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@DoubleDAZ posted:

Think of it this way. Other than the yard area, most of your layout is comprised of grades. That makes it ideal for cookie-cutter style construction. This style places plywood and homasote just under the tracks, not over the entire layout. If you cover your layout with sheets of plywood, you’re still going to need to support the tracks on the grades. This means risers and probably more plywood roadbed under the tracks. Cookie-cutter requires a lot of “cutting” and a lot of planning to minimize waste, but it’s something you should consider. It’s also partly the reason L-girder bench work was designed.

C5DBC96A-BE7C-4B00-8D8C-83DA1A25B434

Hi Dave,

I'm not skilled in cutting plywood with curves. I also do not have the concept of where to or how to layout the track for cutting the supports. Do I layout track on plywood and trace out the cuts???I

Also what thickness plywood and how close are supports needed for raised track?

I agree most of the layout is on grades which will need support, the yard area and turntable roundhouse area is almost all flat. My thought would be to plywood the yard area at zero elevation and leave the main lines on cookie cutter supports

help

Last edited by Aegis21

John, I’m not either. I’ve seen videos of people using elaborate templates to draw curves on plywood, then cut them out with a jigsaw. They drew the curves next to each other to minimize waste. Then they glued segments together using a router and spline inserts. In some cases they just glued the ends together and added a support piece underneath. In other cases they laid the track out, drew around the edges, then removed the track and cut the outline with a jigsaw. They then added risers underneath to create the grades. This is probably the easiest, any the way you pictured, but it doesn’t save any plywood. And to be honest, unless you really do a good job of laying out a cutting plan, I’m not sure how much plywood you can actually save. And when you add in the extra work to splice pieces, I think it might end up costing more. I’ve put off construction until prices come down. In fact, if prices remain high next year I might just sell what little equipment I have and forget the whole thing. Or, use rigid foam and deal with the noise. Fortunately, mine will only be a display layout for the Bedford Falls collection of buildings, etc., with a train running around it.

There are a variety of ways to connect and run multiple levels.  One way that you've already mentioned is cookie cutter tables using joists, risers and plywood cuts to support trackwork.  This seems to be more commonly used in scales other than O, but should work just fine here, using properly sized materials and supports.  There is a small Kalmbach publication by Linn Westcott (sorry, I forget the name) that provides many details about cookie cutter building.  Three tips that I would offer are:

1. Use thinner plywood for track support (underlayment) because it will flex easier for the rise and falls;

2. Try to keep the cleats from underlayment joints away from where the risers support the underlayment; and

3. Curve cutting for this approach doesn't have to be close to perfect as long as the outside edge and inside edge are far enough apart to hold your curved track.  (Note that bridges built for curving track are normally still straight-edged.)

One of the other ways to elevate tracks (from a single flat table-top) is to use risers like those provided by Woodland Scenics and others.  You may have to double stack, or triple stack, them for O scale separations, but they can be used.   Of course, you always have the option of mimicking that product with some custom cut rigid foam.

Once the track reaches the desired elevation, if you wish to maintain that elevation, you just need to use any variety of support that looks right for your railroad.  I've seen people use trestle trusses, elevated train line steel supports, dowels to simulate concrete piers, and just plain pieces of scrap wood until they decide what they finally want to do.

Hope this helps.

Chuck

John, yes I agree the yard being at zero level makes sense.  In the past I used the cookie cutter on track.  My saw cuts go all over the place, but worked.  This time I used Woodland Scenics risers on top of flat supports.  It worked, but I had to do a lot of trimming and shimming too get the vertical transitions good enough to run engines reliably.

If I build another layout, I will either go back to cookie cutter or just have the track on one level with no grades.  The second scenario is if I’m just not up to the work of cutting and fitting anymore.  

Of course with lumber at an unprecedented high price it puts a wrench in the works and decisions like Dave has made come into play.

