Electrics & DCC · Model Railways

Making a start on baseboards and other items

So, in the last post I caught up a bit with what was planned and what had stalled plans etc.

I’ve been researching baseboard construction recently and come up with a couple of ideas now as a result.

Construction methods:

I’m suspecting I’ll go with plywood on a frame rather than my original thought of a foamboard base with thin plywood on the sides.

This won’t likely commence until the new year due to other commitments, but now a few things are out of the way (boyfriend moving house, getting a new mobility scooter and having to replace all the white goods in the flat) I should hopefully be able to make a start on the baseboards, finally!

A trip to B&Q in the new year I think.

Modular is the key:

Plan is for the building of 2-3 3ftx1-1.5ft boards and a 2ftx1-1.5ft board for the level crossing.

The decision really is how wide I want the boards. As the layout is effectively not much more than double track with no stations etc on it and a single siding going off to a dock or similar I’m wondering whether 1ft width might be sufficient, but 1.5ft might be better. 2ft might be better for the planned rat run behind the scenery though. What will decide this really is a) the size that will fit into my car (05 plate mondeo estate) and B) the size of the area I could store the boards.

Dual or single?

The other decision is whether to have dual levels or not. By that I mean the main boards having space underneath for storage of units, in a traverser format, with corner boards allowing access by raising/lowering height. I’m in two minds about it after talking with Natalie.

Storage/fiddle yards:

In terms of fiddle yards I plan to use cassettes of no more than 4 car length, with some being enough for 1 carriage/loco and some for 2 carriage/locos. Avoiding point building is a part of that decision, and easier to store/transport in my opinion as the cassette should be able to be put straight into a suitable storage box without handling the units/stock.


DCC is a given really I think. When wiring the layout I think I may try to allow for being able to run in DC mode, but that might complicate things too much.

As for controllers, I had thought after consideration with Natalie that going with an NCE PowerCab unit would be best as Natalie being left handed found others difficult or ‘odd’ to use in comparison. Unfortuately as things stand at present it is unlikely I shall be able to afford one, so I am thinking either:

  • Hornby eLink + laptop, or
  • A SPROG unit with JNRI on a laptop.

I might give both a try at some stage, and will investigate other methods. I know computer/tablet/phone control would be good I think. I am rather tech savvy and unashamedly a geek when it comes to tech/computers, so such control methods appeal to me. I am not short of suitable devices at least, having one or two spare laptops and a tablet laying around as well as a spare desktop computer lurking somewhere in the flat.

Another option is using a raspberry pi/arduino to control the layout as I already have a raspberry pi to hand (well I will do when i upgrade to a raspberry pi 2 for my media watching on the telly).

Signals and points:

Signals on the layout will likely be 3/4 aspect colour lights as that is what exists on the prototype location.

However I would like to be able to at a later stage change the era to around the 1920s/1930s or WW2 (can’t go beyond 1925 due to 3rd rail) as that could give some interesting future stock opportunities (and WW2 interests me historically). The starting era will be 1990-1994 or so (the changeover period of the EPBs and Networkers). With this in mind the buildings will be changeable, and ideally the signals too so that semaphore can be added. How feasible this turns out to be is another matter though! experimentation needed perhaps.

Control of the points/signals by a lever type panel would be good i think. I’d like some kind of link between the signals and points and train detection to change signals after a train passes. A recent article in Hornby Magazine has made me think of using a MAS-Sequencer by Heathcote Electronics for control of changing the signals, which signals I use I’ve yet to decide.

I suspect DCCconcepts point motors/controls will manage the points on the layout by DCC. As there aren’t going to be many points (3 visible in total iirc) hopefully that should help keep costs down a little. If needed any points in the non-visible areas can be manual (by switches/panel) to start with perhaps rather than DCC.

Track and gauge:

The gauge will be EM, and I’ve been a member of the EM Gauge Society for just over a year now. (I’m sure the templates that came with the membership pack will be very useful when plotting out the layout on a board!).

I will likely use C&L Finescale track.

Final thoughts:

That concludes a rather lengthy update post really. I don’t think there’ll be much updates this side of the new year, but I hope to get started by the middle of January, and hopefully make a start on the conversions/kits also.

Any thoughts and suggestions are welcome :)


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