I’ve seen a number of “portable” layouts at train shows over the years but an O scale monster whose outer dimensions come close to those of my house has always stuck in my mind.

Like most layouts of this type it’s little more than a gigantic multi-track oval where trains can be put on autopilot and forgotten, that is until something goes wrong. What sticks in my memory though is the time required for set up and tear down of this beast is measured in hours. Not minutes, hours.

I don’t think so.

For this project, easy transport, set up and tear down is the goal. With the beams finished, I had to figure out a support system that was simple and quick to assemble. The result is below. (My apologies for the dorky photos.)

P48 Experience_12s

This is the center section that will support the primary scenic module. The top of each leg assembly is notched to fit around the beam and they slot into guide blocks on both sides. There are no mechanical fasteners required (photo below). To prevent the legs from spreading out, I stretch a heavy bungee cord (not shown in the photos) between the lower braces. Assembly is a matter of seconds (literally) and I can hand carry everything with ease. An additional beam and leg assembly fits on each end making a total length of twelve feet, or I can just use two sections for an eight foot display.

P48 Experience_14


P48 Experience_13s

Here’s the four foot long module base in position. Ideally, I’d like it to be self-aligning to the support structure and I’m still working on a solution for that. It’s built from more quarter-inch plywood with a plywood and styrofoam sandwich for the outer members. At 20-3/4″, it came out a bit wider than I planned but that’s not a problem. I still have to add the side, back and top panels but those will wait until I’ve settled on a final design for the scene. Track level is roughly 50+ inches, meaning this is aimed toward adults, not children. An unintended consequence of having it this high is that there is a bit of wobble along the long axis but not enough to really concern me. The wobble is there because I left an 0.040″ gap when I fitted the guide blocks for the legs. This gap is compensation for changes in the material from humidity and temperature swings when it’s on the road. I could add more bracing but at a cost in simplicity so the jury is still out.

All the framework will get a coat of black paint and will be hidden behind a curtain when on display. I have two staging modules to build and that will wrap up the major construction. What I like about this is how the support for a twelve foot long display packs flat into a handful of easily carried pieces that can be managed in one trip to and from the car. Next, it’s time to get serious about the design of the scene. I have a couple of counterintuitive questions that need answers.