October Update…

I apologize for the lack of posts this month. October Tends to be a busy month work wise, with a heavy travel schedule. Add to that trying to get everything done around the house that needs to be taken care of before the snow flies and the thought of getting anything done downstairs seems like wishful thinking.

But the good news is that I have been able to make progress on the layout. I managed to squeeze in a little here and there, and before you know it the benchwork is nearing completion. It seems like when you don’t have big blocks of time to finish something, you kind of write off the little bits of found time as not enough to get anything done.

I know this will be different as I get into later stages of layout construction, such as track work or scenery construction, where you can accomplish a lot in small blocks of time. But I put aside the natural inclination to say “oh well, maybe tomorrow” and do what I could with what time I had. And it’s truly amazing what you can get done when you do that.

First off, finished the last set of major cabinets on the other side of the peninsula. There will be a couple of small cabinets that go on the turn back portion of the peninsula. Now I know there are some out there who are throwing the arms up and saying “what is it with you and cabinets”. Let me explain. There are a lot of modelers out there who build their layouts and use the underside for storage. I don’t want to offend anyone, but I’ve done this and I have found that the stuff under the layout tends to pile up and slowly creeps out from underneath.

And even though my loving wife totally supports my hobby and consented to the whole basement as a layout room, still thinks of it as the basement and thus a place where things go that she doesn’t want upstairs. So storage was important.

Anyway, cabinets are done.

Last set of main cabinets installed.
Last set of main cabinets installed.

Second, finished the lower level benchwork over the new cabinets.

Lower deck benchwork in place on cabinets.
Lower deck benchwork in place on cabinets.

And last but not least, I was able to temporarily install the upper level of benchwork  along the entire peninsula. The reason I did it this way was so that I could get all the pieces cut to size and all wire run holes drilled. For the most part the pieces are a solid stringer that extends all the way across. But there was some fitting of pieces around the support posts and the pieces that make up the outside corner. Now that I have them all cut and drilled I will take them out, paint them and reinstall them. I can then install the rim joist.

Upper lever benchwork installed on peninsula.
Upper lever benchwork installed on peninsula.
Upper level benchwork in back aisle. The "hole" is still open for the helix.
Upper level benchwork in back aisle. The “hole” is still open for the helix.
Alternate view of upper level benchwork on peninsula.
Alternate view of upper level benchwork on peninsula.
Upper level benchwork on other aisle.
Upper level benchwork on other aisle.

Side note: I was sure once the other cabinets were installed on the other side of the peninsula that the stability of the center support “wall” would be fairly solid. I was surprised, happily so, that it is rock solid. I felt so confident in its strength that I played around with the idea of having my wife take a picture of me laying across the upper benchwork stringers. Common sense got the better of me and I decided not to press my luck.

Lastly, I’m posting a couple of pictures of display cabinets. The first two are ones that my father had made for me after I got back into the hobby after I was married. He tried to match the original. The doors were made of 1/4″ plywood and warped badly. I replaced them with clear plexiglass .

The other two cases built by my father for me.
The other two cases built by my father for me.

All but about 6 of the engines are old Athearn Blue Box or Bachmann DC engines.

The other case was the original one that my father made for me about 45 years ago. At one time it held all of my engines and train cars, but that was along time ago. I’m repairing some damage on the doors and will paint them to match the cabinets.

Original train case built into base cabinets.
Original train case built into base cabinets.

Next up: either the end of the peninsula or the base for the helix.

As they say, stay tuned…

 

 

Benchwork update…#2

Sorry about the long gap between posts. With summer coming to a close, we squeezed in a vacation over the Labor Day weekend which was followed by a extended business trip to New York. I didn’t have much time to work on anything let alone have time to update the posts.

I was able to get the rim joist on the benchwork that I had finished. Not totally an easy task as the corner of the benchwork is rounded. In order to curve the 3/4 inch plywood around the corner I have to kerf the plywood, which involves cutting a 5/8″ slot every 1″ on the table saw. Once done, the wood will easily bend around the benchwork giving you a nice even flow around the corner. Side note: I know a lot of people will just apply a 1/8″ or 1/4″ fascia right to the ends of the joists, but I find that I will sometimes “forget” where I am in relation to the layout and bump into the fascia. Without the plywood rim joist, the fascia will flex and with finished scenery in place this might mean that you crack the finished scene.

