Advice request for benchwork construction

Erik84750 Jan 6, 2022

  1. Erik84750

    Erik84750 TrainBoard Member

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    After searching endlessly for track plans I found this one from Bob's track planning examples: a layout that requires one lower level for hidden track, and one upper level for visible track.
    It includes some yards, a turnback loop, and some interesting features. I think it is a very smart plan because it involves some interesting track loops and a combination of switching and continuous running in a well thought out space.

    One addition I would like to have is a helix in the lower left leg down to a hidden yard at the lower level, and which connects back to the upper level at the left upper corner.

    For construction I have Linn Westcott's "How to build layout track benchwork".
    However, I struggle to figure out how to superpose two levels using L-girder benchwork.

    What suggestions do you have for a benchwork that uses as much as possible the advantages of L-girder techniques, and that would accomodate this actual track plan from Bob?
     

    Attached Files:

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  2. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

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    First, a decent helix with trouble-free curves, spacing from spiral to spiral, and with a reasonable grade, takes up a hockey sock full of room. Be warned.

    Are you stuck on L-girder? Why? L-girders are great for longish stretches where you might have mountainous scenery and elevated roadbed, such as splined roadbed held by risers on joists. For simple, relatively planar/level tracks on a main operating surface, simple box or rectangular construction using 1X4 spruce and 1X2 joists and risers works well, and is simpler.

    If you want a double level, use cantilevers or wall brackets so that you don't have supports interfering with the lower main surface. I wouldn't use an L-girder up top unless you were going to support the outermost one with a very robust cleat system, cantilevers, or with posts/brackets, pretty much defeating the purpose of the L-girders and your wish to have an unobstructed view of the lower operating surfaces.
     
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  3. Erik84750

    Erik84750 TrainBoard Member

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    Hi, thanks for your reply.
    Available space is 5m x 7m (about 15x21ft). There would be one helix (my add-on, left lower corner).
    This blog (Appalachianrailmoddeling.com) shows an interesting approach. My guess would be for a helix of 70" diameter (about 1,7m) that could fit but I have to calculate the radiusses of the other two loops in that trackplan (they seem a bit tight).

    L-girder: I think maybe for the lower level? Because with a small amount of lumber fairly solid benchwork can be made?

    So definitely no L-girder on top, that is settled.

    Are you referring to "open grid" that is a rectangular frame of 1x4's with 1x2 joists spanning the short side? But what about both left and right lower return loops in that trackplan? They are about 5 feet wide: Make an "open frame grid" with legs where no wall support is available?

    And the top level with flat 3/4" plywood, and cookie-cutting of elevating or lowering track?

    What about track that needs to go from upper to lower: how to avoid interference with upper-level joists?
     
  4. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

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    My first response was of a general nature. I hadn't actually gone to look at the plan. I have done that. It's a very nice plan, but it's too large for the space. My opinion, take it for what it's worth.

    Once a person has been in the hobby for a while, and maybe taken a stab at two substantial builds, they work hard to avoid common mistakes that so many of us make. One of those mistakes, and which I have never repeated, was to have small radius curves on my layouts. I like to run longer passenger cars, with diaphragms. Those don't do well on curves less than about 28", particularly when being shoved by the locomotive and bunching up the slack in the couplers. I only had to learn that lesson once. Autoracks are right up there in the same category if you are going to be modeling freight only, and after about 1985 or so. This is, again, a very nice plan that you have selected, but it could stand substantially more room so that it could have curves on the mains near 28-38". How things work reliably is huge in this hobby, but how things look standing over them is nearly as important. It IS a visual hobby after all. Small curves make your careful work look cramped and more toy-like. I know, I know, they're toys anyway....but most of us like a robust illusion if we are to be fooled. o_O

    If you intend to go ahead, I can't see a way out of having some kind of supports between your layers, and then supports for the bottom layer to keep it off the ground. You'd have to re-engineer your walls if you wanted to cantilever. It will have to be 1X2 legs. Some intrepid types, usually handy with tools and metals, will use threaded rods suspended from the ceiling, but then you might have to re-engineer the ceiling. You might get away with threaded rods between the two layers to keep them apart and supported. In fact, threaded rods suspended from the ceiling might be doable if your construction is lightweight on that top layer.

