The core construction using modular baseboards gives the back and sides, but I wanted a top and front fascia complete with a window providing a view onto the layout.
The idea for this was proscenium arches in theatres.
The more observant may notice that some of the buildings visible in the photo are different from those shown in other recent posts. Ten out of ten for those who spot this. The anomaly is because this article was originally written some time ago and since then, parts of the layout, the buildings in particular, have indeed changed. I only noticed in May ’23 that I never hit the publish button for the article, and it’s been languishing in my drafts folder. So better late than never, here’s the article on making the enclosure of the layout, albeit with different buildings than it is now.
A framed view leads the eye naturally to the middle of the layout, aka stage, while also obscuring the sides and edges – where the layout ends. In so doing, it fools the eye of the viewer into believing they’re looking at just one part of a bigger scene, adding to the realism of the model scene.
I’ve been putting this off as boxing the layout in on all sides obviously makes it difficult to work on the layout itself.
However, as I mentioned here, my layout sits under normal office lighting, which distorts a lot of the colouring. To correct this, LED temperature-adjustable lighting was needed, but without a top to the layout, there was nowhere to attach this.
With most of the core layout now in place and the increasing need to add lighting, it was time to add the front and top covers.
Adding the top and front panels
I’ve delved into my pile of scrap wood and found a strip of timber and two sheets of 9mm ply.
The timber strut was cut to size and fixed horizontally between the two end panels at the top, providing support for the new covers. It also increased the overall structural strength of the layout.
Next, I cut a rectangular piece of plywood for the top section.
It then dawned on me that as I designed the layout to be operated from the rear, a lid will stop me from seeing the trains and rolling stock as I operate them.
To address this, I cut a rectangular window into the roof section that I can peer through when standing at the rear.
A larger strip of plywood was then cut for the front, and into this, I cut a rounded corner oblong through which the layout can be viewed, creating the proscenium arch, if you will.
The two sheets of ply were then painted a shade of green to coordinate with the trees on the layout – I used army green – and fixed it in place with magnetic catches.
Now, when working on the layout, I can remove them to provide access, but when in use, they can be secured and create a boxed-in model railway world with a window through which viewers can watch the trains run around their little world.
Levelling up legs
While working on the woodwork frame, I also took the opportunity to add short legs to each corner. These raise the layout off whatever surface it rests on and give a bit more space between the delicate electronics on the underside of the baseboard.
The legs are on the outside of the box, and those on the left will be fitted with catches to which a fiddle yard can be attached and securely held in place, but that’s another story.
To the bottom of the legs, I attached levelling feet.
I’d recommend fitting these to any layout. There’s nothing worse than finding that your carefully constructed, perfectly flat layout is resting on an uneven surface or floor, and your wagons just roll away with a life of their own. These adjustable feet screw into the sides of the legs and provide an easy way of lifting or lowering each corner to counter any uneven surface.
This is even more necessary given that this will be an exhibition layout, and I can’t be sure how level the floor where it’s being shown will be.
My layout is now taking shape with just the aesthetic I wanted. The green color scheme of the fascia harmonizes with the greenery of the trees in both the foreground and background, while the four-sided curved window enclosure give it a through-the-keyhole look into a miniature world vibe.
Next, I’ll add some creatures. See you next time.This post is part of a series on the construction of a lifelike model railway for exhibitions. To read other posts in the series covering its development, track work, scenery and model building making, see building an exhibition model railway.
Andy is a lifelong modeler, writer, and founder of modelrailwayengineer.com. He has been building model railways, dioramas, and miniatures for over 20 years. His passion for model making and railways began when he was a child, building his first layout at the age of seven.
Andy’s particular passion is making scenery and structures in 4mm scale, which he sells commercially. He is particularly interested in modelling the railways of South West England during the late Victorian/early Edwardian era, although he also enjoys making sci-fi and fantasy figures and dioramas. His website has won several awards, and he is a member of MERG (Model Railway Electronics Group) and the 009 Society.
When not making models, Andy lives in Surrey with his wife and teenage son. Other interests include history, science fiction, photography, and programming. Read more about Andy.