Hi, I am coming back to model railways after a layoff. I will be starting a new layout in the new year. I would like to know what would be the best material for the baseboard and how thick. Many thanks for your input


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Read Iain Rice or Barry Norman's writings on layout design.

Use thin ply and build a box section structure. Its an awful lot stronger and lighter than the traditional 2x1 softwood + chipboard.

Best material is thin birch throughout (alternating thin strips of very dark (black) and pale timber), but you (generally) won't find that at the average DIY superstore. Instead ring round timber suppliers until you find one who has the stuff. The cheap stuff from many stockists has birch on the front face, and then no-name rubbish soft board in the middle. It splits cracks and generally falls apart as soon as looked at.

Get the supplier to cut the ply to the sections required (say 3 or 4 in deep) using their big bench cutting machine - far more accurate than 99% of domestic woodworkers can every manage, not to mention no effort on your part ! Cut strips to the required lengths (easy - if lots, get the supplier to do it, otherwise, cut at home). Glue with hot-glue or wood glue of your choice. Bandages over the joints soaked with glue will help. No serious woodworking skills required to assemble the kit of bits.

If wanting to reduce the weight further, cutting holes into the 3in wide ply pieces before assembly helps, either use a jig-saw or a round hole-saw.

- Nigel

Reply to
Nigel Cliffe

It depends what you want to achieve.

For a portable exhibition standard layout its got to be various thicknesses of ply making an open frame with raised trackbeds and scenery both above and below the level of the track. Visit

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read the article on geodesic baseboards and then branch off in to the (now hopelessly out of date) reports about progress on our club layout Soberton. There are some dimensioned drawings hanging off this page and the strips of ply we used are 100mm wide by 4mm thick. The only changes I would make to what is on the page is to steer you away from hot glue - PVA and nails/screws is the way to go as we have learnt to our cost with Soberton; and MDF which can get very puffy if it gets damp - use 1/2 or 3/4 ply for the ends instead.

If you want something simpler then 2"x1" softwood frame (any good DIY store) and a Sundela top (timber merchants) is probably the way to go for a start up project. The sundela is soft enough to allow you to pin track down and then remove the pins without making a mess of the track, the surface or the pin. (Sundela is the stuff they make noticeboards from and can be a bit pricey at £45 - £50 for an 8'x4' 12mm thick sheet)

Also, if you want to build something a bit on the large size which you want to erect and dismantle semi regularly you will also have to address the problem of alignment which most people do by using either lengths of doweling or proper pattern makers dowels to make sure the boards always go back together in the same alignment.

One of these days I really must sit down and write this all down in a book...



Reply to
Elliott Cowton

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