Floor Layout Base

Discussion of model railway baseboard design and construction
RailSpots
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Floor Layout Base

Postby RailSpots » Tue May 12, 2015 5:59 pm

I have been planning my first proper model railway for a few months now and finally the space is available after creating a first floor (more like a loft) for the garage. My layout will go around the hatch in the floor, and to make it as big as possible in this confined space (not to mention the limited headroom from the sloping roof - it needs to be as low to the floor as possible. I did think about having it raised 10cm or so from the floor however all the wood for legs of a baseboard would eat into the cost I am willing to put into my railway. Instead, the railway will simply be on a board which will rest on the floor.

Now, here comes my question, what material do I use? I have a huge quantity of chipboard laying about, some of which is veneered although I have read a handful of horror stories from others who have used this. I did make a rather pleasing discovery when placing some track on some cork placemats of mine. Cork does seem a nice material as a base which I could paint and apply some scenery to. I will be pinning ballasted foam trackbed on top of this. I know cork is a flexible material however the new flooring is dead flat throughout so I see no issues in its stability. Is cork a good idea?

All feedback is welcome :)

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pete12345
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby pete12345 » Tue May 12, 2015 6:52 pm

It's pointless trying to cut costs when building a baseboard- it's the foundation for everything that will follow and cutting corners will only lead to failure. Chipboard is perfectly fine as a top surface as long as it's in good condition (not warped or distorted) but you will need a framework of 2"x1" timber around the board and across at regular intervals. Chipboard is rather heavy and tends to make quite a noise if track is laid directly on to it. In a permanent layout the weight is less of an issue though, and your plan of a cork top plus the foam ballast (I hate the stuff personally) should make for quiet running.

Consider things like wiring too- with the board on or very close to the floor, there will be very restricted access to the underside of the board. All wiring will thus have to run over the surface which will look terrible unless hidden- in which case maintenance will be impossible without destroying part of the scenery.

Will you really lose that much space by raising the layout slightly? If you're content to sit on the floor it can be as little as 50cm high and still allow good access underneath. Not to mention removing the danger of accidentally punting a loco across the room. Otherwise, I'd really consider a more suitable location.
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Emettman
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby Emettman » Tue May 12, 2015 9:05 pm

You have a garage?

And you're planning to sit/stand in in a hatchway to build and operate the layout?
[Mode: Sgt. Wilson] Do you really think that's wise, sir? [/mode]

At first description that sounds as though it's going to be awkward to build and maintain.
Have you considered other options for putting a model railway in a garage, (yes, without permanently excluding the car and other necessary items to be stored, (though some of those can now go in the loft space.))

Sorry, that's a fairly abrupt response to a design proposal from a new poster, but I'd not want you to rush enthusiastically down a path when better choices were available. Yes, I've done that in my early days in model railway building (been there, done that, regretted the wasted effort.) which is why I try to help others avoid doing the same.
No, I'm not saying don't do what you are planning... but do be sure you haven't missed a trick with any idea that could give a better railway and one easier to build. Apart from anything else, it's not going to be an easy layout to show anyone else, by the sounds of it.

Yes, this all depends on your car, garage and how much stuff is in it, for none of which do I have details.

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RailSpots
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby RailSpots » Tue May 12, 2015 10:40 pm

Thank you for the replies so far, I agree, I probably am rushing into things a bit - just my anticipation increasing all the time!

I probably should've been a bit clearer with my inital post, alas I have taken some snaps of the area I shall be using.
Image
I can see I must've caused some confusion by mentioning the hatch, I described the layout as going around it as opposed to going around a room and obstructing a doorway by doing so.
As you can see, the track would follow the perimeter of the central section if it is to be on the floor level like the image below which uses a cork base.
Image
After some experimenting, there is no way I would use more of the same chipboard as the floor is constructed with if the layout will simply rest on the floor. However, I do like the idea of raising chipboard like this below...
Image
This could even open up the opportunity of extending outside the 2 beams which are currently in the way, without the need of gradients. Also, bridges could become an option.
I'm not sure I fancy using dropper wires seeing as this will be a DC layout and I've had no problems with my temporary layout before.

Some more background information: I'm giving myself the early summer to work on completing the main layout, i.e. base, track, basic scenery. As from September I'll be away from home for most of the time, so I'm hoping to come back at certain weekends for a play with the trains and maybe some detailing work whilst I'm at it. :)

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pete12345
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby pete12345 » Wed May 13, 2015 9:47 am

I'd say that space is easily sufficient for a 'round the wall' type construction. By raising the layout 50cm, what you lose in width due to the roof slope you'll gain in length by being able to move outside the horizontal beams on the floor. You'll also find the layout much easier to work on, with a better viewing angle without having to lie on the floor. There's also the advantage gained of being able to use some of the space under the layout for storage of railway-related clutter.