Attaching the rim joist on the short leg.
Attaching the rim joist on the short leg.
Benchwork for the curved corner.
Benchwork for the curved corner.
Installing the rim joist around the corner.
Installing the rim joist around the corner.
The finished corner.
The finished corner.
Finished benchwork on the short leg.
Finished benchwork on the short leg.
View down both legs with the rim joist in place.
View down both legs with the rim joist in place.

I also was able to stage my bridge/berm scene I had talked about in my last post. I had wanted to get a feel for how the scene would look. Kind of a concept to reality thing. I’ve been picturing this in my head for a long time and wanted to know if it was actually going to work. The buildings in the scene are just stand ins for the purposes of the mock up. I have finished buildings from the old layout that I will be using. Also there will be buildings to the left of the intersection as well as the far side of the bridges. With scenery in place I now feel that this scene will be exactly what I had pictured in my head.

Side view of the bridge/berm scene.
Side view of the bridge/berm scene.
Head on view of the bridge/berm scene.
Head on view of the bridge/berm scene.

Benchwork update

I finished most of the benchwork on the one side of the peninsula with only the rim joist left to install. The big hole in the third picture is where the helix benchwork is to go. Probably my next project. As I had mentioned before I will have to “daylight” part of the wall for the utility room and I’m not really looking forward to that. Not that is tough, just that it’s going to be messy.

The  lowered portion of the of the benchwork along the short leg of the peninsula is for a “signature” scene. The Twin Cities isn’t by any means flat. The rail lines through the cities travel through a variety of terrains, there are flat open areas, long cuts and areas that the railbeds were laid on long berms. When I first saw Walther’s art deco bridge I wanted to recreate one of the berm scenes with the tracks running along and above a neighborhood. This area seemed perfect as I hadn’t planned on anything happening on this stretch as it is across from the New Brighton rail yard and didn’t want to have people bumping into each other because of the narrower aisle width here.

View down the long leg of the peninsula.
View down the long leg of the peninsula.
Down the short leg of the peninsula.
Down the short leg of the peninsula.
View of where the helix benchwork is to go.
View of where the helix benchwork is to go.
Overview of the newest benchwork.
Overview of the newest benchwork.

 

Benchwork continues…#3

I finally worked out the logistics of the semi-permanent section of the benchwork over the window. I cut the wall sections and added in blocks that can be unscrewed to make a 4 foot section removable should I need to access the window should it need maintenance of some sort. Only the upper deck would come out as the lower deck is at a height that is lower than the window. As I mentioned because of this I had to move the bridge scene farther into what was the Duluth yard than I wanted it.

The back corner benchwork finished.
The back corner benchwork finished.
The window area with the removable section in view.
The window area with the removable section in view.

As far as wiring goes I added in plugs to the lighting string, which because it’s nothing more than a extension cord with lights wired into it would seem pretty basic, it took awhile for me to figure it out and wrap my head around it. When I did it was a “aha” moment as well as a “duh” moment. As far as the rest of the wiring goes I will have to add in terminal blocks for the DCC buss, switch wiring and lights. I prefer to keep connections to a minimum in wiring, but unfortunately this is unavoidable.

Plugs to disconnect the light string.
Plugs to disconnect the light string.

And last, but not least, is a closer view of the bridge scene. Why is it a big deal? Because at this point it helps to have things that shows you where you’re headed as you push ahead with the benchwork.

the future harbor entrance bridge scene.
the future harbor entrance bridge scene.

 

Benchwork continues…#2

As promised and long overdue, I have an update on the further adventures of benchwork construction.

First up, I finished the second set of base cabinets. I love these as they hold a ton of stuff that had been sitting around in boxes. This set holds a bunch of old dvd movies, a ton of cd’s ( that someday will be loaded on my computer, someday ) and a good portion of my model railroad magazines, plus. As you can see the aisle width is rather generous and thanks to doing a lighting plan ahead of time the fluorescent lights are centered over the aisle.

New cabinets in on the other side. New home for music, movies and model railroad magazines.
New cabinets in on the other side. New home for music, movies and model railroad magazines.
Another view of the base cabinets.
Another view of the base cabinets.

Next up, I finished the lower deck on the south and west walls. The upper deck is done up to the window.

Back wall almost complete.
Back wall almost complete.

The lower deck is the New Brighton yard, the upper deck will be the Duluth yard. I had planned on running the Duluth yard across the window, but the nagging thought that I may have to access the window from the inside ( due to a broken window pane or… ) made me rethink this. I decided that I would have to make the upper deck semi permanent in front of the window. Still working out the logistics, I think I have the benchwork figured out, still working out the wiring portion. So as not have to tear out a portion of the yard, I decided to move the bridge scene in front of the window. This is going to truncate  the yard, but I believe that I can still make the yard work.

