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5 tips for moving a layout

By Stephan Lamb and Scott Perreault | May 16, 2022

Relocating a layout doesn’t have to be complex if it’s built portable

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A moving truck packed securely with layout pieces

5 tips for moving a layout

Many people spend years building their dream layout in their home, building it in permanently, thinking they will never move. But we know that life happens, and things change. When building your dream layout, even though you’re not planning on moving, build it in sections, so that it can be disassembled if needed and relocated along with you.

empty truck
Tips for moving a layout: This truck is empty, ready for the layout to be put in.
A moving truck packed securely with layout pieces
The layout is packed away and stored in the truck with temporary shelving. Pieces are wrapped up and bagged to protect them from damage.

Here are some tips from professional layout builders to help you:

Build modular sections. On average these sections should be no more than 3 x 6 feet and should be able to fit through the smallest exit door. Some doors are less than 3 feet wide, so it’s helpful to measure door width to avoid having to cut down high scenery pieces.

A layout in someone’s basement
This layout was not built to be modular and will require a lot of cutting to break it down into movable parts that can later be reassembled.
a bare module for a layout
This is the start of a module for a layout. Pelle K. Søeborg photo

Organize your wiring – Wiring should be labeled and color coded. Terminal strips or Molex plugs will make it easier to unwire and reconnect your layout.

A panel of wiring for a layout
A panel of wiring for a layout.
Molex plugs with colored wires
Molex plugs with colored wires.

Make removable backdrops – Do not attach your backdrop to the wall. Rather, attach it to tempered hardboard, which can then be secured to the back edge of the layout.

Backdrop is painted on wall behind layout
Though this is a very nice backdrop, it is painted on a wall and cannot be moved with the layout.
A photo of the back side of the backdrop attached to layout
The layout and backdrop are attached in the back and can be disassembled for moving.

Glue down scenery – Some modelers choose not to secure their ground cover and ballast to their layout with glue, and in many cases, this is not an issue. However, when it comes time to move the layout, much of that loose debris will fall off and turn into a real mess. This can be prevented by gluing your scenery down a few weeks prior to the move.

gluing down scenery
A modeler is gluing down scenery to secure it. David Popp photo

Don’t bury screws ­­– Be sure that the screws or bolts for the supports are easily accessible when planning benchwork. Legs and other supports often have to be sawed off because they are screwed or bolted on before other supports were added, which hides them and makes them inaccessible.

A buried screw under the roadbed
A buried screw under the roadbed.

Note: Tips from Stephan Lamb Associates.

For information on how to pack up a layout prior to moving it, read this article by Eric White.

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