About wiring- DC or DCC is irrelevant. The point is that eventually some part of the wiring will need attention, and it's a case of deciding whether you want to put in a bit of effort now doing it properly, or put in the effort later rebuilding scenery you've had to excavate. A temporary layout is different as nothing's expected to be down for very long, and the wiring is reinstalled each time it's set up.

I think that trying to take shortcuts will only lead to disappointment later on.
Once an engine attached to a train, was afraid of a few drops of rain...

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Emettman
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby Emettman » Wed May 13, 2015 9:58 pm

Ah, thank you. The pictures do help, and I apologise if my post sounded too worried about what you had in mind.

Chipboard? No problem in a reasonable environment. I had an exhibition layout for 15 years on the very old-fashioned basis of chipboard plus 2 x 1 framing, and it served me well enough.
The general advice is that if the top surface is to be sealed with paint or similar, the bottom surface should be too: the differential moisture resistance with only one side painted can make the boards far more prone to warping.

Unless you have in mind frequent changes to the track plan, I would avoid relying on runs of fishplates for electrical connection. It's easier to wire things more comprehensively now, than to trace and fix faults (especially intermittent ones!) later. Yes, this does mean an investment of time and effort up front for greater savings later.

Above the board wiring is no great problem, especially if countryside and other scenic items are mounted loose on thin base sheets ( 5mm foamboard, for example,) Grooves in this can hide the wires and, possibly a bigger advantage, each section can be worked on away from the layout in the most convenient place and posture. It also means little is lost if a track area does require a redesign.

Chris
Last edited by Emettman on Thu May 14, 2015 7:48 am, edited 1 time in total.
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Bufferstop
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby Bufferstop » Wed May 13, 2015 11:47 pm

I used to have a round the loft layout which was 50cm above the floor, and that eventually proved too low for comfortable working. Something I hadn't considered was seeing everything from above, I could never make it look realistic. Moving downstairs and bringing the boards up closer to eye level (when seated) made a huge difference.
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alex3410
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby alex3410 » Thu May 14, 2015 6:27 am

I would also add my vote to brining the layout up to eye level when seated - my first attempt was placed on the floor and I soon ended up rebuilding as I could not operate it for more then half an hour without getting pins and needles which would drive me up the wall :lol:

The best format I have found (as others have mentioned above ) is the round the edge of the room with space for you in the middle

Another plus about raising it up off of the ground is the storage space it creates under the boards - just take a look at my latest layout in sign off for an index on how useful this can be

Either way good luck & make sure to keep us updated :D

Kentishman
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby Kentishman » Mon May 18, 2015 9:43 am

Several points, the first being points: do you intend to motorise them? If yes, by fixing directly to the floor, you will limit your choice to Peco or Little Jemmy, both of which can be let into the base board, unless you surface mount all your points which won't look very realistic. Should you want to use something like the Tortoise slow acting motor, you should allow a good 3 to 4 inches of space below the base board.

I can see a potential problem in accessing derailed trains or toppled scenery. On a conventional layout, your own centre of gravity is usually outside the layout, even when leaning over to the back of it. With a layout on the floor and confined headroom, it will be too easy to find you've just put a knee or foot on to the layout when accessing an awkward corner.

How do you intend to operate the layout? By standing in the hatch on top of steps? I doubt that this would be comfortable after a while and could be very risky if you miss your footing. If you intend to be in the loft, you'll either have the open hatch to work around (again potentially uncomfortable and risky); or with the hatch closed it may be quite claustrophobic and uncomfortable if the hatch top is not flush with the floor. What's the ventilation in the loft space like?

Have you looked at any of the late Cyril Freezer's track plan books, e.g. 60 Plans for Small Locations? These are available from Peco or probably your local model shop for £1.60 or so. They show plans for layouts that can run along the side(s) of a garage, or across the end while still allowing a car's bonnet to project beneath the layout. I just think that your layout would be easier to build and run and that you would get more pleasure from your layout with easier access, and be able to show it to visitors, were it in the garage rather than the loft.

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RAFHAAA96
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Re: Floor Layout Base

Postby RAFHAAA96 » Sat May 30, 2015 4:24 pm

If there is little scope for installing a typical bus wiring system below decks due to the floor mounted or shelf mounted plan, then think about soldering 'Omega' links across rail joints. i.e. bits of wire shaped like the Greek upper case Omega. Such shape allows for expansion/contraction.
Don't even think of just soldering rail joints together for ultimate continuity, else you will invoke lack of expansion/contraction problems at some stage in a loft and/or have the devil's own job if you ever want to change track sections.
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