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Discussion Starter · #1 ·
Hi I'm new to modelling or should I say I had train sets as a child but would like to do it on a larger scale than my parents budget would allow me to do. I'm 53 years old and starting from scratch so I would like to know where to start. I have space for a 8ft x 8ft maybe 8ft x 12 or 16ft layout space. What thickness of base board would I need and from what material and once that is built what is the first thing I should do? Many thanks Bob
 

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In depth idiot
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Welcome, and prepare to be bombarded with advice!

Make the pre-emptive 'Putin move' and declare ownership of that 8 by 16 space!

Before you buy or start anything, give some thought to what most interests you, browse the various online sites, and if possible visit a couple of shows to get some idea of what's commercially available and possible.

(In RTR OO in particular there's a choice undreamed of in the 1970s; you can buy models of every diesel class of any significance, and most significant steam loco classes built from the 1920s onwards; and a decent selection of rolling stock to suit. There's brands out there you have likely never heard of: Hornby are the 'old dog', with a dozen competitors all trying to snatch its lunch; Accurascale, Bachmann, Cavalex, Dapol, Hattons, Heljan, Kernow, KR Models, Rails of Sheffield, Rapido, Realtrack, SLW, and there's more... )

Do you have a local model shop? Model railway clubs and societies are still going, if that appeals, potentially lots of experience to 'mine'.
Guide here: https://www.ukmodelshops.co.uk/

Nearly forgot. Do you remember 'Zero1' or some of the other similar moves away from 12V DC? Evolution has occurred, and what is now 'Digital Command Control' - 'DCC' - offers a degree of control sophistication that may surprise.And other stuff which may or may not be of interest
 

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Where to start: Peco do a good range of OO/HO track including points and crossings. Flat bottom code 100 (.100" high), code 75 which is what I use and they've been bringing out bullhead rail as well. I think that at the moment the bull head track hasn't got as much in the way of choice, but they're steadily getting there. Then there's the choice of insulfrog points and crossing vs electrofrog: electrofrog being the most reliable for current collection. For myself, I use code 75 with all electrofrog points and crossings with modified wiring, but more of that later.

I changed to DCC with a Lenz command station in 2005 and have never looked back, but there are a selection of other systems out there. Depending on where you are, you have dealers in Lincoln, East Anglia, West Midlands and a few more where you can try things out and get advice.

I'll leave it there for you to digest some of it.
 

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Couple of things to note
1. Take as much space as you can get.
2. Work out your scale, OO is most popular so that will be an update of what you had as a youth
3. If OO you can go to the top grade but this is difficult if the space is tight as the point angles change, also the track is closer so needs wider radius corners, there are dodges but ......
4. You will need a table or boards
5. the top surface is best at 12mm, then you either go for chipboard (not great) MDF (better) Plywood (variable) or some other method, chipboard will sag a bit more than plywood but is more consistant, sometimes plywood can vary a great deal. - I use MDF my late father used chipboard for about 50 years but he used 18mm and jolly heavy it was too.
6. Operating system, do you want digital, well I use Roco Z21 which gets its graphics via an ipad so its more flexible but there are many many other systems out there.
7. Then its down to era (or anything goes) me as I recall 1962 quite well and it was the last great year of steam that's my era but you might like 'modern image' or some such.

So if you go OO and setrack do buy the PECO set of track plans BOOK tells you exactly what to buy for a given layout lots of ideas big and small (I like no 15 - Stamford Riverside) and also buy the PECO catalog as this is full of good to know stuff. There is a similar booklet for OO9 as well.

Last point there is a lot of good OO9 stuff out there and you can do anything you want with that - not cheap but at 4 ' x 12' you can build a mighty layout

I have one of each.
A bit of the main station on my OO9


And a bit on my OO which is 5.2m x 4m
 

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Discussion Starter · #5 ·
Couple of things to note
1. Take as much space as you can get.
2. Work out your scale, OO is most popular so that will be an update of what you had as a youth
3. If OO you can go to the top grade but this is difficult if the space is tight as the point angles change, also the track is closer so needs wider radius corners, there are dodges but ......
4. You will need a table or boards
5. the top surface is best at 12mm, then you either go for chipboard (not great) MDF (better) Plywood (variable) or some other method, chipboard will sag a bit more than plywood but is more consistant, sometimes plywood can vary a great deal. - I use MDF my late father used chipboard for about 50 years but he used 18mm and jolly heavy it was too.
6. Operating system, do you want digital, well I use Roco Z21 which gets its graphics via an ipad so its more flexible but there are many many other systems out there.
7. Then its down to era (or anything goes) me as I recall 1962 quite well and it was the last great year of steam that's my era but you might like 'modern image' or some such.

