Timothy J. Horton


The construction of benchwork within the confines and regulations of a strata-owned apartment is a significant challenge. The benchwork was designed to be built in modules which could be built off site. The first sections of benchwork for Chetwynd and Dawson Creek are seen at left in September 2006. The top surface of these sections comprises 5/8" plywood and 7/16" donna conna. This is strengthened underneath with a light framework of 5/8" plywood. Sheet masonite 1/8" in thickness was used for the fascia and backdrop.

In the next photograph we are looking along the lower level which will be Chetwynd Yard. This picture shows the underside of the upper level benchwork, illustrating how the brackets support it. The holes in the framework are for the passage of wiring in the future. The underside was painted the same colour as the walls to blend with them and provide a light coloured surface underneath on which to label wiring. My friend Anthony Craig helped build these first four sections.

The next sections of benchwork to be completed were those for the Highway 97 underpass and the East Pine River bridge. These two sections were designed as an open box type to accommodate the highway cutting and the large river canyon. Construction is 5/8 inch plywood. The 1/8 inch masonite backdrop sits inside the river section, and curves out to the front at the east end to hide the adjacent helix. These sections were built by John Walter in Kevin Knox's workshop.

The next sections of benchwork to be completed were those on the upper level for Tremblay siding. These are positioned above the Pine River sections and adjoin the helix on the upper level. The front of these sections is set back in order to provide an optimum viewing angle for the Pine River bridge scene. The notches in the backdrop are for the brackets which will support the top lighting valance.

The next section of benchwork for the north wall was the helix enclosure which sits on a joist strapped to the wall and is bolted to the adjacent sections. A single leg was installed underneath the outer corner of the adjoining Pine River bridge section to help support the weight. The enclosure was assembled from 5/8" plywood and the front fascia is 1/8" masonite. The curtains below the fascia were fabricated for me by Colleen Dunbar. They are attached with Velcro for easy removal during cleaning, or during work underneath the layout.

The light canopies for Dawson Creek were installed, and with them the first phase of LED layout lighting. The lighting was installed with the canopies upside down on the workbench. Their installation completed the benchwork for the south wall.

The lighting canopies would prove to have a valuable second purpose as a shelf offering a considerable amount of storage above the layout for construction supplies and model railway projects.

The light canopies for Tremblay were installed next, and with them the next phase of LED lighting.

These lights were tested prior to installation, but would have to wait for completion and installation of the remaining benchwork for a connection to the other side of the layout.

This left just the canopy for the helix in order to complete the benchwork for the north wall.

The light canopy above the helix was built and fitted with LED lighting. The canopies above Tremblay were taken down to revise the wiring for the lights, and the benchwork for Tremblay was also taken down and fitted with LED lighting for the lower deck.

On 8 July 2009 the benchwork was re-hung and temporary connections for the lighting were installed, thus completing the benchwork and lighting for the north wall.

The final sections of benchwork to be completed were those situated on the west wall. These provide a connection between the north and south wall benchwork. No brackets were used to support the west wall benchwork. The lower deck was built as a single unit eight feet in length. It is bolted to the adjacent benchwork and the rear stringer sits on the window ledge for additional support. This section will accommodate Septimus and Sundance sidings.

The upper deck was built as two separate pieces - a short solid top section on the left and a longer open box section on the right. This box section will feature the Kiskatinaw River bridge scene which requires the extra depth. These sections are also bolted to the adjacent benchwork and the rear stringers sit on top of the lower deck backdrop for lateral support. LED layout lighting for the lower deck was installed underneath these sections after painting.

At left is a closeup of the upper deck section for the Kiskatinaw River bridge scene. As with the benchwork for the Pine River scene, the backdrop was curved in front of the rear wall so that it can extend down to the river surface. The curves in the backdrop are so subtle as to be hardly noticeable to most people. This section of benchwork extends down six inches below track level in order to accommodate the correct depth of the river bed.

The top lighting canopy above Kiskatinaw was built as a single section eight feet long. It is screwed to the adjacent canopies and the rear stringer sits on top of the upper deck backdrops for lateral support. LED lighting for the upper deck was installed after painting. The installation of the top lighting canopy completed the benchwork and lighting for the west wall. The remaining sections of benchwork were built by my friend John Walter who is a professional carpenter.

The following photographs illustrate the entire layout with benchwork and lighting complete as of November 2010.

Here we see the south wall on the left with Chetwynd on the lower deck and Dawson Creek on the upper deck.

This is the view looking toward the west wall with Septimus and Sundance on the lower deck and Kiskatinaw on the upper deck.

Here we see the north wall on the right with the Pine River on the lower deck, Tremblay on the upper deck, and the helix at far right.