Roadbed for Santiago Yard


New sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard and some other stuff in the back of my car on arrival home from the building centre.

Having found the original sub-roadbed to be a bit warped, I drove over to the local Home Building Centre.  For the price of a 4′ x 8′ sheet of good-one-side 3/4″ thick fir plywood and a cutting fee of a dollar per cut, I get the needed sub roadbed cut to my desired width.

The staff pulled a sheet of plywood off the top of a pile of sheets, and took it over to a Skilsaw mounted on vertical rails, with its blade pointed horizontally at a wall.  With the saw set for a seven inch wide cut, one person slid the plywood past the saw, which cut the plywood at an accurate width.  Two passes, and I had sixteen feet of sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard.  While they were cutting this plywood, I had the staff also cut four more strips of plywood three inches wide.  I will use this in place of dimensional lumber in layout benchwork in future.  Dropped the back seat in my Hyundai Elantra, and slid the cut plywood in.  I’d never fit 4′ x 8′ sheets in this car, so cutting the plywood at the building centre made both my sub-roadbed and allowed me to fit the wood in my car.


7″ wide sub-roadbed for Santiago Yard on the right, four three-inch wide strips of plywood on the left, and the remainder of the sheet standing vertically almost for later use–the west end of Lindsay yard, perhaps?

I stacked everything on my deck, and cut one piece of Santiago’s sub-roadbed to 5′-6″ long.  Joined to the 8′ long piece, I’ll have a 13′-6″ long piece of subroadbed.  The distance point to point of the east to west switches of Santiago is 12′-6″, so this will give six inches of single track beyond the points to join the sub-roadbed to adjoining pieces of sub-roadbed as I incorporate this into a layout.


Sub-roadbed for east end Santiago Yard cut to suit CN No. 7 turnout angle on Santiago Yard lead.

I traced out the roadbed’s edge on the sub-roadbed, and cut the angle of the lead’s roadbed using my Swedish cross-cut handsaw.  I can always use exercise, and this saw makes short work of cutting lumber.  The sub-roadbed is purposely wide on the turnout side to accommodate headblock ties.  The east main track switch will eventually receive Rapido Trains’ Rail Crew switch machine, which has a neat feature that moves the target on the switchstand as the machine moves the points.  Which means that the roadbed has to be overwide here, too.


Apologies offered for the ugliness of this affair set up in the basement for test-fitting of sub-roadbed and roadbed.    But I can visualise how this all will go together.

I dry-assembled the sub-roadbed and roadbed temporarily in the basement on supports from an old layout to check out my work.  Clamps hold it all together for now.  Success!

Now to glue it all together and draw track centre and tie-end lines for handlaying track on it.


Test-fitting the joint between sub-roadbed pieces for Santiago.  


Another view of the whole thing.  Track centrelines are accurate on half the roadbed, but have to be re-drawn on the other half before ties are laid down.  Careful work is called for when laying out the centrelines.

Santiago–two steps forward, one step back…

I had a bit of free time this morning to cut some plywood.  I’d already cut the 3/4″ fir plywood sub-roadbed to the rough shape necessary for Santiago.  I prefer 3/4″ fir plywood for a sub-roadbed due to its strength. With the time and money that I’ll spend laying track on it, I prefer using what to me is the most stable means of roadbed construction.  This is not easy to cut, but a power saw makes short work of cutting it.  I also find that a good Swedish crosscut handsaw does a decent job, and is a far safer tool to use.

I placed the full-size trackplan that I’d made earlier on the 1/4″ poplar roadbed.  The main track centreline was placed about 3/4″ from the edge of one side of the roadbed.  With pushpins, I established a diverging line following the angle set by the ends of the ties of the turnouts diverging from the main track towards the south side of Santiago Yard.  As I removed the pushpins, I twisted a pencil tip in the resulting holes.  Took up the paper trackplan, and I had a series of dots to connect, marking a cut line in the roadbed.  I drew the cut line on the west end roadbed first–the east end roadbed is a simple pencil tracing job from the roadbed cut for the west end, as the east end will be a mirror image.

I took the sheets of poplar outdoors so as not to fill the house with sawdust and wake my sleeping wife, and cut out the roadbed using the Swedish handsaw.  A few minutes’ work resulted in some new roadbed cut for Santiago—


Success–so far….

I trimmed up the cut roadbed using the saw blade to shave off sharp slivers of wood, followed by 100-grit sandpaper—


Don’t throw away the scraps!  They can be used later.  I’ve marked them for future roadbed projects.  The use of a sturdy work glove to hold sandpaper when sanding the cut edge of a sheet of plywood is good practice, as it prevents getting slivers in one’s hand and/or fingers.  The edges don’t have to look pretty, as they’ll be covered by ballast when the track is completed.

So far, so good.  I set the roadbed aside, and went to work joining the sub-roadbed for Santiago.  It consists of two pieces of 3/4″ thick plywood, 6 3/4″ wide.  One piece is eight feet and the other 5′-6″ long.  I had already cut a splice plate of the same material and started drilling holes for the splice plate and attached a few screws to one piece of the sub-roadbed through them.

Something didn’t look right.  Sighting down the 8′ piece, I noted a slight twist to the sub-roadbed.  As twisting 3/4″ thick plywood back to a truly flat surface and keeping it that way is a dubious proposition on benchwork risers,  I have set this stuff aside–it may find use as smaller pieces or where its twist is not an issue.  A new sub-roadbed is called for.   I’ll make a trip to the building centre in a couple of days.  I have an idea….IMG_0544

It looked good when I cut it….