Base board built and installed

Bank holiday weekends are the traditional time for DIY.  So, not wanting to disappoint tradition, I set out on Saturday to my local DIY store to buy lots of wood.  And nails.  And tools.  And then put them all together to make a base board for my model railway.

I had fairly carefully planned out my layout already, so I knew exactly how big I would need the base board to be.  I also knew that the total surface area of the board would be bigger than I’d fit in my car, so I deliberately bought it in two sheets of chipboard rather than one.  My plan also included a supporting structure underneath to provide rigidity and a little more height, and I bought some wood for that too.  So on a hot Saturday afternoon, I constructed my base board.

Sunday afternoon saw me back out in the garden, this time attaching legs.  For anyone else wanting to do likewise, Ikea sells table legs individually at £2.50 each.  And, at the Bristol Ikea at least, they have an area in their car park where they put all their ‘waste’ wood – from items that have been broken or damaged – which they’ll let you take away for free.  I picked up a few pieces, and I’ve used that to make the corner pieces that the legs screw onto.

So after a lot of hard work, including teaching myself how to use a circular saw (thankfully no accidents!), I now have a model railway base board installed in my garage, ready and waiting for the next step in the process.  The garage looks tidier now than it’s ever done.  I’ve got some more track pieces in the post too, to fill in the remaining gaps, and then I can start thinking about wiring!

Track redesign

In my previous post I shared how I had found a layout plan that looked interesting, and I’ve been developing that idea further. I’ve got nearly all the track pieces already to achieve it (minus the points), and when I laid it out on the floor it turned out to be slightly smaller, which would make it easier to fit into the garage, which is another plus. So I’m now going full speed ahead with that idea.

I’m using AnyRail to play around with track plans, though you’ll notice I haven’t bothered tweaking the layout to fill those gaps at the bottom – there should be just about enough flex in the track to allow me to connect all that up. We’ll end up with two stations, a main station and a countryside halt in amongst the trees. I’m still planning on the back section being raised slightly to add variation, I’ll just need to be careful about the gradient to ensure that my trains can climb the hill. The branch line at the top of the layout will be a timber yard of some description, prepping logs fresh from the wood to be transported to a sawmill bottom right.

There are some isolated sections too, which took some careful figuring out. On the diagram above the isolated track connectors are shown as little triangles. The sidings at the bottom each have a small section of isolated track at the end, allowing me to store more than one engine on each siding by switching those sections off. The points will isolate the other sections, so I’ll be able to leave trains in either station while a freight train makes the journey from the woods to the sawmill. I haven’t quite figured out where the road is going yet, but I’ve put in a level crossing ready for it.

I’ve also been thinking about the construction of the base board. I mulled over the idea of using old wooden pallets as a substructure, seeing as they’re really strong and some businesses give them away for free. But in the end I decided against them, on the basis that they’re really heavy and probably overkill for my little railway. So I’m now erring towards a custom-built table, using six legs I’ve just bought from Ikea, a timber frame, a 12mm chipboard base, and sheets of extruded polystyrene foam on top of that. At least that’s the plan today.

In preparation for the build, I’ve done a load of clearing out and organising in the garage, which had been fairly haphazardly strewn with stuff on the basis that it didn’t matter. Well of course now it does, so order has had to be imposed. A few items went to the local recycling centre, others have been reorganised into tidier piles. A load of old cardboard boxes nearly went into the recycling too, until I had a brainwave and decided to weave them into the inside of the garage door to provide some insulation. It’s all cut to size and wedged in, not a strip of duct tape to be seen! That should make life in the garage a bit more bearable come winter.

Tidying the garage, and indecision

Last night I spent a few hours out in the garage, planning out where my model railway is going to go. Based on my mock-up in the sitting room, it’s going to need a base board around 1m x 2.4m. I got my tape measure out, and that’s going to take up rather a lot of my garage! And it’s not exactly empty as it is.

So I set about reorganising the contents of the garage, putting things more neatly into corners, throwing out some rubbish, and generally trying to work out how I’m going to fit everything in. You probably wouldn’t notice the difference, but it is now a lot tidier – in places.

Meanwhile, I’ve been thinking a lot about wiring, referring to this excellent page – it’s not pretty, but it is incredibly useful. I need to buy some parts, probably from my nearby East Somerset Models, or possibly eBay, but it should be fairly straightforward. It’s just a lot to get to grips with, all of a sudden! What makes it even more complicated is that I’m suffering from indecision – I keep coming up with alternative track designs, or variations on what I had before, and I can’t decide which one to go with. I keep moving the sidings around, trying to make more space for stations. But I also want the layout to make sense, which means that something needs to happen in those sidings. I’d like to have a small industry or something, so that I can legitimately transport something from A to B, ideally without requiring the passenger train to be taken off the layout.

And then this morning I found this layout on the SCARM website. Yes, it’s for a different scale, but it shows a slightly different way of adding variation into an oval. It’s got room for a nice station (though only one), plus an industry (transporting lumber from the woods to a sawmill). I might have to get the track into the sitting room again so I can play with this idea. The SCARM software looks tempting too, I might have to download that as well!

Model railway build: it begins

Something unexpected happened last week – I took possession of a model railway. Well, to be exact, I took possession of some of the parts I’ll need to create my own model railway. Which essentially means I’ve been handed a mid-life crisis.

When I were a lad, my Dad and I built a 00 gauge railway. We mounted it on a big board hinged to the wall. It had two ovals (an outer express line and an inner goods line) that went through a tunnel, a branch line that went up a hill and finished on top of the tunnel, several sidings, a hole in the middle for small people to peep up through, and some weird electronics to optionally isolate certain bits of track so we could have lots of engines on the track at once. There were many happy hours spent playing with engines, painstakingly applying ballast to the tracks, and trying to make the grass look realistic.

But with my parents moving house, it became time for me to reclaim the railway, or lose it. Of course, I couldn’t take it as it was, on that great big board, so my first task was to rip up all the track and scenery. That was tough, not physically but emotionally. But the heartache was balanced out by the hope that it would live again, albeit in a different form.

And so begins my next project – making my own 00 gauge railway layout. I’ve already got a rough idea of a track layout, using the bits of track that were still usable. I’m trying to keep it simple, but I also want it to be interesting. My plan at the moment is to have a single oval, but with a wiggle in it for variation, and a few sidings. Below is a picture of what the track looks like on my sitting room floor.

I’m already considering changing that, though. I’m contemplating whether the sidings on the right could be inside that wiggle, on the edge of the board rather than inside the loop. I’ll need to get the track out again and see if I can make it work.

As for mounting it, I’m looking at using some sort of styrofoam base to build up some scenery, making some nice hills and a subtle elevation change such that the back straight is slightly higher than the track at the front. I’m still researching how best to do that. I’m imagining that will all be mounted on a bit of chipboard, possibly with some slats underneath for rigidity. I’m still working on how best to raise that off the ground; it’s going to be in my garage, and I’ll want to store stuff underneath, so I need to work out whether I can repurpose an existing table or whether I’ll need to create my own legs. I’m not exactly experienced with woodwork, so this is going to be a challenge! I’m also wanting a lid, probably also in chipboard for now, which will keep the dust out when I’m not using it, and possibly also allowing me to store some stuff on top if I need to. And there was me thinking this would be a simple project!

Height map showing where the hills might be

Ultimately, I’m aiming for a quaint little countryside line, ideal for a little tank engine and a few carriages or trucks. I’m not anticipating express trains on here. I’d quite like some sort of industry on the top branch line, but I’m not sure what yet. Might be a farm, or a mine, or a factory. Suggestions on a postcard.