I’ve tried several designs over the years for legs to hold up layouts. I’ve used 2×4’s, 2×2’s, “L” shaped assembly’s of plywood…. none of it seems to have been as successful as I wanted it to be. The 2×4’s were under a decent portion of my Yosemite Valley that I started building in California. The 1×2’s I tried under an N scale layout. The issue was always kicking the legs which would jolt the layout above, and being in a hurry, I never had added additional bracing, so the legs wound up out of alignment.
Two years ago on the Idea Demonstration Layout I built “L” shapes out of plywood that were the best effort so far. I added cross-braces to those, and they were much better in terms of being straight and resistance to being knocked into. Those “L” replaced a huge failure when I tried to use folding legs under the layout.
For the ACP Branch, I set some criteria out as I started leg design:
- Sturdy. The legs need to be built to survive moving with the layout from storage to use and back.
- Use available materials here. I had brought in materials to build a different style of legs than I have before and wanted to see if I could incorporate that material if possible.
- Easy to replicate. I determined that I wanted 5 locations under the first layout section to have legs, and the larger section will need 8-12 depending on design. Being able to replicate the legs is important.
A year ago while prepping for a now abandoned Free-Mo layout project, I bought the materials to build legs to spec from a local modular group, Modutrak. Their N and HO layouts that show up at train shows in the region are amazing, and the leg design is highly portable. The drawing is here, and you can click on the link in the caption for the photo to get a link to their whole build specs available via the Modutrak website.
I don’t need the portability factor for this layout, but I still had enough material that I figured I could us it to build legs for the ACP. I also am a huge convert to the wood glue and screws construction methods. Having thrown all-in with the Kreg tools, and having had the layout sections I built last year not move an iota after the glue set, I wanted to create something strong using those materials as well.
Coming late the the equation was the realization that the leveling feet that I wanted to use for the legs would not be practical. The layout is not going to be able to be brought in the house, the overall dimension to make it what I want it to be will mean it needs to live in the garage. Additionally, with two layout sections that will need to be joined together for operating, moving pieces around on leveling feet is difficult. I decided to go with some heavy-duty casters and include some locking wheels so the layout can be positioned and locked in place.
I decided to eliminate the moving pieces in the Modutrak design, and mad “Y” shaped legs out of the materials, gluing and screwing everything together. To make sure the height of the upper arms of the “Y” started at the same spot, I made a template out of a piece of plywood, and held it in place with a clamp while I pre-drilled and assembled each side. I used Kreg pan-head wood screws to attach everything.
The next step was to make the cross pieces in what I decided would be a double-“H”. I glued up some scrap 3/4″ plywood and ripped it into 2″ strips. Then I cut those sections, and some additional 1″ pieces, into 14″ long blanks. The glued together pieces were designed to fit at the top of the “Y”, while the 1″ pieces were designed to cross at the bottom of the outside leg supports.
With all the pieces made, I took an afternoon to drill the bottom of the legs for inserting the large T-nuts and eventually the casters.
Assembly starts with the first lower cross piece. It’s glued and screwed, again with pan-head screws, in place. At each connection, I checked for square.
Once the first piece was on at the bottom, I inserted the top cross support between the “Y” arms, and glued/screwed it in place. Flipping the legs over, I proceeded to repeat the process, working to secure the top cross first, and then adding one additional cross support at the bottom.
With those pieces in place, I inserted and screwed the T-nuts in place on the legs, and twisted in the casters, making sure there is one locking and one free caster per set of legs.
It only took about an hour to assemble all the legs once the individual pieces were ready. There is one more piece to attach to each leg. I’ll be inserting a small piece of 2×4 into the top of the “Y” arms. Those will rest against pieces of 2×4 under the layout and provide a way to make sure everything is properly supported.
I’m sure these are over-engineered. I am hoping that the robustness of these legs will mean that they’ll support the layout through moving around without issues. We’ll see how it goes when they go under the layout in the next few days.
Time to get back to the workbench!