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Dismantling and Moving My Layout

Barnaby asks readers:

“I thought I would live in this house til I die, but we’ve decided to move interstate closer to the son and daughter. Problem is moving my layout (HO) which was not designed to be moved… BIG MISTAKE! I can’t bear the thought of cutting it up, transporting it, and then trying to put it back together somehow. I made the scenery from chicken mesh and plaster of paris. I really don’t know where to start and hate the thought of cutting or damaging the track, trees and scenery. It is 4 foot by 3 foot one way and from the corner stretches 6 foot by 3 foot the other way. Can anyone else who has been through this type of drama give any suggestions on how or where to start? Also how to protect it from getting damaged by the removalists. Thanking you in anticipation.”

9 Responses to Dismantling and Moving My Layout

  • John Baragwanathsays:

    Hi Barnaby I faced the same problem but solved it this way:
    Firstly I removed anything that might be damaged – cars, figures etc. Then I put two extra wooden supports under the layout. Simply screwed through the layout into them as that would entail only minor patching when I removed them.
    I had my layout in the garage so did not have to tilt it 90 degrees – only about 50 to get it out (but it could have gone to 90 if needed as all my scenery etc is well fixed to the board under it), then laid it on a tandem trailer which gave me just enough width & plenty of length.
    Under the layout I placed some foam strips the length of the layout. About 10cm thick & 50cm wide – four of them. Cheap to buy at a foam;/rubber store.
    I put a sheet of thin plastic over the layout (the sort you put on the floor when painting – very cheap) then a lightweight piece of material & gently tied it down so it would not “flap” of pull on the layout.
    As the trailer was a large “box” type it had ends on it so the wind did not damage it. I also cut a few pieces of wood & placed them on the floor of the trailer (each end & the sides) so the layout would not moved around
    Had to tow it about 200Km but it could have been towed 100KM without damage. (By the way, my trailer has springs but no shockers – hence the foam under the layout).
    Anyway, two houses fell over – that was all the damage. My plaster hill remained intact (thanks to the amount of mesh inside them I guess!)
    Good luck with it.

    • Steve Manningsays:

      well…here’s my suggestion(s) as I approach moving my own 18′ x 6′ O Gauge layout from my basement. And it has mountains and a helix, a town, sawmill, river, and 11 tunnels…O and the Lionel Balloon Ride.
      Fortunately I built it using two 4×8 sections of plywood on two screwed together frames, and bolted together the 4×8 frames, plus the 2×8′ control panel
      So my advice…
      TAKE PICTURES OF EVERYTHING – above and below your train table
      CATALOG EVERYTHING – make a spreadsheet of ALL your stuff ( keep a separate one with their values- especially if using a trucking company because they insure by the pound, not by value)
      REMOVE everything except permanent scenery and track…figures, buildings, cars, trees – anything that when covered with a moving blanket will break, shift, or become dislodged.
      DISCONNECT your wiring – use colored tape, sticky labels, color coded wire ties, etc
      I use alpha numeric color coded tape from a label maker, and cut and label track wiring (bus lines) switches, accessories, building lights, etc. separately. one color for Line A bus line, different color for the “B” bus line, and so on
      DISCONNECT your track based on how many sections you’ll have. I have 3. A 4×8, another 4×8, and a 2 x 8 control panel
      LAUGH it’s more work taking it apart than building it…haha
      PACK build sides up all 4 sides of each section to the highest elevation you have – like a mountain top.. I used a roll of commercial shrink wrap I got from my building supply and kept wrapping it around the outside and made it into a bathtub. Then filled it with packing peanuts. Definitely the best. they don’t smash or break things.
      SHRINK WRAP each section heavily. Commercial movers will probably plywood box it. and label. ie #1 = left, #2 = right, control panel front”
      PACK IT since you screwed – not nailed- your frame together, unscrew it and pack it last. That way it comes out first and you can assemble it and just lay out your sections on top of it till you’re ready to start again

  • donsays:

    I am in the same boat as you. The wife decided we needed to move. I built the frame in sections. I used a saw to cut the scenery at each section joint and a rial cutter to cut the track.Not trusting movers and that cost, we rented a U-Haul truck and moved it ourselves while the mover took the rest. Will this be successful, I don’t know. All the sections are in our new place, but I haven’t tried to put it bask together. I keep reciting Humpty Dumpty.

  • Don Jsays:

    I do not mean to be funny but use a saws-all. half the fun of model railroading is modeling. With the pieces, you could try to go back the way it was it inject something new into it.

