carrying/transport case for modules

Discussion in 'Modular Layout Forum' started by ocalicreek, Mar 19, 2006.

  1. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Hello All,

    I figured this'd be the best place to ask this question. I'd like to build a case to transport a small switching layout I've built. It's just over 14" deep and 5' long, and at present without structures a little over 9" high. When trees are added permanently this will go up, but shouldn't be over 12".

    Anyway, I am thinking of something kinda classy, like an ATA case, only in wood. I have lauan ply for a planned layout that probably won't happen for another few months until after a move so I would like to use it. Also, I would like to construct a case to house the structures, rolling stock, throttle, etc. that will double as a staging area, about 3' long for a total layout/staging length of 8'. I have aluminum angle to use as cassettes, planning on setting them on a smooth surface that will butt up against the entry/exit track.

    The whole shebang will be set up on a folding table so operators can sit or stand. I've got a Prodigy Express to use for control along with the MRC Synchro Sound steam system. It's already fun to operate without staging, sound or DCC. Should be even more fun with!

    Oh, and I plan on decorating the outside of the cases with old train calendar and magazine pictures in a decoupage style just for fun, and to put those old calendars and magazines to good use.
  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If you construct your staging as another module, you can box them with end/carry plates (and side plates, if you need the extra protection).

    I would recommend against removable buildings, etc. Cement everything in place securely. This will cut down on set-up/take-down time, and also on potential damage from lifting the structures off every time.

    If you recess some t-nuts into the frame, you can bolt on your end plates and side plates. you could also create some legs, so you wouldn't have to rely on having a table at your destination.

    I like the idea of the decoration...! Do you have any drawings of how you plan to package the whole thing up?

  3. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    The staging area is only 3' long as planned, and the layout itself is 5'. However, I could make good use of an additional 2'...but that may destroy some of the operating integrity of the timesaver puzzle by reducing the limitations. (not that I haven't begun this process already...see below) May also increase the fun factor so we'll see.

    Another side of that tradeoff is weight and the need for a dolly or wheeled cart of some sort. I could carry the staging, etc. in one hand and the layout in the other if they remained separate pieces, like luggage.

    Ah, T-bolts. Originally I had built legs of 2x2s and bolted them in place with bolts and wing nuts. Worked out okay, even without any lateral stabilizing braces between legs. However, the layout was topheavy and I was always afraid of it tipping over since it is only 14" deep vs. 24" and was meant to be a stand alone layout vs. a module that would ever connect with any other setup. I resigned myself to tabletop use at that point, and began considering staging to up the play value. I don't operate it like the traditional timesaver anyway. My industries are fixed and the idea of whole trains (albeit small trains) coming onstage, doing the work, and heading home was more appealing than any tab on car puzzle system.

    Good thoughts...keep em coming. I'll chew on the end plate idea. No drawing or sketch just yet...still googling images for ideas.

  4. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    If you go with two modules packed together, you can put casters on one end plate, and wheel it wherever you need to go.

    Check out some of the ideas at and (follow the link to DCC and then to modules).

  5. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    One other thought...

    If you make the "staging" 2.5 feet at each end, then they could bolt together and form the "mate" for the 5 foot main module.

  6. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    staging at each end

    Andrew - the staging at each end is a good idea, but I've already scenicked around my plan to have access from one end. It's a river landing, a spit of land out into a broad spot in a river somewhere in Appalachia.

    However, I have been thinking about creating another 5 footer for the purpost of stacking them with end plates. This may be a case of simplicity is best. With three feet unscenicked for staging that leaves 2 feet for additional scenery. OR, a more attractive option, using 3 feet of one side, essentially one 'corner' for staging, hidden behind a low rise and some trees, to allow for another scene accessed by switching back.

    I'd always wanted to extend the scene further to include a station scene - half on/half off the water with the track mostly on a pier. Here freight and passengers would be transfered to a river boat for the rest of their journey. Also a rooming house of sorts, and perhaps a timber gantry. I've got a good start on SS Ltd's Timber Gantry that could work well...It was originally planned for the current section, but turns out the footprint was too large. On a new section it may work...

    Thanks for getting the creative juices flowing.

  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I believe that Model Railroad had a plan similar to what you are looking for. There was an article on fine scale (i.e. Proto:87) modelling that featured an Eastern Ontario town (I'm thinking it was Pakenham, but I am not sure). In any case, the station was indeed on piles over the river. There was also a small yard and so on. I'll try and find the issue # for you...

  8. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member


    OK Gang, Thought I'd update y'all on the thinking process moving toward a decision for the carrying case.

    I toyed with the idea of end plates and a second 5 footer. An A-HA moment came when I thought about doing another 5' section with no connection whatsoever to the current layout. In fact, it'd be it's antithesis, with the focus completely on urban scenery (vs. the Murdock's Landing Appalachian, rural, river landing). The only commonality would be the three foot staging platform that each would use, not at the same time (but this would be possible!) They'd be joined by end plates, as described above.

    Now it seems a new career move may be closer than anticipated so the additional 5' section idea is on hold. However, the end plate idea is not. Here's how: I build end plates just for the current layout. The layout is 14" wide, so I'd make the end plates 15 or 16" square. Since I don't have a router, I'd add on a strips all the way around the edge of the inside face of the plate (instead of routing a groove). OR, additional ply laminated to the end plates to create a groove...I do have a jig saw.

