John & Renee Coker  

Christmas Layout

-Peru 2002
-Italy 2002
-Spain 2002
-Vancouver 2003
-Sedona 2003
-Egypt 2003
-Argentina 2004
-Boston 2004
-Sedona 2004
-Morocco 2004
-Mexico 2005
-China 2005
-Montréal 2005
-Italy 2006
-Prague 2006
-Stockholm 2006
-Provence 2007
-Mary visit 2007
-Cristmas Train
-Photo Album
-The Rocket
John's Stuff
-John's home

Or: "John and Renée get carried away for Christmas."

layout around tree
The completed layout around the Christmas tree
hobo shack
The hobo shack on the left corner
  crossing at night
Road crossing and station on the right

What is all this? Well, it's a long story... John's friend Tom has two young sons and they love to play with Lionel trains. John decided in October that he needed a layout around the tree at Christmas and bought a Lionel O-72 circle of track and a diesel and a few cars. Then, the stuff sat until mid-December.

When the Christmas tree went up on December 13, John and Renée laid the circle around the tree and ran the train. This wasn't very satisfactory because the track was fragile and the floor wasn't very flat because part of the track went up on a rug.

Somehow, the idea of making something to support the track developed and as sometimes happens (often around here), things got carried away.

two sheets of plywood

Above you can see the two sheets that make up the top. The track circle centerline is 72" (6') in diameter and we wanted the top to be 6" wide at the thinnest, to give some protection to the track. That meant that we needed a top 78" (6' 6") square. (See the PDF drawing for details.)

Two sheets of ½" plywood were cut to the right side and joined using a spline the full length. Then the underside structure was added. Eight bridges at 45° angles were added to support the track radially and stringers were added between the bridges to give stiffness. Additional stingers were also used at the front for the extra scenery areas. Finally, the center was cut out and the outside was cut to shape.

benchwork from the top   bottom of benchwork   close-up of benchwork

The photos above show three views of the benchwork: a view from the top, of the bottom and a close-up showing one bridge and two stringers. (The holes were drilled to allow wires to be routed underneath the layout.) This resulted in a structure that was still light, while being stiff even with very little surface for its size.

primed   roadbed close-up

Above you can see the primed layout on the left. A circle of cork roadbed was glued down the plywood for the track. John painted the entire top surface (including the cork roadbed) with Kilz primer before anything else. Then, the roadbed was sprayed with a rock texture spray that looks a little like loose rock. (This is much easier than using loose gravel for track ballast.)

ground painted   scenery done

After the rough painting, the layout came indoors for the final phases. (It's too cold in the garage, plus it was raining very hard in late December, 2002). Above you can see the scenery steps, kept very simple to make them go fast. The entire area aside from the roadbed was painted with a brown wash to give a base coat. The road was painted with thin black paint.

Renée chose the Lionel station and Hobo Shack buildings for the layout so the two corner spaces were laid out for the structures. The station required a foundation so John made a quick foundation out of balsa and painted it to look like concrete.

Trees were planted and grass and gravel ground cover was added and glued in place using the method of dilute white glue sprayed on after the scenic materials were applied. Renée did most of this work and planned the layout of the hobo shack area.

hobo shack from the side   station area wiring

The final work was to add the details such as a wrecked car and other fun details to the hobo shack area. Also, the wiring for the two structures and all the lights was done. (Track power was provided by the Lionel command control system so the accessories were powered through a separate 12v power brick.)

And on Thursday night it was ready to go under the tree. The project started on Saturday evening and finished Thursday night. A Christmas layout in only six days!