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Thread: Benchwork Design for my BNSF N Scale Layout

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    Lightbulb Benchwork Design for my BNSF N Scale Layout

    Scale: N
    Road Names: BNSF & Amtrak (Special runs for early diesels & BNSF fallen flags)
    Industries: Coal, Intermodal & Light Passenger / Small Farm
    Era: Modern (but with turntable / roundhouse for engine facility)
    Season: Early Fall
    Region: Fictitious
    Maximum Grade: 2%
    Minimum Radius: Still working on final design

    Attached is a shelf layout design for the benchwork Iíve come up with for my 11í x 14í N Scale layout room. After reading every blog written by Lance Mindheim, (Google him if you do not know him) an expert on model railroad design and construction, Iíve classified myself primarily as a railfan. He describes a railfan as one who is happy just watching trains run for the most part. I will of course do some industry switching but wonít concentrate on operations or classifications. I would also like my layout to have a continuous run. I considered a dogbone design (and even a Helix on a double decker design) but after reading and taking Lanceís advice, a single layer will be easier and a continuous run would be more realistic as the trains do not pass through the same scene twice to get back to their starting point. With the odd arrangement of the entrance door and closet door of the room (brown lines in open & closed positions), I came up with the attached design Iíve be working on for quite some time. To achieve the continuous run setup, it will employ a lift-out bridge using one of Lanceís designs. Itís simple and easily adjustable. Benchwork height will be in the 50 to 54Ē range. Most areas of reach are well under 24 inches so derailments and cleaning should not be an issue. I have a 3íx4í section started already so I could work on my turntable and roundhouse configuration. Iíve included these on the benchwork design because itís been pre-built. My only option with this section now that itís started is to keep it in the same position or to turn it 90, 180 or 270 degrees which would change the turntable and roundhouse position on the 3íx4í section and its approach. A DRASTIC option would be to tear it up and start over which Iím trying to avoid. Itís already been glued down and LED lighting has been installed, wired, tracks laid, etc.
    Iíve re-configured the track design several times to accommodate for my room size and current benchwork design but wanted to get opinions on the benchwork configuration itself before I started building it and finalized my track plan. One other thing to note is that my ceiling height in the room is 10í so for lighting considerations, I would like to go with the Shadowbox shelf design for all of the areas against the walls. The only two areas that would not be shadowboxed would be the two ďislandsĒ which will have legs and of course the bridge.


    Questions
    1. Does anyone see any issues with the current size, aisle widths, bridge location, etc.?
    2. Has anyone tried the Shadowbox design when there are other elements involved that canít be shadowboxed like the islands?
    3. Would it be safe to start the benchwork construction after considering the room size & door configuration without having finalized the track plan?


    Thank you in advance for your thoughts, ideas and opinions. Jim
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Jimbo,
    I am a "Railfan" myself and in the process of building a layout for my office which is roughly 11' x 6' in size...but my room is the same size as yours, only I am doing a L shaped layout to one side of it.

    The only thing I would think ya need is to have a basic idea for where your track goes before ya begin. That way you can accommodate to any big curves or loops ya need to put in and it fit to the bench work. But as to where a industry might go etc. I don't think ya truly need every detail worked out to begin. But I wouldn't do the bench work without knowing where my main lines go.

    This might be helpful tip: I use SCARM for my layout design work and printed it out before it was finalized at 1:1. I wanted to get a feeling for how it would be placed in the room before construction. And after I placed all the printouts thru the room on the floor, I realized where I had issues and was able to adjust the bench work to correct what I saw. It might be worth doing this yourself too, so you can walk the room and see where things might go according to what ya have in your head. It sure helped me and I was able to fixed every issue I saw. It also helped me realize my track was to close to the wall in some areas and I needed more room to fit some of the scenery I plan on doing. Now I am going full swing into the bench work, I have the base built and about to begin laying my track. But I now feel comfortable knowing it will fit the room how I want. This could easily help you with your first and 3rd question.

    Per #2...have ya thought about track lighting ? You can probably put 2 track light rails in the room and cover everything. And that will not make the room feel really small keeping the open space above it. I originally wanted to do Shadow box style lighting. But when I saw it in person at a friends layout it felt like the room was really tiny with it all above the layout. I have vaulted ceilings in here so I don't want it to feel cramped even thought the room is 1/3 smaller with the layout in it.

    Good luck and have fun
    Seanifer

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    Aisles seem wide enough but you may be able to do a lot better.

    T
    his is a big layout for N scale. Strongly recommend investing in a copy of Track Planning for Realistic Operations, by Armstrong, and developing a track plan before cutting any wood.

    Also don't let the shelf idea convince you to lower the layout height - with a duckunder its best to err on the high side.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Seanifer View Post
    The only thing I would think ya need is to have a basic idea for where your track goes before ya begin. That way you can accommodate to any big curves or loops ya need to put in and it fit to the bench work. But as to where a industry might go etc. I don't think ya truly need every detail worked out to begin...
    Hit it in "1"!

    ... But I wouldn't do the bench work without knowing where my main lines go....
    Yes and no on that point. IF you have a limited area to work with then I would put my bench work in first and make my track plan fit that bench work. IF you don't have such a restriction then yep, do your track plan first and then build the bench work to fit; however, be prepared to make small changes if needed.

