Archive for the ‘Baseboards’ Category

It appears that despite my prodigious debating skills, the boys have rejected my carefully planned and built layout inna box, and instead voted in favour of the layout thrown together from bits of scrap wood, as that will be a roundy-roundy and the locomotive is ‘cute’.

This is the drawback of democratic decision-making.

However, The People Have Spoken, so I’m collecting donor wagons for things like bogies and other parts, hence the appearance of Blue Boxes of ready to run stock on the modelling board. These will hopefully become the useful part of a couple of coaches. Or something.


Meanwhile, it is the holidays and because I’m now officially a student, I’ve got some time to work on the track with the boys. The goal is to have trains running by the time we all have to go back to school/college in a week, so we can then take our time making the fun bits and playing trains.


The plus side of this process is that I’m getting lots of help.


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I wanted to get the ‘recycled’ railway out of the workshop at work. As a smug eco-warrior, I have not one but two load carrying bicycles, and as this is a smaller board than the other one, I used my ‘Xtracycle’, a normal bike with extended load carrying capacity.


Bike delivery is not just door to door, but workbench to workbench. More smugness boxes ticked…


The hole in the baseboard is partly because I didn’t have enough scrap ply to cover everything, partly to allow for a small valley on one section of the board. I would claim that I planned the board so I could fit the luggage straps around it, but you’d all know I was lying.

Having got the model back in suitably tree hugging fashion, I decided that the valley could do with a solid base of ply, so I had to make a return trip or two until I got my act together…

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I’ve been keeping a secret. You see, when I finally got myself into gear to make a model railway, I had bits left over. They seemed lost in the wood store and I had some other offcuts kicking around too. If I left them, someone would grab them to make wonky boomerangs or bird boxes, and then they’d end up forgotten at the back of a shed…

So I cut some more scrap pine, stayed behind after work, and made another baseboard out of them.

honestly, I’m like a kid in a sweet shop in this job.

Anyway, the idea behind this is a plan I sketched ages ago for a circular layout. At the time Eldest Son and I were thinking in terms of 1:32 scale using HO/OO track but as he is now a lot bigger and less prone to breaking stuff we realised we could use 1:55 scale with 9mm gauge and make a much smaller version using the stock from Westerooge.


The baseboard upside down showing the double frame which is my way of making a valley for a bridge to cross. I’ve never made one of these before so that’s going to be interesting.Kreisbahn_02

We aren’t sure where we’ll put it yet, but that’s a minor detail…

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A week later than planned, and several years after I originally tried making a baseboard, the finished item was ready to go back to the apartment, which was an interesting logistical exercise as we live about 15 kilometres away from the farm.


I’ve also long maintained that if God intended us to drive cars, he’d never have given us bicycles, so on Saturday I got out our big Dutch Bakfiets (‘Box Bike’) and rode somewhat sedately to work, parked in a field for the day, then loaded up when everyone had gone home.

It took a bit longer to get back than usual, but not much, although it would help if the bike lanes had been designed by someone who used a bicycle. Or had even seen one, but that’s a subject for another blog.


Now the finished baseboard is pretending to be a storage box in our living room, and we’re trying to work out what we can fit in it.

I wonder if I could take the layout to exhibitions like this?

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Nine wheelbarrows full of manure. This is relevant to a blog about railways. Honestly.


I currently work in a city farm and we all take it in turns to do the Sunday duty. We have quite a lot of animals so we have to be on site all day, even though we’re not actually feeding for the full eight hours, so I get to make things in the workshop when the animals don’t actually need me, and I get a day off to make up for it. Everyone wins until the livestock escapes and leg it off up the lane.

My cunning plan had been to cut the parts for the baseboard over the week and build the easy bits in the evening, then to concentrate on the awkward bits on Sunday when I had feeding duty.

So, after hauling those nine wheelbarrows off to the manure tip, I had lunch and headed over to the workshop.

