Modular Layout

Discussion in 'HO Scale Model Trains' started by Rescue1, Nov 16, 2005.

  1. Rescue1

    Rescue1 New Member

    Hello All,

    I am a newbie to the whole model railroad construction. I have been interested in the hobby for years and have been reading up and collecting vehicles and trains for thelast 3 or four years.

    I am 23 and have finally gotten settled into a small apartment that has an adeqate spare bedroom for a smaller layout and im determined to finally build my first descent layout.

    My idea since the rent is on a bi-monthley basis I want to build a layout that is in a modular form so that if things dont work out at my new place it can easily be broken down into the mods, transported and then reasembled in the my new place with minimaldamage to the layout structure.

    I have never in any magazine seen a layout constructed in this manner so I was asking for ideas and a little help. Has anyone built anything along these lines or seen anything along these lines. Is this idea even possible given the complexity most layouts need for track lay and scenerey construction. I obviously need it to be sturdy but easily brokrn down if I need to move.

    for help and advice

  2. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Hi Andrew,

    Welcome to The Gauge!

    We have a Modular forum here ->

    The first thread is a list of resources for all scales/types of modular construction.

    I belong to, an Ottawa based modular group that uses two types of modules: standard (double track close to the front of the module) and free-mo (single main, centred). The variety of layouts possible is quite staggering. Our annual "rally" has enough modules to make up about 14 scale miles of mainline running!

    Take a look through the Modular Forum to see if it helps. Sept 2004 Model Railroader has an article written about a modular layout that is actually part of our club.

  3. Chessie6459

    Chessie6459 Gauge Oldtimer

    Welcome Aboard The Gauge Andrew.:wave: You will find alot of information here.
  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    There are really two methods of layout design that would work. One is a sectional layout, the other is modular. The difference is that modular layouts are built to a standard so that they will hook up to other modules and the mainline tracks will all line up to make a layout. The sectional design is similar, but the individual sections are made to go together in one way, and aren't intended to interchange into a modular layout with other modeler's module. David Barrow's "dominoe" method of layout building could be modular, but is sectional the way he builds them. I suspect that a sectional layout design would work better for you in your situation because it would not restrict you to where any of the tracks would have to run. Virtually any type of shelf layout plan will lend itself to sectional design. First figure out what space you have available for a layout in your current apartment. I'm planning to do a 7' x 9' "L" shaped switching layout in a spare bedroom after my youngest daughter moves out. Look at layout plans for the space that you have available, and see if you see one you like. Most are drawn with a preconceived plan for what is going to be modeled and what the scenery will look like. Ignore everything but the track plan. You can take a layout that is conceived to be in New England, and put it in the Southwest if you want just by changing the scenery and details. When you find the track plan you like, either make a bunch of photo copies, or do drawings of the plan. The important consideration is that the plan fits your space. Now take a drawing or photo copy of the plan and decide where to break it apart. Here is a hint. The fewer tracks you have crossing a joint, the faster and easier it will be to take down and put together, and the better the operation will be. This is where the sectional plan will work to your advantage. A modular club sets standards for length of modules. The club I'm in requires modules to be exactly the correct length in 2 foot increments (ie- 2', 4', 6', etc.). I can't make a 5' module unless I make a second odd length module to put with it to total a 6', 8', 10', etc. total length. With your sectional plan, you can make a section any length that is convenient for you. If the best place to divide your sections occurs at a place that makes one section 3' 3" long and the other section 4'2" long, you can do it. One more thing to think about is what will be under your layout? Your apartment is going to be a bit cramped, and if your layout can function as something else, that will help. I have an entertainment center that is exactly 4' tall and flat on top, I have also purchased the Ikea Ivar modular shelf unit 4' tall. When I set the entertainment center on one wall and install the modular shelf unit on the other wall, I have a base under the layout to support my benchwork that will also provide space for a t.v., book shelves, etc. I even have one section of the Ivar shelving that has a pull out desk top to use as a modeling desk. This thing is getting a bit long, so I'll stop for now. If you have any questions, put them in this thread and I'm sure I or others here will be happy to help you. If you don't find a commercial track plan you like, post the dimensions you have available, the type of locomotives and equipment you want to run, the scale, etc in the track planning forum. There are quite a few guys on here who can help you with track plans.
    There is one more thing that I should mention. You may eventually want a large model railroad like so many that we see in the modeling magazines, but your apartment may not leave you enough space to model what you want. You could simply model an industrial section, and put up some masonite or plywood stops at each end to keep trains from running off the layout and onto the floor. Put in your scenery and details on that small layout and do switching on it. Eventually when you get your first house with a basement, or room that can be dedicated to the model railroad, you have the industrial section done and you can simply build on each end to make your dream layout.
  5. Joseph Hall

