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Old 17-06-2018, 04:23 PM   #1
Mountain Goat
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Default Advantages of Portable Layouts.

Apart from a small N gauge layout which I made to fit an old TV stand back in the early '90's, the layout I'm currently building is the only layout I've made with portability in mind.
(Any new people to this site reading... It is a small layout on two boards in 0-16.5 gauge).

We know that permanent layouts normally have a space advantage. You can normally fill a whole room up subject to "Planning permission" from a wife or mum or anyone else who owns the house, but what happens if circumstances change?

A portable layout can be made that gives the option to bring it with you if you relocate and one is actually more likely to finish the layout as by nature most tend to take up less space.
Another very good advantage is you can turn the layout on its side for working on any wiring or anything else. These points alone are enough to make one consider the portable layout as an advantage over the fixed layout.

Past permanent layouts that I've had have rarely ever reached the stage ofcovering with scenery before something happens where I've decided to take them down again. Sometimes it could be a total new direction of track plan. Other times it has been the need to relocate.

I feel more confident with my current layout that I can bring it up to a finished state (Or an almost finished state!) because I can simply bring it with me if I change rooms or live somewhere else.

Another aspect is that if one is clever, one can build something portable which is expandable so one can first concentrate on building a small layout but later, if one decides to build more, one can.

Size, shape and scale/gauge is up to you if you are considering such a build.

One can build a semi portable layout where it normally sits in a permanent location but if a house move is imminent, one can (With friends or hired help) pick the layout up, put it in a van or lorry and transport it to its new home.

A completely portable layout needs to be built with the concentration being on its portability and ease of transportation in mind from carrying the thing to its ability to fit in the vehicle one may have/borrow/beg/hire etc, so it really needs to be built in portable sections.

One difficulty I had was to think of a design for the legs. This was the most puzzling bit for me at first. The most popular choice is to build trestles. These are relatively easily made and do the job that is intended.
A few small layouts have screw on legs. I use a different design which consists of legs which fold out and from those legs a steady in the form of a bracket or internal legs folds out from the first legs. (Probably easier to show pictures of the principle then try to explain).
Whichever method one has chosen, it needs to be strong enough and rigid enough when erected to work.
Of corse, one can always build a layout without legs which just rest on a work surface or tables. It all depends on the size and what is available, and the idea about what form of portability one has in mind.

I hope what I write may give some pointers to those who have not built a model railway as they may be in a position of not knowing where they will be. It is nice to get on with such a project as it keeps ones enthusiasm alive. One can always build it to form part of a permanent larger layout when ones settled down to live in a fixed location.
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Old 17-06-2018, 04:52 PM   #2
Footplate1947
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Hello MG..............I like your post some good advice which I found time to read most of it.
Only comment I would make about portable layouts and relocating. I have in my life moved more times than I care to remember. About 15 different houses since 1972. That is not counting the house I was brought up in Woodford Green, until I left home..
I often took with me my base boards and never once did they ever fit into the house I moved to. So built new one every time I decided to and butchered to old ones..
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Old 17-06-2018, 05:32 PM   #3
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I guess the solution is to build it in sections in a modular way? Must be annoying to have a room in the new house just the wrong size...
I'm thinking a layout in sections where an extra middle piece could be made to allow the layout to fit in the new house (So if a straight layout is not going to fit, it can be built into an L shaped layout and so on).
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Old 17-06-2018, 07:41 PM   #4
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Would be useful to get the experience of some exhibitors......I have seen some tremendous layouts at shows, a lot of skill and effort needed to design, build and transport them several times a year........HB
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Old 17-06-2018, 07:55 PM   #5
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I think that is what amazes me at shows. Not only are the layouts incredible but they are portable.
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Old 17-06-2018, 08:53 PM   #6
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There are at least five categories of layout:

1. Unmoveable - cannot be dismantled without destruction, cutting through track etc,
2. Moveable - can be dismantled and reassembled, but needs at at least two men and a van to move it.

3. Luggable - can be moved with difficulty, but needs two people to lift it.

4. Semi portable - can be moved by one person, but only a short distance such as dragged across the room.

5. Portable - can be carried by one person, put in the back of a car etc.

The worst problem you have to deal with in designing a portable layout is weight. Things that you add to the layout to facilitate portability also add weight. Folding legs require hinges and catches which add weight. These fittings have to be strong and even the screws add weight!

A straightforward table with four legs glued together with mortice and tenon joints will weigh less than an identical table with folding legs.

I think the best thing to do if you would like a layout, but have nowhere to house it is to create a baseboard the manner of a Hornby Trakmat which can be stood up against a wall when not in use. The most time consuming operation when assembling a layout is fitting the track and wiring it up. You can leave the track in situ, but it is advisable to remove wires - you can easily get tangled up! The sort of thing which happens is the lead gets round a door knob as you go out of the room. I would use Hornby power connectors. You can get a pack of extra connectors. The part to order is Hornby X8011 pin terminal connectors.
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Old 17-06-2018, 11:20 PM   #7
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Thanks Cudworth and all who replied.
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Old 17-06-2018, 11:43 PM   #8
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I have enough of a challenge building a fixed layout. I have always thought that making it portable as well adds a whole new level of difficulty that puts it outside my attention span.

I sometimes look at the show layouts and marvel at how much work must go into the build to make it not just a superb operational layout but it gets carried around the country as well. Those guys put a lot of time and effort into the shows.

I must admit though, most of my own buildings will be removeable and so, if the worse comes to the worse, a lot of work will be salvageable.

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Old 18-06-2018, 10:54 AM   #9
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Some of them are amazing. With others I sometimes look (Or ask) how they made the layout and have been rather surprised how they use rather simply made trestles. Trestles are very easy to build and do the job well. I only opted for the folded leg approach as I was thinking that it was a good plan to keep things together. Though they are of lightweight build, they do add weight to it, so I'm considering ways to reduce the weight of the layout as though its fine now, what will it feel like after I've started to add the scenery?

Something I did to the rear side of the layout is to lighten the woodwork frames. This was done by drilling holes, though I do need to go careful as I need to retain strength in the design. I am considering further holes as well as at certain locations, to cut holes in the baseboard itself which will also add to the scenic effect. If carefully done I can retain strength and reduce weight to the design. At one end I've already made an area where there is a hole and this requires further work in due course.

I'm well used to considering weight with another hobby of mine which is cycles and cycling and one soon learns where one can reduce weight and where one can't. (Some weight reduction in some areas reduce strength and practicality and in other areas it just costs a lot when one only loses a few grams at the most for an incredible dent in ones wallet. These days I opt for slightly more weight if it means durability).
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Old 18-06-2018, 11:31 AM   #10
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I always thought that table tennis tables would make a good layout base then I see on here that just that idea has actually been used. I go to a table tennis club once a week and one of the tables we use is a superb quality table with wheels, brakes, a beautifully sturdy structure and very portable. It simply splits, folds vertically at the pull of a lever and rolls away.
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