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Starting to think about benchwork... Does anyone have any good plans for foam benchwork?

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Starting to think about benchwork... Does anyone have any good plans for foam benchwork?
Posted by Harrison on Saturday, March 27, 2021 4:47 PM

Hi all,

As many of you know, I recently tore down my old layout and I'm just about ready to start my new one. I want to build my new layout in sections, probably 6 feet at the max. I've decided I will use foam as the subroadbed, but could someone point me to a plan or tutorial on how to do this exactly? I can always come up with something myself, but I want to get some general ideas. 

I have lumber on my old train table that I can reuse, I believe they are 1x4s and 1x6s. 6 feet and 4 feet long. As mentioned before I am thinking 18 inches wide.

 

Another thing to mention is that I will be modeling the Saranac River bridge, which will require building significantly below the benchwork. How should I achive this? Here is the prototype on google maps:

https://www.google.com/maps/@44.6989482,-73.4509429,3a,30.5y,66.77h,91.35t/data=!3m8!1e1!3m6!1sAF1QipP2pa-N4Lhz0TKaNghq9eHha_CO6aYi9qAKqb_6!2e10!3e11!6shttps:%2F%2Flh5.googleusercontent.com%2Fp%2FAF1QipP2pa-N4Lhz0TKaNghq9eHha_CO6aYi9qAKqb_6%3Dw203-h100-k-no-pi-0-ya188.18974-ro0-fo100!7i11264!8i5632

Thanks for the help!

Harrison

Homeschooler living In upstate NY a.k.a Northern NY.

Modeling the D&H in 1978.

Route of the famous "Montreal Limited"

My YouTube

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Saturday, March 27, 2021 5:53 PM

I bought one corner unit of this system:

https://woodlandscenics.woodlandscenics.com/show/video/ModURail

and an extra pack of hardboard joiners complete with included bolts.

I then adapted the details of construction of the modules to use extruded styrofoam sheet and the accurately dimensioned Woodland Scenics beadboard styrofoam sheets, risers and inclines. I also made a few feet of joiner plates from some spare hardboard I had but I'm truth the Woodland Scenics extra joiner plates complete with hardware are not expensive. 

The Modu Rail modules are quite expensive and contain stuff you may not need or want. But the design is excellent imho. If you plan on using Woodland Scenic Riser system then the pricing of the modules may or may not make sense. Depends on how much of their stuff you might buy anyway. 

They also sell wooden frames to support their modules. Handy but pricey imho. Still, something similar would work.

For shelf mounting of foam modules there are lots of options. I'm using Vogt &  Knap pilaster system: the heavy duty double slot version. Expensive but handy. Basic wood frame shelving or shelf supports would also work.

For part of my layout I cross open floor so I intend to include at least one "table" style "frame on legs" section.  

Alyth Yard

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, March 28, 2021 9:25 AM

Harrison,

Help an old guy out, I am not sure I understand the question.

Are you planning to build the benchwork from foam, or are you looking for ideas for a wooden structure to support the foam?

Sorry, I can be dense at times.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by BATMAN on Sunday, March 28, 2021 10:35 AM

I put my grid together using lap joints, this allows me if I wish to cut chunks out without losing structural integrity to the point where holding up my two kilos of trains would be in jeopardy.

Half Lap Joint - Lap Joint Wood Clipart (#563578) - PikPng

You can build up or down from the plane of the bench. I use Fir 1" x 4"s as my lumber of choice using tools to fabricate them to fit as required. Looking at the above photo I can remove a cross member or trim a piece down slightly with a jigsaw if I need to go down and add uprights if I want to go up.

Here, I plan to build a canyon to the floor and simply built upside down benchwork to accommodate. 

 

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by Harrison on Sunday, March 28, 2021 11:56 AM

Thanks for the advice. Kevin, I'm looking for how to make a wood structure (benchwork) to support the foam (subroadbed). That leads me to another question. Should the foam sit on top of the benchwork, or should the wood come up to the top of the foam like a frame? 

 

I'm also still not sure how to make the Saranac River...

Harrison

Homeschooler living In upstate NY a.k.a Northern NY.

Modeling the D&H in 1978.

Route of the famous "Montreal Limited"

My YouTube

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Sunday, March 28, 2021 12:08 PM

Got it. The great thing about foam (one of the many great things), is that 2 inch thick foam is very rigid and sturdy. Your need for a support frame is minimal. Something like Brent suggested will be completely fine.

