Sunday, July 20, 2008

Layout Progress as of 7/20/2008

This week I began building the wall brackets for the around-the-wall shelf sections of the track plan. A set of photos is included below. At this point, the track plan is only roughed in, and you may be wondering if it is wise to begin construction without a completed track plan. I am using an iterative approach to building the CSX Dixie Line, which basically means I get the design to a certain level of completeness and then move forward building as much as possible according to the plan so far. For example, although I do not have the exact mainline routing or exact locations of sidings, towns, or industries, I recently finalized the exact dimensions and shape of the layout. This will allow me to build most of the major benchwork components now while the details of the track plan are still coming together. Basically, at this stage I am really just building a blank canvas that I know will accommodate all of the elements of the CSX Dixie Line layout, even though I do not yet know the specifics of all the elements.

For the wall brackets, I purchased a bundle of 20 pieces of 1" x 3" x 8' pine lumber. Since I will be needing a lot of these brackets (around 45-50 of them), I decided to setup an assembly line type of operation. First, I cut all of the 8' pine boards to shorter lengths to be used as pilasters, joists and cleats for constructing the individual brackets. Next, I built a temporary work table on which I mounted two jigs: one to assure the cleats were mounted to the pilasters correctly, and one to assure that the joists were mounted to the pilasters correctly. The jigs assure all of the pieces go together nice and square. To assemble the brackets, I took the cut pieces and assembled them using the first jig to attach three cleats to the pilaster, and then the second jig to attach three joists to the pilaster/cleat assembly. I was able to produce four complete brackets much more quickly than I could have without the jigs. Finally, I mounted one of the brackets to the wall in the appropriate position on the train room wall. I will continue making brackets and mounting them until they are all done. At that point, it will be time to turn to construction of the benchwork for the peninsula and the dreaded helix--but that is for another day!

I must give credit to Bruce Faulkner and his CSX Shenandoah Division n-scale layout, upon which the basic design of my benchwork is based. Looking at Brian's benchwork construction progress photos on his website really convinced me that the ideas bouncing around in my head might actually work. Thanks, Brian!

Note: After completing the first bracket, I posted a few of the pictures below in a thread on the Model Railroader magazine forum. Based on feedback from that forum and a review from some of my friends who are carpenters and woodworkers, I have decided to change my construction techniques in two ways: (1) Instead of using pine boards, I will be using hardwood plywood ripped into 1 x 3 boards and (2) all of the joints will be glued as well as screwed together. Look for an progress report on this new method soon, as I want to move forward quickly before I lose any momentum.


Figure 1 Four completed wall brackets ready for installation.

Figure 2 The first wall bracket mounted in the layout room.

Figure 3 The same wall bracket, but viewed from a different angle.

Figure 4 The jig for mounting cleats on the pilasters.

Figure 5 The jig for mounting joists on the pilaster/cleat assemblies.