Layout planning – initial concept & scoping

Ok, so the cover image is a bit OTT in terms of electrical drawings, but what do you do on a cold wet winter’s evening? Play trains? Sadly not as I am in the process of moving home so all my modelling gear has been packed up. Worse still I took the executive decision to dismantle the two layouts I had ready to move.

The two layouts were both great, and gave much enjoyment in their own unique ways. But with a new home it was time to start agaim. Consequently, both were broken for parts and as much as possible recycled.

But why start again I hear you ask? Well here is why;

Lesson(s) learnt

All the lessons learnt from the last two layouts revolve around the baseboards. Consequently, my number one tip going forward is get your baseboards right.

Too heavy.

Yes that is right, I did not learn from the overweight behemoth I created when building What The Hull 10 years ago. A couple of years ago I spotted a second hand layout I fancied going for a very fair price on everyone’s favourite auction site. Without thinking twice I swooped in to pick it up for what I thought was a bargain. It was when I went to collect it I realised what I had let myself in for.

Having worked out that every board would fit in the car with no issue, I had not accounted for the fact that I would need to keep the passenger seat clear in future as they were often a two man lift. Yes the boards were made out of PSE and thick chipboard. As well as being some large and strange shapes, this also meant that they were very heavy. As such, the layout could never realistically move from wherever I decided to place it once I got it home.

Too Light

As a layout Cottingfield suffered with the other extreme of baseboard design. In as much as the boards were too light and flimsy for my liking. For this layout I had made my first venture into using manufactured base board kits. The boards were made by Grainge & Hodder from 6mm plywood. I wish with the benefit of hindsight I had gone for the 8mm versions on offer elsewhere for a few pounds more. Although well designed in principal, I just found if I wasn’t careful the frames were a it prone to snapping. Let’s just say in the end, dismantling was a breeze.

So the plan is?

Well it has to be to learn from my previous errors. This time I shall be investing in laser cut ply baseboards again. However, I shall be going for an 8mm thick version. Having since had the benefit of seeing an 8mm carcass ‘in the flesh’ so to speak it is clearly a lot more rigid, and better suited to someone who has his clumsy moments. I have an impressive track record of walking into the corner of boards. Alongside also headbutting them from underneath when doing the wiring. A more robust board will probably hurt more when I do this going forward, but hopefully, the running repairs will be confined to just me and not the layout too.

Don’t go too deep

Another serious lesson learnt.

Even though in modelling terms I am relatively young still as I approach 40 with some pace. I am not as young, or for that matter as agile a I was when I started 15 years ago. That means I have to accept for any layout that is going to spend most or all of it’s time positioned against a wall, I just can’t go too deep. Sadly, gone are the days where I can lean across a 3′ board and reach the other side with comfort and ease. And, for that matter do it without demolishing catenary and other fragile scenery with my belly. As such, this layout will be the thinnest one I have built in years.

The initial concept for the layout in my eyes is going to be long and relatively thin. For ease of future manoeuvrability I’m likely to stick to 4 or 5 foot section lengths. I am also as I said, not going to go too deep, probably not more than 18″ so that the back of the layout can easily and risk free be reached.

Another perk of the smaller section size, is that during construction panels can be worked on elsewhere. It means that should I wish I could for instance have on section on my desk for a few days. The whole layout does not necessarily need to be constructed in situ in the garage / loft space / spare bedroom or wherever you are able to place it. Now that is something that appeals to me! Possibly just to the lazy side, but appeals none the less. You have to admit, being able to sit in a corner of the lounge and work on parts of your layout sounds good right?

Next steps?

Now that I have decided on the size of the project, the next step is to work out what to do with it. This I will cover in more detail in my next blog in a week or two’s time. I am travelling with work this week so will have some downtime in the evenings to get drawing. Get ready for some badly sketched track plans! My initial thoughts are an end to end layout, probably featuring a rural or semi rural terminus. I’d also like to add some light industry maybe to give some variety to operations. This would also give somewhere to showcase my new N Gauge Society Hunslet shunters.

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