Is this feasible in HO

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by Taylor, Dec 27, 2005.

  1. Taylor

    Taylor New Member

    I'm fairly new to model RR and am working on my first layout in HO scale. One of my issues is space and am wondering if this a feasible plan.

    I live in an apartment and the spare bedroom/office is where I'll be building. For now, I will not be able to go larger than a 4x8 layout. In the next 2 years, my wife and I should be purchasing our first house so I'm going to use my 4x8 to just get started and then expand when we get the house.

    What I'd like to do is start building in Modules. I'll build a 4ft by 8ft table that will have a sheet of plywood on top. I will, however, be building the railroad on a 1/4 sheet of wood similar to that used in the rear of kitchen cabinets. I'd like to build in sections like this so I can both easily move it out when the time comes, and be able to section things back together, even in a different position when we get the house.

    The first part of my project is to build a railyard. I've purchased a 2ft by 4ft piece of cabinet board and will build my yard on this. It will start off with 3 staging tracks (turnouts at both ends) and depending on structures, etc I'd expand to possible 6 tracks. The 'Northeast' and 'Northwest' sides will have track coming in from a mainline or a service line. The thought is when we get into the new house (and depending on space), I could change the location of this off to the side somewhere. I could then extend the layout beyond the original 4x8.

    Anyhow, is it feasible to build a 4x8 layout in sections and piece it together in this fashion? Have you guys and gals heard of somebody setting their layout up like this?
  2. hminky

    hminky Member

  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    Welcome to The Gauge!

    Check the Modular Forum for plans on how to build your railroad 2x4 feet at a time... The link is in my signature...

  4. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    I'm wondering if 1/4 inch will be stable enough in four foot lenghts or if it will bend and buckle a bit when you move them (?).
  5. pgandw

    pgandw Active Member

    1/4 inch plywood has to be supported every 12 inches or a little less, or it will sag.

    I strongly recommend the lightweight modules created by building a dimensional lumber frame with foam inside. See

    for detailed instructions on building a module. You can add 1/4 inch plywood on top of the foam but it is not necessary. Gluing pieces of 1/4 in ply underneath the foam is useful for mounting switch machines . You can also make the frame less than 6 inches high - 1x3 is plenty for a 2x4 ft module - but it leaves less room for wiring and other underneath the foam stuff.
  6. Taylor

    Taylor New Member

    Thank you for the replies...

    I had been looking in those forums, however, I am not following any true standard except for my own. I see a lot of modules that are built to be joined onto other people's modules. In my case, I have my own standard and will be specific to my own layout. There are, however, some useful hints I've found in that forum and will be using them ;)

    The piece of wood that I purchased is pretty solid and doesn't bend much. In this case, there will not be a lot of weight on it when it comes time to move. If I do find this as a problem during transport, I could probably make a platform to carry them on (kind of like a stretcher for model trains ;) )

    I should mention that the table itself will have a plywood sheet on top so bending will not be an issue during operations...and transport should be OK.
  7. zedob

    zedob Member

    Hi Taylor and welcome aboard to the Gauge.

    You came to one of the most resourceful MRRing forums around. Great people with alot of modeling experience. Lots of mouthwatering pics:thumb: . It's actually better than a magazine, in my opinion.

    I would think that if you cut your top lightweight sheet of plywood into 2' x 4' modules or sections, then place them on the table with the thick plywood then screw them down to the table you shouldn't have a problem. I don't advocate that type of benchwork construction, but it should work fine.

    AS for moving the layout when you move, I wouldn't worry about it too much. Chances are, by the time you move your desire to build a bigger and better layout will have overcome you. Even to the point of buying a house with MRR real-estate and trackage rights in the equation.:D

    I too am planning on buying a house within the next two years and I let it be known to my wife that I get the basement or other possible RR real-estate. AS for the layout I have right now? It's a goner. Just because it's a chance for a new start. There are plenty of things I'd change and that's exactly why I built it. It's an experiment. Same as the previous ones, with each one getting progressively better. However, none were what I would say; finished. This one will be the closest I get to that realization.
  8. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    One thing to consider is making a series of modules that join together end to end, instead of four that combine into a 4x8. A linear "shelf" layout has a lot more operating potential, and can be expanded to be part of an around-the-room layout. This can be a nice thing for an apartment layout--instead of monopolizing the middle of one bedroom, it can run around the edges, leaving room in the middle for other uses. A shelf layout built in modulescan be set on top of bookshelves or commercial tables, eliminating the need to mount the layout on the wall.