The problem window area.
The problem window area.

Once I get the upper deck in front of the window figured out, I will proceed around the upper deck and be able to finish the area over the west wall. I have all the joists for the upper west wall done and ready to install. Two things in this aisle – the west wall is the deepest scene at 3′ and this aisle is the narrowest, again 3′. The DCC tower marks the aisle width plus 6″ overhang for the benchwork. 3′ was what I had set as my minimum aisle width and is still plenty wide. Even though there will people working the yards there is nothing on the opposite side that will have someone in the way. The DCC tower is a leftover from the last layout and needs to be cut down to match the cabinet height. To its left will be an “electronics” cabinet. This will have the detector circuits for signalling, the Digitrax DS-64 stationary decoders for the switch machines, power supplies for lighting, etc.

View of the aisle from the other angle.
View of the aisle from the other angle.

The last photo shows the area is where the base for the helix will go. For the keen eyed out there, I know that it is narrower then it is long. I will be “daylighting” the wall to the utility room. It had to happen or I would have to compromise a curve radiuses on either the track coming out of the yards, the helix or both. Did this last time and I was sorry I did.

View of the back wall with the hole where the helix will go.
View of the back wall with the hole where the helix will go.

 

 

Benchwork continues…

2nd wall completed as far as available cut lumber would take it.
2nd wall completed as far as available cut lumber would take it.

As you can see I finished the second wall as far as I could go with available cut plywood. My daughters car broke down and showed up in my garage (wood working space ) and she is using my truck ( wood hauling vehicle ) until I get hers back on the road. As far as the wall system goes all I have left is 8 feet on the third wall.

My plan was to keeping working around the room on the bench work, because for continuity reasons it just seemed like the right way to do it. However since I had the supports leftover for the peninsula from the old layout I decided to push ahead with that part of the project.

Measuring and marking the floor for the peninsula.
Measuring and marking the floor for the peninsula.
Longer view of the space for the peninsula measured out.
Longer view of the space for the peninsula measured out.

 

The wooden case set to where the edge of the layout will be, checking aisle width.
The wooden case set to where the edge of the layout will be, checking aisle width.

The three pictures above are the wall spacing being measured out, the wooden case in the third was set at the layout edge to get a feel for the aisle width which is set at 42″.  Once I was sure of all the measurements I got together all the pieces for the wall.

Assembled parts for the peninsula wall.
Assembled parts for the peninsula wall.

The center wall goes together much the same as the outer wall pieces using the spacers and although it is free standing will be tied into the two support columns. The real stability for the wall will come from the base cabinets which will be screwed to it on both sides. The uprights are 6″ wide with the same 12′ on center spacing. Again with the aid of the spacers work went very quickly and I had the wall together in a couple of nights.

Assembling the peninsula wall using the spacers>
Assembling the peninsula wall using the spacers>
Construction goes very quickly using this method.
Construction goes very quickly using this method.
First section up and ready.
First section up and ready.
Adding uprights to the second section, the peninsula will be anchored to the support column.
Adding uprights to the second section, the peninsula will be anchored to the support column.
Another view of long section, the wall will continue at a slight angle to the right.
Another view of long section, the wall will continue at a slight angle to the right.
Short leg of peninsula wall, the space beyond is where the Helix will be.
Short leg of peninsula wall, the space beyond is where the Helix will be.

 

 

 

Cabinets in, bench work started.

I finished the first set of cabinets, installed and painted them. I won’t bore you with the details of construction as they follow standard base cabinetry construction. I painted them white as all the woodwork in the house is painted white. Also I had painted the cabinets in the work area white and wanted continuity between the two areas.

Base cabinets in place, painted and ready to go.
Base cabinets in place, painted and ready to go.

The space above them is the main staging yard, so I will be using these for storage of the engines and train cars. Shelves will be added soon, but the doors will be made after the rest of the cabinets are done as it is easier to do them all at the same time.

As the paint was drying I went back out to the garage ( also known as the woodworking shop ) and cut the “joists” for the upper and lower decks. I then made three drilling jigs for the three different size holes that I’m using for wire runs. Each joist has two 1″ holes, four – six 5/8′ holes and four 1/8′” holes. It may seem like a lot, but I figured it would be easier to keep like wires grouped together but separate. I also notched the upper deck joists for lower deck lighting.

