Two weeks on from my last update and I’m extremely happy to report that construction of the layout is ploughing ahead. From my point of view, the progress made has been nothing short of phenomenal, taking into account that apart from verbalising what is in my mind and how I think it should be built, the actual construction has been the sole effort of a mate of mine.
Making this even more impressive (to me anyway), is that until this project started my mate has had nothing to do with model trains at all, so building a reasonably large double level semi modular layout as an introduction to the hobby is no small feat.
For those of us in the hobby, building a layout starts with a picture in our head of exactly what we want, therefore from the beginning we have a fair idea of what we are working towards and a pretty good idea of how we will do it. Trying to explain in enough detail to somebody else exactly what is in your mind, so that they can visualise the finished result and then construct it, is not as easy as it may sound, and again I can’t thank my mate enough for the effort involved in the mental translation of my thoughts and ideas into an actual physical, practical and functional layout.
As for the actual progress, as the layout sits at the moment, all of the individual module assemblies that make up the lower and upper levels have been completed, the back scene boards have been completed around the entire layout on both levels, and the boards that are essentially the sky have also been completed for both levels.
Like a lot of things the photos probably don’t do justice to the amount of work involved in getting to this point, but I would estimate that from bolting the steel brackets to the bench top, to where the layout currently is, has taken six, ten to twelve hour days, so sixty to seventy hours in total. If you put that into typical “hobby time” terms, where you might spend an hour a day every day, or maybe four to six hours over the weekend, this would represent around ten to twelve weeks of work.
At the end of the final day’s work, we temporarily attached a piece of timber with two five meter strips of LED lights, one warm white strip and one variable RGB strip, illuminating a section of the bottom deck, just to get an idea on brightness, and how the variable colour RGB strip could be adjusted to give an acceptable hue, as getting a fair representation of natural sunlight is always a challenge with conventional lighting.
Without any actual scenery or trains in position I cannot say that I have found the correct mixture of lighting, but after having a short fiddle with the RGB colour palette, I am fairly confident that I will be able to find a setting that is more than acceptable.
The reason for choosing to use two separate LED strips, one being a variable RGB strip, is that the ability is there if you really want to, to get a representation of a sunrise or sunset hue which is typically slightly orange, or at the extreme, a night time hue which is typically represented with a blue colour.
The next phase of construction will probably centre around figuring out exactly how we are going to mount the fascia panels that the LED light strips will be mounted on, what mounting angle of the LED strips gives the best spread of lighting across the modules, and determine where power supplies will need to be positioned around the room to power the LED strips. Like most things there is a considerable amount of time thinking about these decisions as opposed to actually doing it, but the extra time taken in thinking these things through thoroughly is well worth it if you can do it once and it works perfectly.
If I had to make a few key points on the construction so far it would be the following.
The use of the steel brackets that the layout modules, back scene boards, sky boards and fascia boards will attach to, whilst being somewhat unconventional, are extremely strong relative to their size, as there is no way timber brackets made from only 25mm x 25mm sections would be strong enough to support what the steel brackets do.
Building the layout with each section as a modular assembly using the compressed foam panels with a light timber frame, produces an incredibly strong and very light assembly, that is very easy to lift into and out of position. This will also make working on each module extremely easy, no working upside down under bench work to do wiring, and being able to have the module in the centre of the room when working on it gives access to all sides, which will make constructing scenery that would normally be hard against the backboard very simple.
Modular construction also means that if at any time a section of the layout might want to be changed, it is a very simple process to remove and replaced with another module with different track layout or scenery, and while this is not something that would happen often, the option is there to do it very easily.
Another option would be the ability to take various modules that form a section of the layout to an exhibition, there are probably not too many permanent style home layouts that you could do this with.
That’s about it for now, but I hope to be able to report back in the not too distant future with some more progress reports.