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It will be 69' long, and will fit on two 4x8' tables arranged in a 4x16' configuration.
The tables (aka 'benchwork') are L-girder construction, much favored by the model railroading folks. I used 'How to Build Model Railroad Benchwork' 2nd edition as my reference and how-to guide.
The benchwork is very light, very stiff, and was easy to construct. You can find more pictures in my album.
The roadbed is going to be a combination of 'cookie-cutter' and traditional 'roadbed' type construction. I will be using 1/2" MDF as the base.
The layout design is a HO version of a commercial 1/24 scale 'Hillclimb' track. Hillclimb tracks are favored in the commercial environment because they are significantly more efficient in their use of floor space than regular tracks. Since they are also a decent design from a driving standpoint, hillclimb tracks are very popular in commercial raceways. The decreasing radius turn on the flat portion of my design is not found on normal hillclimbs. I lifted that from a commercial track design called the 'Odessa'.
I chose a hillclimb design because I *might* build a routed 1/32 scale hillclimb track someday. Hillclimb tracks are a tough type of track to build because of the elevation and visibility issues, and I thought that I would take advantage of this chance to 'practice' with plastic track first.
Here's my layout:
The normal direction of travel is 'up' the donut.
For comparison, here is a commercial hillclimb track that is a mirror image of my layout:
Using recommended ergonomic eye heights I found on the Web, plus a CAD model I built to check sight lines, it appears that having the hillclimb portion of the track 7" above the bottom portion should allow everyone to see both levels.
Neither the uphill or downhill portions of the track will be banked. I may camber the downhill portion a bit, but that isn't definite yet.
The L-girders are deceptively strong. While my support legs are less than 8' apart, you can build unsupported spans (distance between legs) of around 13' using the same size L-girders that I have used. A table using 3 pairs of legs could be as long as 34' or so when you include the allowable amount of overhang at the ends.
The L-girders are simply a 1x4 attached to a 1x2 and glued together. I used screws to hold the girder parts together when I glued them with Elmer's Carpenter's Glue, but when the glue was dry I removed the screws. The book says that after the glue dries, the screws don't add any strength to the girder... I never realized that Elmer's glue was that strong. Apparently, even Elmer's white glue (which we all used in school as kids) is strong enough to use, but the Carpenter's glue is even stronger.
The legs are 2x2s, and the angled leg supports are 1x2 firring strips. Everything is screwed together using drywall screws.
The flat portions of the track will be supported by the MDF laying on the 1x4 cross-members, while the raised portions of the track will be supported by MDF lying on raisers screwed to the cross-members.
I have not decided on how exactly I will support the second level of track, but I have several approaches in mind, I just have to settle on one.
Jeff, at this point I have not given a lot of thought to wiring. I'll have to run the jumper wires down through the pieces of MDF that will be under the track, but then I'm thinking I'll run the wires along the inside of the girders. Obviously there is a lot of room under the benchwork, and a lot of freedom of where to put things.
The cross-members are designed to be moved wherever they need to be, so I want to avoid 'locking' them in place by attaching wiring to them.
You raise a good point; I'll have to think about that one.
I used the Westcott book on benchwork back when I built my table. It's a great book. I like the fact that you've built a strong and stable table without resorting to Paul Bunyan sized megalumber that seems to be all the rage.
The only thing I would change would be to use deck screws (DeckMate brand are good) instead of drywall screws. I learned long ago that drywall screws will snap quite easily if subjected to a strong shearing force. Deck screws are softer and will deform before they snap. Not that you are going to be subjecting your table to anything that should be a problem, but I always avoid using drywall screws for anything structural.
My eventual goal is to route an HO track. However, since I did not have an HO track of any type, I decided the shortest path to getting one was a plastic track.
After the plastic track is done, I may or may not decide to route a 1/32 hillclimb track. *Then* comes the routed HO track.
I've been following your work, and I'm glad to see that you have been successful. I've learned a lot from your tracks.
Yep, I can understand that - a few times I've thought 'why am I torturing myself, why don't I just lay down plastic' but sitting back and looking at what I've done, I feel good about it (even though it's not yet finished).
