Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Building A Layout With My Boy

5500 views
36 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 10 posts
Building A Layout With My Boy
Posted by 1971_Z28 on Monday, August 16, 2021 6:02 PM

Hi Fellas from Orlando, the land of Mice and Potter.

I just found a box with all my old trains I played with until I was 12 or so.

My boy has some interest, and before the kid discovers girls I thought we could build a layout like my dad and I did.

Lumber is expensive. Is there a better material that y'all use now since 35 years ago?

Whatever we use I will need to buy tools to work with.

Not really wanting to buy bunches of new power tools.

  • Member since
    January 2004
  • From: Canada, eh?
  • 12,109 posts
Posted by doctorwayne on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 2:28 PM

Welcome to the Model Railroader Forums,1971_Z28

I'd still go with lumber for the framework, and plywood for the surface, but many nowadays use extruded styrofoam instead.

As for tools, a saw (handsaw or electric), a drill (powered or manual) and a screwdriver could pretty-well cover your needs...a square might be useful, too, and a pencil.

My benchwork is open grid, using 1"x4" select pine (yeah, they don't give that stuff away), and it's supported by 2"x4"s, that were mysteriously left over after I built my house...

...and the layout is an around-the-room type in this oddly shaped room...

...and is partially double-decked...

I'd suggest that you start small, as your son's interest may fade due to that "girl thing" - I became interested in them when I was three.

Wayne

  • Member since
    September 2014
  • From: 10,430’ (3,179 m)
  • 1,651 posts
Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 3:40 PM

Hello All,

Welcome back to the greatest hobby in the world!

Unfortunately/fortunately wood is the simplest material to work with when constructing a pike (layout).

At the current prices, it might be cost-prohibitive at this time.

One option would be to make your benchwork (framework) out of metal studs.

A circular saw; corded or cordless, with a metal cutting blade is necessary to use this material.

The sub roadbed should be some sort of plywood. I use 1/4-inch under 1-inch "blue" or "pink" extruded foam insulation board.

If you are just testing the waters, and the old equipment, I suggest setting up a small circle of track on a 4'x4' sheet of 1/4-inch plywood. It is thick enough to hold track nails to keep the track in place and light enough to move and store. 

Then, if you decide to expand you can incorporate this half-sheet of plywood into your larger pike.

Keep us informed on your progress and as always...

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

  • Member since
    October 2007
  • From: Fullerton, California
  • 1,212 posts
Posted by hornblower on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 6:15 PM

A possible alternate would be to use commercially manufactured modular tables.  Check out Marklinofsweden on YouTube.  His multi-episode tutorial building a "first timer's" layout used modular tables he purchased from Ikea.  The only real drawback I could see was the fixed height of the table (regular desk height).  Otherwise, he got solid tables with screw-on tubular metal legs including built-in leveling feet.  He put his layout together on six of the smallest tables (about 24" by 39") called Linnmon/Adils for $25 per table (total of $150).  The only additional items were pre-drilled steel plates he used to screw the tables together.  Looking on the IKEA website, they have three larger size table sets called Lagkapten/Adils.  The next larger size is about 47" by 24" ($40) followed by 55" by 24" ($46) and 79" by 24" ($68).  Not all that much cheaper than lumber but ready to assemble with no cutting.  I could not find anything similar at Lowes or Home Depot.

Being that the legs are tubular, you could always add PVC leg extensions to raise the layout height.

Hornblower

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 3,149 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 6:24 PM

Price of lumber is coming down and should continue to decline.

Ikea can sell finished lumber products for quite close to what you might buy lumber for from the local home despot location,  Ivar is actually made in Sweden which is astonishing considering the price. I've seen examples of Ivar used in layouts discussed in MRR. 

Using walls as the supports for shelves upon which you build the layout can save lumber costs. The legs and basic box framing for the top is what costs the money even if you use foam tops rather than plywood. Something has to hold everything up off the floor.

I agree with the suggestion to start fairly small and build so you can add on and expand a usable beginning layout.

About 9'x5' if you walk around the outside of the layout, which requires a room of about 14' x 10'. Or build around the walls and get longer runs of track and view and operate from " inside" the around the room layout.

Alyth Yard

Canada

  • Member since
    April 2018
  • 157 posts
Posted by Outsailing86 on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 10:04 PM

How old is your boy? 
maybe a 4x8 foam board, with kato unitrack on top? Folding table from Walmart. 

