It Started With An Itch – Part IV

It Started With An Itch – Part IV
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Part IV Of Gary’s Blog Looks At Taking His First Track Plan from Paper To Baseboard…

‘Bartlow End’ looked fine, on paper, but converting that design into the physical was going to be quite a challenge. Although I could make a computer dance on tip toe from a coding point of view, all the wires inside the tin had me totally mystified. The same went for woodwork, Sure I could sit on a chair, but make one? Then there was welding (Ok soldering) to be considered, as well as populating a landscape with hills, rivers, paths etc. A sinking feeling came over me. I had barely touched a saw or screwdriver since leaving school donkey’s year back, and I had been totally useless with them then. Now, as well as woodwork, I was faced with a long list of additional new skills to acquire; electrical wiring, soldering, landscaping … the list just kept running on, and, apart from spending three terms planning a piece of wood to death (It refused to be square on all four sides), I had never done any of them before. Equally, as my toolbox held only a saw and a small hammer, I lacked many of the tools that I would need.

This was going to fun!

It was also going to be interesting as my first problem, how to get a 4ft by 8ft lump of insulation board up the stairs in one piece, was already causing a headache. One of Laurie’s videos had explained how to make a lightweight baseboard using this material and I was keen to give it a go, But, a very tight landing wasn’t interested at all in playing the game. So, my hands got reintroduced to a saw and, several wounded fingers later, one piece of Celotex had become two and my first challenge, in what was evidently going to be a long running series, had been solved!

Next, I had to figure out how to support the layout. Accepted, I was very much in my babyhood railway modelling wise, but nevertheless I had very little desire to be crawling around on all fours whenever I felt the need to run a railway. The magicians on UTube could whip up a trestle with just a hammer and a mouthful of nails. Whilst agreeing that everyone needs a degree of iron in their diet,  I could certainly foresee complications arising if I were to attempt such an approach. No, clearly something already made was called for and so a visit was made back to B & Q where a pair of wallpapering tables were procured. They had stability problems perhaps, but height they also had, and, rather unwisely as I later discovered, I was trying to build this thing on the cheap!

Now the cunning plan involved wrapping the insulation board inside a frame made up of thin pieces of wood. Laurie, I soon realised, had gone for 3 mm plywood, but, having returned to the hardware store and helplessly wandered around until I located its deceased tree section. I exited it bearing planks that could have anchored down the QE II. My baseboard wasn’t perhaps going to be quite as light as his after all and clearly my learning curve was going to be steep!

Next. I had a go at nailing one piece of wood to another. Honest. But the results were so bad that a product advertised as not needing any nails at all immediately grabbed my full attention. Even then I didn’t realise that a pump was required to get the cement like substance out of its tube. I tried to persuade it by hand and after several minutes of brute force and language to match, I had only managed to squeeze out a tiny drop. By now B & Q were getting quite used to my repeat visits !

Still, I viewed the moment when the Celotex was finally encased inside its tomb with quite a degree of satisfaction. OK, so the corners weren’t as square as Laurie’s, but the pieces of laminated paper, each bearing the layouts name, which I had attached to a number of strategic places did rather look the business!

Fortunately, the carpet had seen better days because I then neglected to put down a ground sheet before providing the board with a base coat of grey paint. Still, no worries, its leprous new look would be hidden under the layout once everything was in place. The same however could not be said for all the debris and mess that I then made as I began artistically cutting spare pieces of Celotex into shapes that were meant to resemble hills. Let’s at this point just accept that they got the hump and leave it there. Unfortunately, though the fallout from this exercise could not be so easily ignored and so housework, e.g driving a hoover, got added to my C.V.

There’s something special about the moment when track first gets introduced to an otherwise empty piece of board. Plans quickly turn into reality, and a few track pins later, trains are whizzing around like there’s no tomorrow. Inside the much-edited world that is UTube just possibly, but out in the wild, track and other similar belligerently minded objects, take on a life all of their own. So, no sooner did I have one piece of line in position than another section, usually on the far side of the oval, moved itself out of alignment. This was like nailing jelly to a wall!

Laurie had mentioned something called ‘Ballasted underlay’ that went underneath the track and, as well as giving it a raised, more realistic, look, it also deadened the sound of a passing train to some degree. Could this perhaps provide an answer? Possibly, but where could I get some from? And so, to the dismay of my bank manager and the joy of various on line merchants, I ventured onto the web and began melting my bank card.

A few days later, carefully coiled up inside a black and orange box, the underlay arrived, and track laying could recommence in earnest. Compared with what had gone on before it was quite a slick operation. Well certainly in terms of the PVA that got spread about everywhere! The nice thing though about that gluey, sticky substance is that it dries clear and so there was very little trace of my attempts to do an Andy Warhol once everything had had a chance to dry.

What was in plain sight though was a baseboard, proudly borne upon two decorating tables, that measured 8ft by 4 and boasted a twin track. All that was missing, bar of course the scenery, was a pair of trains. Finally, the moment had arrived for Lindy and Bonny to emerge from their cardboard engine shed and to take up station in their new home. But, would the newly laid track be to their liking, and how easily would they traverse the two sets of points that lay in their way. Would they even run?

It was clearly time to start testing!


About The Author


Favourite Scale: OO / 1:76 Likes: Making small stuff on the laser cutter Dislikes: Counting rivets Other info: Starting to dabble with the world of 3D printing a bit to enhance the products we create on the laser. Layout: Whitwick Grove


  1. Tellem_Noot

    So gripping, even reading this at 6.30 am, before Justins posted the e mails! It also shows how many varied skills are required by us modellers, electrics, artwork design, joinery the list goes on…. and now journalism. great effort Gary.

    • Justin

      Morning Trevor! You’re an early bird. It’s really interesting following someones first steps in the hobby 🙂

    • Greeves24TDS

      I must admit, I am looking forward to the next installment of Gary’s blog,
      What an inspired way of getting new people into our hobby. Great work.

  2. PACtrain

    It would seem some people miss the point of this hobby. (re comment removed from site). A couple of points. I you have nothing nice to say – keep your views to yourself! If you have something you feel could be better – point out the good points that you like and make constructive helpful comments on those you don’t. Hopefully we are all in this hobby for the fun we get from it!


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