    Also agree with using SCARM to give you a basic idea of how your track work will go, NOT a definitive conclusion. Use it as a guide only.
    Cheers Tony

    "Knowing what to do is one thing ... being able to do it is another"

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    Seanifer –Please see the track plan below and let me know what you think. I’m using XTrkCAD and have become proficient in it. The good news is I also have access to a plotter that will print 24 inches wide and to any length so, printing to a 1:1 scale will not be an issue. No taping 8x11 sheets of paper together! Thank you for the suggestions on doing away with the shadow box idea. I was on the fence with it and unlike you; I’ve never seen this setup in person, only in photos on the Internet. And typically they were just used along one or two walls. I’m a bit claustrophobic to begin with so; I think I’ll stick with “L” Brackets above the benchwork with dimmable LED track lighting and no upper valance. That being said, would you suggest painting the entire room the same color as my backdrops? I planned on going with a light “Robin’s Egg” blue for the backdrops and the stencil technique with white spray paint for the clouds.

    NtheBasement – Please take a look at my basic track plan below and elaborate on where I can increase my aisle widths. I do have a copy of Track Planning by Armstrong that I’ve tried to use for help along the way. The bridge I’m proposing is a lift out and will be out most of the time unless I’m just running trains. I’m getting close to retirement and as the years go by I do not want to duck under the layout.

    Wombat457 – I do have the basic plan below and a couple of variation (moving Coal Mine to another corner, etc.) so I’ve got the basic idea of how things will fit. For me, it’s hard to envision what it will actually look like just using CAD software. I’m sure I’ll be making adjustment along the way when something doesn’t look or fit just right.


    Thanks to all for your suggestions, Jim
    14425 N Scale.JPG
    Attached Images Attached Images
    Attached Files Attached Files

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    Your aisle widths are already wide enough even with a small crew. Without knowing your givens and druthers, any suggestions I make would be pretty random for your wants but here goes...

    If you want to run two trains, you could really use a longer lead on the yard to the left of the doorway. Otherwise your switching will encroach on the mainline loop.
    Also for two trains at least one train-length passing siding on the main loop is key.

    I have a similar lift-out bridge across the entry, but usually duck under it.
    Consider higher approaches for the lift out to raise it a few inches. This would involve running the loop track higher than the rest, which puts it along the wall at lower left; move the stubs inboard and lower toward the aisle. You could use a bridge or trestle to maximize the stub lengths below. In the same vein its a good idea to put your turnouts near the aisle versus the wall when you can.

    Your back wall is the longest stretch of straight, ideal location for yard(s).

    You have more than enough room for dogbones with 15 inch min rad using 16 or 18 inch squares. This would get rid of the liftout, which turns out to be a lot of trouble. On
    e thing I like to do (running solo) is run a train continuously around the big loop with no operator while moving coal myself with the second cab. Doing this without fouling the other makes it more... interesting. On your layout, the big loop is short so the mainline train would come around too quickly; dogbones would almost double the length.

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    As a railfanning setup, I would only reccomend that you double track it all the way around the mainline. Nothing like watching two trains go past each other at mainline speeds!
    Northern Pacific and Black Hills RR in N, of course!!
    Aian, CEO, COO, Engineer, Gopher and everything else!

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    Jimbo,
    I think it looks great, will be lots of fun for ya. Glad ya can print it out. It was a real eye opener for me with spacing etc. and made me really like my overall design more.

    Per the paint..Thats up to you, On my layout I am not planning to have blue sky's or a back drop really. I like having the scenery end at the walls (we have our house painted a light grey inside...so the colors in the layout will really pop against the neutral grey colors). But my approach is defiantly not for everyone. The whole room one color like ya suggested would totally give the feeling of the sky just going all the way to the ceiling. With the cloud work down towards your layout...It could look really nice for ya and really feel open.

    Question for ya. What turntable do ya have? I have a Walther's version and the one thing I didn't know about until I read all the instillation stuff, was to make sure that the bench work below it has around 6 inches of room. I had to adjust some of my cross beams where it was being placed for the space it needs. So think of that if ya haven't already.
    Seanifer

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    NtheBasement – I’ll go back and look at a few of the plans I drew up “pre-bridge” days and see if any of my dogbone designs will work. I was trying to go with the idea of a train only going through a scene once in one direction instead of doubling back on itself. I was hoping the lift-out bridge design I found would make life easier seeing that it’s fully adjustable. However, I wouldn’t want to spend a majority of my time in a session monkeying with it when I could be running trains. I’ll re-visit Armstrong’s book again to help shed some light on realistic operations and really hone in on my yards, turnouts and length of trains.

    Badlandnp – If I go back to the dogbone design, I would technically end up with a double mainline unless I auto reverse. I already purchased a Digitrax AR1, so this is possible. Also looking to upgrade my command station from the DCS200 to a new unit with built in auto-reversing capabilities and re-purposing the DCS200 as a booster. Side notes: We’ve ridden the Black Hills RR in the past and really enjoyed it! Also, I drop my wife off for work each day on Lou Menk Drive – named for the last president of the NP before the BN merger.

    Seanifer – After I get done painting the room, I plan on using tape on the floor to outline where is benchwork is proposed. Hopefully, this will give me an idea on how the flow of the room will be. I purchased the Walthers 130’ non-DCC turntable from my LHS used for $60.00! The pit was beat up, the arch was missing and the rails on the bridge were bent. I cleaned up the pit, filled all the holes the previous owner drilled into it with putty, repainted, weathered it and purchased a new arch from Walthers for $5 plus $5 shipping. I then tried to upgrade it to basic DCC by adding a stationary decoder to the non-DCC controller. This did not go well and I somehow I fried the controller in the process. I then decided to go with the right DCC upgrade by buying a new DCC controller which included a DCC circuit board for the bridge. I split upgrading the bridge into two nights of work, one night to disassemble and the next night to install the new board and reassemble. It’s definitely time consuming. After a good cleaning of the contacts and bridge electric plate with CRC 2-26, I had the turntable programmed and working flawlessly on DCC.

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