So if you go OO and setrack do buy the PECO set of track plans BOOK tells you exactly what to buy for a given layout lots of ideas big and small (I like no 15 - Stamford Riverside) and also buy the PECO catalog as this is full of good to know stuff. There is a similar booklet for OO9 as well.

Last point there is a lot of good OO9 stuff out there and you can do anything you want with that - not cheap but at 4 ' x 12' you can build a mighty layout

I have one of each.
A bit of the main station on my OO9


And a bit on my OO which is 5.2m x 4m
Many thanks there is a lot to digest but very useful cheers
 

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Discussion Starter · #6 ·
Where to start: Peco do a good range of OO/HO track including points and crossings. Flat bottom code 100 (.100" high), code 75 which is what I use and they've been bringing out bullhead rail as well. I think that at the moment the bull head track hasn't got as much in the way of choice, but they're steadily getting there. Then there's the choice of insulfrog points and crossing vs electrofrog: electrofrog being the most reliable for current collection. For myself, I use code 75 with all electrofrog points and crossings with modified wiring, but more of that later.

I changed to DCC with a Lenz command station in 2005 and have never looked back, but there are a selection of other systems out there. Depending on where you are, you have dealers in Lincoln, East Anglia, West Midlands and a few more where you can try things out and get advice.

I'll leave it there for you to digest some of it.
There is alot to digest and very helpful many thanks
Where to start: Peco do a good range of OO/HO track including points and crossings. Flat bottom code 100 (.100" high), code 75 which is what I use and they've been bringing out bullhead rail as well. I think that at the moment the bull head track hasn't got as much in the way of choice, but they're steadily getting there. Then there's the choice of insulfrog points and crossing vs electrofrog: electrofrog being the most reliable for current collection. For myself, I use code 75 with all electrofrog points and crossings with modified wiring, but more of that later.

I changed to DCC with a Lenz command station in 2005 and have never looked back, but there are a selection of other systems out there. Depending on where you are, you have dealers in Lincoln, East Anglia, West Midlands and a few more where you can try things out and get advice.

I'll leave it there for you to digest some of it.
There is alot of useful information and very helpful ideas many thanks
 

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Design your track layout before you build your base. There is computer software available which will help you with that. Perhaps the most popular of these is Anyrail. You can dowload a trial version which is fully functional but restricts you to a maximum of 50 track sections. If you get on well with it then you can pay a modest fee to unlock the full version with unlimited track.

Obviously you will need to choose your scale. Although OO is the obvious choice, if you want an extensive layout then it may be worth considering N gauge which will allow you twice as much in the same space. There is extremely good availability of N gauge stock nowadays. Do you want to run long trains with 8 or more carriages? If so then youl'll need straight runs of approx 3m in 00 or 1.5m in N to accommodate station platforms. That may influence your choice of gauge. Give thought to curve radius choice. Don't go smaller than R2. For different levels, inclines should ideally be no more than 3% on straight runs or 2% on curves. Make sure that your design allows for you to easily reach all areas of your layout. Anything much more than 600mm from an accessible side of your layout may be challenging. Try to keep points at least about 60mm away from the edge of your board.

