Build #01: Plywood for Segment Modules

Hello 2o14! It is time to start building. I spent the last quarter of 2013 building a diorama from actual plywood instead of carton cardboard and it was definitely good learning experience for a newbie. Most importantly for me is to be comfortable in handling the power tools (thanks Dremel for the DSM20 and Dremel 3000) and to work with woods. The next question would be why don’t I finish the diorama first before starting something – the idea of leaving something half done. As I mentioned before, the diorama is my test lab. The purpose was and is to learn as I go a long, to test on small scale before doing something big. I have learnt how to build a module from this small experience and what to avoid. Hence, I am ready to start building the segment modules for my actual layout. The diorama will still be used as I experiment on other aspects of modelling.


I got my first piece of 2.5m x 1.7m 10mm thick poplar plywood sheet from a nearby wood mart. They have cut into into 4 pieces for easy transport and provided a trolley for that. I had to walk 750m with this thing to and from my house. The sheets are sufficient for 2 large module (Modules A and E) and 2 equal sized smaller modules (Modules G and H). I will start with Modules A, E, G and H (see trackplan). Modules G and H are by the windows. I would probably need to get extra sheet at least for Module F too so that I could have a continuous Modules E, F, G , H and A, which occupy the north part of the balcony. My idea is to stabilise and level the height of the modules before actually adding the track subroadbeds.

I have revised my track building after receiving some feedbacks from modellers. The vertical distance/separation that I originally plan for was only 7cm and even tighter at 4cm at one spot. This will pose problems for maintenance and in the event of derailment, I would have problem accessing the trackage. I found this problem when building my diorama too. Even though the modules will be based on “open frame” concept, whereby I could also access the tracks from the bottom, at times it would call for an access from the side. Hence, I have accepted a compromise of 12.5cm vertical separation (min 10cm, recommended 15cm) between levels as my standard. You cannot defy the law of nature; thus, my advice to fellow modellers is to follow sound and proven standards and recommendations from NMRA or NEM to ensure a reliable operation. As a result of this change, the gradient has increased from 1.8-2.2% as originally planned to 2.0% to max 3.0%. I would try to avoid pushing to 3% gradient and on hidden trackage, strive for 2.5%. I will adjust as I build the subroadbeds.

At a result of vertical distance/separation/clearance mapping around the trackplan, I managed to, hopefully, preserve the gradients between 1.7% and 3.0% while maintaining between 10cm and 15cm vertical clearance. I have noticed the potential “blindspots” have been eliminated; the previous 4cm clearance has now enlarged to 7cm and the rest with a good 8 to 12cm clearances.

jimmyuebersicht - v2b

So, that’s the plan for coming few weeks, at least until end of this February – to get 5 modules built. I have already prepared some of the support legs. The adjustable screw feet with T-nuts have been added and the height of each leg has been marked (same length for all legs since any height differences, which there are given that I have an uneven balcony, will be compensated by adjusting the screw feet.





Note: The correct term for my layout is a segment layout instead of module layout such as FreMo or NTrak. A module layout has fixed end profiles, either for single- or double-tracks, and allows different modules to combine and interface seamlessly with one another.  On the other hand, segment layout is just one layout broken down into various parts or segments (hence, the name segment layout). The various segments could not be combined with one another seamlessly. Each segment has a fixed position in relation to the rest. The challenge is to ensure that each segment will join seamlessly with its neighbours without compromising the trackwork integrity and reliability. Thus, this is my challenge, in addition to building 2 levels per segment. An example of a segment layout is a shelf-based layout.


2 thoughts on “Build #01: Plywood for Segment Modules

  1. Jimmy,

    What is your track plan program? I just purchased AnyRail last weekend. Not bad program, just taking my time in understanding it.

    • I use SCARM ( It is also easy to use. My colleague helped me with the computer-aided drawing.

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