@DoubleDAZ posted:

John, I’m not either. I’ve seen videos of people using elaborate templates to draw curves on plywood, then cut them out with a jigsaw. They drew the curves next to each other to minimize waste. Then they glued segments together using a router and spline inserts. In some cases they just glued the ends together and added a support piece underneath. In other cases they laid the track out, drew around the edges, then removed the track and cut the outline with a jigsaw. They then added risers underneath to create the grades. This is probably the easiest, any the way you pictured, but it doesn’t save any plywood. And to be honest, unless you really do a good job of laying out a cutting plan, I’m not sure how much plywood you can actually save. And when you add in the extra work to splice pieces, I think it might end up costing more. I’ve put off construction until prices come down. In fact, if prices remain high next year I might just sell what little equipment I have and forget the whole thing. Or, use rigid foam and deal with the noise. Fortunately, mine will only be a display layout for the Bedford Falls collection of buildings, etc., with a train running around it.

Hi Dave and everyone,

Sticker shock was the reason I looked at foam board to lower costs. Not sure what pre pandemic prices were, however I doubt prices will ever get back there and I am not getting younger. So I might have to bit the bullet and go the plywood route. I have a 10% discount at home depot till July so that will help a little.

Now the question for everyone is 1/2 plywood and Homoroad by C&W strong enough and will it provide good noise reduction or will I need 1/2 ply and 1/2 homosote? The homoroad is enticing since it provides a road bed and noise reduction right where the noise is generated. Theory sounds good, however does anyone have experience with this method?

Also around my yard and round house a flat plywood/ homosote sandwich would be the easiest since it is all one flat level. And use supports for the main lines which get elevated in the back of the table.

ALL input is greatly appreciated!

Thanks

John

@Aegis21 posted:
Now the question for everyone is 1/2 plywood and Homoroad by C&W strong enough and will it provide good noise reduction or will I need 1/2 ply and 1/2 homosote? The homoroad is enticing since it provides a road bed and noise reduction right where the noise is generated. Theory sounds good, however does anyone have experience with this method?

I used 1/2" Baltic Birch multi-ply and 1/2" Homasote, and it really knocks down the noise.  My elevated section is 1/2" plywood, and the difference is very noticeable.  All of the track is on 1/4" foam roadbed.  I'm installing 1/2" foam under the elevated section to minimize the sounding board effect there.  One thing that really helps, or at least I believe it does, my track screws on the main level don't go into the plywood, they are just through the track, roadbed, and into the Homasote.  They hold really well, and don't transmit the noise to the plywood.

If I was very energetic, I'd probably pull the elevated track and add the Homasote layer, but I'm not going to, that would be a lot of work.

FWIW, I have no issues with my main level supporting my 175# weight when I have to walk around on it.

@Aegis21 posted:

Also has anyone had success using MDF and if so what thickness. It is heavier than I woud like to deal with, however it comes with a lower cost.

No contest, go with plywood, you'll thank me when you finish the layout!

You'll end up spending thousands of dollars on the layout, don't cheap out on the foundation for a hundred or so bucks!  MDF is softer, weaker, and sags more than plywood, no contest IMO.

So here is the progress so far... Two L-girder benches 10 foot long 4 feet wide. They are set to where they will be used.  I am going to bite the high price of plywood and get sheets of 1/2 ply and 1/2 homasote for the top. I am anticipating using cookie cutter for the elevations and foam for some of the flat areas to dig into or build up to break up the boring straight flat areas. I am still having a tough time getting my head wrapped around the general scenery construction. Here are a couple of pics.IMG_3742IMG_3741IMG_3740

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John, it looks like you are well on your way.  I seem to envision scenery, but can’t draw it and my thoughts don’t scale well.  In the past I just kept improvising and changing as I went.

I agree with Jay’s suggestion on the backdrop.  I put mine in at about the state your layout is now, but I didn’t secure it because I didn’t know exactly where to position it vertically.  I finally shimmed and screwed it in place this past winter.  It was very awkward to do then especially with the 8-foot section.

Wow, what a great community project going on here.  Lots of back and forth in developing a really nice layout.  Thought to jump in and add my .02 worth.

