Author Topic: Building Railroads to Move  (Read 1637 times)

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Rossford Yard

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Building Railroads to Move
« on: August 27, 2021, 11:01:20 AM »
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The "moving the immovable object" thread s raised another interesting MR conceptual question of just how transportable should we build layouts to be?

I actually purchased my first N Scale layout was from a widow of an N scaler. I had just moved to TX, with no basements, and was thinking of changing from HL.  I had an 11 x 17 loft in a house I had just bought.  I saw her ad in the Sunday classifieds (remember those?) and it was a nicely built 11x17 "J" shaped layout that fit my space perfectly, so it was a quick start in N which I rebuilt over time.

It was built in one 4 x 6 and two 4 x 8 foot sections, which were hard, but not impossible to move.  The wiring had good connector plates at each layout seam, so that worked out okay, as well.  Really had to patch some mountains, and reconnect tracts at the joints and it was good to go.

I know magazines recommend building in modules, but frankly, for the three moves it made in its life, (once to me, twice with me) I favor the 4x8 larger pieces for an overall balance of keeping more of the layout as you want it designed. I could see limiting to modules if you didn't want to rent a moving truck to move large pieces, but the large pieces worked for me.

Anyone else have any experience in between sawing a layout up and moving, using modules, or building one with no thought of moving?

thomasjmdavis

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #1 on: August 27, 2021, 12:19:23 PM »
+1
I've built all my N scale layouts in modular form, since the first 2'x4' switching layout in a small apartment in 1977.  Most sections have been 2x8.  In my case, I was a set builder in theater and TV, and so the concept of building up large constructions from framed plywood came naturally.  All I needed to do was add a layer of foam on top of the plywood as a base.  The history has been:
late 60s- HO 4x8- sold at garage sale when I went to college and my family moved to new apartment.

1977- N 2x4 switching layout, added a second 2x4 a couple years later with small yard.

1983(?)- 2x8 module loosely based on someone's modular article, approximated an N-trak module, but 2 trak rather than 3.  Added 2 3x4 modules on the ends to create a "dogbone", and added a turnout that ran off one edge to allow for attaching the 2x4 sections of the 1977 modules.

1990- after move to the country and new business (now married with children), built 2 more 2x8 sections, scrapped the 2x4s for their turnouts, and utilized the dogbone end modules to make an L shaped layout in an outbuilding.

1992 or 3- revised the 1990  version by removing a section and substantially rebuilding the remaining modules, to make it fit the back porch of the house- more economical and easier to bring the kids into the process.  Never finished, but the most interesting plan and best operating trackwork.

2001- (now divorced, new house, also in the country, new job) various modules from the previous 2 layouts, waiting for basement to be finished- working average of 55 hours per week, not a lot of free time- built a couple more modules for "basement empire" layout, but beyond a few experiments with code 55, nothing operational.

2012- (new job in 2007, second marriage, rental apartment up north, although did not sell the "country house")- 3'2"x12 layout for available space in basement, built in 2 sections, primarily code 55 with a passenger yard in code 70 (because those Shinohara turnouts purchased in the late 1970s still work). 

2017- (now retired, back in country house) - planning for basement empire resumes, sections that formed 3x12 layout stripped down to bottom layer of foam, experiments with laying out trackwork for planned passenger terminal, and for experimenting with DCC.  Dismantled earlier this year and waiting in basement to be rebuilt- but enough improvement needed that I may just start over and get better joint location and fit to the rest of the layout.

2021- finally getting to work on the basement that I have been promising myself for 20 years.  This years excuse?  Need a new car.  But hopefully, can work paint for the basement and some more worklights into the budget.  Have 5 2x8 modules, whatever I can scrap out of the 2012 modules, and several miles of code 55 track to get started with (a lot of it Peco, not because I like the look, but it was the only way within my budget and skillset, to get the trackwork I needed).

I would agree that 4x8s would be better in terms of keeping a layout together, and allow for bigger curves (I have always used 3' or 3'2" anytime I needed 180 degree), but I've found the 2x8s to be much easier (especially as I become older) to lift and maneuver when I am working on my own, and just to get in and out of tight spaces -the passageways through my current house are laid out like an obstacle course.  Also, as noted, many of my installations have been L shaped in room corners, and 2-3 feet is within my reach, whereas 4 feet would require access holes and such if against a wall.


Tom D.

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CRL

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #2 on: August 27, 2021, 02:25:42 PM »
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Since nobody can predict over the long term where their life may take them, it makes sense to build a layout in a movable manner, whether it’s modular, portable, sectional… whatever you want to call it. Even if you’re retired and only intend to leave your retirement home when they carry you out (or your wife drags/kicks you to the curb), it’s best to make your layout easily disassembled (without using a sledge hammer and wrecking bar) to make it easier to sell or donate.

Yes, I’ve thought about this.

