A Railroad with Relevance

Benchwork Begins

Written By: Alan - Oct• 27•12

At last, I am actually building a railroad! Step one is the foundation – solid benchwork.

I decided to make my benchwork with 3/4″ hardwood plywood instead of the usual 1×4 pine. Birch plywood to be specific. I cannot take credit for coming up with this idea myself. As of late, plywood benchwork has become very popular in the model railroad community. I first read of the idea on one of the forums. There are several good reasons for using plywood:

  1. Plywood is more dimensionally stable than pine boards
  2. Plywood doesn’t expand/contract with humidity change as much as pine
  3. No twisted or warped boards
  4. Economy – plywood is less expensive than same amount of dimensional #2 pine
  5. Solid hardwood dimensional lumber would be cost prohibitive

After examining the plywood offerings at Home Depot, Lowes, and Menards I decided to buy from Menards. They have a much better plywood selection than Home Depot or Lowes. Actually, the plywood selection at both Home Depot and Lowes is pretty poor especially Lowes which is downright awful. Menards has a real nice 13 ply (11 ply + faces) birch all hardwood veneer 4×8 sheet for $44.97. Part number 1251696 manufactured by Timber Products. The web site shows this part number as having a combination MDF and hardwood core but the sheets at the store were hardwood veneer core all the way through. I bought six sheets, brought them home, and then ripped them into a big stack of 3-1/2″ x 96″ boards. Straight as an arrow, every piece exactly the same width, beautiful faces on both sides – you just can’t beat it! I don’t know exactly how many board feet will be needed but this stack should be enough to get quite a bit of benchwork built this winter.

Another new addition – curtains for the windows! My wife is making curtains for the train room with material that color matches almost perfectly with the walls. She is making single panel units that wrap around the molding and slide in between the molding and the wall rails of the light panels. Inside the window frames will be black curtains on tension rods. The sky blue curtain color clashes real bad with the house color when you are outside looking at the basement windows. Besides, too much light comes through the blue curtains. They need to disappear against the walls as much as possible. The black second curtains solve both problems. My wife is in charge of this project so I am sure it will turn out great. More on the curtains later when I have pictures of them in place.

Stay tuned. A railroad is about to happen!


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  1. Sam Wheland says:

    Alan, I first saw your work on Railwire a while back when you were working on the ceiling panels. While waiting for Sandy to pummel the east coast today, I spent the day looking back over your Blog which I found this morning. While I was totally impressed with your updates on railwire, watching your progress from the begining has been amaising. I am looking forward to future posts.


  2. alan says:

    Sam, glad to see you found the LK&O site. The truly amazing thing about my railroad is that my wife is letting me build it!!! LOL Thanks for following along.

  3. Scott Whittingham says:

    Have been watching this blog for a long time. It’s great to see that you have made progress to the point where you can almost lay track to wood. 🙂

    Keep the updates coming I look forward to seeing them.

  4. alan says:

    Scott, make sure your seat belt is tight and low across your lap. Keep your arms and legs inside the car at all times. The ride is about to begin! December should yield serious progress.

    Happy you are following along.

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