Be careful about just buying "1/2 inch plywood"  That term can cover a wide range of material some of which may be considered not suitable to use on a model RR.  The quality and composition of the plywood is more important than the thickness.  Some of my best work was done with 6.0 mm (1/4") Meranti/Keruing plywood.  The level of strength is in the framework design and assembly steps.

The material we used on Gunner's layout may be one of the finest practical choices available for 1/2" plywood.  I have used many sheets of it with great success every time.

Some of the plywoods to avoid would be anything made of Pine. Any plywood with a __DX suffix.  Any 1/2" plywood with just 3 plys.

Some markets count the veneers as a ply, some do not.  You need to check it for your self.

You want to purchase plywood which was stored on a flat bed.  NOT off of three finger big box racks.

Select from the body of a skid.  Avoid the top 3 or 4 and the bottom 3 or 4  panels.  The bands if not done properly can indent your sheet.

Set the plywood in the area in which it will be used so as to allow acclimation for a minimum of 72 hours, longer can be better.

Due to lumber prices some folks have resorted to OSB.  This can be a satisfactory substitute when budgets are a concern.  Being somewhat of a purist I have snubbed my nose at it early on until I ran across some really nice railroads, decades old using OSB with no negative moisture problems.

IMG_769016' peninsula yard Homasote over OSB

In finally getting around to building my latest RR I used 1/2" (7/16") OSB under a 2' X 16' yard as a personal test.  10 years in a below ground basement with no problems.

As for 3/4" decking that would only be used in a flat application you may want to consider Advantech.  It is absolutely FLAT, very strong.  Is taking over the construction world as the go to flooring decking.  Is almost waterproof.  For model RRs I have used it on girders with 32" spacing for 11 years with no deflection at all.  It also has a very attractive price point.  It is  rather heavy.  I really like it!!   Not suitable for portable modules due to weight.

IMG_840721' yard, Homasote over 3/4" Advantech

This yard above is only supported on fingers spaced 32" with no front or rear longitudinal stringers.

Pine plywood can warp down the road.  Any Pine wood can be a problem for a model RR,  period.

In checking back in on the progress, if I could make any comment on the track plan my thought would  be there seems to be a somewhat limited yard or storage provision.  Is there any way that a track could tunnel through a wall to access a lengthy run for 4 to 6 tracks to hold cars?  Maybe attractively finished hardwood edging as a display feature.

Over the years car storage has been one of the biggest concerns of folks building layouts.  Usually it hits them when the basic construction is nearing completion and they start placing their collection on the rails and the sidings get clogged.

In your recent photos I find what seems to be duct mounted lights,  interesting, you may want to  run a local and NEC code check.  One  ungrounded wire or fixture could electrify your entire HVAC system to include registers. Imagine stepping on a 15 or 20 amp floor register in your bare feet.     Or wet bare feet in the bathroom.

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Last edited by Tom Tee

Just an out of the box idea.  When you are tight on length and width space, consider utilizing vertical space.

Another way to create space for additional yards would be to reconfigure those 4' long cross members and drop a track down to a subway storage yard that could utilize as much of the benchwork foot print as you would need for wrap around storage tracks.

Plywood decking could be suspended from the main frame of the "L" girder benchwork.  The grade down could be initially achieved by successively deeper notches in the cross  members,  then a vertical bottom sister that would pick up the leg of the Wescott stingers.

An entirely new world could await you.

@Tom Tee posted:

In your recent photos I find what seems to be duct mounted lights,  interesting, you may want to  run a local and NEC code check.  One  ungrounded wire or fixture could electrify your entire HVAC system to include registers. Imagine stepping on a 15 or 20 amp floor register in your bare feet.     Or wet bare feet in the bathroom.

To address your concerns about the lighting - these are low voltage led lights which are safe to mount to anything except to high voltage conduit. They are powered with a 12 volt dc supply. The ductwork is all bonded to ground per code and has past inspection. I personally have rechecked bonding , grounding and ground leakage for my own piece of mind. Thanks for your concern, it is really appreciated as there are some very dangerous and serious consequences for improper electrical work.

