Boards for the lower level

It has been over six months since the last post – apologies fore that. Progress has been made in that time, but as much as anything I kept forgetting to take photos.

The framework for the baseboards is now complete, and with the addition of diagonal struts on the legs, the layout is now feeling pretty sturdy.

We have boards down for most of the lower level now, as you can see in this image.

The only bits remaining are the short sections unto the fiddle yard at each end and the section crossing the dropped board. Current thinking is that we should put the bridge in place now, so we can build around that.

With that in place, tracklaying for the lower level will commence, with the upper level boards done once that is satisfactory.



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Frames and legs… And a modified plan

Let’s start with the track plan…

The track plan for the lower level has been modified slightly in the station throat and fiddle yard. In the fiddle yard, we now have three long tracks for each direction, plus a single bi-direction track. The plan for exhibitions is to line multiple trains up on tracks one and two, with track three empty. Trains on track one are sent round the layout, to track three. When track one is exhausted, we run trains from track two to track one. then from track three to track two. Rinse and repeat.

The bi-directional line is to support the bay platform.

The topology of the station throat is retained, but reorganised to make it more compact. This allows the platforms to be extended slightly, and keeps the throat point work on a single board – board 2 is lower than the rest, and the new plan keeps all points off that board.

The plan for the upper level is to have each fiddle yard on its own dedicated board, each about 8′ by 8″, so the pointwork for each circuit is on a single board. The upper board will be wired to allow DC operation at the club and DCC at exhibitions, so we want to keep it as simple as possible.

The basic frame for each board is now complete, plus a set of legs. Board 2, being lower, needs different legs, so we have two pairs for that. The other three board will then “hang off” that. However, each board will have a full set of pockets for the legs, so we can put up any one board on its own if necessary.

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Baseboard construction is underway

After a delay of two years, we are now with the new N gauge layout!

Over the course of the last week or so, the basic framework for the four sections has been put together.

We are using 12 mm ply, and the framework is built from strips 50 mm high and 1220 mm long, which were pre-cut when the wood was purchase from Savoy Timber, and I have to say to a surprisingly high accuracy. For the dropped board, two strip are 120 mm high. All were painted with PVA glue to seal the wood.

Holes for bolts and positioning bits, which will be used to connect the four sections, were drilled in pairs to ensure they were fit together later.

Dave 3D-printed two jogs to along holes for drilling the holes for screwing to ensure accuracy. “Gorilla” glue and two screws keep each joint together.

Pre-drilling the holes prevented the wood split, though we did experience that a little bit. A clamp and strong glue cured that.

We also made three pairs of legs – two more to go. But we need more wood for that.

Thanks to Andy P for the photos. I realise I should have taken a couple of what we actually made. Next time.

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2019 AGM Group Photo

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A slight delay…

So not much has happened recently, but we did have a meeting on Monday.

The important news is that the committee has decided that no money will be provides for projects until after the exhibition. There is a worry that if the exhibition has to be cancelled again, the club will not be able to afford the money.

The plan had been to get the wood cut during January and February, so we would be ready to go as soon as the small room is available at the start of March. That is now not an option.

The new plan is to build the upper fiddle yards first. Each will go on a single baseboard, and will give us a chance to try out servos and, perhaps more importantly, controllers for them. These boards will be wired for DC, and all the point work for one circuit will be contained on the board.

While that is being done, hopefully the wood for the rest can be cut.

The next meeting will be the third Monday in March, and hopefully at that point we can make a start!

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More ruminations on baseboards

Another meeting last night, and “Kitchen Mike” was again there to help the discussion with regards to baseboards. He brought along some prototypes too.

Baseboard construction

Mike had two “L” pieces about 8″ long, with an upright, showing how strong they are and well aligned.

The verticals are 12mm ply, nailed to 9 mm ply horizontal pieces. The upright, which will support the upper level track, was 18 mm, but would be 12 mm on the layout, and was both screwed and nailed. A spacer, again 12 mm, was then glued to the upright to bring it flush with the vertical. This does require a hole cut out of the horizontal for the upright to go through (vital for strength in the upright).

The baseboard would go on top of that, so resting on top of the horizontal in some places. It may be necessary to cut further holes in the horizontal for point motors (though the ones at the far right could be on top of the boards as they are in tunnels, accessed from the side).

Cross pieces would need the top corners removed to allow for the horizontals.