View of lower deck joists set in place, note holes drilled for wire runs.
View of lower deck joists set in place, note holes drilled for wire runs.

The picture above shows the joists set in place. The first step was too screw the end of joist to the stud and the outer edge to the cabinet. Again I started with the end joist to the left in the picture, mounted it, then using a spacing jig ( like the one used for the stud spacing ) moved down the line. I can’t stress, at least for me, how much of a time saver the spacing jig is. You’re not trying to measure the spacing for every joist. I then added a ” rim joist ” to the outer edge of the joists. I will then add a fascia to this after I start the scenery.

Lower deck joists mounted and installing rim joist.
Lower deck joists mounted and installing rim joist.
Lower deck frame work done.
Lower deck frame work done.

Once I finished the lower deck I painted the upper deck joists white for better light reflection, when dry I then installed them same as the lowers except instead of screwing them to the cabinet, I screwed them to the 3/4″ lip on the horizontal.

Upper deck Joists painted for light reflections.
Upper deck Joists painted for light reflections.
Upper and lower deck framing done.
Upper and lower deck framing done.

The plan was to keep moving around the room with bench work, but everything was working out as I had hoped so I wanted to add the sub roadbed to this area to see if there would be any sag or deflection. I cut the plywood for both decks and mounted it. The lower deck was solid, although with it sitting on the cabinets that was really no surprise. What brought about a sigh of relief was that the upper deck was also rock solid. No sagging and no deflection, even when I pounded on it.

 

 

 

 

 

The bench work construction has started!

My normal process when faced with a large project is mentally “build” the project, looking for problems that I could run to, possible better ways to do it and so forth. A model railroad is a undertaking that will take years ( unless it’s a project layout with a deadline, like a model publication project ).  Realizing this, I had to override my natural inclinations and press forward.

Wow, I’m glad I did.

The method I’m using is one of my own design, at least I haven’t seen it used any where else. I “developed” it on my last layout- some good did come out of it. I am building a mini stud wall with horizontal braces on the front and back of the vertical “studs”. For the horizontals against the wall I’m using 1×4’s cut from 3/4″ plywood. The studs are 2×2’s and the outer horizontals are 1×4’s cut from 1/2″ plywood.

 

1. The horizontal braces in place. Top and Bottom are spacers, the bottom edge of the middle two set the deck heights.
1. The horizontal braces in place. Top and Bottom are spacers, the bottom edge of the middle two set the deck heights.

The first step was the horizontal rails. The top and bottom rails are mounting point/ spacers for the studs. The bottom edge of the middle two set the height for the layout deck. I took great care in keeping these as perfectly level as possible, using both a 4 foot level and a laser level. They are screwed to the actual stud wall.

2. making sure the first 2x2 is perfectly vertical as this affects the rest.
2. making sure the first 2×2 is perfectly vertical as this affects the rest.

Then I added the first stud, again making sure that it was as perfectly vertical as I could get it because it’s alignment affects the rest of the studs. After it was screwed in place I used a pair of spacers made out of plywood and cut to the same length to mount the next. Once I got a rhythm down this went very fast.

4. Jig in place with the next 2x2 in place.
4. Jig in place with the next 2×2 in place.
5. Work moves pretty quickly not having to measure individual uprights.
5. Work moves pretty quickly not having to measure individual uprights.
6. First wall done.
6. First wall done.

 

With the studs in place I moved on to the outside rails. again top and bottom are spacers. The middle  two are mounted 3 1/2″ below the bottom of the inside rails, with the idea that the bench work deck pieces will slide in place. The outer edge of the bottom deck will be supported by base cabinets. For the top deck I added a 3/4″ piece to the rail to give added support and add a screw surface.

7. Outside horizontals going in place, again the top and bottom are spacers, while the top edge of the middle two support the bottom edge of the bench work.
7. Outside horizontals going in place, again the top and bottom are spacers, while the top edge of the middle two support the bottom edge of the bench work.

The last picture shows the bench work pieces set in place. Once actually mounted they will be screwed to the stud and the top ones screwed to the rail, while the lower to the cabinets. Out of curiosity I didn’t fully hang on one, but did give it a large tug to test it’s strength. I was thrilled when there was virtually no vertical movement even though it was not screwed in place.

The next step is to build the base cabinets. This shouldn’t take to long and then on to actually building the bench work decks.

8. Test fitting the bench work.
8. Test fitting the bench work.