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Need ideas for lightweight benchwork for small portable layout

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Need ideas for lightweight benchwork for small portable layout
Posted by emdmike on Sunday, October 22, 2017 12:20 PM

I am looking to build a small portable HO layout to take to shows.  And while the train/track part will be vintage(more on that in a moment), I would like the base part to be as lightweight as possbile so I can manage it mostly by myself.   The only think I can think of is a hollow core door with fold up legs mounted on the bottom.   I am planning to use old school true scale self gauging road bed(already have some on hand) for the outer loop(18" radius curves).  This will be the outer loop around the edge of the door.  I am then thinking a 2" thick pink foam raised center area where I will put my logging camp and mill.  A steep connecting track will be cut into the foam to connect the lower loop to the logging area.   The incline and upper area will be built with older Atlas snap and flex track.  Motive power is all older brass.  2 PFM 3 truck Climaxes for the logging part.  An MB Austin SP 2-6-0, PFM ATSF 2-8-0 and IMP ATSF 2-8-2 for the branchline that loops the logging area.  I am planing to use all older/vintage kits for the buildings such as Suydam and others from the late 1950's and 1960's.   I find that whole era of model railroading fasinating and enjoy hunting for and enjoying the models of that era.  Open to suggestions and ideas if I am missing something or you have a better idea.  I have a full size pickup truck, so a normal height interior hollow core door will lay flat, on end will have to keep the scenery lower so it can slide under my tool box.     Mike the Aspie

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, October 22, 2017 1:04 PM

Sounds promising.  I'd recommend doing some rough calcs before starting.  Here's a chart for door weights:

http://www.incpark.com/mohawk/pdfs/general/sizenweights.pdf

If you use a 1 3/4 x 3/6 x 6/8 door, it comes out at about 37 pounds.  Going down to a 1 3/8 thick door saves you 2 pounds, but you get a wimpier platform.

Mounting the fold-up legs might be a problem, as most of a hollow core door is, well, hollow.  Not good for mounting.  And you should add the weight of the legs to the overall weight.

You're going to have to manhandle this thing.  As a Free-mo guy, I get to manhandle modules.  Something that big is gonna be a pain.  But there's a real benefit in having it be one piece.

 

Ed

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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, October 22, 2017 1:20 PM

I have seen guys mount the legs by putting 1x2 boards across the bottom to bridge the open middle area and provide support and means to screw the legs down with drywall screws.  Also thinking that a couple of nice brass grab handles along the edges will help with the "manhandling" needed to get it moved.  I can fit 8 foot in my train room, but its really tight and hard to get thru the hall door.  Buildings will be mostly removable with either quick connects or other means for lighting.  Mostly just clear xmas bulbs mounted to the foam upper level.  Wont be that many anyways.  Probably a Suydam sawmill at one end, and a small town at the other end.  Maybe an engine house/servicing area near the mill.  Looking at door prices.  I have enough truescale roadbed to do a loop around a standard height interior door.  Other option is to cut the door into 2 seperate sections, make interior support for the cut area on each side.  I have seen that done as well with a one man portably set up at shows.  With grab handles, he did manage to haul them in and out all by himself.  That would keep the weight down. He just set his sections on a show provided table.  No legs on his set up.   

 

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Posted by angelob6660 on Sunday, October 22, 2017 1:48 PM

Install some metal handles on the back. So it will be easy to carry with one or two hands. 

I thought of this idea but it was too late to install.

Modeling the G.N.O. Railway, The Diamond Route.

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Posted by Sir Madog on Sunday, October 22, 2017 2:22 PM

How small is small?

Portability is not only a question of weight, but also size.

A hollow core door, though not really heavy, still has quite a weight. The utmost in lightweight benchwork is a sandwich consisting of 1/8" hardboard, 4" foam, and another 1/8" hardboard. This consztruction is surprisingly sturdy and weighs close to nothing!

