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Tunnel To The Future!

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No, this isn't some sci-fi fantasy layout. But in building my N-scale pike (3 years and counting and I still couldn't run a train all the way through the mainline!), since it's taken so long, I figured instead of dismantling the layout, I'd want to expand it at some point, but aside from the yard at the far edge of the layout, the track plan is pretty much a closed folded dogbone, with no provision to run a train "somewhere else."

I originally planned a shallow "dummy tunnel" that would either be abandoned (with a fenced-off portal), or would go "somewhere else" as a visual effect.

There was no way for the track to actually go somewhere else, because if I had it go on, the trains would hit a specially-mounted Tortoise machine (installed under a basswood board into a grade).

But I pondered and thought, "If I moved the trackage, I could possibly continue the track "off the layout" to a future section, module or staging yard.

So here's what the area originally looked like with the "dummy tunnel":

You can see a bit of the Tortoise peeking in the other side of the foam. Also, the elevation of the grade wasn't high enough clearance for a train to run under. But if I moved the track to the right (outlined in black marker on the foam), I could literally tunnel through to an area that had enough clearance!

So that I did...Get the earth-boring machines ready!

It took about half an hour with knives, saws, files and a hot wire foam cutter, but I broke on through to the other side!

One small problem, I had already caulked the track that ran above. I was able to bore the tunnel through the foam (I love working with foam!), but a small section of track and WS foam trackbed was left hanging. Costmetically it wasn't an issue, since it would all be inside a tunnel when the scenery was finished, and I was able to run a train over it with no stability problems, but I wasn't comfortable with the track and roadbed hanging over like that.

So I had to fess up and remove the track. I tried using an x-acto knife, but it was messy in that it tore up the foam. Then I used a bamboo BBQ skewer, lanced the sharp end between the track and roadbed, and rolled the skewer like a rolling pin - it lifted off the caulked track cleanly and evenly! No torn-up foam trackbed!

Then I got a piece of 1/8"-thick balsa wood and made a sturdy "bridge" that replaced the WS foam trackbed in the section that hung over the newly-made tunnel.

Here's the pic of the section, with both tunnels painted:

You can easily see the balsa "bridge" in the center of the picture. To the left is the newly-bored out tunnel where the track can lead out of my layout at some point in the future and go to a new section.

The foam trackbed on the lower right is a new piece which replaced the original piece, since it was partially torn-up from my first track removal attempt.

The entire section pictured will be inside a tunnel eventually, so the balsa "bridge" will not be visible (but can be accessible in case of derailments). The portal would be beyond the pic beyond the lower right-hand edge.

The lower tunnel will have roadbed and track, which will stop short of the layout edge. Strategically-placed pins embedded into the roadbed would prevent trains from falling off

The possibility for expansion makes me more excited about my layout, since I can have it grow after I'm finished with the main 4x8 section.

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  1. gregamer's Avatar
    Cool. I've been thinking about using some 1/8" plywood to replace the foam track bed on my layout to make way for a little tunnel headroom. It's cool to see it can be done.
  2. Metro Red Line's Avatar
    Yeah, the idea, of course, is that it's the same thickness as roadbed. Balsa wood is good enough, it's soft enough to cut, yet stable enough to support the weight of N scale trains.

    BTW in the picture you see the grey WS foam trackbed, but there's cork roadbed below it. That's HO scale roadbed! It's there to even the height of the white styrofoam base with the 2" high blue extruded foam and WS white foam risers I have elsewhere in the layout.
  3. PW&NJ's Avatar
    That's excellent! Any ideas on how the trackplan would be for the next section, or are you just going to wing it when you get to that point?
  4. MP333's Avatar
    I like the abandoned tunnel or abandoned track idea. Makes a nice visual.


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