Squeezed into the bedroom

I haven’t had a layout in my bedroom since I was 13. Mind you,then it was a little shelf layout against the wall that overhung my bed. At least, this time, it isn’t like that.

What is happening? Well, as explained, I have had to clear out my “hobby room” to make way for MIL to come and live with us. This has taken the best part of a week and a half to clear out and get most of my “stuff” into storage. How my wife puts up with me having so much “stuff” I will never know, but she does – and she encourages me to have my hobbies. I mentioned, in the previous post, that I was going to lay the railway on top of my desk. However, SWMBO came up with a plan. It is very good of her as she loses her dressing table top.  The idea is that she clears the top and then I can put my railway across that top and on over my computer desk into the corner. This is fine because the computer desk is a fancy adjustable height one that I was given as part of the Open University disabled students scheme.

Now that was settled, I could get on with rebuilding. My first step was to get some black 5mm foam core. I have found that this is more stable than the white as the foam core itself seems to be harder. Unfortunately, Hobbycraft don’t sell black so I had to pay the “real” price rather than their discounted one. Hobbycraft charge £12.00 for four sheets (used to be £10) and black foam core is £6.83 per A1 sheet. I needed three sheets.

Before I could start, however, I had to agree on a layout. As mentioned in my previous post, I was thinking of one of the layouts in the “Modelling Branch Lines” book. I finally settled on “Chagford” as amended by the author.  I laid all of this out on Anyrail using Peco N Gauge Finescale as I was unhappy with the fragile nature of the code 80. As the rail is buried in the sleepers for the code 50, it actually makes the track more robust. This is my final version of the plan.

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The size is 72″ x 16″ with a small fiddle yard on the end.  This fits perfectly on the dressing table/desk combination with the exception of the fiddle yard, which might need some creative thinking! I printed this out in full size to ensure that the track went on correctly. Normally, I don’t need this because there is, somewhere on the layout, a straight that is parallel with the edge but there is no such thing here. I placed the printout over the boards and pushed pin holes through at the point sites.


Everything is on hold for the moment as I have two deliveries coming tomorrow. One is for a reel of multicoloured solid core wire. I know that solid core isn’t liked but I get on OK with it and it is easier to get into Cobalt motor connections than multi-core, which you have to twist up carefully or bits stick out. The second one is a couple of right hand points coming from Hattons. I would normally buy these from my LHS but, when I bought the main stock of rail last week, they didn’t have enough of these for me. These are coming because I bought a double slip, as required by the plan in the book but hit some snags. I am not used to using electrofrog points in the way that most N Gaugers use them so I set up a test bed to understand how it was done. First I set up a point like this:


Usually, I wire the running rails to the stock rails, cut a break in the frog and wire it from the Cobalt motor. This time, I just set it up to use the stock rail connection for the feed. With the Cobalt installed and no frog feed, this worked first time. I then set it up to use the double slip.


This time, I got lots of shorts. I am getting a bit fed up with hacking points around and was very reluctant to get into cutting rails on the double slip so I asked a question on the forums. From someone who should know, I was advised to move the frog wires to the opposite motor – something that should have been obvious. Unfortunately this didn’t change anything. I played around with the wires to the Cobalt and there was no improvement.  I am lacking a bit in patience with these things nowadays and want a simple life so I reworked the layout to use two right hand points back to back instead of the double slip. There is enough space in the design for this to work without any compromises.

So here I am. a lot of the layout down and waiting for the last two points and the dropper wire. Everything starts again tomorrow afternoon.



Everything changes – again

I never seem to get any further than laying track with my layouts. Since I shut our model shop in 2012 I have built six layouts – in order – N Scale US, British OO, British OO9, US HO, US HO, US HO. Each of these has had to come down soon after the track was laid and working and all for good reasons. If you wish to follow the pathway of my railway modelling, going right back to August 2009, you should check out my Gentle Model Railways blog.

This time, I think that I had it sorted. A nice big roundy roundy with a decent sized station so I could run everything from small local goods to fast passenger trains and still with a nice little branch to build off the side. Then my mother-in-law(MIL) fell ill and had to go into hospital. MIL is 92 and blind but has been living in the apartment above us with my wife providing her care. It is obvious, now, that she can’t come home to that situation so we have had to have a big change around which means that I have had to take my railway down and clear out the room  to turn it into a bed sitter for her once she leaves hospital. I am now squeezed down the end of our, admittedly quite big, bedroom.