   Ulrich     

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Posted by rrinker on Sunday, October 22, 2017 2:53 PM

 Here's something we did to a grooup of the club modules that happen to all be the same width. Since they bolt together end to end with carriage bolts and wing nuts, we made 2 panels of plywood, with a strip of 1x3 or something across the bottom. Holes are drilled to match the holes ont he 4 module sectioons. The extra piece of wood on the bottom gives room to mount 2 casters on each plate. For transport, the modules are bolted tot he plates and, via a rope run through one of the end plates, pulled to where they need to be. A handle on each end plate allows the whole thing to be picked up easily by 2 people - the modules are too long for one person to possibly pick them up.

 The legs detach fully and are carried seperately. However, for a 2 module setup, the legs could be made fold up and the whole thing fit together the same way.

 The majority of the other modules, they fit in large racks we made with 2x4 frames and large industrial casters - these get carried in enclosed trails towed behing members' pickup trucks. Some have attached foldable legs, others have removeable legs that fit in pockets underneath the module. The legs fit in trays in the bottom of each rolling rack along with other miscellaneous equipment. Just have to put that stuff in before loading the bottom module.

                                   --Randy

 


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Posted by DSchmitt on Sunday, October 22, 2017 3:10 PM

Standard door sizes

 https://www.remodelingexpense.com/dimensions/standard-interior-door-sizes/

Widest "standard "door shown 36".  Not wide enough for 18" radius. Have found doors 42" wide on-line

doors ar actually quite heavy.  Lighter construction is possible.

One idea

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Posted by MisterBeasley on Thursday, June 17, 2010 10:27 AM

This is my benchwork table as described above.  There is a single 1x2 which you can't see which serves as a diagonal brace beneath the rafter pieces.  The legs are 2x3s.  The foam sits on the rafters, which are 1 inch lower than the top of the outer frame, giving the foam protection.  I'm not the Governor of California, but I could easily hold this whole structure above my head to carry it into the trainroom. 

Yes, it is on wheels.  My train room is also the family room, which has a kneewall and a 45-degree roofline.  The wheels allowed me to tuck the layout under the roofline when not in use, or pull it out for access.  I've got more space now, and I'm building a fixed section as well.

 Another very light, but strong 

Joe BrantJuly 25, 2013 at 7:54 AM

• For sturdy lightweight module design, you may also like to check out those made by the S&SS group in NC at http://s-ss3.home.mindspring.com/id1.html and http://s-ss3.home.mindspring.com/id4.html. Although a bit labor intensive, what they ar

e using is the design I am looking into for my benchwork.

I tried to sell my two cents worth, but no one would give me a plug nickel for it.

I don't have a leg to stand on.

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Posted by railandsail on Sunday, October 22, 2017 3:41 PM

A fellow from a club that displays module layouts at shows (lots of travel and set-up, tear down) posted a message and a photo on one of my subject threads,..... with a description of their building process, but I can't find it at the moment.

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Posted by railandsail on Sunday, October 22, 2017 4:13 PM

Sir Madog

Portability is not only a question of weight, but also size.

A hollow core door, though not really heavy, still has quite a weight. The utmost in lightweight benchwork is a sandwich consisting of 1/8" hardboard, 4" foam, and another 1/8" hardboard. This consztruction is surprisingly sturdy and weighs close to nothing!

That sounds like a winner,....and easy to construct

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Posted by emdmike on Sunday, October 22, 2017 5:04 PM

I wish my train room was more conductive to a portable set up.  Its a whopping 8 foot by 9 foot.  So even the standard 4x8 layout is land locked at one end with only the one long side accessable to work on the layout.  I have tossed around an around the room set up with one portion removable for shows, but there are two doors, both in the same corner, that open into the room.  Solving this problem, let alone building it constantly overwhelms me.  I so need someone to come in and build the benchwork and get me up and running.  Benchwork and track plans are my struggles with trying to build a layout and being autistic.  Give me a brass model to rework and fine tune anyday.  But building and solving bench work and track plans that actually fit the space I have is beyond me.  I do like that table bench work pictured above.  But with my small room, a full blown table, unless really narrow, isnt gonna work.  Around the wall works better, but that is gonna take some help from others to construct

 

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Posted by cuyama on Sunday, October 22, 2017 5:45 PM

Waffle-style benchwork is stiff and rugged, relatively lightweight, and may be easier to wire than sandwiched foam.