    A frame is a good thing to have under your plywood sheet, even if it doesn't seem to be bending now--a lightweight frame of 1x2 lumber provides space under the layout to run electrical wiring, switch controls, and the attachment points which will allow you to secure your modules to each other.
  9. 60103

    60103 Pooh Bah

    Taylor: modular standards are inteneded to let you match your module up with someone else's. If you don't plan to take them to shows and join up, you don't have to follow the details, but you can steal a lot of ideas.
    I built a 2x4 HO layout on 1/4" plywood without bracing and it sagged noticeably.
  10. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    2x2 is about the biggest piece of 1/4" ply you can use without sag. And even that will have an awful lot of torque-flex without bracing.

    I think you would find the modular "standards" too restrictive unless you plan to take your modules out and link 'em up with others. But as 60103 says, the plethora of info out there on modules can still be a great use to you.
  11. Taylor

    Taylor New Member

    I should clarify that the 1/4 inch goes on top of a sheet of plywood. The problem is having a 4x8 layout and trying to get it out of this apartment when the time comes. Moving 2x6 sections would be easier (and can be carried on a plywood 'stretcher' when moving). Picture a 4x8 sheet of plywood as a table top and then sections of 2x6 lying flat on top of the plywood. Then, when I move, I can keep my railyard on its current section. Then when I move, I would incorporate that section into a new layout (perhaps attached to the end somewhere).

    From some of the responses here, it seems that it probably isn't the best idea. I can't imagine trying to move a 4x8 layout down a narrow hallway apartment and down some steps (let alone trying to get it through the doorway it will be in).
  12. kchronister

    kchronister Member

    Taylor - I think your concern may be overzealous. I've lived in some tiny apartments in NYC and any of them you could have got a 4x8 sheet of plywood out... Think of it this way - if you can get a full-size bed boxspring in or out, you can likely get a 4x8 out in one piece.

    If you really feel this is a problem, and a modular approach is the way to go, I still say avoid the 1/4" ply, it's just too flimsy. I'd say either build a 4x8 framework and use 2x4' pieces of pink foam for your "modules", or use 3/4" ply for the modules.

    The point is there's really no reason to have a plywood top on the table and _then_ some form of base for the modules too. Make the "table" a simple open frame. A 2'x2' grid made of 1"x4" lumber would be MORE than enough. Then make the "top" your "modules"...

    If you use foam, you'll have to figure out how to hold it to the frame...Glue would be fine, but sort of defeats the purpose. I'm a foam fan, but I might use plywood for this situation, then you can screw (but _don't_ glue) each sheet to the frame. Then when you want to move "zip zip"... the screws come out and you're ready to roll.
  13. zedob

    zedob Member

    I concur with kchronister.

    I built my shelf layout in portable modules 12" wide (the lengths vary and they won't fit any standard club modules, just my own layout) out of 1 x 2's and a sheet of 1/2" ply with foam on top. The plywood is really unnecessary. I used it to help keep MRR funk from falling onto my computer and other office equipment. I kinda regret using it for wiring purposes, but gouging a trough through foam is not too hard to do by hand. It does give you a nice place to put a pair of rail nippers down and to hold that cup of coffee and screws and glue bottles and...

    Foam is great to work with. It's rigid, light and easy to cut. It will bend, but not near as much as plywood and it's not affected by humidity (just don't let a solvent based what-ever come in contact with it). Depth of section is why it's so rigid and resistant to bending. Compare that to 1/4" ply.