As you can see from the image, I have a nice big desk for my Macintosh computer (courtesy of the Open University Disabled Students scheme) but no room for a model railway. Well, that isn’t true.  If I clear the front of my desk, I have 63″ of desk width and 18″ of depth. Ample space to hold a portable railway. I still have to store it so that is a bit of an issue which I have yet to sort out with “she who must be obeyed”! However, I am working on the theory that I can get away with a 72″ by 15″ board (as a bit of overhang won’t matter). This would stand between the drawer unit that is seen on the right and the wardrobe door(just out of sight). Fortunately, we don’t use that end of the wardrobe much so this could be a goer!

The next step, carried out in between clearing out the hobby room, sending everything to storage, filling holes, repainting a wall and getting MIL’s apartment into good condition so that she gets her full deposit back, will be to plan a layout. This will have to be a smaller branch terminus rather than the busy seaside one that I have the stock for. This means putting the Mk1 carriages and the class 47 back in their boxes. I don’t think that I want to make a dockside station now so I am “EBaying” my stock of Dapol fish vans with the intention of reinstating a creamery so using the funds to buy some more 6 wheeled milk wagons (as I like them).

I am perusing the Crowood book “Modelling Branch Lines” and looking at “Chagford” and “Alston” as described in there. Chagford needs me to buy two double slips and I have run out of railway budget after my investment in a 14′ double track layout! Hence, I am think along the lines of Alston.  I will draw up my versions of these using Anyrail and then discuss them here.

As an aside, I had a try of SCARM but found it very difficult to design a layout using flexi-track. I have a suspicion that SCARM was built more for continental modellers who are sticking to the track systems of the major manufacturers. This seems to make designing a Peco layout quite difficult. Tell me I am wrong!

All the track is laid and working

I pressed on and laid the rest of the track. I had a lot of point motors to clean up from previous layouts. Each point motor is installed on the foam core using double sided tape for the initial placing and then I run hot glue all around the edges. I don’t use the DCC Concepts provided double side foam because I used that “years” ago on other layouts and the screws won’t hold. This means that I have to clean off the hot glue and peel off the double sided tape. I then give it a wipe with IPA and put some more tape on.  As there are   17 points on the main board, this is quite a big job.

It is all done now and all of the track is down. I finished the wiring up yesterday to find that I had a short. Now there are two ways that the track is powered across the board joins. One is via bus wires and the other is simply by the track connections. There are three tracks that cross over the board joins – one in the connection to the main station and the other two are via the two oval tracks. Everything went fine until I connected the front rail connection to the outer loop. This created a short. My first action with a short is to disconnect the track from the bus, which I did. There was only one connection to the bus from the outer loop on the “left hand” board. Once this was disconnected, everything worked fine. On looking at it, my simple mnemonic for wiring – “black to the back” works fine until the loop track comes round the front where it has to be “red to the back” as the inner rail is, obviously the front at the back and the back at the front.(I loved writing that but it might be difficult to understand – unless you have been there yourself). At the moment, I have left it unconnected and am relying on track connections across the join.

OK, so I now have a fully working railway which has some scenic panels fixed to the back. Actually, they aren’t fixed but slot on so they can be removed if required. This will be temporary whilst I have two separate boards but eventually the panels will be joined. I am also waiting for my friend Mark to come round and tidy up the joins between the panels. He painted the back scenes for my previous HO railroad and they don’t match when applied to this one.



Here is a panorama of the whole thing put together.

1 Anchor Street, Ipswich - England, United Kingdom

I now have all of the track laid and wired except for the branch which will be left until later.

One problem that I have resolved is how to hold the two boards together at the front during the time when I am keeping them as two boards. I have a set of tools for working on foam care. This is the one that is most useful making the join.


This cuts a “V” in the board, making it possible to fold the board in a 90 degree shape as in this example:


I made two tubes, one which fits inside the other. The outer tube is fixed across the join and then split into two. The second fits into the tubes very firmly and holds the two boards in alignment.

