Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Attacking East Berlin: Benchwork Rework

I took advantage of the 4th of July holiday to attack East Berlin.  Well, not exactly - I mean I decided to add some additional benchwork to support the trackage I expect I'll need to be there.

I haven't really said too much about the Berlin Branch so far, but it began life in 1848 as the Middletown Branch of the Hartford & New Haven Railroad and ran from Berlin through East Berlin down to - you guessed it - Middletown.  Apparently, the Hartford & New Haven (built 1836-1844) was originally planned to go through Middletown.  When the builders chose an easier route through Berlin, Middletownites (Middletownies?) protested.  The branchline was the result.  It predated the Valley Line & Air Line by over twenty years, and originally went all the way down to a wharf by the river.  By 1947, the line had been cut between Berlin & East Berlin (c.1940) and on alternate days the Valley Local served the chemical/paint plant there and the brickyards along the way.

Naturally, I too have a (rough) representation of the Berlin Branch on my layout.  See the trackplan to orient yourself - you'll barely make out where the line comes off the north end of Middletown yard (top of the plan) and heads to East Berlin (upper right corner of the plan).  Since all I can manage are a couple of sidings - and there's a bridge over the Mattabessett River to cross before getting there - this area hasn't been a high priority.  In fact, I installed the fascia in this area before even putting down any track.

Since I want to keep my track layout options as open as possible, I decided I needed to lay more plywood subroadbed.  Only problem was - there was no support for it.  And there was already fascia in front of it. Follow along as I show how to attack this sort of problem - and you'll see another reason I really like the flexibility of L-girder benchwork.

First step was to unscrew the fascia from the corner of the wall and one intermediate support, then bend it back and secure it out of the way. You can see that I already had one L-girder running to the corner of the wall.  This proved fortuitous.

Next, I needed to add a new/additional joist to support the riser - screwed into an existing joist at the back and through the L-girder in the front.

The new joist actually serves two purposes: 1) to support the riser (to be installed later) and 2) to provide backing for the fascia so it doesn't "give" when pushed (and thus ruin any scenery attached to it).  Clamp and level vertically, then screw it in.

Next we add the riser.  I actually decided it'd be better in this case (i.e. more centered under the new subroadbed) to attach it to the L-girder rather than the joist.  To get the proper length, I temporarily clamped the new plywood/subroadbed to the adjoining subroadbed and clamped the riser in place.

Then it was just a matter of clamping a cleat to the riser - again, making sure everything is level both horizontally and vertically.

I made a splice out of scrap plywood and screwed it into the existing subroadbed and the new subroadbed, clamping it to hold everything together while I drilled & screwed.

Finished product - underside

Fascia screwed back in place at the corner and also at the new support.

Now my track has more area to play with....

. . . which is good since - with only two sidings, they're gonna have to be quite long in order to serve the industries I want.
While nothing here is particularly innovative or even all that complicated, I hope that you see how easy it is to change things if you have to.  The prototype railroads changed things all the time as their needs evolved and we can do the same thing. So don't let the prospect of getting something "wrong" deter you from ever getting started - or trying something new.

To paraphrase a famous general (considering I attacked East Berlin, it's fitting he was German) - no layout plan survives construction of the layout.  Yes, by all means plan - but don't expect you won't have to make adaptations along the way.  As I'm discovering more and more, realizing - and being (relatively) comfortable - with this reality is one of the keys to actually making progress.


  1. Good to hear that East Berlin doesn't have to call out the militia to repel your attack. And how many MRR blogs get to quote Moltke?

  2. I thought you might enjoy that Pieter!