Once you have designed your track layout then think about your baseboard design. I'd recommend 9mm ply as the best material to use for the top. This will need to be fixed to a batten frame. I find 3x1 PSE (which finishes at about 70mm x 22mm) ideal. It's really important to design your support frame so that no support battens are passing under where your points will be. You'll probably want to put point motors beneath the points so you'll need space to fix these and also to run live frog wires through the board. For legs or supports there are a number of options. Some people use trestles but if the layout is in a fixed position and doesn't need to move then you can use 2x2 timber for legs, fixed to the under frame. You can buy easily fitted adjustable feet to put on the bottom of the legs to aid leveling. Give some thought to the height of your board. The higher you can make it the easier it will be to access wiring underneath. You'll be surprised how much time you spend sitting underneath your board - often with a soldering iron. Ideally at least 900mm clearance under the board is good but if you will be happy with higher then that will be even easier.

When you come to build your base, paint each plywood panel before you fix it in place on both faces and the edges. This will minimise any movement of the wood. Any old water based paint will be fine and a dark colour as a base is good (I used dark brown paint) although I know some people paint the underside white to make it easier to see wiring later on. Screw panels into place, don't rely on just glue or pins. There is a wide ranging debate about whether or not to use underlay for your track. Many people use cork but there are now many others who don't use any underlay at all. Do an internet search and read up on the different views in various online forums.

As you are starting from scratch with a brand new layout I assume you will be using DCC. In your position this is absolutely the right decision to make. Make sure you have read up on this subject as much as you can before you start buying and laying track. The position and installation of your main bus wires should be part of your initial design (use a separate 'layer' in Anyrail). If you're not already confident with soldering then learn now. There are plenty of youtube videos available for self teaching. It's not that difficult and once you are confident with it you'll never look back.

Good luck with it all. Keep on coming back here as you find more advice would be helpful.
 

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Discussion Starter · #8 ·
Design your track layout before you build your base. There is computer software available which will help you with that. Perhaps the most popular of these is Anyrail. You can dowload a trial version which is fully functional but restricts you to a maximum of 50 track sections. If you get on well with it then you can pay a modest fee to unlock the full version with unlimited track.

Obviously you will need to choose your scale. Although OO is the obvious choice, if you want an extensive layout then it may be worth considering N gauge which will allow you twice as much in the same space. There is extremely good availability of N gauge stock nowadays. Do you want to run long trains with 8 or more carriages? If so then youl'll need straight runs of approx 3m in 00 or 1.5m in N to accommodate station platforms. That may influence your choice of gauge. Give thought to curve radius choice. Don't go smaller than R2. For different levels, inclines should ideally be no more than 3% on straight runs or 2% on curves. Make sure that your design allows for you to easily reach all areas of your layout. Anything much more than 600mm from an accessible side of your layout may be challenging. Try to keep points at least about 60mm away from the edge of your board.

Once you have designed your track layout then think about your baseboard design. I'd recommend 9mm ply as the best material to use for the top. This will need to be fixed to a batten frame. I find 3x1 PSE (which finishes at about 70mm x 22mm) ideal. It's really important to design your support frame so that no support battens are passing under where your points will be. You'll probably want to put point motors beneath the points so you'll need space to fix these and also to run live frog wires through the board. For legs or supports there are a number of options. Some people use trestles but if the layout is in a fixed position and doesn't need to move then you can use 2x2 timber for legs, fixed to the under frame. You can buy easily fitted adjustable feet to put on the bottom of the legs to aid leveling. Give some thought to the height of your board. The higher you can make it the easier it will be to access wiring underneath. You'll be surprised how much time you spend sitting underneath your board - often with a soldering iron. Ideally at least 900mm clearance under the board is good but if you will be happy with higher then that will be even easier.

When you come to build your base, paint each plywood panel before you fix it in place on both faces and the edges. This will minimise any movement of the wood. Any old water based paint will be fine and a dark colour as a base is good (I used dark brown paint) although I know some people paint the underside white to make it easier to see wiring later on. Screw panels into place, don't rely on just glue or pins. There is a wide ranging debate about whether or not to use underlay for your track. Many people use cork but there are now many others who don't use any underlay at all. Do an internet search and read up on the different views in various online forums.

As you are starting from scratch with a brand new layout I assume you will be using DCC. In your position this is absolutely the right decision to make. Make sure you have read up on this subject as much as you can before you start buying and laying track. The position and installation of your main bus wires should be part of your initial design (use a separate 'layer' in Anyrail). If you're not already confident with soldering then learn now. There are plenty of youtube videos available for self teaching. It's not that difficult and once you are confident with it you'll never look back.