    Joseph Hall New Member

    Welcome to the Gauge. This is an unbelieveably helpful bunch of Model Railroaders, I'm sure that they'll help you like they have me.
    I'm in a similar boat as you, I'm in the military and know that I'll be moving every few years with no idea of what my next home looks like until I sign for the keys.
    A great resource that will give you a lot of good ideas on building a sectional layout is David Frary's "Pennsylvania Railroad Middle Division (plus, I'm a PRR modeler, so it's a plug for "my guys"). He designed and built a pretty big layout with the intent of moving it after it was done, so he took into consideration door sizes, layout/scenary height, etc. It shows how to build the benchwork, wire, lay track with the ability to disassemble it and move it later on. I'm sure you can find a copy of it at a local hobby store or order it from Klambach.
    What I'm doing-like you, too, I amassed equipment over a year or so-is building sections that will one day fit into the big dream layout, but I'm building them modularly so that when my wife is at work, I can drag them into the living room, dining room and hallway and hook them together to run a train, even just back and forth.
    Hope this helps a bit and I'm sure you'll get more advice here, but get that book!!
  6. Rescue1

    Rescue1 New Member

  7. jim currie

    jim currie Active Member

    :wave: welcome to the gauge :wave:
  8. Rescue1

    Rescue1 New Member

    May have another problem with a sectional layout... With the rollong stock and Engines that I currentley have collected. I know with the passenger cars I will need A LOT OF SPACE..... 40 45" radius turns...

    BUT here is what I have for you to critique and comment on.....


    1 EMD F9 Deisel & Caboose Set, UNION PACIFIC, Bachmann, Generic Set
    1 EMD F9 Deisel & Caboose Set, Santa Fe, Bachmann, Generic Set
    1 GE DASH 8 40BW, Amtrak, Walthers Trainline #510
    1 GE DASH 8 40BW, Amtrak, Walthers Trainline #506
    1 SD40-2, C&NW, Athearn


    1 85' Superliner II Sleeping Car, Amtrak, Walthers Trainline
    1 85' Superliner II Sightseer Lounge, Amtrak, Walthers Trainline
    1 85' Superliner II Dining, Amtrak, Walthers TL
    1 85' Superliner II Transition Sleeper, Amtrak, Walthers TL
    1 85' Superliner I Coach Baggage, Amtrak, Walthers TL
    1 85' Superliner I Coach Smoker, Amtrak, Walthers TL
    1 60' Material Handeling Car, Amtrak, Walthers TL

    Is a decent sectional layout still possible with this stock????
  9. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    I'm sure those passenger cars will operate without problems on 30" radius, and they might work on something as tight as 24". How much space can you dedicate to a model railroad? Remember as you think about this that you can build a sectional layout on top of a set of book shelves, or an entertainment center, so you can take quite a bit of space around a room without having to sacrifice other uses of the same space.
  10. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    Our modular club maintains a 40" min radius standard using only 2x4 foot modules. Check for standards.

  11. Joseph Hall

    Joseph Hall New Member

    Rescue 1-
    The Dave Frary book is on Amazon for $11.95.
    It's also at my local hobby shop, but I'm not sure how much it is. I'm not plugging Mr. Frary, but it is an excellent book with good ideas about everything.
    Your curve radii (?) seem generous-bigger is always better- but I'm sure that equipment will run and look good on 30" radius or so.
    When I figured Horseshoe Curve out, it came out to about 20 feet accross with about 32 feet of track going around it.
    I think you can build anything you want, just limited by your space and future plans.
    I know when I finally settle down, my wife is going to wonder why the 25' square extension off our already huge finished basement.
    Good luck and keep us posted.
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    40" will work for a modular club; but if he wants continuous running, he will then need either a pair of loops at each end 6'8" in diameter; or he will have to go all the way around a room bridging all doorways, closets, etc. By the way, Andrew, how big are your club's corner modules?
  13. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    The newest footprint (experimental?!) is an "L" shape made up of two 2x4 foot modules, making one side 4' and the other 6'

    More conventional corners are built on a 53" square footprint. See:

  14. Rescue1

    Rescue1 New Member

    The reason for the 45 50" was keeping in mind if I want to run an inside passing lane.
  15. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Double track through a curve only needs a couple of inches difference in radius to work. In fact you can do it with the same radius inside and outside if you go an extra inch or two in the outside straight before going into the curve and then put a short straight in the middle of the curve. If you are using flex track, which you have to use to get greater than a 22 inch radius, it is easy to go with a 30 inch radius on the inside and 32 inch radius on the outside. Our modular club standard is 36 inch radius minimum on mainlines, but virtually everything manufactured except brass articulated locomotives will work and look good on a 30 inch radius. Brass locomotives are manufactured as exact scale models down to articulating just like the prototype, so they frequently need a larger radius than plastic.

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