Well begun is half done.

Benchwork, or how to turn lumber into splinters.

Well, it started.  The building of the latest model Railroad is on track. (pun intended)

After an extremely rewarding week at work, both financially and figuratively I managed to corral the wife and get to the local home depot just before it closed Friday night.  I purchased  all the necessary wood, screws, nails, hardware and bits and bobs to build my benchwork.  Needless to say, on saturday morning, my friend Mike and I were off to Home Depot for more bits and bobs that were forgotten or overlooked.  This will be a theme, mind you.  Each day of this glorious three day weekend will start with a trip to a hardware store and be followed by actual work.  I think I mentioned somewhere that when you fail to plan, you plan to fail.  Oddly enough, I had read the book on benchwork pretty carefully and still managed to screw up.

I decided to go with 3/4” plywood for the framing.  I had the store rip it down to manageable (for the SUV) one foot wide sections, and then used the table saw to rip them into 3” strips.  From there, it was easy to cut the 8 foot lengths down to what I need for the open grid benchwork.

Alas, this was not a weekend of nothing but “working on the railroad…”.  Mike had a wedding to attend on Saturday, and I had a Valentines night out with our friends Mark and Judy (and Anastasia, of course).  But we got a good start on the framing saturday.  Sunday dawned bright and clear, but there was a built in hold on the building.  Sunday was valentine’s day, but it was also the Daytona 500!  Yes, Mike and I spent the better portion of the day watching the rednecks turnin’ left.  It’s a passion we have.  Soon the Formula One season will start and Mark, Mike and I will gather on Sunday evenings to watch that!

But anyhow, on to the wood of the matter.  So far everything is framed and most of the frames have legs.  Now we need to get everything fit, leveled and ready for the sub-roadbed.

It still amazes me how much all this costs.  The raw lumber is not even the tip of the iceberg.  The hardware is the huge expense.  The leveling legs, screws, t-nuts, carriage bolts etc really rack up the register.

Not to mention, but every time I head to the store I get a list from Pam (the wife) of things she needs.  Let me be clear here, I’m pretty handy with the tools, but Pam is the real woodworker in the house.  To build all this, I had to borrow her Table saw, wood jigs, holder, compound miter saws etc.  The only thing I brought to the party was my brand new Craftsman pneumatic nail and staple gun.  Oh yeah, that baby rocks connected to my compressor.  But really, all the major tools and jigs are hers.

(And if you must know, the stuff in the kitchen is MINE!  We go to Sears and she heads for the tools and I head for housewares.  Call me a faggot and I’ll find you and beat you down.  26 years in the military, you don’t want a piece of this! – ok ok, so it was the Air Force, but still military…  ok ok, it won’t matter, I’m in no shape to beat anybody down…)

Anyhow, we worked on it for three days, fixing up the room and smashing sticks into frames.  The room lighting is up and the unsightly bulge in the wall is now painted and not so unsightly anymore.

So, it has begun.  You can see where we are at in the pictures section of the pages.  There is no turning back now!

Fail to plan and you plan to fail!

Sticks and stones...

Sticks and Stones...

Layout planning…  The mere words strike fear into the hearts of (some) model railroaders everywhere.  It’s one thing to negotiate room for a model railroad or build a show quality structure model, but it’s another thing altogether to get down and plan the actual model railroad.

It sure as hell has terrified me.  Terrified to the point that I have put it off and keep putting it off until I feel more comfortable.  I have all the tools I need, really.  I have 3rd Planit software to design it and I’m getting better at using it.  I have messed with the tutorial and I am getting comfortable with the concepts in it.

Having the tool and being able to use the tool are two different things however.  I have an idea in my head how I want the track plan to go, but actually putting it down on paper is kicking my butt!

Here is what I have done so far.

I have made a spreadsheet list of  all the industries I want on my layout.  I have also listed the commodities and the types of cars they require.  I also listed what commodities are going to come in by interchange (i.e. staging tracks and junctions).  So, I know what my layout will move and how it will be moved.

I have also made a slick database for all my equipment in Bento.  (Its a non-relational database program for Macs.)  I have catalogued everything from my rolling stock to locomotives to my DCC gear.  It’s a great tool and designing and populating has been a great way of procrastinating and delaying the actual track planning I need to do.  My problem is, it’s getting close to time to sh*t or get off the pot.  My benchwork is coming together nicely and soon I’ll have sub-roadbed laid.  At that point I’ll be staring at the Plywood Pacific railroad and I’ll really be hosed.  I did join the NMRA’s Layout Design SIG and I’m getting ideas from there.  I also re-read JohnArmstrong’s Layout design books, as well as Tony Koester’s books.

Here is the problem.  In my head, I want to do as good a job as my Model Railroad heroes (Alan McLelleland, Tony Koester, The Reid brothers etc.) but I don’t think I have the mind for making a great model track plan.  There are a ton of options and opinions out there and where does the neophyte turn?

My real plan now is to just say to heck with it, I’m going to make a plan, submit it online to the LDSIG and other forums and hear what people have to say.  I know I want my local switching and a good yard, and I think I have a good outline of a plan, but now I need to lay those virtual tracks and turnouts…

Wish me luck.  I want a good plan, and I hope it’s not a plan destined to fail!