The Fast Track to Layout Construction

Reprinted from


Benchwork Can Be Fun
Review by: Barry Lewis

The cam lock is then inserted into it's hole in the girder. Next, the cam dowel is inserted into the cam lick, and the girder and leg are locked together by turning the cam lock a half-turn with a screwdriver. This is much easier to do that to describe! Turning the cam lock snugs the girder and leg tightly together, and the assembly will stay put as long as the layout is up. I assembled out test unit in an unheated garage and left it through several months of hot and cold weather, and I experienced no loosening of the joints.

Mianne legs and girders are assembled into a box either 24"x24" or 24"x30", and these boxes form the basic grid of layout construction. While you can design your own benchwork using the system, Tim will custom-design benchwork to fit your proposed layout at no additional cost - including custom sized girder pieces if necessary. The Mianne catalog and website also show a number of sample layouts with prices. Because the tops of the legs are octagonal, the Mianne system allows you to attach girders to make 90-degree or 45 degree angle corner pieces such as those on our sample benchwork. As mentioned earlier, Tim recommends that a plywood top (1/2" or 3/4") be attached to the benchwork and used as a foundation for the layout. Scenery riders for deviated track, etc., are then built on the plywood. Mianne does not supply plywood, but the benchwork kits do include plastic angle brackets for top attachment. The angle brackets are screwed into the legs and then into the plywood top from below. This arrangement allows you to easily separate the top from the benchwork in the event of a move or layout change. Because the benchwork is screwed together you can simply open the cam locks at any time to take apart, change or add to it.


Tim sent us a 4'x8' L-shaped section for testing. The pieces were all nicely constructed and splinter free, and the finish benchwork, in fact, was really handsome to look at! Each Mianne ordered is supplied with a color-coded custom assembly diagram and well written instructions. We had our sample assembled in under 2 1/2 hours, including pauses to write review notes. You could easily assemble a sizeable layout in one long day.
Everything on our sample fit as it should, and the construction process, was actually fun. Leveling bolts in each leg made it easy to get a level tabletop on the uneven garage floor where we did our testing. Once assembled, the system was quite stable. Adding a plywood top, however adds significantly to it's strength. Once of the legs on our sample did have a hairline crack in the wood. While Time assured us that would not be a problem over time, he will replace any piece that a customer is not satisfied with. A number of threads on the OGR On-line forum (www.oguagerr.com) have attested to the fine customer service Tim is known for and long term users seem very satisfied with the MIanne system. At least one forumite has a multi-level layout for which Tim custom designed the benchwork. Tim also told us he is working on a counter balanced vertical lift-out section that will allow easy access to the center in around-the-room layout configurations. While Mianne kits are not inexpensive, I would say they are a great value for the money. Consider that a kit for a small layout (for example 4' x 12') will set you back about the same as a good sound-equipped diesel, and a pretty large layout can be built for about the price of a die-cast mainline steamer. Then consider the cost of lumber and the time you're not spending looking for straight pieces, cutting them, or cutting yourself on a power tool, in that light, I'd say it makes sense for many of us to have Mianne do the hard part of benchwork construction, and save just the fun part for ourselves.

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