Model train layout benchwork

Joe has been in touch with his model train layout benchwork – it’s topic I’m fond of because it’s all about making a start:

“Thanks, Al!

I when I was in high school, (Los Angeles, CA USA) back in the 1950s, I built an “L” shaped Lionel “O” gauge layout that was 10’ long on one leg and 12’ on the other on which I could run 2 trains simultaneously. Those trains and days are long gone!

In the late 60s, I built a “folded doggone” “N” scale layout that was 5′ X 2 ½’. “N” scale was relatively new and it was a lot of work to keep everything running and I soon lost interest.

In the late 80s I began collecting HO equipment. I had determined to model the 1940s to 50s steam era. By then, we were living in San Diego, CA.

A friend gave me his “Chessie System” 4-6-2 Mantua loco and tender and I bought about 2 dozen freight cars (Athearn & Roundhouse) and a set of 3 Roundhouse 50’ “Harriman” coaches. All in kit form.

Before building them, I sprayed the chassis and undercarriages with a light, ‘splotchy’ coat of light-rust colored primer. I grouped them by size & style on a large scrap of cardboard and did them all at once.

Next, I decided to do a slight bit of weathering because I didn’t like the idea of running a plastic train. I simply took a small piece of 400 grit ‘wet and dry’ sandpaper (I used it dry) and lightly stroked down over the lettering, etc. leaving the ‘dust’ on the model. Then I sprayed lightly with dull coat to “fix” the weathering.

Since I had no place to actually build the layout at the time, I worked on the cars, loco and some buildings at my leisure.

Since I was not modeling the C&O, I stripped the paint from the Pacific loco and tender and repainted them flat loco black.

In 2001, we moved to a house in Missouri that had a huge room that I could dedicate to a layout so I began a track plan. It is 12’ x 8’ and built as four modules. I designed it that way so it could be moved. Finally, retiring in 2009, I began to build the layout.

We moved in 2017 to Battlefield, MO and I was glad I had constructed a “modular” layout. Currently it is sitting in my huge 25’ x 25’ heated, air conditioned well insulated shop building. ½ the shop is for the layout and relaxing and the other ½ is my wood/cabinet/woodworking shop. I have completed the backdrop and some of the background scenery. I will be starting the landscaping within the month.

I’ve run out of time right now but will continue next week. You’ll probably want to wait until you have another 3 or 4 sets of pictures before you publish them.

Here are some pics from early construction:

This is roughly the track plan.

track plan

Framework completed, all four modules bolted together.

Model train layout benchwork

There is a 2’ x 8’ module on each end, a 4’ x 8’ “sandwiched” between them at the back (Left) and a 3’ x 8’ “sandwiched” in front (right).

train bench 2x8

½” plywood applied

Model train layout benchwork access hole

“Roughing-out” the track plan.

Model train layout benchwork

“East end” curves marked. The largest radius is 34”, the smallest is 30”.

Model train layout benchwork


I do love seeing the layouts created from the very start. When you look at a bench with that plywood, it’s hard to imagine the finished thing. But with a little patience…

Now on to Dave. I don’t know how he finds the time:

“Hi Alistair

Just loaded this latest video on the new design on my model railway, a few tips on this one as well, especial like the uncoupler with the light attached, could not resist a quick shot of my Koi Carp at the end, as so many of the model Railway people Keep Koi Carp and keep asking when am I going to take my covers off my pond



Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

I know it’s off topic but Dave’s pond looks just as good as his layout stuff.

A big thanks to Joe for sharing his model train layout benchwork. I’m really looking forward to seeing that one progress.

PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

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

16 Responses to Model train layout benchwork

  1. June says:

    Dave’s garden is as splendid as his train setup. All those pansy flowers already. Do you have a hot house to raise them in winter so they are ready in the spring? I finally got my benchwork and foam base on for the S scale train (had since I was around 6 yo). Found many ideas here, time to try some. .

  2. Roger Beere says:

    How about Davetown Halt.
    I can get 4mm thick cork in 60cm wide rolls x 3mtrs long I think, they could be longer, for 28 Euros here in Brittany. France. It goes an awful long way cut into 50mm wide strips plus it is quite supple, you can bend it round corners without it kinking.