@Tom Tee posted:

Be careful about just buying "1/2 inch plywood"  That term can cover a wide range of material some of which may be considered not suitable to use on a model RR.  The quality and composition of the plywood is more important than the thickness.  Some of my best work was done with 6.0 mm (1/4") Meranti/Keruing plywood.  The level of strength is in the framework design and assembly steps.

The material we used on Gunner's layout may be one of the finest practical choices available for 1/2" plywood.  I have used many sheets of it with great success every time.

Yes the baltic  plywood looks great that Gunner used! I am looking at 12mm sanded hardwood-plywood which appears to be only 3 ply, however with homasote on top of that and L-Girder joist supporting that sandwich seems strong enough and I am trusting Lin Westcott's design has been a proven method for years.  Let me know if I am totally off base with this idea before I purchase the plywood.

Set the plywood in the area in which it will be used so as to allow acclimation for a minimum of 72 hours, longer can be better.

Great advise on acclimation!

IMG_769016' peninsula yard Homasote over OSB

In finally getting around to building my latest RR I used 1/2" (7/16") OSB under a 2' X 16' yard as a personal test.  10 years in a below ground basement with no problems.

As for 3/4" decking that would only be used in a flat application you may want to consider Advantech.  It is absolutely FLAT, very strong.  Is taking over the construction world as the go to flooring decking.  Is almost waterproof.  For model RRs I have used it on girders with 32" spacing for 11 years with no deflection at all.  It also has a very attractive price point.  It is  rather heavy.  I really like it!!   Not suitable for portable modules due to weight. I haven't seen or herd of this flooring/decking. It seems worth looking into though, Thanks

IMG_840721' yard, Homasote over 3/4" Advantech

This yard above is only supported on fingers spaced 32" with no front or rear longitudinal stringers.

Pine plywood can warp down the road.  Any Pine wood can be a problem for a model RR,  period.

In checking back in on the progress, if I could make any comment on the track plan my thought would  be there seems to be a somewhat limited yard or storage provision.  Is there any way that a track could tunnel through a wall to access a lengthy run for 4 to 6 tracks to hold cars?  Maybe attractively finished hardwood edging as a display feature.

No other place in the horizontal domain to extend yard, however as someone pointed out there maybe a possibility to explore the vertical domain. That is certainly worth looking into at this point!

Your work looks great, the elevated track with it's own wall bracket support is smart on many levels. (no pun intended)

Over the years car storage has been one of the biggest concerns of folks building layouts.  Usually it hits them when the basic construction is nearing completion and they start placing their collection on the rails and the sidings get clogged.

@Tom Tee posted:

Just an out of the box idea.  When you are tight on length and width space, consider utilizing vertical space.

Another way to create space for additional yards would be to reconfigure those 4' long cross members and drop a track down to a subway storage yard that could utilize as much of the benchwork foot print as you would need for wrap around storage tracks.

Plywood decking could be suspended from the main frame of the "L" girder benchwork.  The grade down could be initially achieved by successively deeper notches in the cross  members,  then a vertical bottom sister that would pick up the leg of the Wescott stingers.

An entirely new world could await you.

Yes this is another idea worth exploring, using vertical area is about my only option at this point.

Thanks

@Mark Boyce posted:

John, it looks like you are well on your way.  I seem to envision scenery, but can’t draw it and my thoughts don’t scale well.  In the past I just kept improvising and changing as I went.

I agree with Jay’s suggestion on the backdrop.  I put mine in at about the state your layout is now, but I didn’t secure it because I didn’t know exactly where to position it vertically.  I finally shimmed and screwed it in place this past winter.  It was very awkward to do then especially with the 8-foot section.

Yes the backdrop has been on my mind as to how and when to paint it. Our daughter has a great deal of artistic ability and will be painting on the wall. Not sure if there is canvas options that can be put on wall, rather than paint directly on the wall. My concern is the town area and roads going into backdrop. Here is the chicken/egg question... Since I do not have an exact placement for buildings and roads, how is the backdrop painted to match the roads and buildings before they are positioned? My thought was to make sections movable with track, roads and buildings at least outlined. Mark the wall/backdrop with those positions, paint and then move the sections back against the wall. This is my current thought which I welcome ALL input, ideas, suggestions to an easier plan!