  • Member since
    December 2004
  • From: Bedford, MA, USA
  • 20,065 posts
Posted by MisterBeasley on Tuesday, August 17, 2021 10:37 PM

I personally like a wooden box frame and a subroadbed base of pink foam.  The foam is easy to cut and work with, but I hate to inform you that it's primary purpose is winter insulation and is hard to find anywhere in Florida.  You're probably better off just using plywood.

Also, welcome aboard!  Welcome

The Internet being what it is, everyone is under a bit of moderation for a few posts, just to keep the site as pleasant as it is.  You may not see your posts immediately, but that will pass.

It takes an iron man to play with a toy iron horse. 

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 13,323 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 1:06 AM

1971_Z28
I just found a box with all my old trains I played with until I was 12 or so. My boy has some interest, and before the kid discovers girls I thought we could build a layout like my dad and I did.

Hi 1971_Z28,

First, welcome to the forums and welcome back to the hobby!    Welcome

I think that 1x3 or 1x4 lumber would be the easiest to work with for the frame and legs. All you need is a circular saw or a miter saw, a drill, a square, and a tape measure and pencil. You will also need some drill bits, screwdriver bits and some carpenter's glue.

For the table, I would suggest 2" extruded pink foam insulation on top of 1/4" or 3/8" plywood. The plywood makes it easy to attach things to the bottom of the layout.

That's the easy part! I would offer a word of caution with regard to your old locomotives. If they have been sitting for 35 years they are not likely to run very well. They will need to be cleaned and re-lubricated. Even after doing that, depending on the quality of the locomotives, they still may not run very reliably. If they don't run nicely your son is liable to lose interest very quickly. The bottom line is that you might need to invest in a newer locomotive or two. The old cars can usually be made to work properly.

You are in for some fun times with your son!

Please don't hesitate to ask questions!

Cheers!!

Dave

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

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Bradford, Ontario
  • 13,323 posts
Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 1:41 AM

Hi again 1971_Z28,

I'm not sure what your current level of knowledge is regarding model trains, but here are a few things that you might want to think about:

- Do you want to use DC control with a simple power pack like you did 35 years ago, or do you want to use DCC (Digital Command Control) which adds a whole lot of additional features to the operation of your layout? People have described the difference between the two systems by saying that with DC you are controlling the track but with DCC you are actually driving the trains. If you go with DCC, I think most people will agree that your son will be much more interested in building and operating the layout given younger peoples propensity for electronics. You won't be able to use your old locomotives without having a decoder installed, and depending on their quality, installing a decoder might be a waste of time and money.

- What type of track do you want to use? If your old track is brass or plain steel it will be a pain to keep clean so it is best to invest in newer nickel-silver track. You can buy track with or without the roadbed attached. If you would rather be running trains than doing track ballasting, then something like Kato's Unitrack is ideal.

- How much space do you have for the layout? You need to be able to reach all of the layout so doing something like putting a 4x8 layout up against a wall (on the long side) will leave significant areas of the layout out of reach. There is a law that says that your derailments will always occur in that area!Smile, Wink & Grin

- Related to the above point, you will need to draw a detailed plan of the room your layout will be in, including all doors and windows, and any other things like posts or electrical panels. When you are designing your layout don't skimp on aisle space, especially if there will be two operators who will have to get past each other in the same aisle. There are several people on the forums who would be happy to help you design your layout, but one of the essential pieces of information they need is a floor plan.

- Finally, have you researched all of the resources available on this website? There is an entire section devoted to 'Beginners' as well as a very comprehensive track plan data base just to name a couple.

I'll leave it at that for now. Again, don't hesitate to ask questions.

Dave

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

  • Member since
    July 2006
  • From: Central Vermont
  • 4,427 posts
Posted by cowman on Wednesday, August 18, 2021 7:33 PM

Welcome to the forums!

With all the talk about the high price of lumber, I have not seen what scale you have and what kind of space you have available.  What you can do beyond the traditional 4x8 has been looked at a lot in the last 35 years.  If you are considering keeping this going for yourself when girls derail his train of thought (pun intended), you may want to keep future expansion in mind.

My sons and grandchildren were never much interested in the trains.  Great grandson likes to play choo-choo, we'll see if his interest keeps up as I build a new layout.

