After a break of 9 years or so from the hobby, lockdown set the brain whirring, memories stirred, and before I knew it Model Rail was being read, trains were out of storage, track plans were being drawn and a socially distant click and collect was in progress down at B&Q.
The project? An L-Shaped 4x2x4 ft modern DCC layout in N Gauge to fit into my oversized storage cupboard and fold up against the wall when not in use.
So here’s the wish list. I have ALWAYS wanted a looped layout where trains could happily run all day without interference if I so desired. Aside from this, a station and yard were musts for focal points, I’m keen to have a long sweeping mainline curve as well as a branch line to have a slightly different track. Did I mention that I have also always wanted a multi-tiered layout? The childhood engineer in me can’t help but want to build bridges and tunnels and gradients!
That’s a fair amount to fit into any layout, let alone a 4x2x4 L, even in N Gauge. So with a little inspiration from CJ Freezer and the internet in general, I set to work on a track plan using Traxeditor.com, which isn’t too bad for free software. The result is below:
Now I’ll be the first to hold my hands up and say there are some pretty tight curves and some pretty steep gradients, which aren’t particularly realistic, BUT somehow it does accommodate my extensive wish list into one small layout and if I’m happy and enjoy building and operating it then that’s good enough for me!
I was a little nervous on the gradients, in particular the double track emerging from the lower level tunnel under the station and turning 180 onto the upper level mainline. However I’ll only ever be running short trains and after a little mock-up and testing it seems like every loco I have can make it. We’ll see in practice!
So, on to construction.
The first thing to be built was the “shelf” underneath the wall side of the layout. This was made with 38x32mm planed spruce screwed and nailed together to fit. The baseboard came next; 5mm ply on 32x12mm struts. Some of the ply was a little warped but it now sits fairly well on the frame. Finally, legs mounted on hinges so they fold away neatly when out of use, and some hinges to allow the layout to fold up against the wall. Done, and very lightweight!
Now for the fun bit - starting to build the gradients and levels! For this I’m using a combination of Woodland Scenics risers and 25mm thick foam sheeting, with 5mm thick foam sheeting for any bridges. I’ve started down at the tricky end - the exit from the station where the double track mainline curves away down to the right, and the tight branchline curves away down to the left, both entering tunnels underneath the upper level mainline.
I laid the track, traced along the outer edges, and used that as my guide. PVA went down, the risers went in and I left it to dry, pinning the track back in place on top to check it all fits okay. The insulation board has then been cut to form layers outside. For the very steep gradient the risers weren’t suitable, so I have created that by stacking the 25mm foam at appropriate intervals and then laying the 5mm sheets as a trackbed.
Next up will be building up the upper level mainline and the rest of the branch line, before finishing with the (hopefully!) easier task of doing the levels at the other end of the layout for the station, yard and curve up to the mainline.
That’s all for now!