In searching for a compact way to transport and store a layout, I’ve come across several articles and books over the years that outline ways to save space. The requirements I had were nothing special, but I’d never come across a compact layout idea that completely satisfied me in terms of its utility and relative simplicity. Gordon Gravett had some ideas in his 7mm modelling books that were pretty close to the mark so I adapted some of his thinking and constructed QW around the idea of “nesting” the two halves of the layout for transport.
The basic principle of this nesting idea, where two parts of a layout form a top and bottom of a transportable “box”, seems to have been around for quite a while in the UK and I’ve seen similar ideas outlined in the US. Most of the articles I’ve read seem to involve hinging the sections in the centre. I rejected this idea mainly because I felt it would be very difficult to disguise the hinge, which would need to be above the top edge of the fascia. Instead I created a slot that runs the full length of the font edge of the layout and extended the backdrop above the side boards by about and inch. This small extension of the backdrop simply sits in the slot running along the front of the layout when one section is lifted, turned over and placed into position. Assembling and disassembling the two sections of layout is a slightly delicate operation, but I’ve never had any major damage occur to the layout, however this is not a one person operation.
The fascia and backdrop of the layout is 6mm thick medium density firbreboard (MDF). I use this material mainly because it has no grain and it is just thick enough to be self-supporting over the height of my fairly low backdrops (about 350mm). The slot along the front of the layout is created by using two thicknesses of the MDF with the rear layer about 1cm lower than the front. When the layout is in two pieces the section on the right hand end is lifted, tuned over and gently positioned over the left hand end. There are trundle wheels set into the base of this section to the whole layout can be wheeled to the door of the venue and lifted into the transport. When both sections are together the layout weights about 48kg which is quite easy to manage by two people.
As the photos I’ll post with this text show, the “box” created by this process of nesting bears a striking similarity to a coffin, especially when it was in the back of my station wagon. So this nickname seemed to stick. The layout has been exhibited about five times. It takes about one hour to erect and about half an hour to pull down and pack away. Since its initial iteration it has acquired a fiddle yard and this too has gone through its own process of development and improvement. This will make up the content of my next post.
There have been a few downsides to this “nested” layout idea:
– The box is quite heavy and, at just on 1.5m (5′), I doubt you could contemplate making it any longer and stick with the nesting.
– The scenery and buildings on both segments have to be carefully planned so that they don’t clash when the layout segments are packed together.
– The backdrop edge cops a bit of a hammering and this tends to result in black lines and marks which are very hard to disguise.
Would I use this method again? Well I’m a good way along in building a new layout and I didn’t use this “nested” method of construction, so this probably is an answer to this question in itself. However I don’t believe that hiring transport to get a layout to an exhibition is viable, so if I was really short of traqnsport capacity then probably yes, I would consider using this or a similar method of construction.