Joining the boards

Before track laying and wiring can begin, I need a simple, reliable and repeatable way of joining the two baseboards. The baseboard dowels I have already fitted take care of their alignment when butted up against one another, but I need a way to ensure that the boards stay level and firmly together. If the layout sags in the middle due to the join not being strong enough it will cause running problems during operation.

There are a few things to consider when thinking about how to join the boards:

  • Ease of use – if the layout take too long to assemble I wont use it as much.
  • Strength – the layout must not sag in the middle.
  • Size and weight – the layout needs to be easily portable, so I’m looking to save weight wherever I can.

As well as joining the boards, I will also be fitting small legs to it, so the layout will be raised a few cm above the surface of my desk. This will allow me to get my hands underneath the layout to use my mouse and keyboard, meaning that I do not have to put the layout away in order to use my PC.

I have decided to go with a pretty similar approach to what I used on my previous layout Abbotsbury, with lengths of batten attached to the sides of the boards, running across the join. Unlike on Abbotsbury however, these battens will be attached to the sides of the board, and not to the underneath. While attaching them underneath gives more strength, it also reduces the free space underneath, which will make it hard for me to get my hands underneath in order to use my PC.

I am hoping that the joining pieces will still be strong enough, and I should be able to help matters by placing the legs near to the middle of the baseboards.

The joining pieces in place. The cat was little help at this stage.
Close-up of the board joint, showing the dowels partially inserted into the frame.
Some short legs have also been added. Now I can use my PC (for simple tasks) without having to remove the layout!
The legs are long enough for the layout to just clear the windowsill when the PC desk is in its lowest position.