Ply Or Chipboard

Discussion of model railway baseboard design and construction
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pete12345
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby pete12345 » Mon May 11, 2020 8:51 pm

My boards are made from what looks to be halfway between OSB and chipboard and it seems sturdy enough with a 2x1 framework supporting it. We had some large crates at work made from it which were destined for the skip so I claimed a stack of good-sized sheets for free! The plan is to fit a front facia of hardboard to protect the edges and operator from mutual damage and hide any untidy carpentry. It is quite hard so a good sharp saw blade is a must! Mine getting a bit dull so made life harder for myself. If you use the normal track pins it's worth using a tiny drill to make pilot holes first- otherwise you'll never get through.
Once an engine attached to a train, was afraid of a few drops of rain...

Dad-1
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Dad-1 » Tue May 12, 2020 9:27 am

In general conversation with Bigmet,

'Open Frame' is something I'd love to do , but I have rather poor carpentry skills and just can't get my head
around how I'd make a lattice framework that didn't fall apart, or distort easily. I think the planning process
would also have to be well advanced.
Railways tend to be rather flat, yes I know they run from sea-level to well over 1000 feet, but gradients except
for a few odd places tend to be in the 1 : 100 for steep climbs. On our models we have so much compression
that unless you have a large space probably at least 25 feet in length you really are wasting your time building
in gradients.
My way of trying to place in the landscape is to use a large sheet, or sheets to have moveable size segments as
a base, this becomes minimum ground level. The actual track bed is then stuck into the air on stilts. Solid ones
that are an attempt to make box sections to give bracing and support from inside the layout rather than underneath.

I'm not the best planner, but my little layout St Oval had the most planning I've ever done. Using the big sheet of
chipboard cut into halves as that supporting base. I even drew what I intended to be height lines for general
scenery.

This gives the idea, the holes were to remove excessive weight from that big chipboard sheet.
One has so many options, an interesting subject in itself !!

Image

Lets all chat on.

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
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pete12345
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby pete12345 » Tue May 12, 2020 10:22 am

That's basically my plan. The last section of baseboard needs a fiddle yard at the back, with the scenic track crossing a river at the front. So one section of the flat board/framework gets built at a lower level, then the trackbed either side of the bridge is built up from there.
Once an engine attached to a train, was afraid of a few drops of rain...

Dad-1
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Dad-1 » Tue May 12, 2020 11:15 am

Yes pete12345, that's been more or less my game plan.
Obviously a lot depends on the eventual size of your layout. I pondered on attaching at least one board at a lower level.
It presents a few structural problems, particularly for a moveable layout, of attaching to firm foundations each side.
I like your plan and think it gives you so much scope for making something that can look so good you appreciate it even
with nothing running !!

I'd be interested to hear from Bigmet of any track gradients he may have. I recall that he tends to run some long freights
and for that you do need that almost flat track bed. Certainly no 1 : 40 climbs.

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
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Bufferstop
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bufferstop » Tue May 12, 2020 11:26 am

Over the years I've tried almost all methods except the US developed L girder system, which is really only suitable for permanent layouts in their own accommodation, no way is it portable. My conclusion is that open frame is for the very best carpenters, and requires very deep frames which can be thin ply sheets sandwiching inch square spacers. Solid top is more friendly to the rest of us, it can help hold the sideframes straight and joined at right-angles. It can be heavy, but large holes, in the surface and framing, can "add lightness" much in the manner of aircraft wings. Building up inclines and elevated sections has to be a balance of the weight of the deck and supports against the rigidity. If it's only supporting plain track, not pointwork, blocks of polystyrene or insulating foam, are extremely rigid for very little weight. If you have absolutely zero carpentry skill, sticking 4mm ply or even foam core mounting board to the outside of a 4 x 2 sheet of rigid insulation will be better than a twisty floppy sheet of chipboard on 2" x 1" battens.
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Bigmet
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bigmet » Tue May 12, 2020 1:09 pm

Dad-1 wrote:...'Open Frame' is something I'd love to do , but I have rather poor carpentry skills and just can't get my head
around how I'd make a lattice framework that didn't fall apart, or distort easily. I think the planning process
would also have to be well advanced...


