Building A Light Weight Module

By Stephen Hatch of Railway Engineering
Return to Railway Enghineering

I'm building a new RR in Sn3 in Dewey AZ. It will be light weight construction so that
it can easily be moved and set up by one or two people. Progress will be documented and
photos posted here. Each module will be 3 ft by 7 ft They will have 28" curves throughout
including the reverse loops.
I started the roadbed this evening and it occurred to me that someone may wish to watch
the process and progress as I build it and that's why this web page. All of the methods
and materials I'm using, are simple and inexpensive and can be accomplished by almost anyone.
I'll take a couple pics so you can see what's happening everyday.

First day:

I laid a 4x8 sheet of 3/4 ply on two saw horses as a surface to
work on. It's not part of the module...just a place to work.
I cut out 28" radius pieces of 1/8th inch doorskin.
Then I laid them out. cut them to fit.. and made two layers of
the 1/8th inch ply.
Then I laid them together and glued them. Put some weights on them
to hold them while the glue dried.
Now I have the roadbed all together as one piece in a complete
reverse loop. Before I attach it to the module, I'll lay the
ties and spike all the rail in place.
So tomorrow I'll glue down the ties....make the turnouts...
and spike the rail in place while the roadbed is sitting firmly
on the plywood....(makes it easy to spike)
If you have any questions, please ask....I'll answer.

-Steve Hatch
Railway Engineering

--- In, Mike Conder wrote:
> So it's almost like you're making big pieces of sectional track? Open frame
with risers for the module design?
> Mike Conder

Hi Mike.
The NCNG (Northern California Narrow Gaugers) modular HOn3 group
is kinda like that. 60 inch high 2x4 foot hunks of sectional
railroad. The sections join together to form the modular railroad
that we take to shows and the like.
This module will be completely covered with scenery after I finish
doing the track and mounting it to the frame. Then it will fit
to the other modules and give us a way to turn the train around and send it
back. I just prefer laying the track before the roadbed is
attached to the module. That way I can access all areas easily.

By using this double layer 1/8th ply, it is very light but very
strong. Then I'll use 2inch foam as the base of the module which is
also light. I've built others like this and they always come out
strong and light weight. You can carry this module (completed) with
one is that light yet strong.

-Steve Hatch
Railway Engineering

Built the sides and framed in the 2"foam. The basic module
now exists. Also layed all the wood ties and built the four
turnouts, so I'll lay all the rail tomorrow.


--- In, Mike Conder wrote:
> What kind of foam did you use? It looks like beadboard with a fake wood
> Mike Conder

I used foil covered foam. Mossburger and I peeled the foil off.
The foam has a brown paper ..... that's what looks like wood but
only in the photo.

I finished the ties and sanded them:
By the way, this is an important step. Sand the ties to get them even.
They aren't all the same thickness so a light sanding
makes them smooth and level. One secret to good track.

Then I stained all the ties

Then I balasted all the ties with dirt.

Started laying the rail by laying the turnouts first. Now I'm

filling in between the turnouts with rail.
I'm using weathered rail for this module.
I'll take some pics of the finished track tomorrow when there is
more light. Looks like we'll be ready for wiring tomorrow.
-Steve Hatch
Railway Engineering


Using Rollee Holders helps the laying go smoothly.
They grip the rail and keep it in place

Got the wiring in and the first trains roll

Got the legs installed 2x2's only needs three.

OK so all of the 18 feet of track is laid along with making and
installing the four turnouts. (surprised me to use 12 lengths of rail)
You can see in the picture how I use Rollee Holder track gauges
to hold the rail in place and in shape so all I have to do is come
along spiking the rail down.
Everything is wired and running just fine.
The legs are on so it stands by itself.

Hey it's already usable in a module set up.... in 4 days.

Tomorrow I'll install the operating switch stands (I make them too)
They're easy to install and they power route the frogs (DCC ready)
Unless something drastic happens, I should start the scenery by
tomorrow afternoon sometime.

Please ask questions if there is anything you don't quite understand.
I'm happy to explain. This goes a bit fast so I don't always
explain as well as I should. Fun Fun... I'm running trains on it.

Let's do some scenery

Here are a few pictures of another module I built some years ago.
This will give you an idea of the scenery that's possible
using this extremely light weight method.
You can carry with one hand. Perfect for modules.

-Steve Hatch
Railway Engineering

--- In, "Pete Doty" wrote:

> Steve,
> I always try to scroll up or out or down to see more of your work.
> Thanks for sharing. Are you using door skins for your track bed road base?
> Eg 1/8 to 3/16th plywood? Looks like you laminated 2 together. Why this
> instead od 3/8ths ply?

Hi Yes I use two 1/8th inch door skin for my roadbed. Several
reasons. By laminating two and spanning each joint, I make the
whole roadbed one piece or strength.
Also the luan is easy to press spikes in but it still holds them
very well. There are no "splice" subroadbed pieces to deal with.
I get a smooth transition from one piece to the next with no bumps.
And I can just glue it to the foam with no other supports needed.

All in All it's a very fast/easy/strong/light weight/ way of doing
the onerous chore of roadbed.
I wouldn't like spiking into 3/8ths ply. Too hard to do.

So That's why I use two layers of door-skin ply glued together.
By the way today was scenery day
so let's go to Page 2 ....Scenery

Railway Engineering Web Page
Having fun huh!?

-Steve Hatch
Railway Engineering