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #3 on: August 27, 2021, 04:59:31 PM »
+1
Counterpoint: a well designed layout makes optimum use of the space that it inhabits. Therefore, a different space should require a different plan, and reusing an existing layout runs counter to that.

Now, I know that's incredibly theoretical, but from a practical standpoint, I think there might be some value in "starting over". But also realize that I say this as someone who had a LOT of fun with a reused section of someone else's layout, and currently has that same piece occupying an unused bedroom of his house while it's waiting its third home.

MVW

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #4 on: August 27, 2021, 05:22:27 PM »
+1
Counterpoint: a well designed layout makes optimum use of the space that it inhabits. Therefore, a different space should require a different plan, and reusing an existing layout runs counter to that.

Now, I know that's incredibly theoretical, but from a practical standpoint, I think there might be some value in "starting over". But also realize that I say this as someone who had a LOT of fun with a reused section of someone else's layout, and currently has that same piece occupying an unused bedroom of his house while it's waiting its third home.

There is value in starting over. But there's also undoubtedly value in preserving a satisfying layout that you've invested time and dollars in.

Ed also makes a valid point about maximizing use of available space. But that's something that should be addressed in the design stage -- to take advantage of what's currently available, and provide flexibility should a move become necessary.

I'm closing in on 60, so there probably aren't a lot of new layouts in my future. (I'm pretty happy with the one I'm building.) But anyone younger should at least give modules and portability more than a passing thought. (And yes, the layout I'm building can be moved; we were looking at moving a year or so ago, and I didn't consider the layout's demise to be imminent.)

In regards to size, I use the HCD as my max. I have some sections that are odd shapes, but none bigger than an HCD.

Jim

nuno81291

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #5 on: August 27, 2021, 05:57:18 PM »
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We are closing on a house next week, basement and walk up attic are unfinished. My large monolithic layout will not be making the trip. I may cut out a section that is relatively complete to serve as a switching layout in the mean time… I may just build a small switching layout from scratch to hold me over until the spaces are finished. My landscaping business is booming and I hardly have any time in the evening for trains these days. Oh well, will build something small for the Ops/play value, and design the next large layout for when the space is finished. Certainly none of my around the walls layouts would have been easily adapted to other spaces, also I feel that I am improving in skill with each crack I take at a layout so rebuilding usually is preferred over salvage.
Guilford Rail System in the 80s/90s

SAH

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #6 on: August 28, 2021, 09:41:52 PM »
+1
Counterpoint: a well designed layout makes optimum use of the space that it inhabits. Therefore, a different space should require a different plan, and reusing an existing layout runs counter to that.

Now, I know that's incredibly theoretical, but from a practical standpoint, I think there might be some value in "starting over". But also realize that I say this as someone who had a LOT of fun with a reused section of someone else's layout, and currently has that same piece occupying an unused bedroom of his house while it's waiting its third home.

Ah, the thoughts of a young man who believes there will always be time to start over.  As the song goes "It ain't necessarily so".  And it won't be before you know it.

Another thing or two to consider:  1)  Are you building to a favorite prototype and if so how attached are you to that prototype.  As time goes on you may not wish to discard what you've completed and are happy with.  2)  At what level is your craftsmanship?  Discarding a well designed and built yard ladder because it can't be moved of taken apart would be pretty painful.

I can answer yes and I am very attached to a prototype for 1) and the quality of my work will probably not be getting any better to 2).  Look at the AC&Y Ohio's Road of Service thread and focus on the moving posts.  Some things I've learned:
  1)  8" to 15" deep sections up to 6' long are easily moveable.  A 5' long max length is better.
  2)  Treat curves as disposable sections.  It made it easier to reconfigure the straight sections in a new space after I accepted the curve sections would change.
  3)  Save your sections, curves and all  Repurpose the lumber to make new sections as required.  It saves lots of time and the quality of the lumber is likely better than what you can buy today.

Not the final answer but I've moved a lot and taken the layout with me each time.  Each time there is a little more to take.  Not a bad thing.

CodyO

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #7 on: August 28, 2021, 11:48:05 PM »
+1
I built mine modular knowing that its going to move multiple times and I want to keep it going and not have to constantly rip everything apart and do over even though trackwork is one of my favorite parts of building a layout.

The layout has been moved from one house to another, had modules transported to other places to work on them, been disassembled and assembled in my current house during the basement finishing.

You can see plenty of photos of the plywood modular construction here:
https://photos.app.goo.gl/aKAx6eYbwmD74tyC8
« Last Edit: August 28, 2021, 11:50:19 PM by CodyO »
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C855B

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #8 on: August 29, 2021, 02:53:17 AM »
+1
Believe it or not, the giant layout I'm currently working on was originally intended to be easily dismantled and moved. Well, relatively easy. The fundamental unit was 2'x10' with the idea they could be carried flat through doorways; we've had a vehicle large enough over the past 16 years to handle 10' sections. Construction was (and is) pink foam over metal studs, so it's really light. As to curves, the original design was for most to break down into 4.5'x4.5' modules; awkward but still manageable, and at least the end loops - big dogbone plan - can be split into two smaller sections.