Open frame best suits permanent larger layouts is the first thing, ideal locations being an attic or basement with a stair access reasonably central so that you enter directly into the operating well. It doesn't need spectacularly good carpentry skills, because the frame doesn't determine track levels, and simple bracing with triangles (just like roof trusses) takes care of frame rigidity. I mention roof trusses by intent, the frame is not joinery, but construction carpentry standard. And then you build up the track bed and any scenic supports from this frame using screw attached relatively light timber, taking care of the (ply) track base profile, whether level or gradient, at that stage. This is very flexible and lends itself to rapid alteration, so the planning might be less arduous than you think.

My general ruling gradient is now 1 in 120, and on straight track only. (There are some restricted routes at the ruling gradient I started with, 1 in 80. This is where the simple modification comes in: to ease the gradient I just undid the screwed on track base supports, moved them and reattached, job done.)

Part of the layout scheme is that you cannot operate a train with a loco of insufficient power class, which is part of the fun. Twelve coaches and over needs a 'big engine': wide firebox power required. Likewise the freights, if it's 60 wagons then class 7 freight capability is the minimum. The locos are carefully weighted by a power class scheme so that they have the appropriate traction, and if called on for a significantly larger job, then a pilot engine will have to be used. That's downhill as well as uphill, too small a loco on a heavy train running downhill won't be able to stop where it should...

Dad-1
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Dad-1 » Tue May 12, 2020 1:59 pm

Thanks Bigmet, interesting reply.
I believe you've never shown any of your layout, but I do recall running details from comment made over the years.
One in particular was setting Minimum deceleration on the DCC system so you could appreciate the skill of a loco
driver in understanding how to stop a long unfitted freight, If I recall correctly it was a GWR 28XX, renowned for
no brakes !!. Hence your downhill 'Pilot' ??

Sitting here in the sun musing brought back a story from 'Charlie', firing on an empty coal wagon train when it Ran-away,
mostly/partially from the guard going to sleep and not using his brake. The intended speed was slow and as it built they
even contemplated jumping off at a station they passed through. The rocking must have brought the guard too and they
just managed to get under control before the yard. Exact route, loco and such I can't remember. Charlie had loads of little
stories from the late steam days, as a newish fireman at the time of dieselisation, but he left to take up coach driving !!

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
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Bigmet
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bigmet » Tue May 12, 2020 5:21 pm

Dad-1 wrote:...I believe you've never shown any of your layout...

Only to a very few personal acquaintances! It's still just a 'jungle' under construction, and I won't put anything out until I am happy to show it. I am currently progressively rebuilding a lot of the existing work, having engaged a braincell and realised there was 'a better way' that produced an easier gradient for most of the layout.

Dad-1
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Dad-1 » Tue May 12, 2020 8:44 pm

That's fair enough Bigmet,

I also think that against my standards you're a perfectionist.
At least being mildly untidy makes me feel more comfortable in your company !!

Geoff T.
Remember ... I know nothing about railways.
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Bigmet
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bigmet » Wed May 13, 2020 11:03 am

The perfectionism is limited to operation. I expect it all to work reliably so that visually everything moves just the way I saw it as a boy at the lineside.

Scenery, meh. But my wife retires in about two years is the plan, and she wants scenery. (She wanted a model railway when a child and never had one, all of the immediate and extended family were daughters.) But she's had a long conversation with Maggie Gravett and a few more ladies at exhibitions, and has had a try and really enjoyed it; sees it as a hobby activity for when the weather is too foul for 'playing in the garden'.

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Bigglesof266
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bigglesof266 » Thu May 14, 2020 12:06 am

Curiosity begs Bigmet, and I ask without any intent of criticism. Is your home layout continuous run? If so, what is the track length of the circuit (approx) and length of your longest straight? Where is your layout located?

I look at UK loft space for home layouts with envy.

In AU, the way they're constructed, few houses have the roof pitch for space to accomodate a loft layout, which even where they did (my house does), building regulation method of construction renders the space unsuitable for layout construction due the number of trusses in the way and no flooring over the ceilingboard accomodating the lose layed lighting and power circuit wiring. Even were none of those factors, there's the Australian sun and summer heat to contend with effectively 8 months of the year in latitudes above 30S, a little less harsh and shorter in Southern States. Method of insulation with tiled roof (bats on the flat ceiling) doesn't facilitate any protection for the roofspace, and whilst a Colorbond ('tin') roofdoes (9" thick Articon attached directly adjacent the roofing panels so coincidentally insulating the roofspace, even so the space would need to be air conditioned too to render it pragmaticically occupiable. Mega expensive to render it doable as you might imagine. So unless one has a budget approaching that of Pete Waterman, pramatically non viable..

