What do you like to put your layout board on top of?

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Dorkmaster Flek, Jan 11, 2007.

  1. I know a lot of you like to build your own tables, but what about just having the plywood board on top of a table of some kind? Does this work well? I'm just getting started and have little to no carpentry skills. :) I know you get better customization of the shape of your table for your layout if you build your own, but what about something quick and easy for just a beginner 4x8 layout? Thanks!
  2. LongIslandTom

    LongIslandTom Member

    The reason why most of us like to purpose-build benchwork for a layout rather than use a table is so we can run the wiring underneath it.

    You can do that with a table too, but you will have to drill through the table. Not an option if you need the table for other things.
  3. EngineerKyle

    EngineerKyle Member

    When staring out, I have had good luck hanging the board from chains.... I add legs later.
  4. Nomad

    Nomad Active Member

    Another reason for building your own table. It would be hard to find a table 4'x8'. That means overhang. Someone leans on your railroad and OOPS. There she goes.

  5. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    Unfortunately, a 4x8 piece of plywood by itself is not rigid enough for a model railroad layout. Unsupported, plywood will sag both across and along its length. 1/2" plywood needs a frame of 1x4 underneath it. 2 8ft long 1x4s run vertically under the long edges, a 4ft 1x4s under each end, and 5 1x4s running across between the 8ft pieces at about 16" intervals.

    A better and much lighter alternative is to substitute 2" extruded foam (pink or blue) for the plywood. Turn the 1x4 cross pieces flat (except at the ends) and glue the foam to the frame you have made. Protect whatever you are setting the train board on with some felt on the underside of the crosspieces.

    There is another issue with not having permanent legs or place - getting the layout level in both directions. Leveling to less than 1/8" deviation in 2ft is critical to having cars stay in place, and proper operation on curves. Most modular setups get around this issue by having thier own legs with adjustable "feet".

    my thoughts, your choices
  6. Hmm extruded foam eh...sounds good, as it's lighter and easier to work with. The adjustable feet idea sounds like a good one. What do you usually use to make these adjustable feet?
  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm not going to use a table as such, I'm building a 7' x 9' "L" shaped switching layout. The layout will be on top of book shelves.

    With regard to what Fred said about modular groups having adjustments for leveling, all we can do with modules is adjust the legs of modules to make the benchwork parrallel with the floor of whatever building we set up in. The club I'm in set up for a GAT Show at the Los Angeles County Fairgrounds once where there was a 3% grade built in to the floor of the building! We discovered that we needed "helper" service to get a train around the layout, and the only way we could do any sort of switching operation that weekend was to put one truck of any car we uncoupled on a siding in the ballast to keep the car from rolling away.

    Regarding plywood vs foam, as Fred said ply wood is not very stiff. That is one of the things that makes it nice for "cookie cutter" style layouts. You can bend it into grades and get nice transitions from level to grade. If you are going to put your train board on another table to operate, like a dining table, that means you will put it away after operating, if you want to keep peace with momma! Making the table with a thick enough piece of plywood to keep the sag out will make the layout too heavey to move comfortably. Use thinner plywood to keep the weight down. Then cross brace it with 1x2 lumber every 12 inches or so. You can actually use something as thin as luan door skin material if you use cross braces every 12 inches and have a light weight rigid structure. If you don't have or don't know how to use a router to inset the top on the table, use 1x4 lumber for your perimiter framework, then make cleats from 1x3 lumber and screw them to the inside of the 1x4s. A couple of short 1x3 cleats on each side and end of the frame with 1x2 cross members and a 1x3 cleat across the inside of each corner will yield a strong but light weight train board in wood.

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