Lastly, I have to report that I changed my method of running the track across the boards. As I had to continually pick up boards and move them until all of the wiring was done, I found that the track ends were getting pushed out of alignment. I have gone back to an old way of doing things, as if it was a fold up layout and that is to use joining stretchers of track. All six of the tracks that cross the baseboard join were cut back by 50mm. After finally getting the wiring completed and having fixed the boards strongly together, as above, I then cut 6 x 100mm lengths of track across the join. I will leave these loose until I, finally, fix the boards together.

Lastly, I thought that I might show how complex the underneath of the left hand board was. This has the majority of the points installed and the wiring was quite tricky.


As you can see, I had to reroute some of the strengthening struts to accommodate the point motors. This is easily done with foam core – just cut away and hot glue some new in!

Laying the first track

The main railway is to be on two boards; one to be 7′ x 2′ and the other 7′ 4″ x 2′ (both extend to 2′ 6″ at one end. This is because I need to be able to lift the boards to carry out the wiring and install the point motors. In future times, I might need to lift a board if there should be a wiring or point motor problem so not only must there be two boards but they must be physically separate and liftable.

I have started work on the right hand board as you look towards the wall – with the fiddle yard to the front and the station further back. As described in a previous post, the board is completely constructed, including the incline down from the main height to the fiddle yard height.  It needs extra being added to the outside of the 180 degree curve as I didn’t leave enough there to construct the scenery against. This can be added later as it doesn’t affect the track laying.

Using the Anyrail plan and some Peco templates that I printed and cut out,  I have been able to determine some fixed points for the track and then work off these. The track is all Peco Code 80. I buy my flexi-track in boxes of 25 yard lengths – it’s cheaper that way.

This is what has been laid so far. I have reversed the board to make it easier to lay the track. This is the main junction off the double track main line and part way down the incline. I am using the useful little Peco 6′ way templates to keep the spacing correct. I have some super sticky double sided tape that I get from Amazon. This does a great job of holding the track down to the foam core until I get the ballast fixed. It is no good using track pins as these just pop out from the foam at the slightest provocation. I tend to use Peco set-track curves to ensure the correctness of the radii and to avoid the ends of each stretch of track from trying to go back to being straight.


The connection between the main line and the branch to Pennvale is in modern form – using four points – and not using a diamond – because I couldn’t find a combination of  Peco components that would make one without a lot of extra track involved.


Here you can see one of the passenger coaches being used to test the flow through the complex. So far, everything runs smoothly.


You have to be careful with exposed ends when using Peco flexi-track across joints. One tweak of a rail and a few inches come out of their fasteners. I used to use a piece of PCB cut out and soldered to the track then epoxy glued to the baseboard but, again, this doesn’t work with foam core as the paper just peels away from the core. What I finally came up with is this:

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I then push the tails through the foam core and press the PCB board down onto some epoxy. Then, I twist the tails tightly together (with a small piece of plastic card to stop them tearing into the base). I can then solder the rail ends onto the two PCB areas and we have a solid fitting. The end result looks like this – I haven’t yet cut the exposed rails to length.


Painting these over with the rail paint will soon disguise them.

Final track plan

I have spent a long time moving track around using AnyRail trying to create a layout that  had Pennvale Sands as a through station with a branch of the main line to Ellerby. I tried many ways to achieve a layout that would have the following main ideas:

  • A branch connection with a bay platform for a DMU
  • Fish shipping traffic from the branch and then on
  • Express holiday trains that terminate at Pennvale
  • Local trains to Carlisle
  • A Roundy-Roundy
  • A through fiddle yard

I wasn’t able to reconcile these so I went back to a terminus but inside the circuit. I found a way that I could run the branch from the terminus across the circuit. I still couldn’t see how to use the fiddle yard if it was at the back. Then, I realised that if I put the fiddle yard on the front, I could use the big hand from the sky to sort out the next trains with ease. The fiddle yard would need to be lower than the rest of the layout to keep it out of direct vision. This turned out to be a good idea because I was able to cut out the use of Cobalt motors for the fiddle yard as I could now operate them using tube and wire.

I was able to take the original layout for Pennvale Sands terminus and place it in the middle of the large circuit (14′ x 2′) with one change. The original design had one arrival road that didn’t have a release loop so I added an extra crossover to the middle relief road. This is how it has ended up. This plan meets all of the above requirements.

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The length of the board being 14′ 6″ means that the fiddle yard tracks at 44″ which is long enough for my double headed class 25 plus 6 coaches which is roughly 42″. I can be extended once partially laid by checking with an actual train.