Unless one lives in a major capital city here, there are few railway clubs, and one would be lucky to find a UK orientated outline club. So that leaves to the option of running on a home layout, or hypothetically, someone elses.

For the average person here as I perceive, options for a large layout are dedicated shed if one has space and local Council reg approval, again tin insulated with air-con, an getting expensive, but possibly as pefect as it gets in AU.

Next would be a space in the family home, easiest and least expensive a spare bedroom, but which even in a larger home here would seldom run more than 3Mx3.5M for other than a main bedroom. Alternatively, some space appropriated to the hobby such as a garage or larger special purposed room. I have the latter, but it's fully occupied at present as both out HT room cum my music Studio full of amps, PA, guitars, keyboard etc. Double garage too is already overstretched. What's a man to do?

Fully air-conditioned, well lit, carpeted, a solar filmed window for light, at present I'm relegated, comfortably I might add, to a 2.9M x 3.2M spare bedroom. Entry door and built-ins rob me of length albeit the latter do accomodate a lot of model rail kit storage, a boon. As we own our home, I'm free to use the walls or space as I wish to, within limitations conditions of Mrs Biggleof266 concensual permission of course. Appreciating all I do have, my only frustration nagging at me for the past decade is maximum permissable straight run length, but I'm not prepared to trade the garage of HT room for it, which I should say, we aren't.

I doubt I'll get around to ever building a dedicated shed although i've floated that plan in my mind a few times, invariably procrastinating on actioning it due a combination of both the expense to do so as finished described (contracted, I wouldn't do so myself a case of know thyself strengths and weaknesses) and sheer will to now energically follow through in pursuing it as it would require despite having the space.

Pardon my tome which when I startedvthis post I had intended only as those couple of questions, but as I was probing, I did want to explain where i was coming from.

As I am considering a new layout which will almost certainly be my last hurrah layout, it'd need to be both practical in terms of time to completion and accomodation, preferably accomodating as many wants in the compromise as pragmatically possible

Which begs back to the questions of my opening paragraph, where is your home layout housed, operational orientation type, & its approximate size? I enjoy your informative practical posts and would be very much interested in your solution and solutions over your yeards of experience. Thanks.

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Mountain
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Mountain » Thu May 14, 2020 2:32 am

In regards to base boards, even flat topped baseboards can have scenic contours below board level by cutting holes in the board and attaching smaller pieces of board underneath to fill those holes at a lower level. It is a simple method of avoiding the flat look to a layout. Of course, building scenery upwards from board height is somewhat easier. A mix of above and below level scenery can look quite pleasing, but before one starts cutting holes, check ones holes don't interfere with any of the framework, and best to cut holes before commencing wiring. Another thought is that in order to maintain a rigid layout, any larger holes will need patching from underneath using similar solid boards... But there is nothing wrong with cutting holes in the lower boards again to create a solid and rigid structure that has interesting contours.

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Bufferstop
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bufferstop » Thu May 14, 2020 10:37 am

Lofts just aren't all they are cracked up to be. Mine has a ten by five metre footprint, problem was the height. At it's highest point it was a couple of inches shorter than me. When I say it was a pain in the neck, that's exactly what I mean.
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Bigmet
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Bigmet » Thu May 14, 2020 12:15 pm

Bigglesof266 wrote:Curiosity begs Bigmet, and I ask without any intent of criticism. Is your home layout continuous run? If so, what is the track length of the circuit (approx) and length of your longest straight? Where is your layout located? ...Which begs back to the questions of my opening paragraph, where is your home layout housed, operational orientation type, & its approximate size? I enjoy your informative practical posts and would be very much interested in your solutions over your years of experience.

In a house move some years ago, we lucked into a property that had a 30 x10 ft unobstructed interior space in a brick outbuilding in the rear garden.

