Upper deck benchwork Part I …

Hi all,

Over the last few weeks, I had started thinking about how I was going to support the upper deck benchwork from Chilcott’s Ck through and past Kankool.  After reading recent posts on a few other blogs I follow, as well as on the Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine forums, I decided to have a go at using open grid framework, self-supported off the wall.

I had always planned to give the steel shelf brackets another go, but I was always worried about the bracket being visible in the lower deck’s viewing area.

Since the upper deck in this section will only be around 500mm deep, I thought that an open frame could support itself off the wall without the need for additional supports.  This would leave the underside free of anything that would encroach into the lower scene.

So, on the last day of 2012, I set about making up the first frame from 3×1 DAR pine.  This first section is 1800mm long by approximately 460mm deep.  The cross-members were cut at 420mm, and with the DAR pine being 19-20mm thick, I ended up with 460mm.

first upper deck section in place

The depth of the upper deck was a bit of a guess at this point, as I still haven’t finalised the depth of the lower scenery yet, but I hope to have it no more than a maximum of 450mm deep on this first run up to the corner before Kankool.  The upper deck needs to be slightly deeper than the lower level to allow for the lighting to fall on the front of the scene, therefore I decided to make the minimum depth of the upper deck grid at 460mm, as this would allow me to pack the front edge out as required for the fascia/valance to around a maximum of 520mm, which would give an upper deck overhang of 70mm.

depth of upper deck

So, the frame was glued and screwed together with blocks in the corner of each cross-member.  It was then screwed to the wall studs with large decking type screws.  The resultant structure is quite strong and seems to support itself pretty well.  After all, it only has to support the roadbed, scenery, lighting and of course the trains.  It won’t be susceptible to having people leaning on it, which would require more supports.

I had to also decide how far below the upper level roadbed height I wanted the framework.  It’s always been hard to envisage how much scenery I wanted below track level in certain areas, but I came up with the magic figure of 5.5 inches.  This would give me 40 HO scale feet below track level, which is a fair bit.  In some locations where I feel I don’t require such a depth below the track for scenery, I may lift sections closer to the 70 inch mark to keep a good lower scene viewing height.

The two pictures below show the frame in place with the red arrow pointing at the 70 inch top roadbed height datum.  In the larger picture, the line on the wall may be visible.

frame in place in relation to top roadbed height

frame in place in relation to top roadbed height

This gives a 19.5 inch vertical height to the lower deck scene/roadbed.  This, of course, is based on this location (bridge), but will decrease as it progresses along the lower grade.

I will probably fit another two 1800mm long sections in along this wall, before I have to make a corner module to then proceed above Kankool.

Similar sections will be built above the storage yards for the Ardglen section.

I am also thinking of employing this same technique for the upper valance support structure above the upper deck.  It will only have to support itself and lighting.


Posted on Jan 3, 2013, in Benchwork and tagged , , . Bookmark the permalink. 2 Comments.

  1. Ian,

    Very interested to see the fixing arrangement to the wall. Have you noticed any ‘springiness’ in the frame once it has been fixed to the wall? I presume that you will use layers of polystyrene foam to build to your datum and glue your roadbed directly onto the polystyrene. It will save weight. Do you have a contingency plan for additional bracing if necessary?

    Hopefully some more photos will be posted as you progress.

    cheers Phil

    • Hi Phil,

      There is a slight ‘springyness’ but not as much as I had previously with the lower deck benchwork when it was supported on the shelf brackets. I presume this is due to the ‘give’ in the gyprock.

      The roadbed will still be made from the spline, but the scenery foundation may very well be foam.

      As far as a contingency plan for additional bracing goes, I will see what happens as I add more benchwork, but I think it will be OK. I can always try out some options I have in mind, but don’t want to do this unless absolutely necessary.

      There will definitely be more photos as things move along.


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