The D&J Railroad -- From Scratch

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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
The D&J Railroad -- Building a Large MR From Scratch

I started this thread in the Introduction section, but decided it really should be over here. I hope you can follow along as I start this major project from a blank basement setting to a fully sceniced model railroad with a southwestern look and UP/BNSF motive power.
This is the start of a large basement layout that I have been promising to myself for some time now. The previous D&J Railroad was a full perimeter basement layout with 2 1/2 scale miles of double track mainline and 14 industries. It had its beginnings in 1984 using left over lumber from the construction of my house back then. It's final configuration was controlled with Digitrax and included a 40' end to end staging yard. The previous layout was built in sections over an 18 year time frame. No detailed plan was ever really put together other than a rough idea of where I wanted track to run and scenery to spring up. I tore it down in 2005 to remodel the basement then to sell the house. The housing market fell apart shortly after that and my hobby sat in boxes and bins until I attempted to start a new layout in late 2008. In March 2009 my wife died and I again tore out what I had started.
I am in a new house now with over 2000 square feet of basement that will be totally dedicated to the new D&J Railroad. The first thing I have to do is put up stud framing to support drywall.
This picture is a layout of the basement showing the stairwell and utilities in the center of the basement. The circles are 8', 10' and 15' in diameter.
Another picture is in post #10 of this thread showing the approximate location of the peninsulas and the benchwork plan for around the walls.

basement plan.jpg

The triangle shape in the upper right will be a small utility room with the walk out sliding door on the top wall line. The dimensions of the basement are 35' x55' and it will be totally model railroad.

This is the first stud framing to be completed along the left wall in the diagram. The size of the room in the picture is deceiving because of the 8 1/2 foot ceiling. The height of the ceiling makes the room look smaller.

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Put some more wall studs up. This extends around and half way up the right side of the basement drawing. This is about 100' of wall so far.

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22 Oct 11: Loaded 51 sheets of 1/2" drywall into the basement. Still mulling over track plan for the center part of the basement.
26 Oct 11: The stud framing is completed and I have put up the drywall around the utility room on the top right of the basement layout.
14 Nov 11: A lot of the drywall is up now. Getting down to the tedious parts of enclosing the pipes, center steel I beam, air ducts and rounding the corners of the room. I can do the painting with an air gun because there is no carpeting in the basement to be concerned about. First coat will be a sandable primer so I can do the final smoothing. After that, the scenery background sky color will be applied by air gun and brush for a graduated sky color from horizon to a sky blue ceiling.


This is one of the rounded corners. With the larger radii of the planned corner curves, it would be virtually impossible to reach all the way into the corner to do scenery or whatever else without crawling onto the bench. It also provides a smoother transition from one wall to another for the background.
Keeping in mind, the bottom half of the wall will be concealed by the benchwork skirting, thus no need to put drywall there but I can store stuff under the benchwork behind the skirting.

28 Nov 11 Finishing up with cutting drywall. Now just spreading the mud and tape.
Benchwork can't be to far off now.



2 Jan 2012 - Most of the sanding is done now. Just a few touch up places with mud and then a layer of primer paint.



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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
In the beginning, there was a plan and a wall.......and it was good!:)
Good one there Second. LOL

14 Jan 2012 - First coat of primer is applied to the walls. A little more sanding touch up and the sky blue paint will go on this weekend.

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16 Jan 2012. Flat blue paint is applied to the entire room. I just finished vacuuming the floor before this picture to clean up the dried over spray, so some of the dust is still in the air. I'm considering painting the floor before beginning the benchwork.

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21 Jan 2012 - Started installing the benchwork.

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I had to narrow down the size of the benchwork as it passes in front of the stairway door. This allows about 12" of shelf for a double track mainline to pass.

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Benchwork for the first peninsula is started. I'm using anchor screws to secure it to the floor so it doesn't slide or tip. The half circle in the background is 8' in diameter. I use that to make sure I have at the very least 48" radius for the curves. This peninsula will be about 55" radius for track.

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4 Feb 2012 - The second peninsula is almost completed in the picture below. Just need to add the diagonal supports to keep the uprights in place.
You can almost see the team of late version BNSF motive power coming down the yard lead into the sorting yard with a string of loaded well cars on the right while another trio is ready head uphill with a cut of 25 auto carriers with a set of SD40-2s pushing from the rear.
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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
I have the stud walls put up all the way to the bottom right corner of the basement layout drawing. That's about 80 linear feet or so. I'll stop by Lowes on the way home from work today and pick up another load of 104" 2x4s, a door with frame and some concrete screws. I ordered about 300 feet of flex track and cork roadbed from M.B. Kliens and a drywall installation rack to put up the ceiling and walls.
The bench work plan is settling into an around the wall with a deformed T coming off the wall at the top of the drawing and each arm of the T opeing up into a large balloon of about 8' radii loops (16' diameter). The depth of the scenery of the balloons will be kept to about 3' for easy access to industries. All the mainline will be double tracked.
I take it from your user title this will be in HO? I'm starting an N layout myself and I envy the kind of space you have there! I could have double the space you'd have and I'd probably still go N, just for the sense of scale you could achieve.

Keep us posted!

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
The drywall rack arrived yesterday via FedEx and I have about another day's work in finishing the last utility room wall in the upper right of the basement layout plan. Gotta put a door in there too. Should have it completed tonight. Then it's on to putting up drywall.
In addition to this work, I'm finishing up some exterior yard work around a deck that I just completed. Spreading 11 tons of crushed stone under it to keep the weeds down.

