Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Post pictures and information about your own personal model railway layout that is under construction. Keep members up-to-date with what you are doing and discuss problems that you are having.
alan_r
Posts: 193
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:24 pm

Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Sun Feb 16, 2020 9:09 pm

Thanks for the compliments everyone :D
Endtoend: yes I did think perhaps a spray adhesive could be the solution if it produced a fine enough mist - any suggestions of a brand and where to source something?
Many thanks, Alan

alan_r
Posts: 193
Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:24 pm

Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Fri May 08, 2020 1:15 pm

I managed to spend some time on the layout again. To give me options to have alternative scenes for the central area, I decided a plywood board would allow me to drop in various different models and also build them away from the layout, so I cut a sheet to fit the area. I also set about making a small bridging 'module' to fill the gap between the two middle modules. As with before, the philosophy is to overlap and span any major baseboard joins thereby fooling the eye, and making the layout look more like a single continuous board.
P5_47.JPG
Infill board and bridging module

Once the plywood board was located, I stuck a run of matchsticks around the edge to give me a fixed border to ballast my siding track to and not worry about edge damage. Here you can see the gap to the right to cover with the bridging module.
P5_48.JPG
Matchstick edging and hollow between boards

Once I had my levels set, I could then build up the height with polystyrene blocks ready to shape into the new terrain. At the front you can see that the cardboard flat area is offset to the interface of the two modules in front, so the long baseboard join should be less apparent. By using the grass edge as the new join, the concrete path can be continuous with the flat area, where I can put a future building.
P5_49.JPG
Polystyrene blocks to bridging module

The blocks can now be carved to make my in-fill hills
P5_50.JPG
Polystyrene blocks ready to carve

alan_r
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Tue May 12, 2020 7:57 pm

The next stage is to carve the polystyrene blocks to match the surrounding contours to give a continuous surface as best as possible
P5_51.JPG
Carved polystyrene blocks

Space left for future building
P5_52.JPG
Space for future building

Then to filler the gaps between the polystyrene and to make concrete retaining walls out of cardboard and lolly sticks
P5_53.JPG
Cardboard and lolly stick retaining walls

View of the infill module in the landscape, covering the board join
P5_54.JPG
Infill module

alan_r
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Tue May 12, 2020 8:09 pm

The rear infill module provides an extra siding in front of the station and allows trains to service the new scenic area in the middle separately from the station, thereby giving the opportunity for an industrial area. Here the matchstick edging has been painted grey and the track cut and positioned
P5_55.JPG
Grey matchsticks and cut siding

Most of the siding is a flextrack offcut, with a setrack curve cut in half to form the rigid interface to the adjoining module track. Power gets transmitted via the fishplates. Not very elegant, but quick, cheap and easy.
P5_56.JPG
cut and positioned siding interface

Then a wash with very dilute brown paint to get rid of the harsh black colour of the plastic sleepers
P5_57.JPG
brown-wash paint on siding track

alan_r
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Thu May 21, 2020 7:39 pm

I set about the spare space to the left of the infill area next to the station, to close the gap and to bulk up the polystyrene. I also joined it to the station with some blending blocks
P5_58.JPG
Station space

The edges were then surrounded with cardboard to form the retaining wall and the ground covered to eventually make the concrete floor. Next to the station is a pedestrian ramp which is easier to make than a flight of stairs!
P5_59.JPG
Retaining walls

alan_r
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Thu May 21, 2020 8:14 pm

The infill module was then base-painted in brown to hide the white of the polystyrene
P5_60.JPG
Base-painted infill

View from the other direction - the contours look to fit well, and the lolly-stick retaining wall aligns ok with the front module
P5_61.JPG
Base-painted infill

Here is a view of the new infill module separated from the final location, ready to paint the cardboard concrete grey
P5_62.JPG
Infill module

Card painted grey and in position...
P5_63.JPG
Retaining walls painted concrete grey

P5_64.JPG
Retaining walls painted concrete grey

alan_r
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Mon May 25, 2020 9:57 am

The latest effort was to apply the scenery. I used Javis hedgerow to mark the edge boundary of this field from the adjacent ones. The hedging from the packet is very bright green, but randomly wetting it with a wash of very dilute black paint has taken the starkness off and it looks much more natural. I think I may go back to my hanging basket liner covered end module and do the same to that hedging as the look is much better with this random black wash. The field cover in the middle is by covering all of the brown paint with PVA glue, sticking some random brown flock, followed by dusting excess mixed scatter and left to dry. The colour is different from the adjoining fields due to it being the collected mixes of previous fields all in the one pot. The module was then upended over a sheet of newspaper to catch the loose material for re-use again, and then random dobs of PVA to stick green clump foliage at strategic locations. The grey-painted card is weathered with very dilute black paint in vertical strokes.
P5_65.JPG
Scenery added to bridging infill module

Placing the bridging module over the hollow between the boards closes the gap. The ground cover is nicely different to signify a different field. There are some small gaps between the edges and the adjoining boards but I'm not going to lose any sleep over them. They look worse from this high angle in the photographs than in the flesh. Besides, this is merely background - I'm going to be looking at my trains as they roll by :)
P5_66.JPG
Scenic bridging module in position

Looking across from the front and I'm happy with how it looks. The edge gaps are less conspicuous from this viewing angle too.
P5_67.JPG
Infill viewed from the front

alan_r
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Sat May 30, 2020 8:38 pm

