Sunday, April 19, 2015

Installing a utility shelf

At the conclusion of a previous post about building a drawer to store open-top car loads (that post is at: ), I mentioned that I also planned to build a utility shelf, also located beneath my staging table at Ballard. Here’s why.
     Both from my own layout operating sessions in the past, and experience with operating on many other people’s layouts, I know the value of having shelf space arranged around the layout edges. This can accommodate paperwork, track cleaner blocks, uncoupling picks, tools, even snacks and soft drinks, thereby keeping all those items off the layout surface. I showed part of the large shelf at Shumala on my present layout in a blog post about my layout fascia (see it at: ). Here is a photo of one end of that shelf, repeated from the earlier post. My agent’s Bill Box is at right.

The entire shelf looks like this. The left part of the shelf still needs a backing strip, of the kind described below.

     I wanted to add a shelf of some kind on the other side of my layout peninsula, and decided to attach it under the staging table at Ballard. The simplest kind of shelf to build is just a couple of pieces of L-girder, with a piece of plywood glued and screwed to the bottom. The completed shelf unit can then be screwed to the underside of the table through the short legs of the L-girders. That’s what I built.

Note the strip of molding at the back of the shelf. Without something like this, tools, paperwork and other objects can glide right off the shelf and onto the floor (don’t ask how I know). Another strip of the same molding will be added at the front, likewise to keep items on the shelf.
     The L-girder flanges are easy to screw to the plywood above. Here is the installed shelf, prior to attachment of the surrounding fascia, which I only show at this point because fascia will conceal most of the shelf edges.

Above the shelf are, as mentioned, the staging tracks on my staging table.
     Fascia was placed in separate pieces to frame the shelf, rather than cut a hole nearly as tall as the fascia itself. The screw heads were painted to match the Masonite  (I described my mixes from acrylic tube paint in order to match the color of each Masonite strip, in a previous post, which you can read at this link: ). Once that was complete, I recoated the entire fascia of the staging table with shellac. Here is the finished shelf. The fascia within which the shelf is placed is attached to the staging table, and thus moves with the table, while the fascia just below is fixed to layout supports.

Molding strips front and back in the shelf are evident here.
     This utility shelf serves a valuable purpose in giving operators (and me) a place to put objects that shouldn’t be on the layout surface, especially tools. I am glad to have it in place, so that this purpose can be served on the Ballard side of the layout.
Tony Thompson

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