I would suggest that you build what matches your available skill set and available tools. Since almost any design will be sturdy enough, don't go fancy, do what you know you can get done.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by BATMAN on Sunday, March 28, 2021 12:11 PM

Harrison
Should the foam sit on top of the benchwork, or should the wood come up to the top of the foam like a frame?

You can have the frame larger than the support pieces in the centre so it comes up level with the foam, or set it on top as I did. I am going to bring the facia up level with the top of the foam.

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by BATMAN on Sunday, March 28, 2021 12:20 PM

Harrison
I'm also still not sure how to make the Saranac River...

2" foam should give you plenty of depth to carve out the river. How long is the river going to be?

Brent

It's not the age honey, it's the mileage.

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Sunday, March 28, 2021 8:47 PM

Harrison

Thanks for the advice. Kevin, I'm looking for how to make a wood structure (benchwork) to support the foam (subroadbed). That leads me to another question. Should the foam sit on top of the benchwork, or should the wood come up to the top of the foam like a frame? 

 

I'm also still not sure how to make the Saranac River...

 

Styrofoam isn't as rigid as wood is. Insetting the foam down into the wood framing will make the foam sheets more rigid along the line of the wood. Technically, whether you sit the foam on top of a wood stringer or inset into the framing won't make a huge difference but if rigidity is important then placing wood along the edge of the foam sheet will make a difference. An L girder along a foam sheet edge will create an immensely rigid base.

The cellular structure of a wooden plank is an engineering marvel. Extruded foam does not come close.

Mind you a plywood stringer along the side of a foam sheet will be much more rigid than a wooden plank. Pound for pound plywood is much stronger and much more rigid than dimension lumber.

Aside from the need to rip plywood into strips for benchwork the whole benchwork supporting framework is much stronger if constructed entirely of plywood. Dimension lumber is actually  inferior in strength and rigidity.  A great deal of modern construction "lumber" is actually an engineered wood product of which plywood was the first.  

Mind you, foam sheet can be made quite rigid by using foam stringers underneath the foam sheet, as if using wooden benchwork. 

Alyth Yard

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Posted by Harrison on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 1:46 PM

Ok, so I've come up with a plan for how to assemble my new benchwork in 6 foot sections. Now here's another question.

Should I reuse the lumber from my old layout even though some of the boards are slightly warped? If you want to see what I'm talking about in more detail, click here

I've had someone suggest that I buy high quality lumber new, but that would probably cost me over 100 bucks for two modules, which is a lot for me. Would the slight warping be a problem? 

Harrison

Homeschooler living In upstate NY a.k.a Northern NY.

Modeling the D&H in 1978.

Route of the famous "Montreal Limited"

My YouTube

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 1:53 PM

Old lumber is preferable if only because it has reached optimum residual humidity for your location and is not likely going to warp any further. 

Straightening warped lumber is just a mugs game. For benchwork it would be better to just use it as warped and adapt the subframe requirements  to match the warp. You can build square with warped lumber. Benchwork is generally built way over strength anyway.

Twisted lumber is basically junk. Warped but not twisted is usable. 

One piece you have is merely cupped, not warped. Dried out cupped lumber can be flattened successfully when you fasten it to squared ends of your cross pieces.

That big knot should just be cut out if you can. Knots are notoriously weak, hardly worth using. The part of the board inclusive of that large knot isn't usable really. If you do use it place the knot side up.

Alyth Yard

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, March 30, 2021 2:20 PM

Harrison
Should I reuse the lumber from my old layout even though some of the boards are slightly warped? If you want to see what I'm talking about in more detail, click here.

I've had someone suggest that I buy high quality lumber new, but that would probably cost me over 100 bucks for two modules, which is a lot for me. Would the slight warping be a problem? 

Some like to spend others money.  I had a tight budget on my last layout and I did not afford myself "high quality" lumber and it does cost substantially more than knotty pine or even clear pine.

But since the pandemic got going, the price of much lumber has doubled or even tripled above pre-pandemic prices.  So that makes it even less affordable.  If you can re-use any lumber, it's going to save you money.

Here is another consideration.  My wife always scours the FaceBook market place within a certain radius of where we live.  You may come across someone selling lumber for a much better price than Lowes or Home Depot and score.  My wife found some sheets of OSB pretty good prices, much much lower than the stores.  She saves tons of money finding things on the FB market place all the time, and sells stuff we don't need as well.

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Posted by Doughless on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 4:02 PM

What is the shape of the layout?  There may be more options if the shape uses 2 foot deep and 6 to 8 feet long sections.