I have been much influenced by private layouts seen in North America - the 'basement empires' are a real thing - which is where I saw open frame construction deployed in earnest. And now I had the space to use it, and build the main line layout that up until then had required the use of the garden for an outdoor line. (I was initially going for indoor and outdoor at this location, but the woodland wildlife savaged the track regularly, so indoors only it has to be.)

Operationally it's a combination of 'watch the trains go by' on the main line, combined with timetabled out and home inner suburban and branchline operations: a simulation of the traffic on the East Coast mainline, with the operating cycle from pretty much 'all steam' beginning in 1956, through to 1962 terminating with the arrival of the first Brush type 4 in service, D1500 at Kings Cross, after which we reset to 1956. The steam locos and older stock are gradually displaced by diesels and more modern vehicles, but the operation remains traditional steam railway style in most respects.

The layout design is just a two track continuous run 'dogbone', wrapped around the room, each circuit roughly a mile in 4mm, 70 ft or 21m, and on a gradient just as in reality. Kings Cross and KX goods are at the bottom level and are the storage / fiddle yards and are not scenic. The two track line spirals up and then spirals down again in parallel, so the visual effect is of a four track mainline: down slow, down fast, up fast, up slow; which is how the ECML was arranged. (The down lines are uphill, and the up lines are downhill, just as in reality from KX.) At the mid way point in the planned complete circuit, we come to Hatfield, a remarkably compact station which was the inner suburban service 'country end' terminus*, and also the start of two branchlines diverging East and West, which had a loco shed, goods yards, carriage stabling, four platforms, (no two of the same length and arranged very assymetrically) and four signalboxes. *Not really true at this period, but it had the engine shed from when it was so, thus little changed.)

What I have learned over the years with 4mm model railways. Metal wheels, pinpoint bearings and free rolling stock (must roll away on 1 in 100) with couplers standardised are essential. In OO, curves of 30"+ radius make all the difference to reliability. If you must have gradients, keep them moderate, and go to the trouble of building off a true level datum: never rely on the floor being level. The constant track power and control refinement available from DCC make a major contribution to reliable operation: the signal to noise ratio is very high, the moment a loco stutters or a light flickers is the indication that investigation is required to 'fix it'.

Construction so far is what will be the largely concealed continuous run. Near five scale route miles complete (18 boxes of Streamline), five to go; and this has to be finished before the station can be constructed. There is a temporary stage for the station site to enable operation. My 'problem' is that I enjoy operation so much, building often lapses; and care for our parents has become very pressing the last five years - all now in their nineties, all in poor health - so progress has been slow all that time. So I operate the trains on a time table to r e l a x .... (I have also terminally busted my cordless drill after several repairs, so now need a new one to restart construction; and the layout room is hopelessly cluttered with the contents of a recent house clearance, with ability to redistribute among the extended family hamstrung by Covid! So no new construction progress recently.)

But, reasons to be cheerful:
Operation is great fun.
Since starting the project more RTR OO models have appeared that suit my chosen area and period than I would have dreamed of.
Peco have begun on making better OO RTL track, before I needed it to make a good model of Hatfield, woo hoo!
I took some persuading to try DCC, but wouldn't be without it now.
Never any lack of something to do.
I have had plenty of time to think about the automated staging, which will eventually be required to operate the layout.
Operation is great fun. (Did I mention that already?)

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Roger (RJ)
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Re: Ply Or Chipboard

Postby Roger (RJ) » Thu May 14, 2020 12:20 pm

I started a loft layout some years ago, about 10 foot by 16 foot total size with a large open area in the middle, sufficient headroom but uninsulated, floored with chipboard in the main operating area. It was dusty and draughty, very cold in winter and absolutely roasting hot in summer. I gave up building the layout before I completed it. It was just too uncomfortable to be in the loft for most of the year.

I now have a small layout in a spare bedroom, still uncompleted (barely started really!!) but i enjoy using it and I'm comfortable.

Edit. Forgot to say my loft layout used ¾ inch chipboard without sufficient framing and it sagged badly after some time, my spare bedroom layout uses 6mm ply with a 2x1" frame at approx 12" spacing and that's easy to get track pins (Peco) into but they do protrude underneath. 9mm ply would be better I think.


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