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Posted by 7j43k on Sunday, October 22, 2017 11:46 PM

cuyama

Waffle-style benchwork is stiff and rugged, relatively lightweight, and may be easier to wire than sandwiched foam.

 

 

If it is 3-6 x 6-8 (same as the 1 3/4 hollow core door mentioned earlier), it will weigh 38 pounds.  About the same as the hollow core door.  If you substitute 1/4" ply for the 3/4" ply end plates, the weight would go down to 35 pounds.

4" thick foam with 1/8" ply on both sides will weigh 23.8 pounds

 

Above calculations based on closed cell foam weighing 1.7 pounds per cubic foot, 1/4" plywood weighing .69 pounds per square foot, 3/4" plywood weighing 1.9 pounds per square foot.

This is for the basic "module".  Without legs, other hardware, scenery, track and electrical.

 

Ed

 

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Posted by cuyama on Sunday, October 22, 2017 11:51 PM

7j43k
If it is 3-6 x 6-8 (same as a 1 3/4 hollow core door), it will weigh 38 pounds.

For a roughly hollow core door sized layout, I have used more like 2" depth rather than 3½". If not a module, no need for the heavy end plates, as you point out.

Personally, I'd rather not try to wire through a plywood-foam-plywood sandwich, but everyone makes their own choices.

Edit: By the way, although it's a bit expensive, I’d like to try waffle-style benchwork made of Gatorboard for my next small switching layout. It seems to be relatively light and still pretty stiff. Greg Johnson has used it to build sections of his layout with good results.

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Posted by 7j43k on Monday, October 23, 2017 11:04 AM

cuyama

 

 
7j43k
If it is 3-6 x 6-8 (same as a 1 3/4 hollow core door), it will weigh 38 pounds.

 

For a roughly hollow core door sized layout, I have used more like 2" depth rather than 3½". If not a module, no need for the heavy end plates, as you point out.

Personally, I'd rather not try to wire through a plywood-foam-plywood sandwich, but everyone makes their own choices.

Edit: By the way, although it's a bit expensive, I’d like to try waffle-style benchwork made of Gatorboard for my next small switching layout. It seems to be relatively light and still pretty stiff. Greg Johnson has used it to build sections of his layout with good results.

 

 

I get 28.5 pounds by thinning overall thickness of ply-waffle and using 1/4" endplates.

But it's only 1/4 as strong.  Or worse.  But all it needs to be is strong ENOUGH.  It may be that the "standard" ply-waffle design is overbuilt.

For clarity:  Free-mo requires 3/4" end plates so that modules can be clamped together with C-clamps.  If you're not doing Free-mo, no need.

I suppose I should mention that Mike could build Free-mo module(s), and then come and play with the other kids (include his modules in a Free-mo setup).

 

Ed

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Posted by cuyama on Monday, October 23, 2017 11:31 AM

7j43k
It may be that the "standard" ply-waffle design is overbuilt.

That's my experience -- at least for a small standalone layout. One needs the beefiness for modules because of the strains of shifting a long chain of clamped-together modules (among other things).

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Posted by emdmike on Monday, October 23, 2017 6:53 PM

Probably going to just do away with the portablity part and look for help to finish the shelf type benchwork in my train room.  My one engine needs a 36" min radius to run, so flex track will probably be used on one part of the layout.  The lines to the woods logging camp will be tighter as the will be worked by a smaller Mallet(2-6-6-2T) or the 3 truck Climax.   The monster mallet(2-8-8-2) will be mostly staged on the main and run a short distance to a hidden staging area to simulate the run to the Longview, WA mill.  As the motive power has come together in the last few hours, so does the plans on how the layout will evolve to suit them.     Thanks for the help guys, lots of good ideas I can use in many ways

Mike the Aspie

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Posted by CNSF on Thursday, October 26, 2017 9:13 PM

Just want to say that I find your concept of using only early models from HO's formative years is really intriguing.  I would never have thought of trying something like that, but would be very interested to see it done.  So, am wishing you well and hoping you'll have photos to share some day.