We put this up before we built the bench work.  Hung 3' X 8' Masonite panels so to have coved corners and a smooth bump out over wall irregularities.  This backdrop is from Backdrop  Warehouse.  Not an easy website however we really like their product.  They feature perpendicular photography, not a left to right panning scan.  Very  even viewing.

benxchwork V
Back breaking work after the benchwork is permanent.  We opted to use Velcro on the top and bottom edges and rubber cement for the overlapping seams every 12' .  When the RR was taken down the Back Drop was able to be removed perfectly reuseable.  The rubber seam cement removes clean.

benchwork

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Last edited by Tom Tee

So, you like the wall brackets?

Except for the peninsulas the entire RR is built on modules then set on wall bracket knees.  You get six  32" X 36"  knees from a 4' X 8' sheet:

South view East Wall

Advantech is carried by 84 lumber, hard core genuine lumber yards and builder supply houses.  For awhile Lowe's carried it under their house brand of Ameritech.

Be careful of a HD product labeled "Sandyply".  It can be lumpy, have a washboard surface and have both voids and overlapping cores (which produce the lumps).  I have seen delamination of these sheets.

When buying plywood always scan the sandwich edges.  The layers should be even thickness, totally with out voids and not overlap the next core insert.  Best to be a Northern or Russian Birch.   Birch grown in Northern climates have a denser more stable grain.  For economy there is a quality plywood called "Shop grade Birch/Maple".  This panel has the same quality core however the surfaces are not stain grade.

For flat, stiff, strong and inexpensive consider Advantech.

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Last edited by Tom Tee

No contest, go with plywood, you'll thank me when you finish the layout!

You'll end up spending thousands of dollars on the layout, don't cheap out on the foundation for a hundred or so bucks!  MDF is softer, weaker, and sags more than plywood, no contest IMO.

Thanks GunrunnerJohn,

Plywood it is and I'll also go with not screwing into ply with track screws!

I understand the dilemma of not being sure of the end result. However, at the very least paint the wall a sky blue. I used Sherwin Williams “cloudless”, and I’m very pleased with the result. There are also cloud stencils which are reasonably priced.

The walls are painted blue, one side a little lighter than the others. We plan on painting clouds and some hills with trees and such.  Thanks for the good advise and i'll look into stencils

Thanks

Kalmbach's book on scenery has info on how to hide roads going into the wall in both urban and country settings.  Vehicle road way placement IMO could very well be a distant concern compared to pivotal placement of turnouts, TTs and grades which could make or break smooth dependable operation.

Your artistic daughter can also continue roads up the wall and perspectively  taper them into terrain or forest.  Options are endless.  You are very fortunate to have a resident backdrop creator.

I like your construction approach in which you are heading off issues before getting caught in a big "Whoops".

Sorry for beating this horse into the tracks...  asking one final time before purchasing plywood. For the decking, using plywood with possibly foam on top of that plywood. And to have plywood then homasote for road bed. Plywood decking choices are

.688 thick 5 ply (https://www.homedepot.com/p/Ca...in-1077486/302610611 )

or

.472" thick => (https://www.homedepot.com/p/12...-in-454532/203414055)

So a little less than 3/4" versus < 1/2" The project will need 9 sheets and at the current prices there is about a $150.00 difference along with the weight of the materials for handling and cutting. I am tending to lean towards the 1/2" more because of weight than price.

Again all input is welcome as always and is greatly appreciated.

John

btw I have a 10% discount till the end of the month and could save on not only the plywood but the rest of the lumber and materials, so time is running out on my waffling LOL

@rtr12 posted:

I used the exact 1/2" plywood in your link 8 years ago (well name was the same anyway) and it's been just fine. Plenty sturdy for everything I have here. I'd save the $150 and put that toward some train stuff or something else for your layout.

Thank you both for your recommendations, any thoughts on using homosote on top of plywood or foam board on top of plywood?

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