Construction – from 2014

Goobang Box
Goobang Signal Box near Parkes with my Father-in-Law Jack at work. We lived very close to this box on Brolgan Road. The signal box controlled Goobang Junction – the junction of the main western line to Broken Hill and the Parkes – Narromine Line.
The HO layout "Brolgan Road" is named after the small station Brolgan on the Western Line between Parkes and Broken Hill. It was the second 'station' from Parkes and was close to Goobang Signal Box. The layout is based on NSW Government Railways operations circa 1960 with structures, operations and scenery reflecting Central West NSW.

Constructing an HO 1960s  Layout Based on XPS and EPS (?)

Whilst this is not a portable layout, I wanted to experiment with techniques I had previously used to construct test track modules. That was with lightweight timber and foam roadbed. Trackwork runs around the perimeter of the room generally around 600mm wide and operaters work from the spacious centre.

For this layout I used 3 types of foam base board as described below.

Expanded polystyrene foam EPS: this is a reinforced EPS product 120mm thick, light weight and used for forming concrete. The reinforcing layer is used at the bottom to give the material strength in tension on that side. For model rail use it looked like it had potential as it is self supporting over quite a long distance.
Problems: it is really too thick for our purposes and makes passing cables etc a little difficult. It is also incredibly messy stuff when cutting, drilling or routing. I wouldn’t use it again although 2 giant sheets of it side by side made a good “train set” layout for the grand-kids.

Extruded polystyrene foam XPS: this stuff is the bees knees! It is beautifully formed into even thickness sheets at 2″ (50mm) and 600 x 1200mm (at least in Australia where it is sold at Bunnings stores for $20.85 as at June 2016) and is actually labelled in part for “Hobbies – Train / car set bases”. Someone knows we exist!
It cuts and shapes easily without being messy. It is a near perfect thickness for mounting servos right in the foam – see below and I’ll show you how in another post. Drilling is easy with the right technique (another post) and the sheets are flat and square.

I have recently discovered a cheaper Australian supplier – “Just-Rite”. Price for 600 x 2200 was $20 (Pick up price) Just-Rite are located at: Sydney – 4 Kelham Place, Glendenning NSW, 2766  or Canberra – Hume Unit 2, 70 Sheppard Street ACT, 2620

Further update July 2017: Bunning’s sheets (in Belconnen) no longer have a nice square edge. They are rebated which is fine for people applying insulation but not so good for this application. Trimming it off will narrow the sheets slightly or, they could be layed sideways.

Extruded polystyrene foam: EPS in a thinner section (25mm 1″). As above but even lighter (duh). But it has special uses and can be made quite strong with a simple cheap reinforcing technique.

The observant may note a servo peeking out of the foam. For foam users, the mounting of servos is a snack and is shown in another post.

I planned the layout with the specific objective of fitting it into the available room. The room wasn’t all that big but it was fully lined and insulated and part of my large workshop building. All woodworking tools, machines and other stuff were outside the room to ease dust problems.
With a size of 4090mm x 5000m (20 sq m) I didn’t have a lot of space so I decided to build around the walls to get maximum track length and operate from the middle of the layout. The bench widths are close to 600mm which is a reasonable “reach” width.

This was the rough plan of the room and the proposed benchwork

The section below using the 120mm foam is in place here with relatively few supporting battens. This material will easily span 550mm without support providing the reinforcing is at the bottom which is a stressed skin. The side plates are 180 x 17 DAR Hoop Pine.
The far side (West) is supported by the benches but it would have been better to use the ladder style frame shown to the right of the picture below and have free standing benches

This is a view underneath the previous one. With this type of reinforced foam, supports can be 500mm apart.
Here we see the East side with the other end of the 120mm foam and preparations for the 50mm sections on the left.
The battens (25 x 17) across the frame are to support the less rigid 50mm extruded foam. They are placed long edge upright and spaced at approx 140 to 150mm centres and spot PVA glued in place. There are cleats along the side frames to support the battens and they can be any size.
Here is a short intermediate section. The side frames and ends make long rigid boxes (ladder type frame). This is very rigid with 2″ foam. I haven’t tested it, but I suspect that the batten spacing could be increased (say 200mm) to make less obstructions for wiring and points servos under the benchwork. There is a way to achieve even more spacing – See the post on Reinforcing foam sheets. This reinforces the bottom surface giving it greater tensile strength & allowing longer free spans.
Here PVA glue is spotted onto the battens to hold the foam in place. I only spot glue it as I might have to slip a sharp blade under it to remove the foam some time later.
Heavy stuff to hold it down until the glue sets. Incidentally – the box is a rolling stock/loco carrier under construction in an assembly jig.

The two photos below show most of the baseboards in place.

My workbench is shown below in an early state of development. Unfortunately it grew ever larger and dominated the centre of the room. Towards completion of the layout scenery, the workbench itself will roll away under the layout (2017 – this has now been done).  The doors and windows shown, open to allow air to circulate in our hot summer but the doors can’t be used to enter the room.

The entry door is shown below with a lifting deck to allow (geriatric) entry to the room. There is a separate post on the construction of this deck which is strong but light and an explanation of why it has very minimal dimensional change.

View in 2014 looking through the entry door.
This 2017 view shows that the workbench (horrible yellow colour) now rolls away under the layout. The mountain of gear, tools , parts, paint etc that had accumulated around the bench now resides in the drawers (equally vile green).

By May 2017, the layout progressed to the point where the complex electronics is functioning and the layout is operational although much is to be done in the scenic and structures department.

Many of my old website pages have been moved across to this blog although much is yet to come. …Rick

One thought on “Construction – from 2014”

  1. Hi Rick,
    To begin with, I cannot believe how I have not stumbled upon your blog before! You have designed an amazing blog that would have to be the easiest blog to navigate and understand everything there is to know about Model Railway! I am only just getting into Model Railway (and have absolutely 0 skill in electronics and woodwork) and I am truly inspired to get in a give everything a go after spending a short time on your blog. A huge thank you for taking the time to share your knowledge of Model Railway and I am looking forward to referring to this blog when I eventually get the chance to start building a layout of my own. Thanks Rick. Regards, Nathan.

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