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Posted by emdmike on Friday, October 27, 2017 2:43 PM

Thanks, I have found a nice little 4x6 layout that has scenery and such locally for sale.  Waiting to hear back from the seller to see if it still available.  It would fit nicely along one of the walls and have access on 2 sides vs 1 side on my current set up I have.  While not a logging layout per see, it would fit my small SP engines really well and allow me to stock pile the logging stuff for a future set up.  Now if I could just find the C10 2-8-0 that MB Austin imported around the same time frame as the M21 Mogul I have now.     Mike the Aspie

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Posted by BMMECNYC on Friday, October 27, 2017 7:48 PM

If the 4x6 falls through, you might consider a table top modular concept similar to T-trak.

http://www.t-trak.org/index.html

This can be adapted to HO scale.  

http://www.mprr.org/branchtrak/index

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Posted by JMK on Sunday, October 29, 2017 6:52 PM
Use steel studs, luan plywood and 2"styrofoam.
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Posted by Marc_Magnus on Thursday, November 09, 2017 4:35 AM

Hello From Belgium,

You can get an extremely light structure for a portable small layout.

Friend of mine, like me, use a easily build up structure which is strong but very light; I need to mention we use it for Nscale.

The construction of the structure  is fast.

We use plywood of 12mm thickness as a base, which is cut in lenght  with a height of 8cm, we build up an open grid construction the lenght we need for the future module, each grid around 45X45 cm.

When the open grid construction is done, we glue and screw on each extremity in the lenghwise section, a full lenght module piece of 8cm widht plywood on the base of the open grid construction, which is glued and nailed on every cross grid members,  this give a structural strength in lenght and the base for the legs to put the module on.

This give a frame extremely  strong and lightweigh, we have also used 8mm plywood base but find it not sturdy enough for great modules.

The whole thing is supported on home made  soldered iron tube legs,but this is beside the scope of this topic, wood legs can be used too.

We use blue styrofoam board and gator foam as scenery support glued on the open grid base, cut in form to give the scenery future contour.

The future roadbed is glued on plywood risers which are fixed on the top of the grid cross members , no riser is under a height of  10cm, this give the positve an negative level for the future scenery, we have a level "0" as a minimal 10cm over the open grid frame.

We use gatorfoam as support for scenery and for roadbed  for the track, the big thickness available is strong enough to support track even switch motor like Tortoise glued on a small wood base under the gator foam board; we have found 12mm gator foam board thickness in industrial advertissement business, it's not  easy to found and aviability is difficult but if you can find it, use it! the 8mm found everywhere is strong enough but need sometimes strengthener in lenght.

We use paper and white glue for hardshell scenery, now red rosin paper hot glued on the well know carboard lattice which is also hot glued on styrofoam scenery forms or gator foam forms.

For road we use strong cardstock cut in forms, on which we brush several coat of full strenght white glue, and after glue is dry, paint in the right color; again no plaster no weight.

Structures are build on the workbench on a simple gator foam base, decorated as a small diorama and included in the scenery; gator foam risers or foam risers supports are used to put the structures in their place.

Everything is this phase of construction is hot glued  on the open grid frame.

Never again plaster, because of the mess it produce and the dust which is the first enemy of scenery and the little trains; if you need to make change in an existing scenery, a simple cutter is just what you need!

I don't know why an article was never published about the use of "red rosin paper" and white glue, because i'ts extremely light, but strong  when glue is dry, more important, a roll   of red rosin paper cost a few bucks and you can cover acres of scenery and as mentionned weight sweet nothing an no dust on existing scenery....

The scenery hardshell of the famous HO scale Piermont Division of Mister Howard Zane is "red rosin paper".

We use a mix of full strenght white glue and green or brown latex paint to give a color which kill the "red pink" color of the paper; we use a fast drying white glue type for the process.

We have used plaster rock molds glued with hot glue on the hardshell  and colored on the workbench in the beginning, but now we  use urethane rocks molds in the way to win weight again.

Following a very small mine module build a few years ago on a simple 12mm plywood base with a gator foam scenery contours and forms, the paper used is a paper available in Europe similar of "red rosin paper", but dry not as fast and not as strong, so use red rosin paper (after this module construction we have found a way to obtain red rosin paper in Europe at a bargain price imported from USA; red rosin paper is not produced in Europe as far as we know).

Woodland scenic "Cluster"  are used to simulate the forest.

Hope this will help You.

Marc.

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