Fold Down Train Layout #1: Prototype/Interim around the tree (with pix)

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Blog entry by Dan Lyke posted 12-14-2009 06:52 PM 10308 reads 0 times favorited 1 comment Add to Favorites Watch
no previous part Part 1 of Fold Down Train Layout series no next part

Just to give the payoff early, here’s a video, no sound, skip to the last third if you want to see the fold-up action:

I like model railroads. When I was a kid, my dad worked with a guy named Bill Kennedy who had the Ramapo Valley Railroad in his basement. It was HO scale, super highly detailed, snaked through several rooms, had walk-around throttles, and was featured in a magazine or two.. Years later I picked up an N scale train to run around the Christmas three, picked up a copy of Model Railroader magazine, and there was one of Bill’s models. However, I never managed to get buidling the N scale layout far enough up on the list to get to the next stage.

At some point, my Dad sent me the S gauge trains he had as a kid, that I”d had as a kid, and I sold off all of the tiny N scale stuff because I realized that the layout was never going to happen. Putting up the train around the tree was fine as far as that went, but I wanted something more, something where other times of the year I could hear the buzz of the motors and the click-click-click of the wheels on the track.

My sweety said “we should have something that folds down from the wall”. Not wanting to commit to using expensive wood for an engineering project that I wasn’t sure was going to work, I got a sheet of birch veneer plywood to build a prototype and started to cut:

I built a 2 inch deep H-channel out of plywood and cut it into segments with 15° angles on each end, then used the Domino to loose tenon those segments together. Problems:

  • Need to figure out a better way to clamp the segments to glue them together. A clamp on either side and then a bar clamp pulling those together was clumsy and resulted in at least two joints that aren’t as firm as they should be.
  • Somehow, the whole loop ended up just a little bit shy of the full size I wanted. I’m not sure where the measurement went awry, but the curves end up really close to the outside. My plan is to put up a little safety cable or something, but I’m not sure there’s room for that on this one.
  • It wasn’t exactly 15&deg’, which meant a little bit of fudging on the small segments where the hinges are, which meant that those don’t match up exactly.


  • When I installed the thing, I ended up lowering it down ‘til the cables were slack, and it still sat there cantilevered off the wall. So my method of attaching the piece that holds the hinges and such is far far stronger than I’d planned on.
  • The overall structure is pretty darned stiff, I’m way impressed with myself.
  • Installation was easier than I’d expected. I hung the thing from the pulleys, drilled through the hinge plates,
  • The whole thing actually looks good enough that with some edge-banding and a coat of dark gel finish to hide the glue squeeze-out/stains it’ll make a great interim piece, which will do nicely while the higher priority around-the-house tasks get finished before we can build the final piece.

To do in the finalé

  • Build the whole thing out of something that looks nice and goes with the mahogany and white oak theme that that room is acquiring. Massaranduba is a possibility.
  • Make it have some sort of lattice/tie design theme rather than the solid plate of plywood in the middle so that little visitors to the house can see the train from below.
  • Like to make the hinge plates a little smaller.
  • Add a little bit of layout-like theme: I think the straight portion of the loop that folds down can have a somewhat girder bridge feel to it, and the tops of the hinged areas could have facades reminiscent of stations or other buildings.

But that’ll probably be a few years off yet, there’s still a kitchen and a bathroom and an electrical system and…

more pictures at my personal web site

-- Dan Lyke, Petaluma California,

1 comment so far

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18244 posts in 3639 days

#1 posted 12-15-2009 07:12 AM

Great idea for track storage ;-))

-- Bob in WW ~ "some old things are lovely, warm still with life ... of the forgotten men who made them." - D.H. Lawrence

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