Learn How to Build Benchwork & Avoid Costly Mistakes

You are about to learn how to build model railroad benchwork.

The purpose of building benchwork for your model railroad is to sturdy up your layout. Usually the plywood base that your model railroad is built on is floppy and weak. The only way to sure it up is by adding a benchwork beneath the plywood that gives the layout a strong foundation to keep building even heavier items on top of your layout such as moutains, lakes and tunnels.

One of the most common mistakes is not using a trackplan. Following a trackplan while building benchwork is necessary. TIP: If you have carefully drawn your trackplan on grid paper using a scale of say 1 inch = 1foot, then you will be able to measure the size of platform you need on top of the supporting structure.

Step 1

Draw a general plan and see how it fits onto the benchwork.

Add trackplan on top of benchwork

Important questions to ask

  • Do I want a “loop to loop” configuration? “Point to point”? Both? Do I need a wider area to loop trains around at each end of the layout?
  • Do I have a large freight yard or big industry that I need to fit into a certain area?
  • Do I want lots of mountains and valleys?
  • Do I want one layer, or level, of trains – or 2 or 3 levels?
  • Will I need a helix to get trains from one elevation to another?
  • How much aisle space do I need? Hint: Don’t skimp on this!
  • Does my model railroad benchwork need to be portable? Will I be showing it at model railroad events? Will I be moving to a new residence soon?

Step 2

Build the benchwork based on the model train layout trackwork that you’ve planned. Even though the trackplan is not 3D nor contains all of the mountains and tunnels, it still gives you a good idea of perfecting the measurements. You should leave some benchwork area as a buffer for any new plans that become part of the layout.

Building a model railroad benchwork

Step 3

Start laying the terrain of the model train layout and then begin the exciting process of laying the trackwork.
One of the best ways to lay track after building a sturdy benchwork is to use modules such as Mod-U-Rail” kits made by Woodland Scenics and lay track one module at a time.

tracks in modules
The most important part to running smoothly operating model trains is building sturdy benchwork ahead of time. To avoid endless frustration due to derailment issues, dirty tracks and trains that stop moving, understanding the benchwork is crucial. The best feeling in the world as a model railroader is enjoying a fully operation layout with all the bells and whistles.

To master benchwork will take countless hours trying to figure out the exact process for each.

You must know each of the bullet points above to ensure your locomotives do not have erratic stops, derailments or lack of speed on gradients.

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