A Lotta Layout

I’ve had a big week on the layout. A couple of friends paid me a visit to help me hang a new section of photo backdrop and all the components are in place to lay the track down the narrow shelf at the bottom of the room. However instead of doing the logical thing and move onto laying the track and wiring things up on this section of layout I decided to go to the other side of the room and build a new bit of benchwork.

This shot shows about 75% of the layout. The empty corner on the left is the last vacant real estate and will soon be filled with benchwork. You can see the corner of the new section of “budget” benchwork peeking out from behind the wall on the far left.

It might seem quite contradictory to anyone looking at the photo above but I don’t consider this layout to be all that big. I’m not really talking scale, the size of the trains or the radius of the curves in this: I just mean the overall size of the room and the layout I’m building in it. When I compare it to other layouts I’ve seen and read about over the years the room I’m building the layout in doesn’t really feel very big. When you build something like this one step at a time it also doesn’t seem as big as when you stop and look back over it. However looking at this photo (which is a narrower version of what I see when I stand in this spot) I’ve got to admit: it’s a lotta layout! πŸ™‚

Because of the size of the layout and the sheer quantity of materials going into it I must admit to becoming a little more cost conscious as I’ve gone along. I had a little timber on hand before I started and I’ve bought a lot since, but I only stopped to add up what each layout section costs me when I built the new section I constructed today and I must admit to getting a bit of a shock. “If one section costs me so much that means…” (and I stopped there because I didn’t want to know the total). And of course that’s without track, wire, DCC components, photo backdrops and a myriad of other electronic bits and pieces I always seem to be waiting for in the mail. I’ve noticed that ad space at the bottom of web pages have started being taken up with adverts for capacitors and plastic terminal blocks. Sorry guys, I’ve already bought those πŸ™‚

My partner (who I don’t actually reside with) has recently been building herself a new home. I was impressed as she laid decking and applied skirting boards around the house but I was even more impressed when she offered me about 12 lengths of 15mm ply (200mm wide) that she’d picked up for $20 and had been using as temporary decking sheets. I happily loaded this into her trailer (which I was borrowing, mine is for trains πŸ™‚ ) and brought it home and stacked it in the corner of my workshop. I wasn’t sure what I was going to use it for but it had definite possibilities. After a couple of weeks I decided to rip these planks into 90mm wide pieces and see how they went being used to make box sections for the layout. I’ve made all my other layout sections from 3X1 pine (72mmX19mm) and while I find this turns out great layout segments it also costs about $70 per section just for the box and legs. I figured I’d save about $50 per section by using the ply. However this didn’t cheapen the cost of the legs. These are 2×2 pine (42mmX42mm) and while this makes great legs it also costs a lot and there’s a lot of waste because up till recently the longest lengths I could fit in my car have been 2.4m. I had about 15 lengths of very expensive off-cuts sitting in a pile about to make the trip to my partner’s wood burning heater until inspiration struck.

I must have been having one of my lucid days yesterday because as I was laying down contemplating my next move on the layout it suddenly occurred to me that I have a moderate degree of woodworking skill and that I was more than capable of cutting a lap joint and making up a number of legs from the pile of little bits I had in off-cuts box. Two hours work, a lot of saw dust and I had six leg blanks ready to be cut to length and have the leveling feet attached to one end.

I made this test section of layout today using the 90mm wide ply I ripped on my table saw and the legs I cobbled together from the off-cuts of other legs. Aside from the cross brace of 9mm ply at the bottom of the legs and the screws holding it together this benchwork was essentially free, saving me about $70. I have enough material to make three more box sections and two more legs.

I rip cut a couple of the 200mm wide ply planks into usable timber and constructed a section of layout benchwork to test whether I liked it or not. I’m not sure how benchwork made in this way will behave in the long term compared from pine but I’m going to make some more sections, lay some track on it and then leave it for quite a while so see if there’s any sagging or problems. If there is I’ll pull it out and replace the boxes with pine.

After removing the required 100mm of material from 12 pieces of 2×2 I glued and clamped the joints and then inserted four 40mm screws into the joint (two each side). So I ended up with six legs salvaged from the off-cuts. I’m fairly confident that these legs are as strong as those made from one piece of solid timber.

My plan is to build the three remaining sections of benchwork and then begin to lay the track on the section of the layout that I applied the photo backdrop to the other day. When I come back and lay all the track on these sections of new benchwork I’ll be ready to cut the three holes in the walls I need to allow the track to join in a circle. This section of track will emerge over a stairway about 1.8m above the stairs That should be fun to build πŸ™‚

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