So having built a baseboard the next step was to finalize the track plan. Unfortunately I discovered two problems. Firstly the track plan I'd devised on the computer (using AnyRail) didn't really inspire me when I actually tried it out; the layout looked very unnatural and didn't give me much in the way of scope for scenery. The second problem, however, was more of an issue as the baseboard was way too flexible. If you remember I'd built the top from what I think was the back of a flat-pack wardrobe. As anyone who has ever built flat-pack furniture will know this material is quite strong (cutting or nailing it is difficult) but is fairly flexible. I'd hoped that because I was only using a small piece and was bracing it in the middle that it would be okay. I was wrong. Just the act of the train running over the track was enough to make it flex. While adding scenery would probably have strengthened it slightly I was worried that it would still flex causing cracks to appear in hillsides etc. So I've buried the baseboard at the back of the garage and started again.
This time I figured out the track plan before making the baseboard and checked that I was happy with it. Adding space for scenery around the track led me to the right size for the baseboard, which is 74cm x 54cm. I've also decided that currently I don't have any need for anything under the baseboard, so instead of building a frame I've opted for a single piece of MDF (I'm lucky in that there is a very friendly DIY and wood cutting shop two minutes walk from the house, so it took me about 15 minutes to walk round, wait while it was cut and then walk home with it).
So having settled on a track plan and bought the baseboard here are a couple of mockup photos showing what I'm aiming for.
Essentially it's a simple loop (so I can just watch trains go by) but is meant to represent a short piece of a sleepy branch line which also serves a local factory. On the left the train will emerge from a tunnel part way up a hillside before running down to the mill and finally passing under the road bridge and out of sight. I might also add a small station before the road bridge, but this will depend on how things look as I start to add scenery as I don't want to try cramming in too many buildings. Behind the scenes I've added a siding to allow me to store a second train, and at some point that might actually turn into a cassette based fiddle yard, but as I currently only own one N gauge locomotive the siding isn't likely to see much use. The power feed is currently in the wrong position, but will eventually be placed in the short section between the two points as placing it there will allow me to shuttle a train between the sidings while isolating the rest of the loop.
While the baseboard I built turned out to be useless I have now at least arrived at a track plan that I'm happy with, I even have a name for the layout, but that can wait for a future post (although given the description in this post you might be able to guess it already).