  3. Allen Montville says:

    Cool pond, the Koi are huge. Always wondered how they survived the winter.
    Farmer AL

  4. Bruce says:

    Joe, Is the left end the only pop-up to access the more center area? Appears to be about 18 inches square. I assume there might be one on the right end soon.
    Keep the pics coming.

  5. Peter Bayley-Bligh says:

    ‘Simple’ but effective track plan and modular too – great.

  6. Jay Kirk says:

    Hi Joe,

    Glad to see someone else uses the concept of modules for their platform. Enjoyed your description of this technique. It works great. I’ve used that very same technique back in the ’50s, when as a 10 yr old kid I built my first platform in modules, using only hand tools. My dad didn’t have any power tools. I did it for portability to be able to carry them myself, as the sections were stored in the garage and brought out after Thanksgiving to set up my Lionel’s for Christmas. I started with two 4 x 4 ft modules bolted together, then expanded to a L shape by adding two more 4×4′ modules.
    Now retired, I’m back into the hobby and use the same module construction techniques as you are doing, only using power tools this time. I’m combining an 8 x 12′ O gauge modular platform with an HO modular unit bolted to the larger platform to give me a 12 x 14′ overall platform. Following Al’s readers’ recent encouragement, I’m combining two gauges, providing nice long runs for both gauges with O gauge on the lower deck, (steam, diesel & GG1 electrics), with HO on the upper perimeter deck. If we ever have to move (hopefully not), I’ll be able to unbolt the modules for relocation.

    Keep up the good work- looking to progress pics.


  7. Tom Sawyer says:

    I love all the Dave vids, but as a Yank, I can’t understand half of what he says. As George Bernard Shaw said ” Great Britain and America are two countries divided only by a common language!”

  8. Trevor Hall says:

    i want to start my own layout but but i dont know where to start can you help me

  9. Rob McCrain says:

    I love beginning layouts. Good to see the raw plywood starting to develop. Rock on in Missouri. My wife was born there. Rob McCrain

  10. David Wibbels says:

    I am building a HO layout in modules. I seem to start and stop more often than I like. I like your layout plan and I may copy part of it.

  11. Michael bruhn says:

    Ok I have just got a n scale set up with two smooth flow 200/250 British transformers can I use them here in Canada or not

  12. Peter Waring says:

    Hi Dave, Re a station name, I call my mainline station Upton Junction (from the film Up the Junction). Should fit in with a northern theme! How about Dingle Halt for the smaller branch line station. Love the fish, could do with a model boat or 2! Regards, Peter…

  13. Rod Mackay says:

    I know someone who once asked in a posh New York hotel if they had any souvenir rubbers with the Empire State Building on, and got a very funny look from the receptionist.
    Joe, look forward to seeing the trains run, very sensible to plan for moving, we’ve shortly got to dismantle someone’s shed layout which is completely built in, all we can really save is some track and electrics, very sad to see so much loving work go to waste.
    Dave, you keep changing that layout, so how about calling your stations Rippingdale and Tearingdown?
    Or, as you run a mix of GW, LMS and LNE, somewhere sounding like its in the Midlands, Brumfield and Lichingham, say?
    Or particular heros of yours, who happen to sound like place names, in my case that might be Gooch and Pankhurst.
    I don’t know how much telly you watch (not much by the look of that lovely garden) but Midsomer and Denton would strike a sinister note, you could model a series of gruesome murder mysteries…
    Mad I know, even our cars have names in my family. Cheers,

  14. arthur Bedford says:

    Hi Dave
    Name for your Station? how about STIGWELL named after your everloving wife, co driver, filmer extraordinare. Great layout . Keep em coming

  15. tom in az says:

    Well Joe congrats looks good so far. I live in Payson AZ. small town in mountains. I am from Mo. originaly. I also model HO and do woodworking as a hobby. Our hobbies do take a lot of room. Hope to hear from you again. Tom inPayson AZ

  16. dangerous dave says:

    Thank you all for your suggestions re Station Names , I have had over 100 with these and the Youtube comments , I have picked 2 , which I sill show on my next video , one is from here , and the other is one which has been suggested so many times , think a lot will relate to it as the name is used on my videos regular …..thanks again ….as for my Garden and the Pansies , I just plant them out at the end of October , they are in flower as so called winter pansies , but just keep dead heading and trimming back and these should be in flower well in to early summer , ready then for summer bedding plants …Thank you all again for your support ….Dangerous Dave

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *