The baseboard is a foundation for any model railway, so it needs to be sturdy and strong. Scrimping on the quality of materials is not usually a good idea, so working on a non-existent budget could be a bit of a challenge! But I think it’s doable with a bit of thought, cunning and a the help of a few generous souls along the way.
The baseboard for the Model Railway Layout On A Budget is to be constructed using a couple of sheets of chipboard I picked up from Ikea’s “Bargain Corner” about a year ago now. They cost me the princely sum of just £1 each. It’s not necessarily the greatest material for a model railway baseboard, I’d much rather use Sundeala or at least MDF, but this project is about building a layout on as tighter budget as possible, so beggars can’t be choosers as my Mother says!
As we have big plans for the layout (Like maybe even taking it to a few Model Railway Exhibitions if it’s good enough when it’s done) I’ve decided to make it modular so it can be transported easily in the back of our car. Each section should be light enough for one person to carry, and have removable legs so it can be displayed on a table top, or indeed be developed throughout the winter on the dining room table where it’s warm, and then moved to somewhat chillier garage for general use and storage.
Each baseboard module will be approximately 1m x 0.5m. This should make them sturdy enough with just a minimal underframe to support the boards and stop any serious warping.
First off, the chipboard was cut down to size using my father’s circular saw, trimming off about 10cm from the width of the board and then splitting the board down into two across the middle. This gave me two smaller sheets approx 105cm by 52cm. These would then be just the right size to fit through the loft hatch should the layout end up being stored up there over winter. Eventually I’ll be looking to build approximately 6 sections of baseboard that can be easily assembled and disassembled, but for the initial stages, I’ll get started with just 2.
Layout Support Frame
The timber for the supporting frame for the layout came from a kind, local chap via Freegle. He’d been doing some DIY in preparation for putting his house on the market and needed to re-home the timber. It was all random shapes and sizes, but a few minutes on the circular saw again sorted this out, leaving me with some handy 50mm x 20mm softwood for the outer frame and cross-braces in decent lengths, plus some 50mm x 50mm lengths that could be used for temporary bolt on legs if needed.
I know some people may cringe at me using such small size wood for the frame, but with the small, modular size of the boards, I think I should just about get away with it. In an ideal world I’d have used thicker stuff, but my budget is as close to zero as possible for the build so I have to go with what I can get my hands on!
Putting it all together
- Tenon Saw
- Mitre Block (to keep things nice and square)
- Wood Glue
- Quick Grip Clamps or G Clamps
- Tape Measure
- Drill with 2mm bit, screwdriver bit and countersinking tool
- 1 1/2″ chipboard screws
I finally found some time yesterday to get on with the construction. It was a lovely summers day so I dragged my other half, Tina outside to give me a hand with a few bits. She quite likes getting stuck in with woodwork and we actually work great as a team (most family members just can’t fathom it, but we do!). I spent 10 minutes hunting through boxes and jam jars in the garage and found enough screws and a bit of Evostick Wood Glue that should hold the whole lot together.
I planed all the exposed sides and edges of the timber for the frame to remove the rough sawn surface, reducing the chances of anyone, including me, getting splinters in my fingers.
The frame sides and cross-braces were then measured out and cut to length.
The top of the baseboard was then marked out with screw positions 10mm in from each edge of the board so the under-frame would sit nice and flush with the edge of the baseboard. Screw positions we also marked in 3 places across the centre of each board for the main cross-brace.
A 2mm pilot hole was then drilled in each marked position (6 along each side, 3 across the ends and middle) where the under-frame would be fixed.
Note: In an ideal world I’d have preferred to maybe construct the under-frame as a standalone assembly then screw the baseboard down on top, but I wanted to keep the construction as simple and straightforward as possible… So the frame would be screwed to the underside of the board as I went.
Once the pilot holes were done, the under-frame could then be screwed into place. A small line of wood glue was applied to the top edge of each under-frame section and it was then clamped into place while the chipboard screws were put in to secure it.
Both baseboard sections were then left on a flat surface to allow the wood glue to dry thoroughly.
The completed baseboard sections are now ready for their legs/supports which is my job for over the weekend! Please feel free to post any comments via the form below, I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂 I’ll post more updates next week when I hopefully will get a few minutes to start planning the layout itself!