Building the Hitop Part 1

Today starts a series on how the Hitop was built. I hope the purpose of this series of posts will inspire some modelers, and provide tips for those building their own dream layouts. Let’s get started!

On a pretty mild day weather wise in the Denver area, two of us started building the Hitop. After having help from Lee Ryan of Intermountain Models supplying some tools and delivering the lumber. Karl Luce and I started to work using the plans in Model Railroader of their “Virginian” project layout. We used cabinet grade plywood for the construction, and obtained all the supplies from a local Home Depot. After the frame work was measured and marked, we started cutting.

The one thing I would have done differently, and should have done, well actually two things, were to paint the garage walls a sky blue color, and second, to buy a carpet remnant that would have fit the garage to place the layout on. This however wasn’t done, as the layout was originally planned to go into our large apartment, in fact, in our bedroom! Our bedroom is actually large enough for this to have fit, however, the wife didn’t like the idea of overnight mine runs being made to Hitop and Morris Fork….lol!

All measurements and cuts were made strictly according to MR’s plans, however, I had decided not to include the fold-out section, as I didn’t need a station, and I had decided not to include the brace that ran the length of the table connecting the legs. I wish now that we had included this brace. A lot of cutting and glueing was actually accomplished in the first three days, with everything being held in place with clamps. Extra screws were used in quite a few places. Wood glue was used, but NOT Gorilla Glue, as this glue tends to expand.

We made quite a bit of progress that first week. Again, mild weather helped, as we had to keep the garage ventilated. Everything again as far as supplies, nuts, bolts, screws, etc. were taken right off MR’s list of supplies they used. It helps to have a Home Depot right down the street!

One tricky part on the project was building the leg assemblies. We had to cut and glue two pieces together at right angles, then place blocks at the bottom to enable us to place the casters, as the layout can be rolled around. The casters do have locking mechanisms on them however. The blocks also helped to support the bottom of the legs.

And the finished product as shown below.


Next came several of the plywood panels, which were attached in the garage. Before going further, I must back up and talk about the other somewhat tricky part of the frame, which was at the end where Blue Creek curves around the back of the layout. We had a bit of a time as I recall securing this part of the frame.

One of the plywood panels installed in the garage. Notice the Model Railroader open to the page showing the plan of the frame and legs!


With this installed, the frame was moved upstairs into our bedroom, and the legs were installed there. Two happy campers here after quite a bit of work accomplished.

With a note about this stage: when building the rest of the layout out, it was determined that due to the height of the layout with the hills built-up, the layout would never fit through our bedroom door and make a 90 degree turn down a hallway. But more on this later. If I had thought about this at this stage however, I would have then had the garage walls painted and carpet installed in the garage.

At this point, one last step had to be done before we could mount the plywood base on the frame, and that was to cut out the plywood again according to MR’s plan. We used the cookie cutter method to cut the plywood. At this point, I really don’t recall whether Karl cut the plywood, or another friend from the Colorado Great Western Club, Tom Carnahan did the cutting. Perhaps both did, as about this time, work obligations called Karl away from the project. This layout I must say wouldn’t have proceeded this far without the great help from Karl.

Next time in part 2: the plywood base and risers get installed. Stay tuned…..



1 Comment

  1. Looking forward to seeing how that marvelous “small” layout was built. Even after being in the hobby for decades, it seems I always find something of interest or new in anyone’s efforts.

    Pat Flynn
    Leland, NC


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