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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Your First Railroad Part 3.

Now that every thing as been planned out, right down to track placement, it is time to get the room ready.
To have the proper environment, one should make sure that very good lighting is in place so that viewers can see the layout well. The best way to do this is to bring the lighting in front of the layout so that everything that faces the audience is illuminated.  Doing this also keeps unwanted shadows off the layout.  As to what kind of light, fluorescent lighting is best because of the fact that it is cleaner, brings a cooler atmosphere to the layout, and that it does not produce as much heat as regular light bulbs.  Carpeting on a floor is a very welcome comfort that many forget about.  Walls that have been painted white or light blue help to reflect the light back towards the layout. painting the walls black can do a whole lot too, focusing the eye toward the layout.

The second step to any model railroad is building the benchwork.  Benchwork is the foundation that gives the layout its height and support.  When building benchwork it is wise to have a three point support system.  By this I mean that the legs should be supported in three places.  However there are different ways to support a train layout.  Shelf layouts are used when a modeler doesn't want legs. Basically, a shelf layout is a string of shelves that raps around the walls of a room to form the layout surface.

The table top has many methods to supporting scenery, from the classic table top to the innovative, L-girder style.  A good idea is to look at a how to book on specifically benchwork to get an idea as to what the various methods are.  On my layout, I used a door that was later covered in two inches of foam board (the railroader's secret weapon).

For garden Railroads, the equivalent would be taking dirt and filling in all of the railroad's foot print.  When doing this it is important to build a retaining wall.  But this is for another day.

When building benchwork, it is important to keep a few things in mind:

  • If joints are necessary, use screws instead of nails.  Screws pull the would together to stay in while nails act like a wedge to stay in.  This means that the nails will work their way out.
  • Keep legs away from the outside edges.  Just like a table, legs on the edge of the bench-work will be in the way and greatly increase the chance of tripping.
  • Keep weight in mind.  My very first train layout was built as a 4x5 n scale railroad modeling the southwest, but it was in excess of 160lbs!  This was largely due to the fact that the layout was built from 3/4'' ply-wood and plaster that was in some places 3" deep.
  • ALWAYS, provide space for wiring and control.  My first few layouts never had a place on the edges to put a controller or any fancy wiring.  My point here is to have lumber along the edge to support these things.
  • Make duck-unders high.  A duck-under is a place where people can go below the railroad tracks to get to the center of the layout.  But as people get older, their backs get tighter and cannot bend as far. so keep the bottom of the layout a minimum of about 48" in the area where people need to cross, but higher is better.  This could be accomplished through helixes or a grade rising up to that height.
  • leave isles wide enough for two people to pass.  Anyplace where a layout comes out from a wall, an isle is formed between the resulting peninsula and another peninsula or wall.  The isle should be a minimum of 42" across in low traffic areas and 48" in high traffic areas.  Some yard areas may need even more if you have many operators.
  • Make the overall height better for your audience to see or put chairs and steps for those who cannot see above the layout.  So I wouldn't put Tomas the tank engine on a layout that is 56" high, and don't run the City Of New Orleans on 30" benches. With these things in mind, start designing bench-work that will be great for you and/or those that will see your masterpiece.

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