The Fast Track to Layout Construction

Reprinted from

Railroad Model Craftsman

November 1997

Benchwork Sections: All Scales
Mfd. by Mianne/Foley Woodworking

Model railroad benchwork is a promise of dreams to come. Instead of seeing lumber and bare plywood, modelers gaze over new benchwork and see the valleys and hills of their favorite places. Without so much as a foot of track down, they can imagine trains rolling across the landscape, the activity in a large yard and the fun of mailing up the morning passenger train. Nothing mars the images in their mind. There are no derailments, switch points never stick, and the right locomotives, detail parts and decals are always available. Even with a cautionary note--don't let things stall here--the benchwork stage is a wonderful time in a layouts history.

However, getting the benchwork done, done well, and done quickly can be a stumbling block for layout builders. Each of us likely shares some of the same benchwork experiences: 1" X 4"s that were straight when picked through the stacks but turn into warped airplane propellers on the way home; spending all afternoon and evening cutting long wood into short wood, then discovering that there isn't a drop of glue or a flathead wood screw in the house; the neighbor's reaction to the scream of your radial power saw around midnight, when only one or two more pieces are needed to finish a section; the world's biggest and best collection of sawdust at a time in the hobby's history when sawdust isn't used for grass any more.

We've all been there, and this ignores the fact that you usually give blood at least once or twice per benchwork-building session. Model railroading sure is fun.

There is an alternative, one that meets our needs better than one might first imagine: the prefabricated benchwork components marketed under the brand name MIANNE, from Foley Woodworking.

The MIANNE benchwork is a completely different approach to the subject. It uses the same construction methods as cabinets and furniture, which is no surprise since it was developed by a cabinet maker. Its unique aspects include pre-fabricated I-beams for all horizontal members, legs with an octagonal shapes at their tops to permit either 90 or 45-degree corners, and the use of cabinet/furniture type cam locks and pins for assembly.

Let's start with the I-beams. They are made of end blocks which are pre-drilled for the steel pins, cam dowels and cast metal cam locks that tie the pieces together, and square "flange" pieces on each side of the hardboard web. The wood appears to be tulip or poplar and is light, straight-grained and strong; this is the same type of wood that is often used for furniture and cabinet framing. The cutting and fitting are neatly done, with no sloppy glue joints or loose pieces. The edges of the pieces are also splinter-free.

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