I spent an afternoon cutting out the plywood top for the Erie 149th St Yard project. I have several sheets of 3/4" Baltic Birch salvaged from some display cases, and I have found several projects in which to use pieces of the pile. My intent with this project is to build it so I can easily set it up, store it, and maybe take it to the local show. My idea was to make the plywood top the substantial portion of the benchwork and add some aluminum stiffeners below to connect to a base. I would split it up into pieces to be able to transport and store more easily.
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First thing I did was print out the track plan at full size in order to use it as a template. Even though it is a small layout, it still took several plotted sheets to create one large paper layout. Between the time I printed it out and actually started cutting plywood was probably 3 months. I then matched pieces of plywood to the plot and discovered I could use three sheets of plywood patched together from what I had on hand. I sketched out my cuts to avoid having turnouts on the joints, then transferred to the plywood. I made these joint lines such that they would interlock and help make a good connection.
After about 2 hours of cutting and fitting and maneuvering the heavy plywood I was able to see how everything would go together. I transported them inside and got a feel for how it would fit in the room. I was pretty excited, and felt a good sense of progress for the day.
I let the pieces sit for a few days, then stacked them off to the side while working on something else. I moved them again , then began to question my construction ideas. These pieces, although only a few square feet each, where really heavy. So heavy I have come to think, that I am reconsidering simply using them as templates for bench work that would be made from lighter materials. I spent a little time in the local big box lumber retailer looking at what was available in Luan or thinner Baltic Birch. The Birch wasn't Baltic - it was Whitewood with fewer ply and lighter density. I would use this for structure, so I wanted the dimensional stability of thinner plys and cabinet grade material. Whitewood wouldn't do it for me. The Luan looked pretty descent and came in 4x4 sheets, but only in 1/2" and not the 1/4" I was hoping for for a toping and sub roadbed. Stymied, I've gone back to laying track on my Z scale layout in the living room. I have finally felt an advantage of having multiple projects going on at the same time. I now have some breathing room to figure out what I want to do on the 149th and get satisfaction from accomplishing something I normally wouldn't have if I were only working on one layout at a time. I'll let you know if I find any other advantages to my multi-layout building strategy.