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Little "Q" Portable Layout
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Portable Layout

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A Closer Look at Our Portable Layout

The new portable early in its construction. 74.5K
After more than 20 years of faithful service and numerous changes, the Little "Q" portable layout was retired in the spring of 2001. Construction of a new layout was started in October, 2000, and it made its debut, still unfinished, at the Great Midwest Train Show in Wheaton, Ill., on August 12, 2001.
The new portable set up for its first show. 73.4K Like the old layout, the new one has eight sections, two ends and six middles. The ends are four feet by eight feet, and the middle pieces are two feet by eight feet. The sections only go together one way, and are not compatible with any national standard.
Setting a middle section in place. 66.4K The end pieces each have four steel pipe legs, which screw into flanges mounted to the bottom of the layout. Four of the middle sections each have two legs and are supported by the adjoining section with bolts. The other two middles have no legs and are supported only by bolts.
Track being laid on the mainline roadbed. 70.4K The mainline is just three ovals around the outer edge of the layout. The two outer tracks are totally isolated from all others, while the third main is connected to the branch line. The mains are flex track on a roadbed of 1/4" lattice with beveled edges. All track is airbrushed grimy black to look more realistic, and will be ballasted.
A CN train goes down the street. 63.7K The branch line is also a rough oval, with various business sidings and a yard. It even has street trackage. The track is laid directly on the plywood base. All switches on the layout are Peco, which are spring-loaded to stay whichever way they are set. They are operated by hand.
Some rail connectors installed. 82.8K Where the layout sections meet, there are gaps in the rails, with special pieces that fit into them. These connectors are all the same length and interchangeable. They are held in place only by standard rail joiners. There are electrical jumpers underneath the layout so we don't have to depend on continuity through these joints.
The throttles sitting in their tray. 76.9K Electrically, each loop is totally isolated from all the others. The branch line has a walkaround throttle, while the mains are controlled from throttles which sit in a tray inside one end of the layout.
Foam hills partially covered with Ultracal. 
63K. Hills are foam insulation with a covering of Ultracal, a plaster product similar to Hydrocal, but slower-setting. Rocks are also molded in Ultracal. Ground covering and trees are traditional materials.
Our trailer with the layout inside. 65.4K When the day is done, all the layout sections, the legs, and the special metal boxes that hold the buildings, all fit into a trailer. The club bought it new and outfitted it to hold the portable layout. From the time the first building goes into its box, we can be on the road in about an hour. Setting up the layout for a show takes only a little longer.
The original portable layout being set up for our open house in 1998. 58K The first portable layout was built in the late 1970s with only two middle sections, and, like any layout, expanded and changed over the years. The new one was built to the same basic plan so it would fit in the trailer with minimal modification.
Two young visitors watch the action near the station. 83.8K The Plexiglass panels around the outside are vital for preventing little (and not so little) hands touching the moving trains and causing derailments. It also contains major wrecks (which, fortunately, are few and far between), keeping cherished models from hitting the floor. This function is shared by the smaller Lexan panels where tracks run close to inside edges.
The El Capitan pulls up for a station stop. 80.6K To see our portable layout in person, check the show schedule. We don't do as many shows as in the past, but there are still about 8-10 per year.

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This page created on 9/5/1999. Last modified 3/29/2002.

Copyright © 1999-2002 Little "Q" Model Railroad Club. Photos Copyright © 1999-2001 David Streeter.