The first problem was stopping our geriatric “Made in West Germany” stand drill making egg shaped holes. Once I solved this I had a good hunt in our chaotic wood store until I found what the lifestyle magazines would call ‘upcycled materials’, and what we know as an old table leg made of beechwood. Beech wood is one of the hardest European woods, so I figured that would make a join that didn’t go all wobbly on me.

I’d just set the drill up when a sheep wandered past the window.

After retrieving the sheep, I drilled holes in the the beechwood. Of course they were wonky. I’m claiming this is because of the escaping sheep but you’ll all know it was incompetence. The new versions were clamped together so they wouldn’t move, then screwed together to make sure. Wood on drill, power on.

Then one of the donkeys started making a noise because a goat was looking at her funny.


I shooed the goats back to their pen and tried again. The drill went through eventually, having made enough smoke to cure a side of bacon, and finally I got all the holes for the bolts and extras for the wires, and took the whole thing over to the baseboard.


By now I’d resigned myself to the idea of aligning everything by eye. This will probably get me drummed out of the carpenters guild as I’m supposed to do everything by measuring, but it saved a lot of time and swearing.


As it was, by the time I’d screwed the lot down, test bolted both boards together, and prepared some extra framing to make the box look like a boring storage box, the horses had started complaining at the lack of service and the sheep were getting organised for an assault on the feed bins.


On the other hand, after several years of planning (and several months of faffing), I have finally made a servicable baseboard.

Now all I had to do was get it to our apartment…

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The original plan for the baseboard was that it should look like a piece of furniture with the wood stained and polished, maybe even beechwood trim.

Then I realised that this was the wrong approach. Instead, it should look boring.

Mention in a social setting that you have the latest cell phone, and the conversation will revolve around the features offered and the contract that came with it -in tedious detail- for some considerable time. Mention that you actually make stuff, and the response is anything from blank looks to outright derision.

Several times I’ve made the mistake of letting someone see my modelling bench and had responses along the lines of “you don’t have enough to do”, usually from people who think nothing of spending thousands on the latest electronic toy, which will be played with for half an hour total before vanishing for a year and reappearing as landfill.

The last thing I want is someone like this taking too much interest in the model railway, especially as it is my son’s work as well as mine, so I’m using ‘dazzle camouflage‘: the idea isn’t to hide the layout, but to make it look like another piece of boring semi-disposable Swedish furniture. If a potential scoffer asks what it is, I’ll just say it’s a ‘storage box’.

Their loss.

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Having made the basic design for the baseboard, the next challenge was to actually build the thing. You may think this is simple as I work in a creative workshop with loads of wood and several noisy machines for making holes in it, but the workshop is run by a charity for the benefit of young people and as I’ve noticed before, charities run for young people get a lot of praise and very little money, meaning the equipment we have dates from the time of the Cold War and is about as accurate as a report in an East German newspaper.

For a few weeks I’d noticed an annoying tendency on the part of the table saw to cut things just a tiny bit off square. Most of the time this isn’t a problem because after being sawed by enthusiastic but not entirely competent children, it wouldn’t be square anyway, but model trains don’t like jumping over gaps between baseboards so this would have to be improved.

Investigations revealed that the problem was the riving knife, which is the curved bit of metal that sits behind the saw blade in the picture above. It stops the wood flying backwards and hitting the carpenter in the eye at high speed, which is a good thing. Ours was slightly wonky and it was pulling the wood off centre. This is not so good.

Solution. Take the riving knife out, clean possibly a decades worth of accumulated sawdust out of the inner gubbins, replace knife. Test.


After a few minutes of kicking things and bemoaning the state of the world, it occurred to me that if I cut the wood about a centimetre over size, and then cut it again, I’d only have a very narrow strip beyond the saw, so that when the riving knife pushed this to the side, the wood could bend instead of pulling the rest of the wood with it.

This almost worked, with some improvised guiding of the wood (Read: Brute force) and carefully marking which bits were square and which were not, I finally had baseboard tops and sides that were the shape of a rectangle instead of a sneaky diamond. It even looks a bit like the original sketch:


This solved I prepared for the next challenge: making the open baseboard fit together…


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