- Douglas

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Posted by Harrison on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 7:02 PM

Thank you everyone for you opinions. To be quite honest, having so many conflicting voices is getting me quite stressed about it, especially being on a tight budget. I've already had someone tell me I should just give up having a layout if I can't afford "select" wood for my benchwork...

Here is what I will do. I will go to Lowe's, take a look at the available lumber and prices, and if it is reasonable, get enough to make one 6 or 8 foot section. If it is not reasonable, I will come home and have my friend (who is quite good at working with slightly bent wood) help me put together some modules with what I already have. This layout will only be here until I move out, which isn't long from now... 

Harrison

Homeschooler living In upstate NY a.k.a Northern NY.

Modeling the D&H in 1978.

Route of the famous "Montreal Limited"

My YouTube

  • Member since
    April 2018
  • From: Northern NY (Think Upstate but even more)
  • 963 posts
Posted by Harrison on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 7:03 PM

Doughless

What is the shape of the layout?  There may be more options if the shape uses 2 foot deep and 6 to 8 feet long sections.

 

The first "stage" of construction will be 18 inches by 12 feet, with a 12 inch wide by 5 foot staging yard at the end of that.

Harrison

Homeschooler living In upstate NY a.k.a Northern NY.

Modeling the D&H in 1978.

Route of the famous "Montreal Limited"

My YouTube

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Posted by "JaBear" on Wednesday, March 31, 2021 10:41 PM

Harrison
...is getting me quite stressed about it...

NO STRESS by Bear, on Flickr

Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, April 1, 2021 2:00 PM

Harrison
Thank you everyone for you opinions. To be quite honest, having so many conflicting voices is getting me quite stressed about it, especially being on a tight budget.

Hi Harrison,

I'm sorry to hear that you're getting stressed. First, tell the person (I could use other less polite terms) who told you that you shouldn't be trying to build a layout unless you can afford the best materials to take a flying leap!!

We all have to work within our means. I think that the lumber that you showed is acceptable for your purposes. The benchwork doesn't have to be perfect. If you can't get the corners to line up perfectly, then use a block of 2x2 to reinforce the corners where needed.

As far as construction, 2" foam on 1x4s is plenty strong enough. For the front of the frame, you could use a 1x6. That will cover the open side of the foam slabs to reduce damage as you work on the layout.

I would add one additional item. That would be a piece of 3/16" or 1/4" luan plywood on top of the 1x4s before installing the foam. That will give you a surface that will accept and hold screws so mounting anything like terminal strips or Tortoises under the layout will be easy and secure.

I would also suggest that you look around for a proper lumber mill or building supply center that specializes in lumber. The lumber will be much higher quality, usually much straighter, relatively knot free and it will be cheaper! If your Lowes is anything like ours, their lumber is crappy! Same with all the other big box stores.

Finally, try to ignore any comments that are causing you stress!! For example, 13 ply 3/4" Baltic Birch furniture grade plywood makes excellent benchwork. So what?!? My pine 1x4s and 1x6s seem to be working just fine.

Keep us posted.

Cheers!!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, April 1, 2021 3:34 PM

JaBear
Harrison
...is getting me quite stressed about it...

 

Harrison,

You do not need to be stressed. 

Let me say this... You have always impressed me with what you have been able to do with your layout building. I am confident you will be able to get this done with the skills you have.

You got this. Building benchwork for foam does not need to be difficult.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by "JaBear" on Thursday, April 1, 2021 4:05 PM
Gidday Harrison, the trouble with “Good Advice”, is that it is from the perspective of the “Advisor”, and while generally well meaning, can as in this case, not be actually useful in the situation of the recipient of the said advise!
 
While it would be fantastic, to use ‘dimensional timber”, how many wheelbarrows of dollars does one have??!! (I believe that the current high price of timber is a worldwide issue).
 
Now, IMO, benchwork has to be “perfect” otherwise each further element of layout building is a waste of time!!
 
But what does “Perfect” actually mean? After all, is the layout room “perfectly” square? Is the layout room floor perfectly flat, and or level? From the bit of home renovation, I’ve either done or have been involved in over the years, I think I can safety say no to both questions.
 
So, while using “dimensional timber” makes “Perfect” benchwork easier to construct, with the judicious use of either bracing, packers and doublers, and sometimes all three, it is possible to achieve the ultimate reason for “Perfect” benchwork, trouble free trackwork.
 
At the Club we reused old layout timber and without polishing my halo,  Whistling I can state that derailing on my trackwork was pretty hard to do.
 
So, take a deep breath and Have Fun,
Cheers, the Bear.Smile

"One difference between pessimists and optimists is that while pessimists are more often right, optimists have far more fun."

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