Trestle Benchwork | Saving the Daneburg Subdivision

January 07, 2018 6 Comments

Many preparations needed to be done before Pelle Søeborg's HO scale Daneburg Subdivision showed up at our doors. I won't bother going into the other preparations here because this blog is about one of the final steps... building the benchwork.

We needed to build the benchwork in advance of the layout arriving so it had something to live on. The benchwork design was delegated to me so I set to work creating a solution. I had kicked around doing a more traditional style of benchwork but I also was toying with the idea of doing something unique. While having a moment of deep thought in my basement, visions of trestles started dancing in my head. I pulled up photos of a nearby trestle that I had photographed in the past and came up with a rough concept. I presented the different benchwork options and it was decided that we would move forward with the trestle style. I created drawings of the legs as well as a basic plan of the rest of the framework. I then printed a full size template that could be used to build each leg on.

Step 1: Parts

To keep construction as simple and as inexpensive as possible, all lumber used is dimensional lumber. For the pilings, caps & sills I used 2x2s (1 1/2x1 1/2") furring strip boards. To create the sway bracing I took a 2x6 and ripped it into 3/8" thick strips. The printed template was used to acquire dimensions and angles from. We then we set to work with a miter saw cutting all of the components to size.

Step 2: Leg Assembly

With all components now cut, I began assembly. I penciled in a center mark on the top of the caps and on the bottom of the sills.  Using a 3" screw I attached the center pile to these parts. With the three attached parts I placed them upon the template. I than fit in the next innermost piles that were cut to a 4 degree angle. These were then fastened into place with screws. Lastly the outermost 8 degree piles were fastened into place.

Step 3: Bracing

The sway bracing was made up of 3 different parts for each face of the bents (legs). The first to be added was a center horizontal rail. It was temporarily fixed into place with a brad nail gun. The next part of the sway bracing was added at an angle starting from the cap to the top of the center rail. It was temporarily nailed into place. I then added the final sway brace which ran from the bottom of the center rail to the sill. These steps were then repeated on the other face of the bent.

Step 4: Holes

With a 1/4" bit in a drill I then proceeded to drill the holes that the bolts will be installed into after paint had been applied. Each leg required 23 holes to be drilled.

Step 5: Paint

We went back and forth on how we wanted to finish the legs. We tested a few different methods such as various colors of stains and paints. For this layout we decided on a flat grey paint. All legs were painted as well as rails and sway bracing used to connect the legs to each other. Paining turned out to be the most time consuming step in the entire process.

Step 6: Nuts, Bolts & Washers

After the paint was given ample time to dry, I added the nuts, bolts & washers. For most holes a 2 1/2" bolt was used to go through a bent and one sway brace. The areas where two sway braces crossed, a 3" bolt was used.

I then drilled two 5/16" holes into the bottom of the sill where T-nuts were hammered in. I then threaded in adjustable feet into the T-nuts.

Step 7: Final Assembly

With the legs now completed I began assembling each of the four sections that will support the layout.  I placed the bents on their sides on the floor.  After spacing them out to where they needed to be I began adding the two rails that run the length of each trestle section. Unfortunately I ran into a snag at this point. On prototype trestles this rail would be attached by running a bolt through the side of a pile into the rail. However at this reduced scale I was unable to drill a hole to run this bolt through. So I improvised... I took a scrap 2x2 and cut square blocks out of it. I then installed the blocks between the center rails on the bents with screws. I could then drill a hole from the bottom of this block into the two long rails. I then added the bolts. While not accurate, it worked. 

Sway bracing was added to the side that will be on the out side of the layout first. These were added the same way as the sway bracing was to the legs.

I tilted up the trestle assembly to stand right side up, I then went to work doing some serious thinking (this requires your left hand on your hip and the right hand scratching at the chin or forehead).

My thoughts were do I add the sway bracing to the interior side, the side that visitors to the layout will be standing. My concerns were the following:  A: Will the trestle assembly require the bracing to be sturdy enough so the layout doesn't sway?  B: If I add it, will some "well mannered" child use the bracing as a step ladder?  C: If I add it, will it limit access underneath the layout?

I gave the assembly a few test shakes and I was shocked at how rigid the thing was. Even with the sway bracing missing from one side. I guess the engineers who designed trestles really knew what they were doing? With the test shakes completed questions A through C were answered and I didn't add the sway bracing the the interior side.

The three other sections were assembled together as the first was.

Step 8: Top Rails

The final items to be added were a 1 1/2x3 1/2" top rail that the modules would rest on. These needed to run the full length of each trestle section. Some of these needed to be about 16' long and we wanted to use something a little less prone to sagging & warping, so we cut 3 1/2" parts from 3/4" plywood and laminated them together. For the sections that were longer than 8', we made a half-lap joint and then the two sections were bolted to each other.

The rails were then laid on top of the trestle assembly and then fixed into place with screws running from the top caps into the bottom of the top rails.

The legs were now ready for the layout.

Final Thoughts

I was very pleased with how the legs turned out. I had my doubts about them and fortunately those all turned out to be non-issues.

The legs for this layout were built to easily be taken down if the layout needed to be moved. If I were building these same legs for a home layout I would make each floating section connect to each other.

To view video of some of the assembly, check it out here.

I hope you found this blog educational and please don't hesitate to pick at my brain if you have questions by sending me an email at

Chris Brimley


6 Responses


January 17, 2018

What a great idea for a great layout. Have you considered weathering the trestle? Maybe some chunks of foam shaped like boulders around the bases?

Jeff Wilkinson
Jeff Wilkinson

January 09, 2018

I always loved trestle bridges, so to see what you have done to support Pelle’s layout is great.
The way it’s built, with a little more work, book and storage shelves could be added.

Bradley Ogden
Bradley Ogden

January 08, 2018



January 07, 2018

What a ingenious and unique idea! They look great!

Percy Wilkinson
Percy Wilkinson

January 07, 2018

That is a fantastically innovative foundation for Pelles’ beautiful layout!


January 07, 2018

This has to be one of the “coolest” ideas EVER for an area that’s always viewed as necessary but nothing more. The wheels are already whirling in my head! I showed the pictures to my wife and her only comment was, “How come we don’t have supports like that?”
I have a GOOD ONE!

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