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Father and Son

New Member
Hello everyone.

I am Andy Grow, and my son Nathaniel (4-1/2) and I are just getting into model railroading. I have a few N-scale locomotives and about 10 cars, so I will be sticking with N-scale, even though it's not the "best" for the little guy.

Part of the reason I am going N is because I am active duty Coast Guard, and as such we transfer/move every 2-4 years. As I type this, we are preparing for our transfer to Juneau, Alaska - our 4th time living in the Great Land!

Anyhow...on with the questions.

For someone who moves often, it can be difficult (at best) to do an entire layout of landscaping, mountains, even buildings. My question is, does anyone have any suggestions on what the best methods and landscapes I should choose, knowing that in 3-4 years we will be leaving Juneau and heading somewhere else?

Next question - we probably won't be living in a large house. I am brainstorming some ideas about how to have a decent sized layout (maybe 3'x6' or even a 4'x8' - I like big, long trains!!!), yet not have it take up the entire room. Has anyone made a set that hangs from the ceiling on pulleys and can be lowered down for use? What about hinges on the wall with legs that fold out (on hinges also) for support when using it? Any ideas of that sort would be great.

That's about it for now. As I said, we are just getting into things and won't actually be starting until August at the least we hope that's when we will have a place to live!

Andy (and Nate)


Entrepreneurial Teen
Welcome to the forum! I see we have another Nate :)

You've come to the right place for questions, answers, advice, photos, and the like. There is a talented group of folks that visit regularly and are happy to help.

There are many people in similar situations that want to build layouts, but know they will be moving eventually. The most common fix for that is to build a layout in several smaller modules that hook together to form a decent size layout, and separate to permit easier transportation. There are some commercially available module type products (Woodland Scenics comes to mind, but you can save some money by building your own. Removable or folding legs would help with transportation.

I think I recall somebody building a layout that lowered down from the ceiling as you suggested, but I don't remember if it was on a forum on in a magazine. You could probably use a hollow core door for something like that. The trick would be keeping it level on its journeys up and down, but as a Coast Guard guy, I'm sure you could figure out a rope system that would work well :)


Fun Lover
Although people have build layouts that you lower, I've never been a fan of them.

John Armstrong designed an N-scale layout that folded up onto a wall. It was in a book called Creative Layout Design. It had a small yard to the side so that trains and rolling stock could be moved off to the side when the layout was raised.

That solves the problem that most of these storable layout have--long set-up time.
First and most important thank you for your dedication to serving and protecting our country. It isnt mentioned enough but is greatly appreciated.

Welcome to the forum and good luck with your layout ventures.

As a navy brat I learned a bit on the moving things.

I would recommend that you do a 3x8 layout {4x8 is fine but harder to move and flexes more} in a box with a lid. The lid mounts to the wall to make your backdrops and the bottom folds down with legs to make the layout.
Make the mountains removable {for storing in a closet when it is folded up} and disposable for when you move.
Take the trees and landscaping off and pitch the rest. Mountains are quick and easy to make and arent that big a deal to redo at next port of call.

Hanging layouts are ok and not hard to pull up and down. I had one and hated it. There isnt much stability even on saw horses and it flexs when it is up and changes back when it is down. Unless you build it so heavy you cant carry it to the truck.

Good Luck and Thanks again!!
Hi Andy: Great to have a coastey in the forums. Take a look at the N-trak moduals. The standards make it possible to match up with others at club get togethers and such. Even if you don't do club thing you will be able to change your you arrangement. The moduals are in sizes of 2x4ft. Very east to move. I'm in HO and have built a 12x26 ft layout of moduals in 2x several lengths. Makes it easy to add subtract or change the layout.
Above all have fun.
I'll add my thanks for your service. I did 7 years in the Army flying helicopters during the Viet Nam thing. As we used to say WETSU.


Drum Driver
I think, giving the problem of moving and such until permanently located, if I was you I'd build a Woodland Scenics "Scenic Ridge" layout...Its about 3x6 feet I believe and I'd build it in a box that opens like our sound board for our band does. This is just a long box that top half lifts off and latches onto it by latch hasps....Legs could be wing-nutted on and off or wheels could be added and this could easily slide under a bed for storage....Then when you have to move simply put the top on, latch and carry by handles at each end...Protecting all the details inside...Actually you could get creative and make the legs fold into the lid....then just set up and place the layout on top of the lid as a complete table!....I think I might just build one myself!! that I have an idea!...and if you look on eBay and do a search that layout is sold in 3 kits; (1)The base (foam boards, risers, tunnels, trees and scenery supplies ect) (2)The track pack, and (3) all the buildings and details...But scroll to the bottom and one hobby shop is offering the 3 kits together..saving few $385...(#1= $179-$220, #2=$49, #3=$91)... Hope this gives you a plan..but in the space your talking about..LONG trains aren't going to be too long....I'd also stick with like 40ft cars so you can fit more onto the sidings and long trains would consist of more an impression that its longer. (2/ 60' cars are about as long as 3/ 40' cars and the 3 cars will appear longer)...Hope this gives you an idea..I don't want you to build something that in your mind may have seemed bigger, But like I said, Stay with short cars and short engines and I am sure you'll be satisfied with the out come....Good Luck and keep us posted!... (4X8 would be huge in N scale) ;)


Running the MC & Buffalo
Andy & ( Nate ) welcome and good luck with the layout and the move to Alaska! Do you get involved with those Crab fishermen up there ? They are a crazy bunch of guys chasing those critters.

Father and Son

New Member
Andy & ( Nate ) welcome and good luck with the layout and the move to Alaska! Do you get involved with those Crab fishermen up there ? They are a crazy bunch of guys chasing those critters.

Where there are fish (and crab!), there will be fishermen willing to put their lives on the line.

While I am not in the Search and Rescue side of the house, I am involved in the investigations when something goes wrong (death, serious injury, etc).

Thanks for the good wishes!

Steve B

Hello Andy, welcome to the sunny side of the street, i'm sure we can help, we have a whole bunch of fantastic people on the forum, any questions at all just ask.
My friend has built a nice n scale railway on a house internal door, you know the hollow core type, and round this is a door frame made of 6" by 1" with a 1/4" ply lid in a frame for strength, works fine for him, and you would be surprised at what detail he's got in there,when he's done he just folds the lid down and stands it up out the way.


Coal Shoveler
One of the many track plan books out there had an article on a layout by a guy in the Air Force. Like you, he moved a lot. The way he solved his problem was to build a number of modules, which could interconnect in multiple ways. In that way, he could fit his empire into just about any sized room. He could use any number of modules depending on what housing he was in.

I can't remember how many modules he had; I do recall he did have 3 large ones. But, it might be worthwhile to have one large one as the anchor, with a number of smaller ones to add onto where space allows. Though I would stay away from 'island' layouts. Those are space hogs.


Father and Son

New Member
Thanks to everyone who took the time to reply.

We've made it to Juneau, and have an entire room that is empty...and just begging for a layout!!!

Now the decision is...HO or N? I've already got some N stuff, but could easily buy new HO instead. Decisions, decisions...!!!


Hi Andy and a big WELCOME to ya!
You have some very good suggestions already given, so I won't clutter it up with much more. But, always remember that the layout will have to fit through doors and around corners which is why I usually recommend the "joining small modules" (joined by door hinges:seperated by removing pin.). MR clubs move huge layouts using this method. I moved one from Bangkok to D.C. doing this, back in the early 70's.

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