Construction ideas for 4-part mini layout

I've been in and out of model railroading for years--usually because I don't have room to devote to a full-size, full-time layout. I once
built a 2-part HO layout (4 x 16 feet) as part of a commercial display shown at a state fair. This time, I'd like to build what is essentially a mountain shape on a 42-inch x 42-inch base that will be made of four sections (each 21 x 21 inches at the base). I intend it to be HO gauge, with non-prototypical sharp radii. The modular approach would allow me to assemble it for the holidays, then disassemble it and store it until the next year. Construction will be of solid foam with track roadbed of strips of Masonite (non-hardened hardboard), glued to the foam. The rails will be laid in spirals, with reversing loops, etc. The challenge will be to be able to line up the rail joiners and have the four modules lock together without a lot of sloppy movement. I'm looking for some intelligent suggestions--and can do without criticism suggesting that I'm stupid to even propose the idea. :^)
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I recommend that you don't attempt to lay the track right up to the edge of the modules. The NTRAK people have developed pretty good standards based on lots of experience. I believe they use 5" track sections to bridge the joints across modules, both to account for slight variations between modules and because it is a commercially available sectional track size. I have a portable HO layout of four 2' x 4' modules. I used the NTRAK idea, but chose Atlas 2" fitters as the bridges, stopping the fixed track 1" from the edge of each module, since I laid the track with the fitters and don't have the variability of mating with a variety of other modules. This has worked well for me, and protects the ends of the fixed track during transport and storage of the modules. I gather you will have continuous curves on your layout, but you could make short fitters of the appropriate radius by cutting up sections of Snap Track.
The NTRAK design is for "C" clamps to join the sections. Again since I did not need the adjustability, I assembled my modules the first time with clamps, but when it was all aligned, I drilled two 1/4" holes through both module frame ends, and I use 1/4" x 3" carriage bolts with wing nuts to hold the modules together in very repeatable alignment. I use these same bolts to attach pairs of modules to simple frames for ease of storage and transport. Geezer
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deeburgerclown wrote:

A couple of half inch dowels through the mating end plates works nicely to maintain alignment between two adjacent sections. Build the structure of the modules first, fasten them together and drill the holes for the dowels. After you install the dowels (NO glue!) you produce the roadbed surface and run the track with the modules fastened together. Then whenever you align them with the dowels the track will be properly aligned with your joiner tracks. You can tether the dowels to the underside of the modules so they don't get lost during storage and transport.
Fabricate pockets to go around ALL sides of your removable legs. Before you assemble the pockets you can counter-bore the inside of the leg pocket on one side so that the leg clears a tee nut. Properly arranged this allows you to have a thumb screw under the module that goes through the tee nut and keeps the leg from falling out when you move the module. To see dimensions for the pockets see the N-TRAK module frame drawing at http://www.trainweb.org/shrntrak/moduleframe.htm . This is MUCH easier than attaching the legs with carriage bolts!
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deeburgerclown wrote:

Good concept. Use short engines and cars. Make sure tracks are at least 3" from the edge of the modules, a) for scenery, and b) to reduce odds that passersby will brush the trains off the layout.
Avoid Masonite for trackbed, even the half-hard type. Use cork instead, or foam board. Use water-based acrylic latex contact glue and PVC glue. Quilter's pins can be used to hold parts until the glue sets (or shove 'em all the way in, and leave 'em there for added strength.)
You'll also need to frame each module in 3/8" or better plywood, to take the strain of joints and protect the foam scenic base.
For joining, use cabinet makers' dowels (expensive but relatively simple), or interlocking wedges on the faces of the modules, and bolts bolts )(cheaper, but trickier to build.) Use 3-6" long track pieces to bridge the joints. Do not rely on aligning the modules to get precise rail alignment.
BTW, you could make this an On30 layout (O scale, HO gauge track, representing 30 inch narrow gauge.)
And unless space constraints are really, really strict, I'd advise enlarging the thing to 48" x 48".
Have fun!
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Thanks for some great suggestions! Appreciate the accumulated wisdom of the group.

and cars. Make sure tracks are at least

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