The bones are finished

Day 2 of the Last Week of the Year:

I’ve had much of my benchwork in place for a couple of months now (see  this post), but today I finished the base structure for the layout.

Last Sunday I got help to pick up several sheets of Homasote and one more sheet of plywood (thanks, Dave).  Today I picked up several more 1x4s and 1x3s (Menard’s Black Label select pine — nice stuff), and I finished up the last section of L-girders, plus the joists for the subroadbed.  It’s nice how quickly everything goes when you’ve got a plan and all of the tools readily at hand.


I do need to add some braces between the legs and the girder, but that’s another run to Menard’s (1x2s).

The plywood is in place, the Homasote is all cut and in place.  I’ve even got some temporary fascia installed.

Now to do another solid round of dust cleanup, and I’m ready to start making some progress on something above the benchwork for once.

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The railroad work week has started

Every year I take the week between Christmas & New Year’s off from work[1], but I stay at home and usually work on my railroad.

This year I am happily continuing this tradition.

Yesterday I got rid of an old couch (one that’s been with me for over 35 years – probably 15 different dwellings in 3 states).  It’s been in my basement for many years now, and the space it takes up has too rarely been used for sitting and more likely used to pile stuff.   I had to remove the handrails to the stairwell and move a bookshelf in order to fit the sofa up the stair well.  It was a tight squeeze, but Max and I got it up the stairs and out into the garage.

I then put a bunch of other things away, making room to move things around now that the 8 foot long couch was gone.   It’s amazing how much more space I have in my basement now.

So yesterday was cleaning.

Today was benchwork, about which more will be posted soon.

I hope to actually have some track laid and operating before the end of the year.



Note 1: This stems from one year, one of my first in the full time working world, where my boss did not allow  me to take my planned vacation because the release wasn’t done on time, even though the person who didn’t get their stuff done did go on vacation.  So I (the release engineer) made the release on December 25th, which was encoded in the version number that every customer saw for  the next several months (until the next quarterly release).  Boss took no small amount of crap from customers who wanted to know why the company forced someone to work on Christmas.   The following Christmas my vacation request was granted, and thus the tradition was born.


The jig is out

I’m using L-girder benchwork, with fairly large areas of flat ground (since most everything prototypically should be around 15 feet above sea level, if that).   This would normally entail risers with cleats on them, so I can drive all of the screws from below.   The main reason to use L-girder benchwork is the ability to move risers & joists as needed, and that is hard to do if you drive screws in from the top.

I dislike using cleats on the risers — it’s not that hard but it can be kind of fiddly.

I also have the luck of being able to use most of my joists as the riser as well, since most of the lumber I used to make the joists was cut at the same time so they’re the same height.


Time to dig out the tools.  I have a jig to make these nifty pocket holes, and they work beautifully for driving the screws from below.   This joist is a bit smaller than most, so it’s attached to the leg and not the L-girder.

The jig holds the board securely and has a guide for a special bit.  Everything is set “just right” for the pocket hole to be drilled and a pilot for the screw placement.  A bit of sawdust is created, and you’re ready to drive the screw and hold the joist to the plywood.



I placed several pockets to attach to the boards above.  No part of the screw protrudes above the surface of the plywood when they’re driven.



I think they’ll all be out of the way as I need to drill switch throw holes in order to place the switch motors, but if not, I’ll just move the joist.  That is the beauty of the whole L-girder system after all.

The jig is from Kreg and can be ordered online or from your favorite local hardware store.