I will try to remember to get a photo on Wednesday and add it here.


Another suggestion by Mike is to build a “spline roadbed”. We had been thinking of cutting the track beds out of ply, but that is very wasteful in wood, as most of the sheet is just discarded. An alternative, popular in the US but pretty much unheard of in the UK, is to use vertical boards! Each board is only about an inch high, and numerous are glued together to give the required width. The lamination means they keep their space. Spacers are also put in place to keep weight down.

This should mean that the number of supports required is much reduced, because it will be very solid.

This is the website Mike found:

Do we use splines where the track is relatively straight? Certainly not for the viaduct.

Do we use splines on the lower level at the left? This would require cutting into the cross pieces, but I think would be the best way.

If you have a solid spline, 2″ across, 1″ deep, and a 90° arc of radius 12″, you are using about 37 cubic inches of wood. On the other hand, if you have a sheet of 6 mm ply and cut the trackbed from it you use about 40 cubic inches of wood. So in terms of wood usage, there is not much difference. Introducing spaces into the splines will help that.



Previously someone had pointed out that not all exhibitions have double doors, and it may not be possible to get a 4′ by 4′ trolley inside a hall, and this engendered a discussion on a possible 2.5′ by 4′ trolley, with boards stored vertically. It was generally felt that we would stick to the 4′ by 4′ trolley idea, keeping the boards horizontal as much as possibly during transit. We would select exhibitions with good access (which is the vast majority).

Mike brought along some bed fittings attached to two short lengths or wood. One slotted into the other to provide a very secure fit. He suggested the trolley could be constructed so the four sides come apart in this way, splitting down the L of each leg. During later discussion we realised this was not really what we wanted, and again the original plan was the best.

We agreed we need the biggest wheels we can practically find, 5″ if available.

It was noted that if we do mess up the trolley, it would not be that bad if it had to be re-built.



Mike said that January is often (but not always) a quiet time for him, so would like to have the details by then.

The next meeting will be on the 11th, as the last available Monday of the year.

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Re-thinking the Trolleys?

Last night we had another discussion about the planned layout.

We invited “Kitchen Mike”, who is not an N gauge modeller, but used to own a company that builds kitchens, so is an expert on wood-working and able to offer a “reality check”, as well as getting us wood at a lower price and getting it cut for us too, hopefully. Thanks, Mike!

We will not be able to get the end pieces produced in a set of single pieces as we had planned, though it would be possible to fabricate them. The important thing, in my view, is that we have locating dowels and bolts at two heights, and this is still feasible with the fabricated end pieces.

One point he made is that we are better using thin ply, but in a “L” shape. So most of the boards can be made from 6 mm ply, with only the ends that will be joined together made of 12 mm (rather than 18 mm we had been considering).

He suggested using feet that are found under fitted cupboards to allow the boards to be adjusted (and levelled with a spirit level). Boards joined with self-locking bolts, though it was pointed out that three of these had already failed on Euxton Junc.

Mike suggested that the best way to proceed was for him to get some sheets of 6 mm ply for us. We print out the trackplan full size from AnyRail, and stick it to the boards, then mark the edges of the boards supporting the track with a “pounce wheel”. We can then cut the wood with a jigsaw. He will then take what is left to precious cut the other parts. This will reduce wastage as far as possible.

Someone pointed out that 4′ wide trolleys may not go through some doors at exhibitions, which generated some discussion… An alternative would be to have boards paired up, facing each other, then placed vertically on a trolley, which would only be 2.5 foot wide. How that would convert into legs, and indeed whether the trolley would even be part of the supports, was not clear.

Or only go to exhibitions with big enough doors..?


ETA: Just had a chat with “kitchen Mike”, and he is now thinking 9 mm instead of 6 mm.

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New N Gauge Layout

Last night the committee gave the go ahead for a new N gauge layout to be built, and I am starting this blog to keep members of the club informed and to document the process.

We have already had several meetings. The first set our course:

  • we decided we wanted four circuits so up to four members can run trains on club nights
  • the layout is to go to exhibitions (and will be funded by the club exhibition account)
  • it will be for both DC and DCC
  • it will be set in Lancashire, in BR Blue era

Subsequently we decied to split the running tracks across two levels, and our current track plan look like this:

The detailed proposal put before the committee can be downloaded here.

We will be meeting again on Monday (12/Nov/18) at around 8 pm; any member interested is free to come along.


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