I think a 1/32nd track should be pretty easy considering the work you've already done
you've built a strong and stable table without resorting to Paul Bunyan sized megalumber
I had two experiences with my previous track table that led me in this direction. My previous tables were arranged in an L-shaped configuration, which was 11x12' in size. It was the usual slotcar style construction with heavy legs, and a 1x4" frames supporting flat 3/4" plywood tops.
The first insight I had was when I was building my tables, which used 4x4s as legs. I ended up putting adjustable feet under each leg, and realized that the tables were supported only by those small circles of metal that the feet screwed into. Who needed a whole 4x4 for support, let alone the eight of them I was using?
The second insight I had was with the second track I built on that table. This track was routed, like the first, but with this one I had a lot of elevation changes and I cambered every turn of that track. It turned out that every inch of that 82' track was ABOVE the table surface; all that the table was doing was providing a place to attach the track supports to. It was also a hassle to cut through the plywood table top for power taps, lap counters, etc. So why, then did I need a flat table surface?
So there I was, with a 11x12' L-shaped table with eight 4x4 legs, and a huge expanse of 3/4" birch plywood... That were not needed.
Yes, I needed a way to support a track, but I needed legs that matched up with the size of the adjustable feet I put under them; and a way to support a track that used less lumber and was easier to work with.
I researched a number of things and finally stumbled upon model railroad style benchwork. I liked what I read about that construction approach.
It may seem ironic but my new tables are far more rigid and stable than my previous heavy-duty tables.
After a slow spring and summer, making some progress
It's hard to believe it's been five months or so since I finished up my benchwork. In any case, I've made some progress recently, and while my track is not anywhere near ready to start racing on, it is ready enough for it's photo debut.
I'm about to secure the roadbed to the benchwork. To make sure that the roadbed in in the right places, I assembled the track to confirm fit and placement.
The benchwork is still amazingly stiff. Grab a joist and push and pull on it, trying to get the table to wiggle, and -- nothing. That table is stiff - no movement whatsoever. I can get every self supporting piece of furniture in my house to wiggle with far less effort -- including an Amish-built oak table, metal desk, etc., but the track tables will not budge.
The track is AFX -- all new as of last winter -- and I've not noticed any 15" straights that are less than acceptably straight.
The track will be held together with the new AFX track clips. I originally wasn't going to use them, but AFX dropped the price by two thirds since I started, and that moved the clips into the realm of financial possibility. They work really well. They do raise the track by about .5mm, but I can shim the cork borders up to the right height. I'm thinking about assembling the track in modules using the clips -- full straights, full curves, and then nail down the modules. Only the module joins would not be clipped together.
The borders will be cork roadbed on both sides of the track all the way around -- O gauge on the outside, and N gauge on the inside. I have plans to paint both the track and the borders, but nothing definite yet. Maybe a gray track surface, with a dry brushed layer of black to break up the long stretches of gray, and paint the cork borders green, and then dry brush them with the road surface gray, so the borders end up looking like the road surface with some grass growing in between the rocks/cracks.
The track will be landscaped in a simple manner. Not so simple as just a coat of green paint on all the flat sections, but maybe some low foam hills to add a touch of realism. I'm a 'less is more' kind of person when it comes to landscaping.
The track roadbed is 1/2" MDF, which is (or will be) supported about every 2 feet. That much support will ensure that the MDF does not sag, as commercial 1/24 scale slot tracks used the same thickness of MDF and distance between supports and they don't have problems with sagging.
As you can see, there is a significant altitude change (about 7") between the 'flat' portions of the track and the 'hillclimb' portions. Seven inches might be a bit of an overkill, but I had decided on that height to ensure that everyone -- no matter how tall -- would be able to clearly see the cars below the upper roadbed.
There is a little camber on the decent from the upper roadbed to the flats, and again in the donut. I may have to tweak the camber after I get power to the track and see how the cars handle the turns.
Enjoy the pictures, hope I have some more progress to show soon.
Last edited by wm_brant; 10-13-2008 at 10:52 AM..
Reason: Got rid of thumbnails