Good luck with it all. Keep on coming back here as you find more advice would be helpful.
Many thanks for taking the time to make all the points you have most of which I never gave a thought to. I will keep the forum informed of my progress
 

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C55
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Don't be rushed to build base boards work out what you want first and don't forget open frame gives the option of below rail level scenery.
I agree with Carbuilder, very much. I would also like to add another thought to that topic.

It started because I have to store the layout, so ease of setting up / dismantling had to be high priority. Weight and strength were also priorities, with all that manhandling.
These are from Tim Horn and can be obtained in kit or completed form.
Musical instrument Cabinetry Wood Musical instrument accessory Chest of drawers


You can just make out the Pattern-maker's locating Dowels, in the sides. I mention the locating dowels, as they are steel and connect the Bus Wires from one board to the next. Two sets of Bus Wires, 1 x DCC, through the Dowels and DC through the 2 x bolts and wing nuts, to each board join, simple. In 7 minutes, these 5 boards could be brought downstairs and assembled in the room.
Table Furniture Computer desk Writing desk Desk


He can make many sizes and shapes and are as sturdy as the RAF Mosquito fighter plane. His website is being re-constructed at the moment, apparently, but google his name for other sites that have examples of his kits. He is not the only one, of course, so searching for Plywood Baseboards should bear fruit.
Just a thought.

Julian
 

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... I have space for a 8ft x 8ft maybe 8ft x 12 or 16ft layout space. What thickness of base board would I need and from what material and once that is built what is the first thing I should do? Many thanks Bob
I would claim the full 8 x 12 or 8 x 16. That way, you have maximum space to use large radius turnouts. Please don't use set-track radius curves - you will only be disappointed.

In terms of board thickness, I use 12mm ply. It is very strong and not susceptible to its environment.
Some people use MDF, but be aware that it is heavy and it is susceptible to surface bubbling if water-based materials come into contact.
Please don't even think about 'Sundeala' - it was touted as the 'Peco way' of building baseboards, but it warps at rates that Captain Kirk would be proud of. It is only suitable for picture boards - what it was designed for.
 

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One thing I want to say to all those who are either new to the hobby or have returned after many years, do not be put off by some of todays prices, as there are says around this where one can build a model railway without the need for it to cost too much.
I went down the route of modelling in 0-16.5 using traditional 12vDC for this main reason but there is a lot available secondhand at very reasonable prices if one knows what to look out for and what to avoid, so if unsure, ask, and sometimes for the budget concious, having a coarser scale approach can help in buying things at bargain prices that other modellers tend to avoid. An example of this if one is modelling in 00, is to look at Triang or Hornby Dublo (2-rail) or Wrenn as these are all really well made in their day (Triang was budget but still built to last) and as long as ones controller is powerful enough and ones track can cope with their deeper wheel flanges then one can be launched into model railways at very little cost!
I model in 0-16.5 because I can make use of older secondhand 00 gauge items and convert them into this scale.

Nothing at all wrong with todays finescale models or the new technology, apart from the costs which have been steadily increasing to levels that many people can no longer afford. If you ave the budget, go for it! There really is a lot out there to enjoy! And DCC is great! Just for the budget concious me due to circumstances, I decided to go back to DC.
 

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Hi So much choice these days by far the most supported is OO but as said N is pretty good now which for me it is to small but maybe not for you . Only you will know that ,model railway shows are good places to look also clubs most are welcoming and helpful . Once you have chosen your gauge then your theme time and place bearing in mind your actual modelling space . As said take your time don't rush in and by a loco then be stuck on that period and gauge. By the way I don't know if this in fact the most popular but it seems to me to be late steam early diesel. You probably want to dive in and get started and get some trains running but you may find this can lead to disappointment , frustration and a severe loss of mojo as a few on here may testify . This is not a cheap hobby and although there are some bargains out there it has got a lot more expensive so try and confine yourself to what your actually need for your theme rather than what takes you fancy. I hope this helps as well as the already good advice you have had and i wish you luck please post your efforts . Jim
 
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