2011 Raffle Layout - The Bench Work


Before we launch into building the Raffle Layout Bench Work, lets take a closer look at the factors that will impact the design along with what makes a good train layout Bench Work.
First of all you have to remember that your bench work will be the base in which you will build, develop and support your model railroad. Therefore it’s of vital importance that you take the necessary time to consider the various designs and select the one that best meets your needs. Much like foundation of a house, it will be very difficult to change it after the fact and a poor foundation will result in a poor house.

Here are a number of important aspects that you should consider when building and planning your bench work design: Other things to watch out for: Voice of Experience: Lets Get Started - The Design

Model railroad bench work is designed and built to fit your custom track plan. The very first thing to do is to recognize that any framework you build now will be altered at a later time. Construct your foundation using wood screws so that it can be easily disassembled.

For any layout, large or small, the optimum height should be near eye level. Most bench work is constructed at a height of 42” to 48”. Not only is this the best level to view the railroad, but the under table wiring will be much easier to install and maintain. All of this is relative to how you plan to operate your railroad. If you intend to run your trains while you are seated then you will have to adjust the layout height to accommodate this.

Choose a good grade of lumber and sheet wood. Avoid those discounted specials which maybe warped and full of knotholes and construction grade lumber. It will be worth the time to inspect each plank and pick the best pieces. Buy more than you think you will need.

Do not nail anything. Only use glue as a last resort. Drill counter sunk pilot holes, especially near the end of the pieces to prevent splitting. Always clamp the pieces together before you screw to ensure a tight joint.

Plan the size and shape of the model railroad bench work carefully. The construction of a small tabletop layout is fairly simple and easy to build but may have problems relative to access. For example, a 4’ x 8’ layout in the middle of a small room has access to any part of the surface but will have problems when placed in a corner of the room. Large layouts should have aisles and access areas included where necessary. A large around-the-walls layout will require planning for a removable or swing section for access into the operations area.

For the 2011 Raffle layout, we have chosen to base our design the tired-and-true Box Frame design with a 2" Styrofoam layer forming the top. The frame is built from 1x4 clear pine, the legs from 2x2 and the cross bracing from 1x2.

Figure 1: The Box Frame
(click on the image for a larger image)

To make this frame, we cut two pieces of 1x4 to 84" (7 ft) and five pieces at 22" for the cross pieces.
The design target was to keep the outside dimension of the finished module to 2ft or less so that both modules would fit sid-by-side in a mini van which has an inside width dimension of 4 ft. The numbers add up as follows: cross member - 22", two side rails at 3/4" front fascia at 1/8" and the rear back drop at 1/4" which yeilds a total width of 23 7/8" - just under the required width!

Photo 1: Attaching the end cross pieces.
The first step in the assembly process is to screw the cross members to the side rails. Here we used 1 1/2" flat head Robinson Screws with yellow glue. In the photo, you can see a piece of scrape 1x4 we temporarily clamped to the cross member. This allowed us to run the side rail up to it ensuring both pieces were square to each other and in aligment. The 1x4 was removed once the screws were installed.

Remember to drill a clearance hole first otherwise the screw will split the side rail wood.
Photo 2: Installing the inside cross pieces.
After the side rails were attached to the end cross pieces, we installed the three internal cross members. The same process was followed in using a piece of 1x4 to ensure the cross pieces were square.

Notice we pre-drilled two holes in the centre pieces to allow passage of electrical wires.
Photo 3: Installing the inside cross pieces.
Here Stan and Debbie demonstrate team work as they drill a clearance hole before installing the screw.

We had used a chop saw to cut the 1x4's to length. The chop saw cut nice square ends to the pieces so the frame ended up square right of the bat!
Photo 4: Finished Frame
Here is one finished frame - 23 1/2" x 84".
One more to go.
Photo 5: Both frames completed
Both frames have been assembled and laid side by side. You will notice the cross members on the second frame are thinner - 1x2's to be precise. We ran out of 1x4's so we grabbed the next available size. Since the cross members are largley holding up the Styrofoam top, the size reduction won't cause a problem.
Photo 6: Wire Holes
A closer look at the holes we had drilled for the wires. It's easier to drill these holes before assembly of the frame.

Figure 2: The Legs
(click on the image for a larger image)

Assembly of the legs in next. These were made from 2x2's with 1x2 cross bracing.
We notched the top end of the legs to accept the 1x4 side rails on the bench top. This is not mandatory, it will certianly help keep the legs straight and provide a surface for the bench to rest on.
Photo 7: leg Assembly
The 2x2 were laid out on the floor and the short 1x2 cross member was installed 9' from the bottom. A carpenters square was used to ensure everything was plume.

The diagonal 1x2 was then added.
Photo 8: Leg Assembly
To verify everything was square, we measured the diagonal corners. Everything checked out!.
Photo 9: Finished Leg Assembly
The finished leg assembly. Three more to go - all exactly the same.
Photo 10: Quick Assembly Trick
By using the first leg assembly as a "jig" we can clamp the next set of legs to it and attach the 1x2's knowing it will all end up square.
Photo 11: leg Assembly
Now the fun part. The leg assemblies are inserted under the ends of the modules.

With the leg assemblies clamped in place, we drill 1/4' holes for the carriage bolts.
Photo 12: Carriage Bolts
We chose to use bolts to hold the legs on as they wil be removed each time the layout is moved.

You can see the two screws that attach the side rail to the end cross member.
Photo 14: Leg Assembly In Place
Here is a view of the leg installed on the frame. Note we used Butterfly nuts on the bolts.
Photo 13: Installing The Legs
We used a pair of pliers to tighten up the carraige bolt the first time to ensure the head was fully seated!.
Note we numbered each leg assembly so that it went back in the same location each time we re-assemble the layout.
Photo 15: Installing the Top
A bead of Liquid Nails adhesive it applied to the top of the 1x4 members.
Then the pre cut 2" thick Sytrofoam was laid on top.
Photo 16: Clamps & more Clamps!
Clamps were then installed to hold the Styrofoam to the 1X4 frame until the glue dried. The tool box was added to provide some clamping force in the middle of the table top. The second frame can be seen in the back ground.

This concludes Building the Bench Work for the Raffle layout.

This Web page is maintained by Grant Knowles and was last updated on May 1, 2011.