Large Scale Central

Question for Fred

You have been using pier blocks to support your elevated layout for many years. What’s the max height of the layout from the ground? And do you add cross bracing?

I’m asking as I’m using the pier block method as well (vs the post with concrete like Rick) and a few people on another forum have told me that I need to add more bracing when the workbench/layout is only about 36" high. Obviously any area higher than that I’d add cross bracing.

See corner of this picture.

I recall Ken used pier blocks on the ground as well, but I can’t remember how high his layout was.


I would not recommend NOT putting cross bracing on anything more than 2 feet high. The additional material will pay for itself with stability and longevity. Cross bracing can be a 1 x 3. I would recommend putting one cross brace on one side of the leg, and the other on the opposite side of the leg in the opposite direction, with a 4 x 4 block attached to both braces where they cross.
Bob C.

I guess I’m the “Fred” to whom the question is being asked…
My experience up here in Ottawa, Ontario, Canada is based on all four distinct yearly seasons, with temperatures varying from -30C, to +30C.
We use trackage based on 2x PC lumber as roadbed, on the ground, and on benchwork varying from inches above ground, to a maximum of around 4 feet in height.
Over the 40 years of enjoying the running of trains; the benchwork has endured the tests of time very well, without major problems, but with expected areas that do experience the need of replacement after 20 years…or so.
The benchwork part of the railroad started out with “Legs” formed from 2x4’s, an 4x4’s. Both work well, depending on the area of benchwork, and its overall weight.
We have used what we call around here, “Deck Blocks”, (Pier Blocks) and in some cases we didn’t.
We have resisted against the use of “Posts in the ground” due to our usual frost in the ground problem. We have had no problems with any major frost heave, as long as we didn’t disturb the ground, and used 18" square patio stones to distribute the weight of the legs. As long as the patio stones are NOT layed level, moisture doesn’t get retained to wick up into the wooden legs.
We do use deck blocks, but find that they are not really needed, if the legs are properly braced, in fact they are better used if patio stones are put under them to spread the additional weight of the deck blocks.
Legs properly cross braced, as described by Bob Cope, partially avoid the need of the stability of the deck blocks. Any structure over 2 feet in height, with legs, should be cross braced for stability. The cost of simple 1x3, or 1x4 lumber is worth every dollar spent. With Deck Blocks, or without.
BTW…we have simple 2x4 legs, based on patio stones that have been in service for over 30 years…yes we did dip the bottom of the legs in wood preservative, right at the start !! “Properly cross braced”.
I hope this answers most questions. If anyone cares to chat on the subject, please feel free to call me, at: (613) 723-1911
Fred Mills

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Thanks Fred and Bob.