30 Oct 2011: Drywall has been started. Installing rounded corners has slowed things down a bit, but it will bring the back of the scenery in the corners into reach without having to crawl up onto the table surface. On 30 Oct I have drywall from the top right of the layout drawing down around to the bottom left corner. After the walls are up, I will put some ceiling coverage in.
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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
This is the general track plan for the layout. As I build the benchwork, it will become apparent where industries can fit in. A sorting yard will go on the center pennisula and a staging yard will fit under the table starting from the top wall around to the left, then the bottom wall and come back up to the top level in the left pennisula. All mainline track will be double track and should be around 6 miles for one loop. The basement dimensions are about 35' verticle and about 55' wide with a 9 foot ceiling. Minimum radii will be about 55" (110" circle).

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Man, I would love to have the space you do. Looks like a good start to a great layout. And I take it you're going to be running long trains with long cars by what you have stated the curves are going to be. Its going to be interesting to see this layout as you progress. Best of luck to ya.

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
The plaster work is finished, now the sanding begins. 7 gallons of primer white is waiting to be sprayed onto the walls and ceiling. After that, a little more sanding for touchup then the sky blue goes on that fades to dirty white on the horizon, then the bench work begins. First track will be layed shortly after the New Year.

19 Dec 11, still sanding the drywall. About 2/3s finished. Seems like a never ending job and takes a lot of discipline to keep at it. Drywall dust is being kept to a minimum with a vacuum link to the DeWalt 1/4 sheet sander. I have probably dumped close to 50lbs of drywall dust in the trash so far. Throat is sore, eyes are grainy, skin is dried out from the dust. Static electricity shocks every 10 seconds or so from the silicon dust going through the vinyl vacuum hose is an ongoing nuisance. I'll be glad when this phase is over.
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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
Ok, I'm getting close to starting the benchwork on the layout. I'm at the point of buying lumber and have to make a choice for the material to attach to the wall studs. The picture below illustrates how I will attach the benchwork to the perimeter walls. I think that the idea of cutting the pieces from sheets of plywood will provide the strength that I need. The supports will be about 2'X2' and the arch cut out of it on the bottom side.
The point that I'm looking at now is: what kind of plywood to use.
The local Lowes stocks regular plywood that is made of several layers of veneer type material and then they stock the stuff that looks like its made of small scraps of wood that is glued and pressed into sheets that are then glued together in piles.
I'm not sure of the strength of the materials to support the benchwork in the fashion that I illustrated in the drawing below. I don't think there will be a lot of weight on it as they will be on 16" centers. The peninsulas of the layout will be built on 2x4s so there isn't a question there.

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Master Mechanic
Don't use the chipboard. Go with regular plywood. Even though 1/2" or 5/8" would be adequate, I'd go with 3/4" plywood, as the greater thickness would allow a better attachment point for the gridwork, panels or whatever type of subsurface that would be supported by these "brackets" of plywood.

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
I have been doing some testing and found the following:
Chip board would be a strong material at first, but over time the strenght of the material would diminish due to the wsy the plywood is being used.
Regular plywood is the choice for this application but the question is what thickness.
Plywood comes in odd number of plys which are crosswise to each other which is what gives it it's strength. When the other components of the benchwork come into play, the plywood bracing becomes a ridged plane that won't be able to flex. The thickness of the plywood becomes a marginalized factor so a thinner ply can be used.
Plywood is amazingly strong material and sometimes we overkill a job when selecting our material.
I think I can do the job with 3/8" material and use the 1/2" for the roadbed.
Just a bit more sanding work to do then the painting begins. White primer then deep sky blue fome the ceiling that fades to a dirty white near the horizon. Then the benchwork begins.
I'm getting restless to run some trains.

Some of the motive power is just sitting in the display case, collecting dust. Every one of them is DCC with sound, except the F7A&B in the bottom shelf.

The picture of these trains used to be here until Photobucket destroyed them due to none payment of ransom.

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They ALL have sound?! Must have cost you a pretty penny!

Second shelf from the bottom, 3rd train from the left - that looks like a SF Warbonnet with BNSF markings. Was that prototypical?


J&A Paint Shops
On your supports made from plywood, it might be a good idea to put a piece of 1X2 across the horizontal to aide in screwing vertical supports or roadbed to. It'll give a scew more to bite into rather than just the plywood and would add that much to the costs plus it would hell prevent the plywood from warping.

D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
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D&J RailRoad

Professor of HO
On your supports made from plywood, it might be a good idea to put a piece of 1X2 across the horizontal to aide in screwing vertical supports or roadbed to. It'll give a scew more to bite into rather than just the plywood and would add that much to the costs plus it would hell prevent the plywood from warping.
Actually, the screws that will hold the upright roadbed supports will be applied with the screw going through the plywood first and biting into the 1x4.
A 1x4 strip will be applied along the front edge of the plywood braces for facia to be applied to. That will require 1x4 material that is secured to the braces to hang on. That is what will firm up the strength of the braces. I will need to apply some diagonal bracing across the plywood braces every 10 feet or so to make it rigid so it doesn't flex from side to side.
I suppose I can get 16 braces from sheet of plywood as illustrated in the drawing here.
I'm probably going to need to make about a hundred of them or so for this layout.

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