Have fun,

Richard

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 3,149 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Thursday, August 19, 2021 9:05 AM

If you buy power tools for this job get Li ion battery power, not plug in. The very common two piece drill and hammer driver combination pack is very handy. A battery powered circular saw is handy. Get your plywood sheet cut by the lumber store on their panel saw if possible. Sheet foam is easier to work with than plywood.

To keep the interest of your son think DCC with wireless handheld throttles. By all means build the layout with DC only capability to run your now classic stuff but DCC is far more interesting to the younger computer literate generation. Your son will be teaching you all about it.

There is a wealth of information about how to wire and operate one of these dual capability DC or DCC layouts. Two things: plan on running only one DC powered train at a time just like the old days and make sure you cannot accidentally power the layout with DCC power when a DC locomotive may still be on the layout somewhere, DC motors don't  like DCC voltages. 

Wiring for DCC can be trainset simple especially for a small layout and you can immediately run two or more trains at the same time everywhere on the layout. It's magical stuff.

Alyth Yard

Canada

  • Member since
    November 2013
  • 1,913 posts
Posted by snjroy on Thursday, August 19, 2021 9:10 AM

Yes, cherish these moments right now, they may fade away fast!

So here is my two-cents worth. I used lumber for my frame and looking at the price I paid, it's really only a fraction of the cost of everything else I paid for the hobby. The power source and the track alone is way more expensive.

Anyway, if money is tight, go with construction-grade lumber. You can hide it later with something else. You might be able to find used lumber, but it might be harder to work with depending on the type of wood. It may be warped and it might crack easily. Choose carefully and always drill a hole before inserting a screw. Table top can be foam, as others have suggested. Foam, the pink stuff, can also be found used if you look for it. Like I said, do the math... construction grade lumber is not that expensive for a small layout.

I would stick with DC first, with one or two locos. Athearn, old and new, are good buys IMHO. If you buy new, Bachmann and Walters are good value for money. If you think lumber is expensive, check out the DCC systems and locos...

Simon

  • Member since
    September 2020
  • 285 posts
Posted by JDawg on Thursday, August 19, 2021 10:48 AM

Just my two cents, but I'd consider getting a PowerCab and a WiFi throttle from iron planet hobbies. That way, you can run trains from your phone or tablet. Keep the younin interested longer.

A wise man once said, teach your kids to love model railroading, and they won't have enough money to buy adult beverages, happy powder, or, for that matter, a date!Big SmileConfused

JJF


Prototypically modeling the Great Northern in Minnesota with just a hint of freelancing. Smile, Wink & Grin

Yesterday is History.

Tomorrow is a Mystery.

But today is a Gift, that is why it is called the Present. 

  • Member since
    June 2007
  • 8,498 posts
Posted by riogrande5761 on Thursday, August 19, 2021 12:05 PM

jjdamnit
Unfortunately/fortunately wood is the simplest material to work with when constructing a pike (layout). At the current prices, it might be cost-prohibitive at this time.

I was reading that lumber prices have dropped in the past month and thought I'd check as an example, a 4x8 sheet of 7/16 OSB.  It was priced around $45 last time I checked some weeks back.  Today I checked and it was $14 and change.  Apparently lumber prices have dropped a good deal.  Take a look for yourself.

I prefer wood myself and I've been holding off on buying some additional needed OSB but it looks like prices has dropped a lot and are much closer to pre pandemic prices.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 10 posts
Posted by 1971_Z28 on Thursday, August 19, 2021 12:56 PM

The kid is 14 and has just started his high school.

I just want the old trains to be a temporary thing because he will not hold interest long.

I bought him as hamster motored corvette for his 12 birthday snd thought we would spend a few years fixing it up but we got it done fast and cheeper than planned.

I want to have the trains be a craft project we can work on before he moves on.

It sounds like lumber is the way to go.

  • Member since
    October 2020
  • 1,724 posts
Posted by NorthBrit on Saturday, August 21, 2021 6:18 AM

Hi 1971_Z28   Welcome

It is great fun building a railroad wth children in mind.

Just my  My 2 Cents

Have fun building it.

Be able  to operate the railroad by one person  (as well as total number of operators).   Most times only one operator will be available.  

If anything  (scenery) gets broken  (because it will) do not worry.

Let your lad have a free reign when he operates the railroad.  He will appreciate it more.

