module construction

Discussion in 'Modular Layout Forum' started by inkaneer, Nov 1, 2006.

  1. inkaneer

    inkaneer Member

    As mentioned in the first post on this thread, I am concentrating on modules that are 2' x 6' as these will fit into my minivan. While a 2 x 4 module would be lighter it does not 'pack' as well as a 2' x 6' module. Meaning I get better utilization of space in the minivan with 2' X 6' modules. In addition the longer modules mean less transition tracks between modules. So while the 2' x 6' modules are heavier there are some important trade offs that have to be considered. That being said, the 2' x 6' modules could be carried by one person but because of their length they can become unwieldy for one person. We generally clamp two modules together so two persons are still used to carry them. Still there are ways to make them lighter. I avoid use of the 2" styrofoam preferring to use 1/4" luan underlayment. Several reasons for this and one is the loss of 2" of clamping area on the end boards for clamping the modules together. I want that clamp to be as high up and as close to the track as possible.
  2. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hi Inkaneer. Three cheers for 6 foot modules! I've got two 6-footers - Bancroft and Irondale which join together in a set. It starts off as a double-track conventional module at the Bancroft and and ends up as a single-track Free-mo at the Irondale end. Because of the location of the industries, it makes for some interesting switching as other trains try to slide past the freight that's doing the switching. I find that extra four feet of module length on the two 6-footers makes for some more interesting modules

    Of course, it helps if you've got a mini-van in which you can transport the modules (which I have). And it may require a bit more in the way of logistics to move them in and out of the house. However, there's always some tricks of the trade to make things easier.

    Starting off from the basics, you need light materials (eg - pine module frame, 1"x 4" wood, styrofoam base, styrofoam scenery, spackling compound instead of plaster, etc) when constructing the modules. If move your modules in boxed sets (two modules connected together with carry-plates) You can always cut "hand-holds" into the carry plates.

    For getting the modules out of the basement, I use a 2-wheel cart (the same that the beer guys use to move the suds in and out of the stores) and a winch-strap. I simply move the boxed-set of modules onto the cart, strap the modules to the cart, and haul them up the stairs and out to the van. It's a short lift from the cart into the back of the van. And it helps that the modules are relatively light (not a drop of plaster!).

    On arriving at the setup hall, I can either get someone to help me carry in the modules (regardless of whether they are 4' long or 6' long) or I can use the wheeled dolly that I fabricated out of some 2"x 3", a piece of plywood, a chunk of carpet, and four 3" wheels. I simply haul the modules out of the van and plonk them on the dolly, ready to wheel them into the hall.

    Lots of other tricks of the trade, I'm sure, are out there. What do you use to move your modules around?

    Bob M.
  3. inkaneer

    inkaneer Member

    Like most minivans , the rear area minus the seats allows a 48 inch width and about 84 inch length. I have found that by clamping two modules togeter into pairs and keeping each set of paired modules to less that 16 inches in width that I can haul 6 - 2 x 6 foot modules if stood on their sides . On top of these I can place horizontally two end modules also clamped togetherr each 4 x 6 foot. These end modules provide a 180 degree curve. I also have room for other items such as power supple, legs, curtain or drape and other essentials. In effect I have a complete 6 x 26 foot layout consisting of eight modules packed into one vehicle. Now I could do a 6 x 28 foot layout with 4 foot modules but it would consist of 12 modules not 8. That is 50% more modules to level and install joiner tracks.
  4. Connor

    Connor Member

    Railwaybob! I just started building my modules for my home layout.. I've been on your site several times.. I failed to read the part about the size of the boards... I went and picked up premium grade 1" x 4" to use for the frame, and am using 2" pink foam. I still have to dry fit and glue in the foam, but the frames for 2 of them are done. I was rather disappointed in myself after going back and reading that you used 1" x 5"'s or 1"x 6"s for your frame.. I've only got 3/4" inch below the braces to use clamps on. :curse: because I used 1" x 4" however, I still like them and think they're going to work fine.. I just now have to go and find the correct fittings to make my legs out of PVC. I'm hoping not to have to do any cross bracing if possible.. as It'll make it hard for me to use the underside of the layout as storage, which was one of they only reasons I got away with making my layout as big as it's going to be. (Had to make some concessions to the wife!) I was also planning on decking the bottom of the foam with 1/4" Luan so I would have something to attach tortis switches etc to the bottom.. But, didn't want to eat up any more room.. I guess I can cut 2 pieces and glue them to the underside of the foam and not loose any more room..

    Thanks, Connor
  5. railwaybob

    railwaybob Member

    Hello Connor. 1"x 6", 1"x 5", 1"X 4", or strips of 3/4" plywood cut to whatever width - it all works. You use what is available to you. personally, I'd like to go with 1"x 4" (ie 3/4" x 3 1/2") lumber and 1 1/2" styrofoam, but I have to stick to the club standards (another consideration when you're building your modules).

    If you aren't going to brace the legs, you might want to consider the 2"x 2" legs which screw into a T-nut. This makes things easier to build. Tortoise switch machines can be glued to a small piece of 1/8" plywood (usually called "door skins") which in turn can be glued to the underside of the styrofoam. Mason Jar can give you more details on this as a number of persons in our club have installed Tortoise switch machines this way.

    Have fun. (I am!)

    Bob M.
  6. Connor

    Connor Member

    Any suggestions on 3' x 3' corner module (with one corener knocked off, so it'll join up to 2' modules. ??

    What about 2' x 2' square modules? (Or extentions) Take a look at my layout and you can see the different modules I have planned..
  7. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery


    I don't know that I can provide much more info than Bob - he's got some of my modules under construction in his basement...!

    There are indeed a few members who have installed Tortises. They have been recessed into the 2" foam and do not stick out much at all. 3/4" of an inch should give you enough room to run wires and other stuff along the bottom of the module.

    If you do not want to cross brace legs, Bob's solution is good. But if the layout is more movable than transportable (i.e. you are not taking it out to meets) then why not do away with the legs all toether and mount the modules on shelf brackets? That makes for plenty of room underneath. See Gary S's solution for his HO scale layout:

    In terms of suggestions - are you looking for track plans, or something else? There's quite a bit of good information on NTrak modular railroading here: and

  8. ozzy

    ozzy Active Member

    blue and pink foam is the same stuff, just differant brands.

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