Model railroad benchwork foam – Bill’s

People often post comments about model railroad benchwork foam on the blog – so I was very pleased to get this in from Bill:


I so enjoy seeing everyone’s work on your site that on a nice Virginia US afternoon I booted my wife’s Jeep from our garage so I could start to put to foam board a layout plan I had in my mind for a long time. The wife’s Jeep came back in after a couple of hours as I agreed to give half the garage to her and have the other half for man land toys.

Like many I have totes full of modeling materials- far more than I can ever use on what will become a modular 4×16 switching layout that has to be lite and portable. In my pictures you can see why that is the case- the garage is pretty full already. In my minds eye I have the supporting frame work created as well as a structure so I can stack multiple sections for storage and transport. Should be fun to build as I have time this winter.

The layout is an engine terminal, repair and MOW area and a yard with industrial sidings going off on the next 4×8 sheet which will come together in the next year if all goes to plan. Even though I will be running small engines and 40ft cars I wanted to have the ability to have big engines on the main so I’m going to use #8 and #6 switch’s in most applications.

When time permits I’ll set it up again and tweak track arraignments as I already see my yard lead goes into a main with little room to switch more than a car or two without blocking the main. The double slip switch while looking nice may not be practical on the main at its location. This is the fun of the hobby and very much like how real railroads do it. If it doesn’t fit the need redo it.

As I build the foam bed frame and support structure I’ll send in more pictures to show how things come together.


Bill from Richmond Virginia”

model railroad track plan

Model railroad benchwork foam

Model railroad benchwork foam

Model railroad benchwork foam

A big thanks to Bill.

And Michael has been in touch again – if you missed his stunning 11 x 27 ft layout last time, it’s here.

Michael sent in 3 videos (which I have stitched together) which show his layout before and after the scenery. It’s a must see:

A huge thanks to Michael (again!) and Bill to for his model railroad benchwork foam explanation.

I do like to publish the layouts in their earlier stages, because it’s all about making a start.

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you get started on your layout, the Beginner’s Guide is here.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

model train answers

32 Responses to Model railroad benchwork foam – Bill’s

  1. Rich B. says:

    This is a great idea, going completely switched. Also like the plan of going lightweight and the size involved. No rivers, mountains, gorges with every square inch spoken for and pretty easy to make changes with the flat footprint.

    RIch B.

  2. arthur bedford says:

    All these layouts are well designed and put together, but why do all the trains run at 200 MPH

  3. Christine says:

    That is so cool.

  4. Victor Koyano says:

    Those trains run almost as fast as LaPlata MO live stream!

  5. Michael Parry says:

    I read once that the old Lionel trains were geared to run scale 100 MPH at 18 volts. So it’s just the way they were manufactured.
    Some of them are so heavy that they don’t start moving until you hit 14 or 15 volts and if you try to run them at that voltage they grind and stall and are at risk of smoking (the overheating electrical fire kind – not the cute smoke pill kind!)
    That’s also partly why they sound so loud to some people – heavy, moving fast, and old grindy electrical motors, wheels, and gears. They sound that way after being completely disassembled and internally cleaned and lubed. I have one train that buzzes like a chainsaw just standing still! I have another that growls like a bear!
    For me, it is part of the challenge and charm of working with 60 year old trains.

  6. Robert Brady says:

    70 mph speed limit ,great layout but not a lionel fan love ur terrain though.

  7. Franco428 says:

    Please send MORE photos when you have the time. I’ve always liked layouts with a turn-table & train sheds. This looks like it is going to be awesome!!!

  8. Robert Robinson says:

    Very nice, thanks!

    I still have my O-gauge Lionel set that my parents got me prior to WW2.

  9. Johnny says:

    Great Start. I have been working on my Layout for about 3 years, and yes it is sectional also. Hopefully this Winter I will be able to Start building the connecting sections that when completed will give me about 200 ft of Main line Runs. Details right now are the Modeling challenges ahead. When you start the Detailing just look at photo’s and determine what is there to be included. Currently the Details are electric and Communication lines for me. Since my layout is “N” Scale their are a great many Challenges.

  10. Peter Evangel says:

    Bill didnt say what scale he’s running, but judging by the packages on the table, I’d guess N scale. Nice start Bill. Cant wait to see progress on your layout.

    Silicon Valley

  11. Peter Evangel says:

    Yes, Michael’s Lionel set does run fast. All most all Lionel three rails do. I had built a very large layout for my father inlaw using his Lionel stuff, and that was one complaint. You cant really regulate the speed. But that was ok. Dad loved it the way it was. Sadly he passed away last year and now I’m left with bunches of “O” gauge stuff 🙁

    Sunny Calif.