    You still need some type of frame if only to have something that each module can mechanically fasten to one another. Don't rely on screws to hold in foam for anything requiring strength. Get a few sheets of 2" pink . The long edges actually interlock, so that should take care of vertical alignment, bot don't hold me to that. I've never had to use the interlocking edges together on my layout, so I don't know if alignment would end up perfect, YMMV.
  14. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Correct me if I'm wrong here, but I think the original poster is referring to using "1/4 sheets of plywood" as in ONE QUARTER of a sheet of plywood--a piece 2 feet by 4 feet. Not a plywood sheet of 1/4" thickness.

    Incidentally, 1/2" or 3/4" thick plywood gives a much more stable base--but you still want to do some framing underneath, to provide places for your wiring and inter-module connectors to go.

    There's nothing impractical about a modular or sectional approach to railroading--it's a great choice if you have limited space and might want to relocate. My own layout is based on several non-identical sections, all built around the idea that I might want to relocate and take the layout with me. It's mostly a 1 foot deep shelf layout.

    The problem with the "thin plywood on top of a thicker plywood table" concept is that it leaves no space for under-layout wiring--all those wires (and they can add up, even if you're using DCC) will be bumping about under the table, which means that your modules WILL NOT LAY FLAT. You also won't be able to use under-table switch machines or manual-remote switch machine controls, or any of the various accessories or special effects that require a little real estate under the table.

    Instead of setting the modules on a flat plywood table, an open framework table or shelf allows you to have access to the underside of the layout and weighs LESS than that big sheet of plywood. You can bolt or C-clamp the modules to the framework, have access to everything, and make use of that under-table real estate to your heart's content...
  15. zedob

    zedob Member

    Taylor's words:

    "I should clarify that the 1/4 inch goes on top of a sheet of plywood."

    3 posts up.
  16. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    1/4 inch WHAT?
  17. zedob

    zedob Member

    The cabinet board he was talking about, but I do see where he mentioned 1/4 sheet of wood. I assumed the first was a typo and that he meant 14" thick cabinet backing (masonite?), which was baically confirmed with the later post, but after going back to the first post I noticed where you could have gotten your idea.

    >>>I'll build a 4ft by 8ft table that will have a sheet of plywood on top. I will, however, be building the railroad on a 1/4 sheet of wood similar to that used in the rear of kitchen cabinets.<<<
  18. GeorgeHO

    GeorgeHO Member

    To answer one part of your question, YES.
    You can make three individual modules, 2x6, 2x6, and 2x4, lay them out in a 4x8 area, and connect them together, and run them as one layout.
    You can make up your own set of standards and have these modules connect in different patterns so that you can run them as point to point, around the wall if you wish.
    If you check with the modular groups in your area you may find that the techniques they use will assist you in designing and building your modules.
    If you build your modules, you may come accross problems in construction and operation, THEN you will understand what the concerns of everyone answering you are, and hopefully and probably you will be able to easily correct and overcome them.
  19. Taylor

    Taylor New Member

    Thank You again to everyone for the responses.

    You are correct...some of the responses I don't understand, but I still believe they are valid (and that's why I asked). Some great points were made. Something that I totally missed was the wiring. Jetrock mentions problems with my layout in wiring. At first, I did not see a lot of need for additional wiring (manual switches, etc), however, the more I plan things out, I've found that I will need to do some wiring.

    I'd like to thank everyone for the responses and I'm definately glad I asked here before I broke out the hammer and nails and started building this thing. Time to get back to the basics as I have come across some excellent plans over the past few weeks and I'm getting closer to finalizing my layout. Everything is still on the drawing board at this point...

    Thank You again to everyone and I hope everyone has a safe New Years ;)
  20. Woodie

    Woodie Active Member


    Just some ideas on what I did when I had limited space, but when eventually moving, I'd have much more space.

    I tossed around the idea of a "module" as well, however I also wanted continuous running. However, thinking long about it, I decided that I'd do just a 4 * 8 HO layout, as a practice one for when I could do a larger one. With every intention of chucking it out. This would allow me to practice some things, because, initially, if you boo boo, then it's quite horid to fix. I'm glad I did it that way because, did I boo boo. Lots of boo boos. Learned heaps in the process too.

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