The station has room for an express, a local and a DMU in the bay.  The goods yard can accept  up to 10 wagon trains. This should be scope for everything that I wanted to do. I have 2 x Class 25, 1 x 24, 1 x 37, a 2 car 108 DMU and 1 class 08 as a local shunter.I am planning on getting a class 47. I have around 36 goods wagons, of which 16 are Fish vans for the Ellerby/Pennvale/Manchester traffic. I have £200.00 left in my budget so I have some scope for more if I find that I have something wrong or am short of something.


Making the first baseboard

Because of my arthritis, I can’t bend down below baseboard so I have to make other arrangements. My solution is as follows:

  • A line of B&Q kitchen units with a worktop installed.
  • A1 5mm foam core sheets cut to size taped together with duct tape
  • A lot of 3″ strips of foam core
  • A hot glue gun.

First stages

I had to separate the lower level of the board where the fiddle yard is to be.


The underneath has to be carefully supported to avoid warping and to make the board firm enough to pick up and turn over during wiring and point motor mounting.


As can be seen, the copper tape power bus has already been installed and all the required bracing strips added. The curved end is where the track falls down from the base level – 3″ high – down to the fiddle yard at 1″ . The 3″ height is required because of the size of the Cobalt IP motors. The 1″ height is OK for the fiddle yard as the points are going to be operated by wire in tube.

The drop down for 3″ to 1″had to be carefully built. First off, I had to cut a length of foam core 3″ high to support the main end. This had to have vertical cuts 1″ apart the were made part way through the board so that it could be bent around the curve of the upper board. Then I had to cut two strips that would support the surface from the top to the bottom.To make it secure and firm I had to put lots of supporting strips to make sure that it didn’t droop. The final operation look like this.


The final result, ready for track laying meets the requirement of the plan.


Solving the mystery of the track plan

They say that a battle plan never survives first contact with the enemy. Well, my new layout lasted three weeks. I purchased all of the components of the “express” that would travel between Pennvale and Manchester/London. I placed it on the track and it ran the 10 feet into the fiddle yard. My reaction was “Is that it?”

I went away feeling that either I had burned the money on something that was a waste of time or that I should rethink this. I had, previously, turned away from a “roundy-roundy” because my units were 2′ wide and I didn’t want to be committed to tight curves to get round in that space. However, I also didn’t want to expand the depth of the railway in the middle of the room. This is what the room looked like with the existing railway boards.

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The main board is Board 1 and the fiddle yard is on Board 2. I had to have a good think because I didn’t spend £250.00 on a single train to see it move 6 feet and stop again! Discussions with SWMBO came up with the following:

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This gives me a 14′ length with boards at each end that can take 4th Radius curves without making inroads into the room. The branch has been extended and no longer has the fiddle yard attached. This will now be a nice roundy-roundy with quite a long run. The fiddle yard will be along the front (taking up 6″ of the 24″ wide boards and will be lower than the rest of the layout so that it is effectively hidden, even though it is out front.

The fiddle yard will have hand operated points as they are right up front. They will be outside of JMRI routing but that won’t matter as we will just have a “generic” source for each and every train that runs on the main line. This also means that the branch can now be remotely controlled as I have ample Cobalt IP point motors. However, I am having some difficulty in designing the layout which will now comprise of Pennvale Sands as a through station on a fictitious run through from Whitehaven to Workington from the WCLM.

The railway exists but not as I am using it but remember Rule 1*! This gives me an excuse to run express trains through from Manchester/London which terminate at Pennvale as it is a popular seaside resort. It also has local passenger services up to Carlise and a DMU service to Ellerby – the branch terminus. Goods services are as follows:

  • Through pick up goods from Carlise and Whitehaven stopping at Pennvale
  • Mineral trains (coal) from Whitehaven to Pennvale and empties back
  • Local pickup goods to and from Ellerby (including coal)
  • Fish traffic from Ellerby to the Fish Processing factory in Pennvale
  • Fish products from the factory north to Carlise and south to Manchester and beyond.

Journeys will all involve a set number of loops around the track – some more than others with the minimum being for trains to the branch/Ellerby.

I have most of the stock required but I don’t have a track plan so that will be the next post.


  • Rule 1 – it is my railway;
  • Rule 2 – I refer you to rule 1!