Locoyard Model Railway Working Towards Version 2.0

Locoyard - Hornby LSWR T9 class (1)Newer followers of this blog may find it hard to believe that this website started life as a model railway diary.  The focus and involvement of this blog has almost exclusively switched to the real thing.  The subject of the blog, the original layout, was dismantled over a year ago and will not be resurrected.  In truth, the old layout was never supposed to be “permanent” and was not built to last for any length of time. It’s foundations were a simple board on a table arrangement and over time this started to distort, although it lasted longer than I expected.

A home move and a change in available space brought locoyard the model railway to an end. Immediately after moving I began thinking of ideas for locoyard model railway version 2 that ranged from realistic to massively over-optimistic!  The good news (for me!) is that I’ve finally got away from dreaming and some progress has started.  We’re a long way off from a “grand opening” but plans are at last moving along into something tangible.

As you get older you appreciate that you need to make forward plans, looking ahead in years and even decades and this comes with it understanding of the saying “Rome wasn’t built in a day.”  Locoyard model railway version 2 will not be temporary like the old one, but semi-permanent. Realistically it will probably be altered and/or moved in a couple of years, turning into either something smaller of larger depending on future circumstances.  For the time being, the layout will live in a box room that is essentially 8 by 6 foot in size.  At first that seems like a lot of space, but once you consider an opening door and access to a window, plus the need to access the layout, the space available is quite small.  It also becomes a more complex building proposition – it cannot be a standard simple rectangular layout that can sit on a table as I just don’t have the right space.

This leads us nicely on to the subject of baseboards and a confession – I’m not great at DIY!  Yet I need a bespoke baseboard arrangement that is semi-permanent that can be dismantled and moved without too much hassle.  There are also two other factors to contend with, the first being most people’s least favourite topic – budget and the second that I am quite stubborn!  In a nutshell, this means that despite not being adept at DIY, building a baseboard from scratch is the option I have decided to go for because it is ultimately the best value.  There are some excellent baseboard manufacturers out there and their products are not unreasonable for what you get.  However, calculating the prices for the result in my mind, I’ve worked out that I can buy the materials and the tools for what I want to do for around the same price or less.  I’ll also then be left with some useful tools and the knowledge that any future building projects will be far cheaper and less of a challenge.

Like any challenge, building a bespoke baseboard can be broken into manageable bite size pieces.  This is why planning is so important and I’ve been doing this behind the scenes.  Planning can feel like a waste of time, but it really does help manage progress and your own expectations.  I started with research and not as to what region or era or subject matter of the layout but research into how to build a baseboard and how to realistically get the most from the space available.  There are many guides and publications out there and as with most things in life they vary in how easy they are to follow.  The best one for someone of my level of (in) competence was the Hornby Magazine Model Railway Design Manual Volume One.  So well done Hornby Magazine, you’ve produced an excellent guide. The guide explains how to plan and build a baseboard in a format and language that is easy to follow and explains what needs to be done to build a baseboard.

I’ve covered the principles of planning before (click here to read,) so I won’t go over it again.  However what I will do is use my own advice.  When planning your layout you need to know what space you have and more specifically, how much of that space you can use with a combination of the budget, time and skills you have available to you.  So I looked and measured the space and found that a continuous run layout would be possible, but would require a fold-up section to cross the room door.  At this stage, such a technical feature feels like a bridge too far for my limited skills and so I settled on a U shaped layout.  But I had to ask myself if I have the time, skill or budget to even build that, bearing in mind the complexities required to get the most of the space. My answer sounded as if I were from a politician – not a yes or a no! I figured that the end result of a U shaped layout will be possible in time if I pick up the skills in stages.

The seemingly complex baseboard required at first put me off, but I kept with the idea.  I could see that the same result could be achieved by building five separate rectangular baseboards.  So starting from the scary prospect of building a large structure, I’ve moved on to the methodology of building five small baseboards to be locked together which was much more appealing! Particularly because only two of the five would give me something to start operating model trains from – which I really miss.  I also had the hankering for varying the height of one baseboard so that I could have a train crossing a river or even a road bridge.  As daunting as that seems now, it could be left to one of the future baseboards.  The KISS acronym came to mind (Keep It Simple Stupid) and so I thought I’ll start simply at first – who knows, I may increase in skill and confidence later on.

So the short term project was to build two 1200mmx600mm baseboards – something relatively simple and achievable.  To do this I broke the tasks down, starting with purchasing tools.  As I am building without the skills or tools in my ownership, the costs are front-loaded as you need to get the correct kit before you start.

I initially subdivided the task of building the baseboard into the top and legs – mainly as I was undecided on the legs/support required, whereas the top would be the same regardless.  The next task on my list was to purchase the wood, followed by cutting, then constructing the frame, finally mounting the board.  The legs were then to follow.

So where are we now?  Well I’ve made a good start.  The tools have been purchased and set up. The most (retrospectively) funny thing being assembling the workbench – it would have been so useful to of had another workbench to do that! Timber has also been purchased and one baseboard has had the wood cut and frame constructed, the second has the wood cut but not yet assembled and wood is also available for baseboards 3 and 4 for the future.

Baseboard Frame

So yes, we finally have some tangible evidence of something happening!  As I am not particularly skilled, progress is slow, but it’s progress anyway.  As for writing a guide on building baseboards… I’m still learning and am not ready to be a tutor! Not yet anyway…

Click here for an update.

Thanks for reading!

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