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Benchwork Basics 101 for HOn3 - Cookie Cutter Design
By: Craig    Date: 2011-02-22
Benchwork Design will Work With Any Size Room - Note Angled Legs have been Installed to support!

Before you even start, you need to have done your homework on the Railroad that you are going to use as your Prototype. Here is where you need to plan what areas you are going to model on the DRGW, RGS, C&S or what ever RR you are going to duplicate. This means that you need to buy some Narrow Gauge History books, or go to the Library and check out some books that cover the RailRoad of your choice. For those of you who have come to the HOn3 Scale from a smaller scale might be somewhat shocked at the layout bench work needed for a basic or advanced layout. At first they can be some what intimidating, but these are easy to build. You will need a Miter Saw, Cordless Drill, Drywall Screws while assembling the Basic Frame Work. And "3M Spray Adhesive" .. NO don't buy the less expensive one .. only adhering issues will be down the road for you to experience. The most common phone call I get is a new customer trying to design an HOn3 tiny layout on a simple layer of plywood, usually 4x8. A simple point to point layout from one wall to the next will work so much better for your first layout. "If you are planning a 4 x 8 layout, you are looking into the wrong scale." We will cover this later, but a typical Radius should be in the Mid 30's, usually 35-38 inch range

Cutting Out Your Layout Pieces From 1/2"
for proper prototype running. This requires a custom built framework under your layout. It is custom because you are going to build it!

With HOn3 you have already purchased highly engineered locomotives and cad designed rolling stock with more detail than you can could previously imagine. You have now entering into a scale that attracts real modelers that build kits, scratch build or kit bash almost everything on the layout.

Elevations in HOn3 should be kept in the 1-2.5% (Suggested) category to keep tractive effort of the Locomotives at their Maximum Capacity. If you choose to elevate into the 3-4% range, you generally will run much less rolling stock! Of course the prototype locomotives always needed a helper locomotive to make the steeper grades.

You compute the grades as follows: 4% grade will rise 4 feet every 100'. 3% grade will rise 3 feet every 100'. 2% grade will rise 2 feet every 100'. And of course a 1% will rise 1 foot every 100' feet.

The following information is assuming that you are building your layout around the outside walls of your room area. The photo 1 is a room 15x40 which was designed and built expressly for an HOn3 Layout. Measured from the wall out it is between 1 1/2 - 2 1/2 feet deep on 1x4 framework. Note that the legs

You Can See the Progression of the Layout In Photo 3!
around the wall were changed to angled supports later in the layout process. This can be seen in the photo above.

Layout can be built around the outside of your room. This allows you to still function in that room. When you come to a doorway, you will need to build a removable bridge if you are wanting continuous running. Otherwise you will have a "Point to Point" Layout which works as well. Many layouts has been Point to Point.

But let's get back to Basic 101 Bench work. The basic design is built of 1x4 lumber for the framework. Choose some straight lengths of 1x4. You want your framework to be fairly square. This framework will be built under all parts of your layout as shown on Photo 1.

The first layer is going to be 1/2" Plywood or MDF. It is very important to support every 18 inches. Once you decide to use 1/2" Plywood, use it throughout the remainder of your layout. Either product is available at your local lumber supply store. Plywood and MDF are very comparable since either product requires that you support it every 18" to 2 feet on a layout where the layout is fairly flat. Elevations or Cookie Cutter design will require that you support every 1-1 1/2 foot using risers from the bench work. See photo 1.

Remember that a layout can

Bridge 45a - Made with Black Bear Jigs - 8x8 Ties Laser Cut Road Bed - Dimensions from RGS Vol 3
be built around the outside of your room. This allows you to still function in that room as mentioned above. When you come to a doorway, you will need to build a removable bridge if you are wanting continuous running. It is important to know that the best height of the Layout is going to be at 45" tall. This will allow you to use Bar Stools to sit at the Layout while your friends watch your Layout in action. This becomes even more important when you are entertaining members of your club. Proper Planning is very important. When you are cutting out your MDF or Plywood, you want your Track Radius in the 35-38 inch range for proper Prototype Running. This will allow your highly engineered Locomotive and Rolling stock to operate like the real Prototype. If you choose to run much tighter Radius, your Loco and Rolling stock will look and run like a toy train - jerking around tight corners and wearing off the plating on the wheels. To repair plating on the wheels is an expensive fix! Not to mention it makes your Locomotives worth much less money when resold!

As you can see in Photo 2 - the Typical Cookie Cutter Layout being cut from your sheets of Plywood or MDF. These continuous sections cut gives this method it's Cookie Cutter Design name.

The Second Layer on your layout will be Ceiling Tiles. Ceiling Tiles are now readily available in almost all home supply stores. The ideal version of Ceiling Tile is the very smooth white finish on one side. These seem to be more available in some parts of the country than others. Otherwise purchase the tiles and use the smoothest side up. You will be using the Tiles upside down on top of your MDF or Plywood. You use this product on top of all your layout areas. It is easy to use, cost effective and gives you 1/2" of surface area to cut drainage ditches, landscaping etc. It can also support Trees and RR Signs. Be sure to plan ahead which Prototype areas you are modeling. Read some Narrow Gauge Books on the Road you are modeling as a Prototype. Planning ahead will help you locate key buildings, yards, and track for your RR Prototype. Be sure to pencil out the proper track work according to the prototype you are wanting. Remember to use a Yard Stick with a pin in one end and a pencil hole in the other. You can manage to do your own radius curves with this simple tool and be accurate.

There are many books available for the Narrow Gauge in Colorado. Watch for my article on this topic or call me anytime at 303-229-1949.

When you mount the Tiles to the MDF or Plywood, you use a 3-M spray adhesive. Why? This give you a third layer of "Sound Deadening" so that any noise from your Locomotive will not transmit through the rail, and the layout, and be amplified by the Bench Work. Most of you will wish to skip this procedure - but later you will wish you hadn't skipped this important step.

Since we have recommended the use of Ceiling Tiles, you will find that this product cuts very easy by using a large carpet knife. You can do this on the floor or carpet. It vacuums up with no problem. No air born dust at all. Simply cut your ceiling tiles the same shape as your plywood.

In Photo 3 you can see the progress of this Layout. Some modifications have been made to this layout since this photo was taken. You have the Bench Work phase complete, we have added risers to areas that need elevation. We have already chosen and spray painted a "Ground Color" on the Roadbed. This can be an Interior Latex flat paint. This will give you a great surface to glue down your track directly on the Roadbed using ACC Super Thin adhesive. Super Thin ACC (Cyanoacrylate) adhesive will wick under the ties when you apply the adhesive. Once you have glued down your track, be careful not to use water based products that could loosen your track from the Layout. Remember you will probably use ACC to do this glue down procedure. The "Ground Color" mentioned above gives you only a basic back ground color to build onto later. Please note: that if you are Modeling a Colorado Narrow Gauge Prototype Railroad, your track work is on the ground with no roadbed underneath. Colorado Narrow Gauge Railroads were built mostly on ground level. So the Ceiling Tiles are your Roadbed with a painted surface (Ground Level).

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