I've now moved on to the siding infill module. The end was built up with polystyrene blocks and carved to suit the surrounding hill contours. Filler smoothed over the polystyrene gets rid of the texture to form the continuation of the path of the adjacent module.
I also decided to make a 'sleeper-built' set of buffers out of matchsticks as an experimental mini-project rather than using plastic bought ones. Since the siding is quite far from the viewer and will be hidden behind some scenery it wouldn't matter if it didn't look perfect (not that such details can really be seen in n-gauge anyway!)
P5_68.JPG
Siding module and matchstick buffers

Painting all over in brown to seal the surface and to hide any white in case of gaps in the scatter covering
P5_69.JPG
Painted polystyrene

Next to apply the scatter and bushes
P5_70.JPG
Adding scatter and bushes

The matchstick buffers were painted black, followed by a wash with dilute brown. The buffer beam is a piece of white card with red ball point pen lines drawn on it. I'm very pleased with the result as the colours work well and the wooden matchstick texture looks completely appropriate :)
P5_71.JPG
Painted matchstick buffers

Sticking it onto the end of the siding track and it works well
P5_72.JPG
Matchstick buffer fitted to siding module track

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glencairn
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby glencairn » Sun May 31, 2020 10:36 am

All looking impressive, alan_r. well done.

Glencairn
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I Cannot Afford the Luxury of a Negative Thought

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PinkNosedPenguin
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby PinkNosedPenguin » Sun May 31, 2020 12:15 pm

I just looked back at the start of this thread (which pre-dates my return to modelling!). Is this still the same layout? Is your modular approach working for you as you hoped? Have you made any alternative modules yet or are you still building the first set?

Sorry for the inquisition, but I just wanted to step back and hear how your modular approach is progressing

alan_r
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Joined: Tue Dec 16, 2008 10:24 pm

Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Sun May 31, 2020 2:47 pm

Hi PNP

Yes, this is the 'same' layout though it is a bit like Trigger's broom! :lol:

The original modules still 'in service' here are the two right/rear ones, 1) with the tunnel and bridge over the river(s), and 2) the field scenery directly in front of it. The straight edge behind the 5-track section is the old layout front. Since I am getting close to finishing [haha - yeah right!], I'll draw up a module map to show where all of the sections are in the arrangement.
The old modules that were on the left are still in existence, so could be used for another mini layout.

As for the success of using modules, I would say it has definitely worked as hoped. They are light and easy to pick up, so I can shake off scatter to reuse when building, and I can also move them to another location for easy access for working on them. They are also very portable, so moving house will be easy to just put in the car and take with me.
It has also made the construction manageable as I can focus on one module at a time rather than being overwhelmed by a huge layout that never gets finished. My biggest improvement opportunity is the method of joining the track between modules, which relies on the factory fishplates which might not prove very durable. It was workable for the 1 and 2-track joins, but next to the level crossing the 3-track join is very fiddly to align and connect so more than 3 parallel tracks will be next to impossible. Maybe the next major revision will be to try a more robust method.

Thanks for the questions - always nice to know people are interested and the 'blog' is appreciated :)

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PinkNosedPenguin
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby PinkNosedPenguin » Sun May 31, 2020 6:52 pm

Thanks, a 'module map' would be interesting.
I guess "being like Trigger's broom" is the whole point really :D

alan_r
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Sat Jun 06, 2020 1:16 pm

The siding track of the latest module has now been ballasted. This was made easier as a result of the matchstick surround and 2-3mm cardboard edging to contain the ballast before sticking down with 50/50 PVA/water + washing up liquid.
P5_73.JPG
Ballasted siding

At the buffer end the ballast also helps to hold the buffers in place securely
P5_74.JPG
Ballasted buffers

A detail of shop-bought buffers that I hadn't noticed for a while was that they are designed so that even large rapido couplings will pass through them and the wagon/coach/loco buffers are the first point of contact. This allows them to run right up to the buffer beam, so I was careful to ensure my homemade matchstick buffers performed in the same way.
P5_75.JPG
Coupling within buffers

The few extra millimetres of siding length may be trivial but it is something that does make a parked up wagon look a bit better.
P5_76.JPG
Wagon against the buffers

dan8400
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby dan8400 » Sun Jun 07, 2020 12:50 pm

I really like the idea behind this. I like that you can remove and work on bits of the layout as you go. I wish I’d thought of that!

Looks like you’re doing a top job, keep it up

Thanks
Dan
My Layout Thread: viewtopic.php?f=22&t=30117

alan_r
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Re: Reusable, modular layout base in N-gauge

Postby alan_r » Fri Jun 12, 2020 6:49 pm

To hide the join at the side of the buffer ballasting I thought a row of bushes would work and it was quick to apply
P5_77.JPG
Bush edging - buffer end

The ballasted flat area at the siding entrance also looked like it could benefit from a few overgrowing weeds so this was also applied
P5_78.JPG
Bush edging - siding entrance1

P5_79.JPG
Bush edging - siding entrance2

Now the two latest modules are complete I thought a photo of them separated from the rest of the layout would show them off
P5_80.JPG
Two latest modules

P5_81.JPG
Latest modules separated

Here you can see just how easy they were to work on and if needs be I could reuse them for another layout if desired. Very economical and environmentally friendly! :D


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