The Space Between

Module 1. This is the stretch between Merced to the West (left) and Merced Falls to the East (right).

I’ve been here before, but somehow, it feels different this time around.  I’ve put into practice everything learned, and a few “best practices” seen elsewhere, and this time, without cutting corners and without settling for recycled materials, I’ve got the first module for the Yosemite Valley in P:48 standing on its feet.  

The module is 6 feet long and 18 inches wide.  In HO, that’s a whole empire.  In O, it’s a scene.  However, it’s also roughly sitting at 55 inches (track height) from the ground.  That’s fairly tall.  This means, though, that you won’t be seeing the whole thing all at once.  

The basic benchwork structure. Here you can see the 3/4″ gap at the end where the legs key in without a mechanical attachment.

The basics of the construction are pretty common for me now.  The majority of the materials are the 3/4” birch plywood and Kreg pocket screws.  Many modelers have started going this direction, and it makes sense.  I use 3.5 inches for the ripping of the lumber dimension, and then cut everything to the right lengths.  The decking is 1/2” plywood.  Heavy, yes, but these modules will have to move around, so I plan to overbuild.  On top of the decking, I used 1 inch pink foam.  I thought about using 2 inch, but without a plan currently for a bridge or much relief necessary on any of the scenes I plan to build, 1 inch should give me some play without making the layout too tall.

The legs are build from milled 2×2’s.  I got some heavy duty furniture leveling feet and adde them to the bottoms.  At the upper end, the layout is resting on the top of the legs, keyed into a slot in the benchwork by a piece of plywood.

This construction photo shows the module upside down. The two supports for the angle braces are offset from the center line of the benchwork by 3/4″ to allow for the screws that attach each of them to the center support.

At the height I’m building from the floor, and because I’ve had issues in the past with stability, I also added some angle braces from each leg set reaching up to the center layout support.  My angle braces are 1×2’s, and they are 39” long.  At the ends, a 3 inch block glued and screwed to the supports allows me to bolt them in place.  The supports are offset slightly on each side, so the center of the layout is actually between them.  I still, upon standing up, had a wobble back and forth along the long axis of the layout, but tightening the bolts used to connect the angles all the way solved that.  I’ll replace the standard nut I used for construction with a wing nut for each one that will make setup and take down much easier.

Some details see here include the pencil-line grid I laid out for drilling the screw holes in the fascia, the angle of the brace under the layout, and the fact that the entire layout is essentially resting on the 4 legs.

I ripped the fascia from hardboard to just a tick over 5 inches and it fit perfectly.  The fascia pieces are attached to the layout with 1” wood screws with countersink washers.  To be honest here, I ran out of the washers with only one side of the fascia in place.  Another box of 100 will arrive tomorrow and it’ll only take about 20 minutes to install the other side.

From here, the next steps are to paint the legs and braces black, lay the roadbed, and get going mixing and adding a layer of “mud” to the scene before laying track.  There are lots of details to sort out, like joint bars, the kind of grass to use, and if there will be a road of any kind here or just tracks, grass, and trees.  

A sea of pink foam! It shouldn’t look like this much longer.

More to come soon.

-Jeremy

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