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Avoiding Damage When Relocating A Model Railroad Damage

Luc sent in this question and is hoping a reader can advise him:

“I had a model train layout 3m x 4 m all around the room, with hole in the middle a long time ago. I had to take it apart as we moved to another house. Luckily iI only had the tracks installed, placed a house etc, but no scenery yet, so nothing was fixed in place. So everything could be re-used and not much work was required or material was lost. So all my trains are form before 2000 (Roco, Fleischmann) so are non DCC. I have a few with Fleischmann FMZ (I guess worthless today)

Since then I had no spare time to start this up again because I was working on the house , garden etc. Now I am bit older at 62 (more time) and I want to build it up again, with a new track plan, studying about DCC, what is on the market, block system etc.

My question is this – what is needed to make sure that the model train layout is not to be destroyed when one needs to move it again for some reason? (e.g. I die and the kids want to keep it for them or their children, or someone wants to buy it).

It would be a pity if it needs to be destroyed after many years of work, right? How do other people live with this idea, or is breaking down scenery no issue?

This time I will be a symmetrical U shape design, with each leg of the U will around 122cm width and the whole layout fits in 3m x4 m.

I thought I would build the whole thing and make sure that at the junction of each U leg things are double fitted (one on each leg). That way one can saw/cut it when needed with less damage, and cut the tracks there when needed. I would make sure no housing is there, or take them away? I want to keep the damage as low as possible. Also all the wires will need to be cut. So I would cut it in pieces of max 122cm x 244cm (the size of on original wood panel)

The other way is modular as you said, but what does that include from the start? Does it not put a limitation on the track layout (long tracks at a station)? What does one do with the structures and housing, glue them on the scenery? The scenery, the tracks , how to make it modular? Thanks in advance.”

5 Responses to Avoiding Damage When Relocating A Model Railroad Damage

  • Dale Arendssays:

    Making a layout modular is actually fairly simple. There are a few tricks, however.
    1. Make sure to have alignment mechanism between the modules. This can be as simple as some long bolts securing the sections together.
    2. Make the modules as long as reasonably handled, usually about 1 to 3 meters.
    3. Wire the modules together with polarized plugs and sockets so that they can be safely disconnected and reconnected.
    4. Don’t glue down structures. (You shouldn’t anyway since if they are internally lit you’ll need to occasionally change a light.) Do, however, mark the location with the name of the structure so it can be put back at the same location.
    5. Think about the scenery at where the joins will be. The break can sometimes be camouflaged by [removable] trees . A friend of mine “hid” the separation points on his 3-section modular layout by having them separate down the center line of a road and at the base of a sheer cliff where it met a river.

  • Toned Fsays:

    Re the question of the buildings. If you have a look at my video below you will see how I’ve used modules for most of my buildings.
    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=EBL3Flo7JIs&t=114s

  • JR Edwardssays:

    Divide the layout into three distinct modules, basically as described already, What you going to achieve is to turn each section into and individual packing case, the layout being the base, four reinforced sides and a screw-down lid.

    This way it can be dismantled easily and once built up, a few minutes per section stacked transported without damage to the layout, you need to remove nothing scenery wise and it can be stored and reassembled at any time chosen, I have a couple of previous layouts stored this way, the crates sealed in plastic wrap, apart from track cleaning they both work fine when needed.

  • Sheldon Clarksays:

    Use of the words “module” and “modular” implies that you must divide your railway into equal-sized parts of a standard size and ensure the tracks cross the joins at right angles and at a standardised distance from the front or back (so that they can be connected in any order to each other and even to modules built by other people). I don’t think this is what you want or need. In the UK, we normally build our railways to be fixed in position or to be portable; what I think you need is a combination of the two. Build your baseboard from individual panels (no more than about 4 feet or 122 cm by 3 feet or 183 cm for ease of handling) which can be both joined together and fixed to supports. I use pattern-maker’s dowels for accuracy and captive nuts and (non-captive!) bolts for security and strength on my portable layout. Your electrics could do with being separable at the board joints; some people use male & female computer-style “D” plugs & sockets, but I use male & female “chocolate block” type connectors, because I cannot solder reliably in confined spaces. In order for the boards to be separated, the scenery must also be capable of being separated, but a saw is not recommended; just make the scenery on each board separate from that on its neighbours. You can disguise the joins with model hedges, walls, buildings, canals, ditches, roads, etc.
    Hope this helps.

  • David Broadsays:

    I would make the frames as separate modules resting on supports like table tops and of a convenient size to actually get out of the house or shed or basement in one piece. Now you have to take a window out of our shed to remove some of my modules as they are over 8 feet long and won’t go through the door. My modules are not NMRA standard, but the wiring goes over the supports and they can be demounted for maintenance can in theory be relocated if required. Screwing framing directly to a wall usually means the layout has to be virtually destroyed to move it, but having screwed part of the layout to the wall I made a three foot long screw driver to get at the screws. Getting the wiring clear of the supports so the modules can be removed easily is the most important thing in my opinion, baseboards take tens of minutes to make, wiring can take tens of hours. Scenery needs to be detachable, plug and play lights in houses, and big mountains just ain’t feasible to move without wrecking them.

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