A portable layout presents an interesting design challenge as one needs to balance weight, strength, setup and teardown time, and appearance. 1″ plywood and 2×4’s would certainly be robust but require a mighty moving crew while foam core will be easy to move but be vulnerable to wear and tear. In my case, the layout will not be going to shows every weekend like some UK layouts do but remaining mostly set up in the basement with perhaps the occasional outing.
To that end, I have chosen to try out a couple of interesting design strategies I have encountered in the UK press and online community.
A Separate Support Structure I encountered this idea in Gordon Gravett’s description of his Arun Quay layout. The legs and main supporting surface are separate from the baseboard sections which sit on top. That is set up first and leveled then the much lighter layout sections are slid into place.
In Gordon’s design, the backdrop and all are attached to the substructure. In mine, they will be attached to the modules.
I have almost finished building the substructure except for sanding and painting. I used some 3/4″ fir plywood I had on hand for the sides and ends so they are substantial. (The illustration lacks the diagonal leg braces or any indications of hardware because my Sketchup skills have not progressed quite that far.) The legs are hinged and nest in the sections for transport. If there is some suitable weather on the weekend, I will set them up outside for sanding and photographing.
Plywood Sandwich Baseboard Frames I am not sure where I first discovered this style of construction but I have been wanting to give it a go. Two thin pieces of plywood are used to sandwich 1xX blocks to produce rigid and light frame members. It looks like non-linear baseboard edges would also be easy to produce if desired. I have some thin baltic birch ply and pine 1×3’s in the shop waiting to be rendered into many pieces and assembled into three 2’x4′ sections.
Full Assembly The entire lashup will include detachable backdrop sections and lighting bar to frame the scene. I have some flush mount clips to attach all that but final design is still in flux. Nevertheless, here is an artist’s rendition of the final baseboard assembly. Actual layout and fascia left out for clarity. (That’s my story and I am sticking to it.)