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I began construction of the new Bona Vista Railroad (the BV IV) on February 5, 2014, after struggling with developing a trackplan for about seven months.. As I continue construction I'll add more photos.

The BV IV will be a multi-deck layout, with the lower level consisting of a return loop, staging yard, and several towns. The upper deck will also have several towns, a staging yard, and a return loop.

I'm using a combination of classic "box" construction and L-girder construction for the benchwork, topping that with 3/4" birch plywood, upon which I'll lay cork roadbed and finally the track. I'm using MicroEngineering Code 83 non-weathered flex track, along with turnouts constructed from Fast Tracks jigs.

Here are some early construction shots.

Zero point The first thing I bought was a self-leveling laser level (only $89!), and the first thing I used it for was to establish a "zero point" throughout the two rooms the layout would be in. I chose 30" off the floor as that point, since that's where the lowest part of the lower level track will be. (2/5/14)


Level on stepladder

Next I added 2x2 furring strips to the wall directly over the studs. These will hold up the upper and lower backdrops, the shelf brackets that support the upper level, and the benchwork that will support the lower level. (2/7/14)
Lower level supports These are the supports for the lower level staging yard. I decided to use angled 2x2s mounted to the furring strips, rather than legs, to keep the underside of the layout easier to access later on. As you can see, the laser level was invaluable for this job, too. (2/9/14)
Using the trammel I had a large piece of cardboard leftover from a screen door and used that to draw a template for the reverse loop -- the lowest point of the layout. Using trammel points purchased from Micro-Mark, I set the yardstick to 30" (my minimum radius) and drew a circle on the cardboard.

I then printed out the reverse loop from 3rd Plan It in 1:1 scale and taped it to the template so I could tell where to put the turnout. (2/12/14)


Benchwork with template Using the template and a preliminary benchwork plan I did in 3rd Plan It, I built the actual benchwork that would support the reverse loop.

Here it is with the template...
Reverse loop benchwork ...and without. (2/18/14)
Loop turnout To ensure the configuration of the loop, I found the right place for the reverse loop turnout (my first Fast Tracks turnout) and traced lines on the plywood so it'd be placed in the right spot.

I then laid the cork roadbed along the lines, and used Dap Dynaflex 230 sealant to hold down the track. If I was going to ballast the track, I wouldn't have used the Dap.


Loop track And here's the first set of cars I put on the layout, around the reverse loop.
Upper brackets Once the loop was in, I decided to add the shelf brackets that would hold up the upper level of the layout, just to test an engine on the 1.5% grade that the whole layout will be on. The brackets are double-slotted Rubbermaid brand I got at Home Depot. The part that mounts on the wall is 12", cut down from longer ones. You can see a pair of vertical and horizontal brackets lying on the plywood. They're all mounted at an ascending grade. The lower staging yard will go on the lower level, and the classification yard will be on the upper level. Both of these shelves are 2 feet deep to accommodate the number of tracks. (2/26/14)
Loretta's first train Here's the train test on the upper level at a 1.5% grade. My Consolidation #28 struggled a bit with a 14-car train, but did fine with a 12-car train, which is what I had on the old layout as a maximum. This is the very first train that "ran" on the new layout. Track and plywood aren't permanent.

And it's Loretta's first train, too. Our little jet black cat was mesmerized by the train -- she'd never seen one before. The whole model railroad experience in an open room with cats should be, uh...interesting. (2/26/14)
Helix Whoa! Put on the brakes! A little bit of thought when staring at the actual layout revealed to me the idea that if I built a single-turn helix directly above the lower reverse loop (and below the upper reverse loop when it gets installed), I could gain an additional 3" of elevation...meaning, an additional 3" of height for the lower level. So I stopped what I was doing and built it, just to test my theory. Obviously, it worked. (3/6/14)
Helix bridge A single-turn helix presented one problem: the track had to cross over itself with enough clearance. 3rd Plan It told me I'd get 2.75" of clearance. But subtract 3/4" for the plywood subroadbed, and I'd only have 2". However, friend Dave Hamilton suggested aluminum channel (only about 1/32" thick) and I made a "bridge" out of that, giving me all the clearance I needed. This meant, however, re-hanging all of the brackets for the upper level over the staging yard. (3/6/14)
First town A bunch of tests interrupted construction. One of them involved testing some very small LED lights for the lower level. I ordered 50 of them from China, and so far they're working out great. Moving onward, I installed the benchwork next to the room door that will have the first town on the layout partially on it. No name for the town yet, but this is where it's going. (3/21/14)
Train room - March Here's a wide-angle shot of the way the train room looks on March 21, 2014. The lower lights are being tested, the helix is in, the first town is being planned. Not much may happen for a few weeks since I'm going to be shooting 8 more "How-To" video clinics in mid-April for Model Railroader's "Dream/Plan/Build" DVD series. Lots of work to get ready for that! (3/21/14)
Den benchwork So I lied -- I kept working. Not wanting to let this "still winter" weather go to waste, I started on the benchwork that will be in the "den" part of the den. The lowest track will actually come through a hole in the wall and climb to the level of the pass-throughs. This benchwork is about half of what I'll need. The tall 2x4s will support both the upper level and the backdrops for both levels. (4/9/14)
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