 

I let my grandchildren 'loose'.   They come back.  Laugh

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the journey

 

David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

  • Member since
    April 2018
  • From: Northern NY (Think Upstate but even more)
  • 1,078 posts
Posted by Harrison on Saturday, August 21, 2021 7:04 AM

Sounds like a fun project. I'm only about 2 years older than your son, and I'd like to say, if he hasn't been interested in trains since a young child, perhaps it will become more than just a temporary thing. It's not often that a teenage boy (in my experience) will openly be interested or pursue "playing with trains". I still get weird looks from my "normal" friends, but they're generally pretty cool about it. 

If the layout will be temporary then a 4x8, probably with a foam top is the way to go. You can carve landforms and build scenery right on the foam, and it's might lighter and easier to work with than plywood. I started with plywood (at around 9 years old), and that was a driving factor to rebuild the whole thing this past year.

Best wishes on your project, and who knows? Maybe your son will turn out like me- I love my trains more than any girl... LaughSmile, Wink & Grin

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
    November 2019
  • 319 posts
Posted by The Milwaukee Road Warrior on Saturday, August 21, 2021 8:08 AM

NorthBrit

Hi 1971_Z28   Welcome

It is great fun building a railroad wth children in mind.

Just my  My 2 Cents

Have fun building it.

Be able  to operate the railroad by one person  (as well as total number of operators).   Most times only one operator will be available.  

If anything  (scenery) gets broken  (because it will) do not worry.

Let your lad have a free reign when he operates the railroad.  He will appreciate it more.

 

I let my grandchildren 'loose'.   They come back.  Laugh

 

 

 

 

Enjoy the journey

 

David

 

Wow, great pics.  You can see the wonder in their eyes.  Love it.

Andy

--------------------------------------------------------------------------------------------

Milwaukee native modeling the Milwaukee Road in 1950's Milwaukee.

  • Member since
    October 2020
  • 1,724 posts
Posted by NorthBrit on Monday, August 23, 2021 5:46 AM

The Milwaukee Road Warrior
 

Wow, great pics.  You can see the wonder in their eyes.  Love it.

 

 
 
Thanks, Andy.  I just take a 'back seat' and let them run trains as they like.
 
 
The reason my elder granddaughter was laughing.
 
 
'Passengers on the train'.
 
 
 
They made a couple of circuits before I found out.   I hope none fell off.
 
 
David

To the world you are someone.    To someone you are the world

I cannot afford the luxury of a negative thought

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 3,149 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Monday, August 23, 2021 9:45 AM

Modelling a passenger train on the Indian subcontinent?

Alyth Yard

Canada

  • Member since
    September 2014
  • From: 10,430’ (3,179 m)
  • 1,651 posts
Posted by jjdamnit on Saturday, September 11, 2021 1:40 PM

Hello All,

From your previous thread that was closed "So good news my toy trains aren't junk."

Did you determine if your power pack (cab) was indeed faulty?

If the cab is faulty I can donate one to your cause.

The PM function is not working but if you message me your email address I will respond.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • 17,847 posts
Posted by Overmod on Monday, September 13, 2021 6:08 AM

NorthBrit
'Passengers on the train'.

What's this, a shot from "Mission Impossible: Cursed Child" just after they put the Minimis curse on Tom Cruise as they were pulling out of 7¾?

  • Member since
    November 2006
  • From: NW Pa Snow-belt.
  • 1,972 posts
Posted by ricktrains4824 on Monday, September 13, 2021 5:20 PM

If you are not using any tortoise switch machines under the layout, a sheet of 2" foam "insulation" board, pink or blue, with a support structure underneath.

I did a 4x4 test section, shelf brackets along the wall edge, on 16" centers, with a small bookcase supporting the other side, using 1x4 to span underneath, no issues the 5 years it was up alongside the standard 4x8 plywood style layout with foam board for scenery base.

If you plan on under-layout style turnout motors, operational grade crossing signals, or operating trackside signals, then I have not found a better alternative than plywood with said support structure. 

Foam board will help with lightweight scenery either way you go. 

Ricky W.

HO scale Proto-freelancer.

My Railroad rules:

1: It's my railroad, my rules.

2: It's for having fun and enjoyment.

3: Any objections, consult above rules.