  12. Will says:

    Bill’s layout looks great! Lots of switching possibilities. I’m a little confused about the two turnouts in the end near the roundhouse however. There isn’t any track beyond them. Maybe a speeder could fit there?

  13. Gene Trumble says:

    Billl, would you please tell me the make and model of the turntable you have shown in the photos. I am having ‘space issues’ to contend with and would like to know what your selection is. Thanks.

  14. Bill Semanko says:

    Great layout. Wish I had that much room. Have noticed that several people who send in videos run their trains way too fast. Need to slow them down to typical railroad speed.

  15. Wm Althaus says:

    Hi everyone this is Bill from Virginia. I see there are a few questions of what you see so far. Glad to answer them. The first is that this is in HO scale. I love n scale but the eyes are not as good as they used to be so HO was a natural choice.

    The turn table is one I picked up on EBay and it’s a Con-Cor/Helmand model B 804. It’s 14.5 inches across so not too large but also not too small.

    For the question about the two tracks near the roundhouse I’m not sure exactly where you are referencing. If it’s the tracks that contain the cluster of switches those will be moved further into the layout so I can accommodate at least an engine. I saw that was too tight too.

    Thanks all. This weekend I cut up the materials for the bencework and will be putting that together next weekend. More pictures in a couple of weeks I think

  16. Paul Bailey says:

    What is a “MOW” area????

  17. Andy Evans says:

    I too am finally building my Lionel layout. Postwar primarily. And yes, I expect to run just a bit faster than proto speed. That’s what they do, after all.

  18. Ian McDonald says:

    great pictures and video. thanks for sharing.

  19. Wm althaus says:

    Hi it’s Bill – MOW is short for Maintenance of Way. A very fun aspect of railroading go model.

  20. Martin Vanderhoek says:

    Hi Bill
    Excellent start to your layout. Just one question? How do you plan to attach your track to the foam?

  21. Wm althaus says:

    Hi it’s Bill. Martin I think I’m going to try using caulking to attach my track. I plan to use cork under the main line and then have my other tracks sit on the foam board directly.. I’ve looked at a number of videos and read articles on the subject and I’m going to give it a try.

  22. John D. Park says:

    Good start Bill. Just need to slow the trains down to warp2 Been in N gauge for over thirty years, and still like to see a good “O” gauge layout. thanks for your views.John

  23. Gregory Nies says:

    Great layout 👍
    Retired and unpacking years of train collecting.
    Have two yong grandchildren that can’wait to ”help” 🤪 to get a train layout started.
    Have several “O” gauge Lionel and MTH engines and rolling stock. Would like to set up a swtitching train yard layout. Is there any info on “O” guage round houses either built ,in kits or designs
    Thank You. Greg N.

  24. Wm althaus says:

    Hi Greg it’s Bill. A good place to look at some of what is out there is on EBay using O Scale roundhouse or O Scale Engine Shed to see what is listed. There is quite a variety under the engine shed search and less under the roundhouse search.

    Be great to see yours once out and running. I still have my O27 set I got back in the Late 60’s.

  25. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice layouts.

  26. Brian Olson says:

    Foam Board my choice for the base of my layout, placed over of course, solid benchwork!

  27. Runna Muck says:

    Why do you have the loco snaking through the bridge? straighten out that track man!

  28. Steven Porcelius says:

    Great layout BUT why do you run your trains at hyper speed. Do you really want to have them fly off the tracks.

  29. RON R says:

    Very nice to see trains running, but it would be much so better if the videos were in focus.

  30. Stephen Hill says:

    Wow . That’s amazing , had no idea that was possible. Everyday I’m amazed at what I learn and discover on this site . I got into model railroading as a complete novice, mostly just wanted to satisfy a long forgotten childhood memory I suppose . Never realized the true fervor and sheer dedication many of you have . It’s refreshingly exciting , I admire that fever , that level of craftsmanship and dedication is rare . I tip my hat to that crowd . Thank you even .

  31. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome Bill, another layout that will be awesome because all of your other layouts are out of this world, can’t wait to see more on your new layout !!!!!!!!
    Michael I love your “0” scale layout, I’m working on a “0” scale layout that will be a “U” shape that will fit in a 10 foot by 20 foot room. Just starting and not to much done yet because this 77 year old has to take it in stride ( LOL )

  32. Jim AZ says:

    I’ve had good success using a plywood base, then foam, then foam roadbed and then laying the track. I used foam glue and foam tack glue from Woodland Scenics for the tracks. My layout is in my garage in sunny southern AZ. So the temperatures vary quite a lot. And knock on wood or foam, I’ve really had no issues with expansion/contraction. Good luck with whatever choice you choose.

    Jim AZ

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