Having decided on the optimum size for the main board (1500mm long to fit in the back of the car, 500mm wide to fit through the door of the motor home), I set about the detail design. Several factors had to be taken into account:

  • Materials
  • Method of support
  • Viewing height and sight lines
  • Track formation
  • Method of loco control -  DCC or DC
  • Method of turnout operation

My original intention had been to use 9mm plywood for ends, front and back panels and track bed. Unfortunately (or maybe fortunately) the only 9mm plywood available locally was of a very inferior quality. Time for a rethink. As I had the best part of a full sheet of 18mm ply sitting in the garage, I decided to use this for the ends and the corner braces to which the legs would be affixed. This would also provide a substantial fixing for the front and back panels. Iain Rice advocates the use of MDF for track beds to reduce resonance, so I purchased a 9mm sheet and also used this for the front panels. To offset the extra weight of the ends, I opted for 5mm ply for the back to the main box and the back and bases to the fiddle yards. To further reduce weight, cutouts were made in that area of the track bed that would be hidden by scenery. This thinking was also applied to the cross supports on the main board which were cut out of some old 4mm ply that I had lying around. To give these supports a little more rigidity and to provide a wider fixing surface, they were edged with a recessed hardwood trim. Similar cutouts were made in the 5mm ply used for the cross bracing supporting the decking in the fiddle yards. Prior to assembly, the abutting end panels of  the main and fiddle yard boards were clamped together and bored for the M6 coupling bolts.


The main board assembled. The raised section in the front panel will accomadate the nameplate and also mask the higher ground level in the middle of the layout. The cut outs in the rear panel give access to the slide switches and cranks that operate the turnouts at either end of the passing loop. The cutouts in the end panels will be largely masked by trees and the scenic treatment will be continued 250mm into the fiddle boards.

I gave a lot of thought to the order in which the ‘box’ should be assembled and finally decided on the following:

  1. Screw the end panels to the corner braces ensuring that everything was at 90 deg. In two planes.
  2. Screw the track bed to the cross bearers. To ensure the latter were positioned correctly, their position was marked on the underside of the track bed to which they were then affixed with a narrow strip of carpet tape. It was then a simple matter to screw the track bed from above.
  3. Screw the track bed to the end panels. To keep everything square, the back panel was propped in position as was the 5mm ply bearer that picks up the ends of the cross members. This bearer was routed to take the ends of the cross bearers and let into rebates in the edges of the end panels. This would make the subsequent fixing of the end panel a lot easier. To help keep things in place and to keep the track bed level, strips of carpet tape were fitted between the track bed and the end panels.
  4. The back panel and front bearer could now be screwed to the end panels and corner braces, ensuring that everything was nice and flush at the ends. The back panel was then screwed to the rear edge of the track bed.
  5. Finally, the front panel could be screwed in place.

Everything should go together easily provided the following basic principles are followed:

  • All cut edges are square and true. I use a skillsaw against a straight edge clamped to the work.
  • All holes are accurately predrilled and countersunk.
  • Ensure that the surface used for assembly is flat.
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