    I still don't see why you'd want a helix for the plan as shown in the pdf I viewed. It doesn't need a helix, but it does require reversing to get to the higher level...at least with the glance I took of it.
     
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  5. Erik84750

    Erik84750 TrainBoard Member

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    Great reply COverton, thanks! Indeed the curves are tight, the track plan has been designed for an 11' to 12' width, I have 15' at disposal.
    Suspension from the ceiling: I had not thought of that. However, it is plasterboard ceiling, so probably not too suitable for the weight I estimate.

    The helix would be my proper add-on: lower left leg, helix down to an extra staging yard along the left wall.

    I intend to purchase a licence from Anyrail to design the track plan properly.

    But that alone will not help much with benchwork, therefor my post here.

    I did purchase Tony Koester's multi-level benchwork book, due next week.

    But any advice from this forum is very highly appreciated!
     
  6. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Knowing what types of locomotives and railcars you want to run is important, so that you can design/evaluate a layout accordingly.

    The first thing I noticed about the plan was the insanely narrow aisles. They appear to be barely 18" wide. How is a grown man supposed to even turn around in those aisles?

    As a point of reference, most residential interior closet or bathroom passage doors are 24" wide (unless they were designed for handicapped access.) Now, imagine a corridor of some length only 3/4 that wide. Closer to 30" is about as narrow as I'd want.

    If you plan on having friends or family running the layout with you, 18" aisles would be practically impossible to navigate, since you'll have to file in and out of the aisle in order (there will be no room to pass by each other in the aisles.) 36" wide would be the narrowest I'd want for that. The fact that the designer missed that point raises a lot of suspicions about what else they missed... At least you will have more room, and can widen the aisles.
     
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  7. COverton

    COverton TrainBoard Member

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    Rob Sprague is a highly accomplished modeler and track plan designer whose work is well known in the hobby. He's a master builder and modeler. I do agree that he was perhaps designing the plan for a commission and that he must have warned the client that the minimums were not being met in terms of operability by one adult or more. As I have stated, this plan has been shoehorned into place, movement of the operator(s) be damned. I know for a fact that Rob would not have 18' radii on his layout unless they were for industrial switching, maybe also street cars or subway/transit.

    Those aisles, if I read the depiction correctly, with the light blue squares being deemed to be one half-inch on a side, are mighty thin. I'm small of size and stature, and pretty nimble still at nearly 70. My aisles would not be less than 26" wide., with a hope I'd never have to stoop to fix something in the nether regions and far reaches of staging...let along get down there and wire it all.

    But as you can see if you give your head a shake to clear it, and look at all of those potential/real problems, the entire layout is simply too large for the space. You have more space, and if you're smart you'll take some of it for wider curves (remember, you want that helix, and helices need real care and quality in both design and construction), but you'll also apportion a chunk of that extra room for about 8 more inches in aisle width... more would be much better.

    A plaster ceiling is not something you'd want to repair, but it can be done. Insert the rods into any joists and spacers up there. Use a stud finder the same way you'd look for studs on vertical surfaces.
     
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  8. Erik84750

    Erik84750 TrainBoard Member

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    TOP! BigJake and COverton, your comments are highly appreciated.
    Indeed the trackplan is smartly done albeit too confined. I did not know Bob is actualle called Rob Sprague, good to know. His designs (viewable on his website) are smart and well thought out.
    I will use Anyrail software to draft a plan that suits my cellar and that accomodates your comments.
    Now for the benchwork: bottom layer probably L-girder, top open grid, hopefully Io be suspended from the ceiling, if not, legwork downward.
     
