Langstead – Episode 23: Brace Yourself…

Today I drastically changed my layout. Not in a way that has changed the track plan nor altered the scenery as I have done in the past… No, today I joined my two base boards together.

Why is this such a drastic change? – I hear you cry. And for those just joining this story (and hello, by the way) you might be wondering why my layout was in two halves and wasn’t joined together already?

Original design concept showing how the track would be laid across two boards.

Original design concept showing how the track would be laid across two boards.

Well all the way back at the beginning I implemented this design for two main reasons:

1) To be able to fold down and put the layout away when my then flatmates got bored of me playing trains… Having two halves simply meant it was easier to store.

2) Ease of portability, so that when I eventually moved house it wouldn’t be so difficult to move.

Now I’m in a more permanent setting, where I have my own space dedicated to the model railway these above criteria have fast become redundant. What’s more, having the base boards in two separate sections (only connected together by the removable pieces of track spanning the gap) is starting to severely limit other scenic developments and is making certain aspects of maintenance a right pain in the rectum.

Therefore I’ve made the decision to attach these boards together once and fall, and I’m pleased to say it’s actually a fairly simple operation…

What I’ve elected to do is retro fit a frame underneath* the two boards that will effectively affix them together.

Firstly I adhered some timber braces (45mm x 45mm thick) to the underside of the edge of the board using No-More-Nails…


To wedge it in place as it sets I’ve improvised a support with some scrap wood and a book…


…this is fairly strong stuff, but it won’t be enough to permanently hold the boards together. Whilst the No-More-Nails holds the timber in the right place l can drill some holes to fit screws. Firstly drill a pilot hole a couple of mm thinner than the screws you intend to use…


…It’s also worth making the top of this hole slightly bigger using a large drill bit so the screws sit flush with the board when they are fully inserted…like so…


…And with the track replaced, hardly noticeable at all!…


This process was then repeated in the middle, back and sides of the layout. Where braces met at 90 degrees another screw was placed to hold the frame itself together. Here’s what the underside now looks like…


Perfect! Now I can start improving the scenery and ballasting over that dreaded baseboard gap! – Developments of these tasks to follow soon.

One thing it is worth mentioning is that I have  had to sacrifice a few things to in order to complete this task:

1) I can no longer expand the layout length ways by separating the two boards and inserting more inbetween.
– As I’ve reached my limits with space already this has become more of a pipe dream for if/when I move to a bigger flat. As this will not happen any time soon, I’ve figured any scheme to make my layout bigger in a new property will be far easier achieved by starting from scratch.

2) The layout is now no longer ‘easy’ to transport.
– On the down side the layout is now a lot heavier and definitely won’t fit in my car… BUT, this still far out weighs the complexity of having two separate pieces which need to be unwired, untracked and completely dismantled before travel.  At least this way it’s purely the size of the thing I’m going to have to worry about in the future.

*Just to conclude: Building the bracing, or underframe should have been something I did from the start regardless of number of baseboards. Nearly every modeller will construct an underframe to make their whole operation stronger and to prevent any warping on the ply base boards themselves. I’d argue I didn’t do this through the need for the boards to be less complex and light… But, truth be told I was just being lazy. Thankfully it’s not been difficult to retro fit it.

– Andy Carter

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