    When it's time to move the layout, I'd attach one end plate and stand the layout up on this end. I'd insert 4 panels, each 14" wide by 5' long next to the layout as sides. The other end plate would secure the panels in place. Now the layout itself is providing the strength/framework for the 'box' and the sides just float in place, secured by the end plates. Cool, huh?

    I'm sure it's probably not a new idea, but it just might work and it's well within my construction abilities. I've gotta get this done before we move (hopefully end of May) so I'll post pics when it all comes together.

    In the meantime, I'm waiting on an order of Silflor from Scenic Express...woo hoo!

  9. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Cool... good to hear about all that - the "AHA" idea, the job and so on.

    We don't use "side" plates - find that the end plates bolted to the end of the module (inset T-nuts in the frame) provide enough rigidity. The backdrops and/or plexiglas protectors on the long edges of the modules provide enough protection.

    One thing I am confused about - why do you need 4 panels?

  10. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    4 panels

    The reason I want 4 is to protect all sides, top, and bottom. This isn't a traditional module. This is simply a portable switching layout, completely self-contained (with exception of the staging platform, to be built...but even then it'd work well as a puzzle without it.) And, there's no backdrop. I must not have mentioned that before. It's meant to be operated from either side (or both, with engineer on one side and brakie on the other)

    If I'm not building the additional 5' layout, then the end plates are for the current layout alone, and it's only ONE section, 5' long by 14" wide. SO I need 4 panels. I guess I could get away with three, but I don't want to risk damaging the wiring and exposed foam/scenic elements beneath. Plus I think it would look nicer. And the panels aren't there for rigidity, they're simply to protect the layout.

  11. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Thanks... never thought about that! We do not use covers for the bottoms of the layout, and we have not had any problems that I am aware of. Most people rely on the backdrop and/or plexiglas for protection. Although the plexiglas only extends up the side a few inches, so it does not completely enclose the modules.

  12. CarlFidy

    CarlFidy Member

    Consider the rattle factor

    Just a quick thought on your free-floating panels. They may rattle going down the road. I only mention this because I drove from Tulsa to San Diego with 5 N-trak modules in my Expedition last summer. Forgot to vibration proof them on the way out, definately didn't forget for the return trip. Don't know what kind of vehicle you have, or how far you plan on travelling with the layout, but maybe something you want to consider.

    One other concern with 4 free floating panels, how to keep all of them in position as you attach the second end cap. Would hate for the top panel to slip, and fall on scenery.
  13. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    Of course - your other option is a 3 foot fiddle yard board plus another 2 foot fiddle yard board that fasten together with T-nuts and bolts - This gives you the option of using a long, or a short fiddleyard - depending on space availability
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  14. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    staging & panels

    Tonight I hope to build the staging section. I'm on a layout tour for this area May 20, and have two big events this weekend and next so time is limited. But fortunately it's only a small layout and sprucing it up for an event doesn't take very long at all.

    The current plan is to make the staging using the KISS method. I had grand dreams of a cabinet-quality drawer lined with velvet slots for rolling stock, etc. beneath a platform for cassettes (for which I've had the Aluminum angle for a year now at least...). But alas, 'tis not to be. Now it's a frame of 1/2 or 3/4" ply...not sure which it is, already on hand...cut to shape with a single fixed track aligned to the layout. The base of the frame will be a solid sheet of lauan or other ply and the whole thing will kinda resemble an old tool carry, 3' long by 14" deep and 5 or so inches high. The base will allow me to set rolling stock aside and swap loads on flats, gons & hoppers.

    The original plan also allowed this staging to be used for any other layouts...but I may never get to these other layouts for a while now so I need something simple for this layout. Eventually it could be modified to suit this purpose, but probably not.

    CarlFidy - how did you solve the rattling panel dilemma? I'm thinking a ratchet cable around all four in the middle or a bungee.

    Alright...chores to do around the house first. I'll keep you all posted.
  15. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Galen, panels only rattle if they are not braced well enough to keep them from vibrating or if they are not sufficiently tight. If you build enough correctly designed bracing to keep the sides and ends stiff, and use screws washers and t-nuts to hold everything together, it shouldn't rattle in transit unless something else is set against it and the two pieces can rattle against each other. If I remember your timesaver module correctly, the top is luan with light weight cross bracing across the frame every 12 inches or so. A similar style of bracing on the side and end panels should be sufficient.
  16. shortliner

    shortliner Member

    This may give you an idea - look on the left side foe Arizona Gravel Company. Lots of good ideas on that site
    Shortliner(Jack)away up here in the Highlands
  17. CarlFidy

    CarlFidy Member


    On our club modules, all of our legs hinged to fold up under the module. When setup, we have an angle brace on each leg (just a strip of 1/8' steel attached to the leg on one end and a hole on the other that slips over a pin on the module base with a hitch pin retainer.)
    The angle braces fold down paralel with the legs, and the legs have a clip to hold the brace from falling on lower modules when stacked. Most of the clips are pretty snug, but I had a few loose ones that allowed the brace to vibrate against the legs.

    Solution: zip ties
  18. LoudMusic

    LoudMusic Member

    I just found this picture and thought about starting a thread about transporting modules - turned out this one already existed. So here goes.


    Anybody else have pictures of their layout / module loaded up to go on the road? What about rolling stock transport boxes?
  19. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

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