The semi-modular design executed in the earliest construction had these 2x10 modules as self-contained boxes, just cut through the foam and track, unbolt the side-to-side frame connections, and off you go. The peninsula portions of the railroad are 4' wide, and the plan there was still 2'-wide modules, but bolted together back-to-back.

Electrical is bus-based, with a backbone of power leads and Loconet cabling feeding local breakout nodes.. It could be connectored at joints very easily.

The "unbolt" concept was eventually dropped in the final realization that this layout isn't going anywhere. Nonetheless, the foam-on-steel benchwork is working out to be absolutely marvelous. If some irresistible force came along that prompted us to move, it still isn't impossible to add separation frame points, make a few strategic cuts and recover the 2'-wide benchwork. The 4'-wide peninsula portions would put up a fight, however, especially given that most of the plan's yards are on these, and there is diagonal bracing across the frame. They'd have to be rebuilt.

Rossford Yard

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #9 on: August 29, 2021, 10:59:50 AM »
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Great point on bolting the sections together, and I should have mentioned that my old 11 x 17 was built that way, including wire connectors/plates/plugs for each connecting section.

Probably the ultimate in moveable layouts would then be to design the layout so that industrial areas, etc. are contained on one module of any size, so the number of tracks to cut through are minimized to mains and passing sidings for the most part.  My old layout didn't do that - the main yard crossed a joint, which prompted me to rebuild that.  I love yards, and was able to keep most of one end of the throat, so rebuilding part of a yard to perfectly suit my taste wasn't a chore.

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #10 on: August 31, 2021, 10:07:26 PM »
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Oh yeah. I mean, you're all generally correct. It IS smart to be able to reuse stuff. But I do think it's also important to box yourself in with the desire to.

Rossford Yard

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #11 on: September 01, 2021, 09:27:32 AM »
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Oh yeah. I mean, you're all generally correct. It IS smart to be able to reuse stuff. But I do think it's also important to box yourself in with the desire to.

It is one of the great mysteries of life, no? 

I like it, to a degree, because perhaps I can get back up and running faster, if not perfectly, but then can tear out track, scenery, etc. The running keeps me a bit more motivated.  But, every situation is vastly different, and to each his own.  It's your railroad, and you can do as you please, including throwing it in the trash, LOL.

mark.hinds

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #12 on: September 08, 2021, 08:15:10 PM »
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Mine (which is a state of suspended animation ATM) has been moved twice, successfully.  I went with the largest possible section alternative, with one 4' x 8', one 3' x 3', and a 7' x 2' connecting piece.  These were sized based on what would fit out interior doors and around interior corners.  The only complication was the track at the joints, which overlaps the joint, and therefore extends out into space during the move.  Some of these required minor repair after the move.  The wiring comes apart at the joints.  The legs were also designed to disassemble prior to a move. 

https://www.therailwire.net/forum/index.php?topic=28831.msg305681#msg305681

MH
« Last Edit: September 08, 2021, 08:18:03 PM by mark.hinds »

SAH

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #13 on: September 13, 2021, 09:26:13 PM »
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Since I decided to do some "reconfiguration" to the layout this weekend and since I got to test some of my theories in the process I thought I'd share what I learned.
Spur 4 9/12/2021 10:30 AM


Spur 4 9/12/2021 5:30 PM


The sections on the other side of the sky are gone too.  It was a very "productive" afternoon.  Everything, studs and all, will be moved in the reconfiguration.
Some notes on trackwork joining sections.

The tried and true butt connection.  Frankly my carpentry skills are not usually up to pulling this off well.  This is my only case of this type currently.  And since I treat curves as disposable sections the extra effort to butt connect the section trackwork is usually wasted.


Here's a section of track with soldered feeder wires soldered to the buss beneath the layout.  Rail joiners connect the gap bridge track to the section track.  Allow the rail joiners enough room to slide clear of the fixed rails on one side of the track.  It worked great.


The bridge track is connected to the buss at a terminal strip in this case.  The track comes free from the sections it bridges so labeling the bridge track and it's location is a plus.  This method worked great too.


I was pleased to find everything worked as planned without resorting to rail nippers.  I have a good feeling all will go back together just as easily.

John

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Re: Building Railroads to Move
« Reply #14 on: September 14, 2021, 08:05:04 AM »
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The Maryland and Ohio RR is a series of 1x4, 2x4, 2x6 sections made out of quality plywood cut to 3 or 4 inch width.  While not designed to move per se, it could be dismantled and thrown out (or recycled in Ed's basement) when I am gone ..  I made no provisions to quick disconnect wiring nor are there gaps in the tracks at the joints ..