    The hardest thing and dismantling the layout is the first swing at it. Then it is easier.
    Trust me.

  • Trevor meadsays:

    Hi I moved from a huge attic to my new home and built a 18 x 10 shed ,dismantled everything packed in plastic crates ,then restarted built better with two lift out bridges to do a better layout ..
    I can get to every corner of my new layout ,even the other half likes it …………
    Sometimes a new start is good for everyone and everthing …

    • Billsays:

      I agree with Don tear that whole layout out and start over I’ve had more than 10 different types of layouts and enjoyed them all. Something will get damaged in the move anyway. Enjoy.

  • David Stokessays:

    It is axiomatic that as soon as the layout is “finished”, it is time to cut it up for a move.. I’ve done this 3 times, and two different layouts. As the other guys have said, find natural cut lines to give manageable pieces. On arrival then you will get an opportunity to add or alter the layout to suit the new location. Remove fragile bits (houses, people, trees, vehicles), wrap the pieces in soft plastic, I found painters drop sheets too likely to damage, where as 3mm floating floor underlay appears more gentle.. Make sure you label all cut electrical connections, and stow the cables so as not to snag on any thing. What ever you transport the layout in put it on foam mattresses to counter the rough trip.

  • Newman Atkinsonsays:

    Hi Barnaby, By the Way Merry Christmas. First of all I have witnessed several that tore theirs apart just as they were getting into the finishing phases like scenery. I have read stories of several in the same boat and started over just by taking the axe to it.
    I have a friend who has moved his six times because of his Wife’s Job, He has made his so it breaks down in sections and removable mountains and buildings. He also afixed mounting blocks that fit where buildings and mountains go where he can break them down and stack 3 sections on top of each other. The movers know him well. His recent move I helped set the sections in place and of course they didn’t fit the the new basement. All he did was set the current sections in their best place and built connecting sections to link into the other sections such as a corner section to continue down the next wall. I don’t know it the first time he moved if he cut it in sections but he made sure it would break down from then on.
    To get started breaking it down find the least vulnerable areas and lengths that can be handled and pull the track in the areas you will need to cut. As one of the other folks here suggested on each side of your cuts install some supports to hold the section together. and then make the cuts.
    When moved to the new railroad home extend your support length enough to make good ends for connecting to other sections so they will connect similar to a modular portable club layout. If your new home does not quite fit the existing layout just spread the existing sections apart for a proper fit and build a connecting section whether it may be a straight or a corner section and just press on with what you have already worked on as My friend did. As for my layout I have built it like a moduler at various length of sections and it will break down if I have to. Although I do not plan to move ever again, It is already started if I have to. If I sell it or if something ever happens to me the boys can take it and split the sections and each could have a good start with their share.
    To show this worked, I have the furnace in the corner of the garage. Well the thing I sort of planned for happened. The layout is right in front of the furnace but the sections to both sides of it has to be removed to put a new furnace in. As I had built the sections OK I never got around to installing the wire trailer connectors between the sections yet . I had to cut the wires. So when they got done with the furnace I go in there and a condensation drain pipe is in the way and they installed a big Bear filter right at my table height. So here I go…..Same as someone moving. The existing sections do not quite fit. So in addition to putting these sections back in place I now have to modify them to hinge up enough to change the filter and track connections that has to connect like my swing pass through gate. See my video of the “Counterweight on the Pass Through Gate” on my you tube page of SHRINEHILLRAIL . SO, Find those places that would be most easy to split your board Being sure to support your section before your cuts. When installing across to the new section with your tracks I use standard sectional track to cross the new section break and then relay the existing track to that section of track on each track that is involved. Think of it as converting to a modular layout if you will. If you ever have to move again there you are just break it down and let the movers handle it after you prep it for the move.
    Good Luck and hope I have helped. from Newman Atkinson

  • John Simonsays:

    Again same issue. Didn’t stay until it wasn’t my problem. Couldn’t take it with me from Pennsylvania to California ( even though I designed a transportation rack) I built it in 6 sections ( I learned from my last set built from found ,materials that all you get is rubble otherwise), but the logistics and cost were unmanageable. We had not bought a house in California, and very few have basements.I tried to sell it for 9 months. No takers. I found a club who could not get their layout of the building they built it in so they came and cut up my layout to take and start a new one at their new location. I watched it leave my driveway in the back of a pickup truck. However I gave another HO layout years ago to someone who tried N gauge and found it too small for his kids. He insisted I take the N gauge stuff (many trains miles of track and cartons of engines and rolling stock)… so new adventures ahead.

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