Beware, This Could Be Baseboard

The mock up representing the yard of a small engineering works has inspired me.

I’ve been in the garage sawing wood…

Could this be the frame for a new baseboard ? Hmm, I think it could !


An Idea for Another Layout (Uh, Oh!)

In the summer of 2016 I had an idea for a small industrial layout set in the yard of a fictional engineering works. Trains would deliver raw materials to the factory and take the finished products out of the yard.

However, I couldn’t settle on a good track plan and I couldn’t think of an easy and inexpensive way of making the factory buildings. The idea has been nagging at me ever since. You know, in the way that some ideas do…

Then two things came together. I found a track plan on the Carl Arendt website that I could easily modify to create what I wanted. Plus, I discovered LCUT who manufacture kits in laser cut wood and sell all the component pieces individually. It would be easy to build the type of factory I had in mind from these components.

I decided to investigate and brought a couple of wall components from LCUT. Then I sketched out the idea using a scrap of plastic packaging material, a chinagraph pencil and some PECO point templates.

Looking at it from a couple of angles I think it could work.

England has had unusually hot and dry weather for several weeks. Perhaps the heat is getting to me, or perhaps this really is a good idea.

I will order some more components from LCUT to investigate this in more detail.

Uh, Oh! I’ve just built the baseboards for a new layout, should I really be thinking of building another one?

The Backscene Boards

This blog sounds like it’s about a boy band. Fear not, it isn’t. Over the last couple of weeks I’ve been building the boards to form the backscenes for my new layout. They aren’t fancy. The boards are 3.5mm ply, glued and screwed to a soft wood frame.

I gave the layout side of the boards a couple of coats of white undercoat. I may paint them a light sky blue or I may glue a backscene paper to them. I haven’t decided. Either way the undercoat will stop the brown of the ply showing through. The lower part of the backscenes will be masked by the edge of the baseboards so there’s no need to paint them completely.

I screwed them to the baseboards. No glue this time. I may want to remove them in the future.

Here’s the ‘scenic’ section of the layout.

This is the ‘station’ section. I realise most people make the backboards before they lay track and add point motors. I laid the track first because I was keen to see if I could get DCC working. I had to handle this baseboard more carefully when I was fixing the back board.

Now, look at this. The two boards joined together!

When I finish a job I always stand back and look at what I’ve done. It’s the best bit!

It’s been quite a lot of work to make them (thinking how to do it, buying the wood, cutting it to size, constructing the boards, painting them and attaching them to the baseboards), but it’s very satisfying to see them in place 🙂

Laying the Passing Loop

The track laying is progressing slowly but surely. I have extended the track from the head shunt. The passing loop, the point leading to the sidings and the track leading to the next baseboard are all in place.

I had quite a few problems soldering the dropper wires onto the points (called switches in the USA). I managed to melt the plastic sleepers on two more points (bringing the total number I’ve melted to three!). This was proving to be an expensive business and I decided I had to change my approach. In the end I made three changes that have made a big difference.

  1. Use single core wire rather than multi-core wire. The multi-core wire is thicker and required more heat to get a good joint. (At least in my hands). Single core wire seems to heat up more quickly and the risk of melting the sleepers is reduced.
  2. Changing my solder. I thought the solder I was using was good quality, but an internet search showed it was an ‘el cheapo’ brand. So I invested in decent quality solder.
  3. Using flux on the rails. The old solder I was using claimed it was self fluxing but it didn’t spread well over the nickel-silver rails. Now, I add a thin coating of flux to the rails and the solder flows really well. The only downside of this approach is that I need to give the points a good wash with water to remove any residue.

Laying the track was quite straightforward. I drilled holes in the baseboards to pass the droppers through and used a small quantity of super glue to hold the track in place.

Next, the point motors were screwed into position under the baseboard. The droppers from the rails, the wires powering the point motors and the wires to the frogs were soldered to the bus wire. I’m definitely not a ‘sparky’ so I took my time and double checked everything. Then, I connected the push to make switches that will operate the points. These are the yellow wires poking out from undernearth the baseboard – a temporary installation during testing.

I connected the controller and tested the track. Amazingly, everything worked and I spent a very happy 30 minutes running a couple of locos up and down the track. Playing trains is great fun!

* Sparky = English slang for an electrician

Testing the Point Motor and the Track

With the track in place, I was keen to test it.

Wiring up the point motor is quite easy. Cobalt point motors can be powered from the DCC power supply used to power the track. All I had to do was run two wires (black and red) from the power bus to the point motor. I soldered the wires to the power bus and connected them to the spring loaded terminals on the point motor.

You can use DCC commands to change the point, however I like control panels with switches to control points. (Call me old fashioned…) Cobalt provide built in terminals for ‘manual’ point operation. I connected two wires (yellow) to a ‘push to make’ switch and connected these to the terminals on the motor.

I decided to remove the point motor from the baseboard and test to see whether it worked.

As you can see from the video, it worked well.


I mounted the point motor back on the baseboard and completed the wiring.

To power the frog I connected the wire from the frog (green) to the purpose built spring loaded terminal on the point. That was easy.

Finally, to power the track in the head shunt, I soldered the dropper wires from the headshunt to the DCC power bus.

Now for a real test with a loco!

Again, I’m really pleased to say it worked!

I am definitely no electrician, I’ve never used Cobalt point motors or DCC before, and everything worked first go.

I’ve earned a beer 🙂

Fixing the First Track to the Baseboard

This week I’ve made a start on track laying.

To fit the points I needed to drill eight holes:

  • a hole for the throw arm from the point motor
  • four small pilot holes for the screws to mount the point motor to the baseboard
  • three holes for the wires connecting the point to the electrics (the two wires to power the rails and the wire to power the frog).

The photo at the start of the blog shows all the holes.

Drilling holes is easy, but it wasn’t a quick job. I must admit I spent ages measuring the positions to make sure I drilled the holes in the right places!

Cobalt provide very good instructions with their point motors. However, they don’t supply a template for where to drill the holes with the point motor (although they do provide one at extra cost). I made my own template from a scrap of paper, and it was a really useful to position the holes correctly.

After the measuring and drilling it was a straightforward job. I fitted the point motor underneath the baseboard.

The throw arm pointed up through the hole in the baseboard.

It was easy to lower the point into place, feeding the throw arm into the tie bar of the point and feeding the three electrical wires down into the other holes.

When I was happy everything was in the right place I glued the point, and the track for the head shunt, in position with a few blobs of superglue.