Moving is no easy task. Add being a passionate model railroader into the mix and the task becomes much harder. For almost five years, I have been trying to create a moving model railroad. After 13 years of active duty military service and working on my 14th year, I have learned that moving is a very frequent occurrence. In those 13 years, I have moved six times in four different states. Every time I begin to create a layout, the next move is in the back of my mind reminding me not to add too many structures or too much detail because the movers will only destroy the hard work I put into each and every scene.
Therefore I try to be as flat as possible, as portable as possible and as rebuilding friendly as possible when creating my layout. But for the first few years, I had to go on a fact finding mission to find the best way to keep the layout portable. My first investigative journey was to the local train show to see how the modular modelers and Free-mo layouts were constructed. Surprisingly, I found quite a few structures on these modular layouts. However, I knew that moving companies had ignored my requests in the past to not stack items on top of the layout. Moving from California to Nebraska, they had rested my rear projection 57 inch HDTV on top of one of modules. Those older HDTVs are not light, and it did crush some of my scenery. I had determined for my modules, a large area of industry or modeling a small downtown area was not something I wanted to disassemble.
The decision was made for me by the U.S. Air Force that my layout would be fairly simple. I could either model with the frequent moves in mind, or experience heartbreak and physical breakage during each move. Outside of being surprised by the structures on the train show modular layouts, I did learn some tricks to help keep things mobile. Bridging track from one module to another was a helpful trick I learned to easily connect and disconnect modules when needed. I also studied the electrical connections and found quite a few examples of easily connected and disconnected wiring between modules. One example of this was a trailer hitch connection. After visiting the train show I was inspired to start on my modular and mobile layout. I created new modules and moved to Nebraska to build my miniature world.
When I arrived in Nebraska and built the layout, I documented how I built the layout on YouTube and quickly finished every aspect of the layout build within four months. But I quickly learned that even those modules wouldn’t hold up to the moving process when it arrived. The two end modules were too large at six feet in length by five feet in depth. That was entirely too large to effectively move with ease. So once again, I found myself at the very beginning of a layout.
This fall I will embark on the journey of building my fourth layout. I honestly hope this is my last layout until at least military retirement in the year 2020. These modules will not be oversized, they will be sturdy and will hold up through the next move. I have also learned to do a better job of fastening track and roadbed to the modules. The last four years of experiences will all factor in on this latest layout attempt.
The most important thing to learn from my story is learning itself. Modeling is a constant improvement process. No one is perfect the first time around, and you learn lessons as you progress. With some they are constantly changing layouts, others are constantly changing scenery, yet still there are some modelers that are immensely talented that rip everything up and start over again just because of the layout design or flow. Learning how to become a better modeler involves past versions of yourself whispering in your ear and reminding you not to make the mistakes you had before. If everyone keeps those past lessons in mind, they will progress as modelers and improve in any aspect they attempt.
Happy Model Railroading!
Blog # 1