3 Minutes

Here is the complete baseboard base set up in the driveway. My first attempt at setting it up took three minutes which is a nice payoff for the extra fiddling to make the legs fold up and nest together.  Everything can move attached to one of the two sections and no tools are required so that failure mode is avoided.  Even I can count to two.baseboardbase

Baseboard Plan

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.

A Sketchup rendering of my substructure

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.

baseboard section
My Section design

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.)fullbaseboard

A Trackplan: Comstock Road

Here is the current and ideally final iteration of my intended small switching layout.

Comstock Road 12.1

The olive green rectangles are buildings or at least flats thereof.  The black vertical rectangle is a road bridge and the gray at upper left is a two(maybe three) track traverser.

Some notes on various elements.

  • The traverser provides offstage storage as well as the other end of the runaround and access to the upper left siding.
  • I have not firmly established what the industry locations will be.  Doing that would give some points of reference to refer to instead of this “upper left” hand waving.
  • The layout name is chosen for a road that runs near the remainder of CN’s GECO spur in Scarborough, ON.  This is definitely an “inspired by” rather than “based on” homage to that and other industrial service in Scarborough.
  • The GECO spur included a diamond where two sidings crossed.  That is my excuse for a bit of special trackage.  Never having actually build one will make that an interesting challenge.
  • 1970’s creeks in industrial Scarborough were more likely to be concrete lined ditches than pleasant fishing spots but I will aim for a beleaguered but unbeaten stream.
  • The choice of left side for the traverser was because that is the side the door to the room is on so visitors will be start with a view into the traverser.  Concealing that sort of entry is always a challenge.  Expect extensive mocking up to determine final sight or lack of sight lines.
  • I intend to operate from the front with the traverser movement and indexing automated using a micro controller such as an Arduino and a CNC style stepper motor and lead screw.

I have been settled on this version for a month or two.  Although I might tweak things a bit, this is the plan of record.  Now I just have to build it.

Criteria for a New Layout

It has been a couple of years since I scrapped the previous layout and I have begun construction of a new one.  I have a track plan and wood working is in progress.

Any layout plan should be judged by how well it fulfills the intent of the designer.  Here is a list of what I am aiming for and why using John Armstrong’s Givens and Druthers framework.


  • Proto:48 (1:48 finescale) – I already have equipment and track materials sufficient to implement the layout.  I prefer working in a larger scale due to advancing farsightedness.
  • Portable – I tend to build slowly and I anticipate needing to move the layout either due to a house move or renovations within the next 4 or 5 years.
  • Achievable – I have started many layout projects and not completed many as my interests change.  (Note the name chosen for this blog).  A modest plan that gets “done” is what I am going for.
  • Switching – I like shuffling cars around most of all.  Some might call this a preference but this is the main goal of the project.
  • 12’x2′ – I have more space but this is the maximum that I can reasonably hope will fit in an arbitrary new location.  This puts the layout in small shelf layout territory for O scale which is fine by me.
  • Reasonable Sourcing – I have abandoned projects in the past due to it all hinging on one small supplier on another continent.  Even locally available but specialty materials can cause indeterminate delays which can lead to a loss of momentum.


  • CN in the early 1970’s.  = I grew up within earshot of the CN Toronto-Montreal mainline and yet have never modeled CN as prototype.
  • Modern Technology – Although the layout will be small and likely only have on locomotive running at a time, DCC enabled sound will add much to the operating experience.  I also want to incorporate some interesting uses of microcontrollers, LED’s and servos.
  • Exhibitable – I want to construct something that could be taken to and displayed at a train show.  This goes beyond mere portability to include finished appearance such as backdrop, fascia and lighting.  It also would need to fit in the back of the wagon or  similar sized vehicle.