  9. Erik84750

    Erik84750 TrainBoard Member

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    Juist an update. Using Anyrail I took the plan from my initial post and modified it according to your comments:
    1. minimum radius 60cm (about 25", HO)
    2. no helix
    3. wider aisles
    4. just two reversing sections (middle isle -hidden- and right section -upper section-)
    Grid width is 1m.

    Please advise with comments?

    And I did contact Bob, indeed he had designed this plan within the space constraints instructed by his client even though his client had been warned about the
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 12, 2022
  10. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    The length of the switch lead West of the turntable (assuming North is at top) does not seem adequate, given the length of the spur siding it serves, and little area for an industry at the siding's North far end (i.e. a long siding to a small industry.) I'd be inclined to use the inner of the double tracks around the roundhouse for the switch lead, if the spur siding it serves needs the capacity indicated by its length. Removal of the existing lead would also allow more (shorter) spokes on the turntable.

    I would probably add tracks for caboose service (cleaning and resupplying), RIP, etc. in the neighborhood of the turntable. I'm assuming the spur off the lead to the turntable is for fuel/water engine service? Given the number of turntable tracks, I'm wondering if this place is busy enough to warrant more than one track for fuel/water engine service.

    To which sides (outside) of the layout will you have walk around access? All around (given the large storage yard?) I'm assuming the gray geometric shapes are operating wells accessible via duck-under? I would merge them together south of the roundhouse, and probably make the double track South of there a lift-out or drawbridge. A layout this size and complexity will likely take years to complete, and last long after that. A duck-under is not fun when you get older.
     
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  11. Erik84750

    Erik84750 TrainBoard Member

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    Do you mean something such as the redesign here below, first attachment (top-tracks)?

    Should I use the free Y-turnout (in the roundtable area) for that purpose somehow?

    Yes, there is provision for a U-shaped walkaround; and the double track at the bottom is provided as a lift-out section.
    The sides of the layout go against the side walls (east and west), the north yard tracks require ducking under the nort-west upper section; the north section is about 1 meter from the north wall.

    I atttached the hidden tracks (incl yard) as a second jpg, for your info.

    EDIT: slightly modified top track section, round table area, (v2) added below.

    EDIT 2: Anyrail file attached.
     

    Attached Files:

    Last edited: Sep 19, 2022
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  12. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Yes the redesigned W entry to the double track around the roundhouse fixes your switch-lead length problem.

    Whether to use a Y switch for the caboose track(s) or not is up to you. They are handy when they switch between two tracks that are (or need to be) further apart. Actually I think a Y may work better for the long spur siding you just moved to use the existing double track as the switch lead. There it would help separate the industrial siding from the mainline. Industrial spurs/sidings are not typically owned by the railroad, so they would be on customer property, and therefore further away than double-track spacing from the mainline.

    Speaking of Y switches, What is the intended purpose of the arrangement of short tracks, run-around, spurs and Y switches to the east of the roundhouse approach?

    In the caboose era, cabooses needed track space for storing them prior to cleaning and servicing, cleaning and servicing them, and then storing caboose(s) ready for use. Depending on numbers of trains terminating or beginning here per day, one track could be used for all three purposes, or three (or more) separate tracks for efficiency in larger operations. Note a through train may just stop to change locos, and keep the same caboose attached for the next leg of the train's trip. The cars and caboose would typically be dropped on the arrival track, the loco decoupled and headed to the loco servicing facility. A yard loco moved the train from the arrival track to the yard, and moved the caboose to the caboose track. Some yards may have had a switcher/crew dedicated to handling the cabooses.
     
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  13. Erik84750

    Erik84750 TrainBoard Member

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    Getting the two parallel main lines fit with a regular #6 turnout was quite a feat :), but the reason I did not use a Y-turnout there is because those I have are #4.

    That is the John Allen Time Saver puzzle.

    Thank you very much Andy! This is all such great information you are giving, I will incorporate your ideas. Not many people have such wonderful insight in real railroad concepts as you have.

    EDIT: I am sorry for my late reply, but notifications on this site do not seem to work anymore.
     
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