After 5 years of assembling our club layout on the fly at shows and events, we finally tired of the setup time required, keeping track of over 1000 pieces, and transporting about 40 boxes of stuff to each show. It was great to show how you can use Kato Unitrack to build a large layout in a short time, but it was time for a change. The club membership had many discussions about what should come next, and settled on a set of goals, wants, and don't wants. It boiled down to the following:
While modular formats like N-trak and T-trak allow creation of a layout that requires little coordination, it is difficult to get a track plan that breaks away from mainly straight track. In the end, we planned a sectional layout using standard-sized base sections in an oval, but with a unique (non-modular) track plan.
While modular formats like N-trak and T-trak allow creation of a layout that requires little coordination, they end up having a track plan that ends up with mainly straight track.The end result was the planning of a Sectional layout that would have a unique track plan that roamed around Oval layout shape, but the track would break along convenient, standardized base modules. This was a compromise between the old complex track plan and a very plain modular design. A module base size of approx 1m long (990mm - 4 x 248 track sections) by 20" deep. This is a size that, with some sort of enclosing box for transport, would fit into the back seat or trunk of a standard sedan if necessary (2'x4' ntrak modules are notoriously a bit too large for this!)
The starting point for the plan was the double-track viaduct shinkansen line. We decided it was important to keep the 9’ shinkansen station (long enough to hold a prototype-length bullet train), avoid a simple oval shape, and eliminate the S-curve that was a source of problems on the old layout. We also wanted to make sure there was at least a little bit of tangent track coming into the switches for the station.
For the ground lines, we had to compromise. We liked the complexity of the various loops on the old layout, but the oval layout shape didn’t allow for that. Instead, the ground track lines move from front to back and disappear behind and under scenery so that trains aren’t always visible and there’s at least a little mystery about where one will appear next.
Less overall area for track and the need for track to cross section boundaries at 90° limited the number and placement of sidings. For now, the ground level has less capacity than the old layout did for parking a variety of trains, but eventually we plan to add a large ground-level yard alongside the shinkansen yard.
Section Bases and Support Structure
Each section has a very light but rigid frame of 1” x 3/4” clear pine stock. The long (front and back) frame members have a rabbet joint cut in them for the 3/16” plywood top to lock into. The frame ends and two cross pieces support the top from underneath. The ends of the modules have two 1/4” holes with small dowels inserted to help align the modules.
To support the modules, we designed a girder system of 0.75” x 1.5” stock. The girders consist of two outside pieces of the stock material and cross pieces to hold them apart. The overall width of the girder structure is 4” narrower than the modules to inset them under the modules. For ease of transportation, the girders are in sections that bolt together. Long girders fold for transport. The girder system is designed to be placed on top of any available support system, such as sawhorses or tables. Then the layout sections can be bolted to the girder assemblies.
So far, the layout has:
Our First Show
Another area for future expansion is the addition of more scenery areas, both in the middle of the layout and along the outside edges. Our members have a variety of ideas for scenes they’d like to model, and interchangeable scenic areas that can be attached to the layout will allow us to show them off. Some additional scene ideas, such as a tram line along the front of the layout, allow for even more railroading on the layout.
Of course, as mentioned above, we also have connection points where we can add more sections to the layout. Our first order of business is to add a yard for the ground level, but after that, we can add sections to lengthen the layout, bend it into an L-shape, or hang a “peninsula” off the side.
With “JRM Layout 2.0”, we have more options than ever before!