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • From: Potomac Yard
  • 2,442 posts
Posted by NittanyLion on Monday, September 13, 2021 7:07 PM

riogrande5761
Apparently lumber prices have dropped a good deal.  Take a look for yourself.

When I did the budget for my basement reno in March, studs were $7.77.  I can only fit about 16 2x4s in the car per trip, so I've been buying batches and slowly building out the walls.  They peaked at $8.97 in July (I have the receipts to reference).

They were $2.97 on Sunday when I made another stud-run.

Plywood is still pretty pricey, but dimensional lumber has plunged.

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 10 posts
Posted by 1971_Z28 on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 12:35 PM

JJdamnit thank you for being so kind with your offer I was beginning to notice there is not to much kindness in this group because some of you guys sure do like to argue about things to be smart.

I don't need another power pack because all electrical problems have been solved and I do know how to use a meter with the best of them.

There have been some changes in plans and a lot of progress to talk about since last update that I made because I went to Ikea at Millennia and bought a bunch of bookcases to build the train set on top of.

Whoever said the Backman track was foolproof must have never used the stuff and should not have made the comment because the stuff is easy to put together wrong where the plastic clips go in but the metal clips to not and this is what was causing my problem because the stuff is not that easy to put together and you need to pay close attention or maybe he was calling me a fool.

I am buidling the layout in an L shape along two walls about 25 feet total length on foam about two inches thick glued together so I did not need to buy any new power tools for this.

We have got a lot done because the Ikea bookcases went together fast and the foam is easy to work with and plenty strong but not strong enough to walk on.

All my engines are running good and except for some knuckle repairs the train cars are all good too.

My boy has built a half dozen or so building kits for the scenery and everything has been painted green with some gray roads and a few trees have been added as well to the scenery.

Trains are running back and forth because when they get to the end of the layout one of use has to reverse to engine and caboose for the trip back to the beginning of the route.

  • Member since
    September 2014
  • From: 10,430’ (3,179 m)
  • 1,651 posts
Posted by jjdamnit on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 6:50 PM

Hello All,

1971_Z28
Trains are running back and forth because when they get to the end of the layout one of use has to reverse to engine and caboose for the trip back to the beginning of the route.

Thank you for the update!

1971_Z28
My boy has built a half dozen or so building kits for the scenery...

FANTASTIC!!!

Sorry for the arrogance.

Keep the questions coming.

Hope this helps.

Post Script:

1971_Z28
Whoever said the Backman track was foolproof must have never used the stuff...

I learned years ago, there is no such thing as fool-"proof" it's just fool-"resistant"! (Not in any way calling you a fool.)
J.J.D.I.- -H.T.H.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

  • Member since
    February 2008
  • 1,806 posts
Posted by kasskaboose on Tuesday, September 14, 2021 7:30 PM

Might I suggest that you get some books to broaden and deepen your knowledge of this hobby? 

  • Member since
    January 2017
  • From: Southern Florida Gulf Coast
  • 14,151 posts
Posted by SeeYou190 on Thursday, September 16, 2021 11:15 PM

jjdamnit
I learned years ago, there is no such thing as fool-"proof" it's just fool-"resistant"!

If you think something is "fool-proof", just hand it over to me. I will show you any which way this fool can mess it up!

For a while at work it was common to hear people say something like "this is so basic and simple even Kevin could not mess it up". Usually they were wrong.

Laugh

-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.

  • Member since
    June 2020
  • 3,149 posts
Posted by Lastspikemike on Friday, September 17, 2021 8:17 AM

Congratulations on getting up and running with your new point to point layout.

If you have room it is a fairly easy step to add a return loop of track to each end to create a continuous running option. If you do add return loops at each end I recommend you run double track between the loops to begin with so as to avoid having to wire reversing sections right away. You can always add reversing sections later. Layouts without reversing sections are just easier to wire and to run. 

Besides, running the connecting routes beside each other creates a nice twin track appearance. It's fun to watch model trains hurtle past each other just like real ones do.  Real railroads use their twin tracks in opposite directions, not using reversing loops.....

Alyth Yard

Canada

  • Member since
    August 2021
  • 10 posts
Posted by 1971_Z28 on Friday, September 24, 2021 5:03 PM

Mike please do not respond to my threads because it did not take me long to see that you like arguments and cause threads to turn to garbage or stop and I do not want that happening to my questions.

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Users Online

There are no community member online

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!