Construction of Light Weight Modules

Robert E. Reilly

Several years ago I found 3 articles in Model Railroader Magazine and combined them into a very light weight module, easily carried in one hand yet strong enough to do the job it is required to do. These modules use ½ Micor 300 in lieu of ½ plywood, laminated Luann veneer in place of the 1x4 pine, and "nested" thinwall conduit as adjustable legs. The legs are stored inside the module when not in use.

Micor 300 is a man-made product normally used for bulletin boards. It has the general appearance of homosote and is used in place of homosote. It is as strong as homosote, yet there are major differences. It cuts and carves easily with a sharp hobby knife, Pin/nail holes are self healing. You can plant a tree by pushing in a finishing nail to make a hole. Plant the tree and the material will tend to close in around it. It does scuff more easily, but allows patching without problems. Micor 300 is supplied in 48"x96" sheets and comes in various thickness. I used ½. There is a big problem. It is hard to find and may require a special order. Cost is close to that of homosote.

Luann veneer is available at most lumber yards and do it yourself warehouses. It is 1/8" thick and comes in 48"x96" sheets. It is a plywood and has a lot of strength for its thin size. It will curve a bit. When you glue several layers together you have a very strong and light weight "box" as the frame for a module.

Thinwall electrical conduit makes very strong, low cost, easily worked, legs with a large adjustment that only takes seconds to accomplish.


Material cut list for one module and assembly instructions.

Cut list

Cut Micor 300 to 47 ¾"x 23 ¾"  1 required

Cut veneer to 48" x 4 "  3 required   Take one of these and cut to
have 2 pieces 23 ¾" long .

Rip veneer to  48"x  3 ½"    7 required .  
Cut 5 of these lengths to  23 ¾" long 
Take  6 of the 23 ¾"x  3 ½" and cut  holes in the center of each one.
Leave 1 " across the top and bottom. Leave 2 ½" on each side and in the
center. Set aside for later assembly.      
THERE IS a hole in the center of three pieces. When these are glue in
layers to a solid backing you have pockets for the

Take the 4 of the remaining 23 ¾" x 3 ½" and make cutouts  leaving 1"
across the bottom, and  2 ½" vertically on both sides and in the
center. Glue together to form a solid center devider/brace with two
notchs allow you to drop in the legs for storage.



Take 2 EA. 10 Ft. lengths of ¾" thinwall conduit and hacksaw to 38" long. 4 require for a 4 ft. or a 6ft . module..

Cut ½" thinwall and cut to 38"long. One for each ¾" being used.


Cut thinwall to 44" lengths


Lay the Micor on a flat surface. Place strips of waxed paper under the edges to prevent glue from sticking it to anything else. Glue the 4 " wide veneer to the edges of the Micor only. DO NOT glue veneer to veneer at this time. Tack in place with pre-colored finishing nail to hold things together until the glue dries. Overlapping the edge of the Micor gives protection and a good gluing surface. Use carpenter's glue. Make a box

Note: DO NOT GLUE SIDES VERTICALLY TO FRONT AND BACK PIECES until much later. Gluing at the proper time will result in good, square, solid corners

Take the three of the 23 ¾" pieces with the holes rather than the cutouts, and glue inside of each end piece. The small pockets made will be used as anchors for the stored legs. See note above about gluing vertically. The ends will now be ½" thick.

Glue the 4 remaining 23 ¾" pieces with cutouts together. And set aside for a few minutes. This will become a center support for the module. (8ft. modules will require 2 center supports, rather than one)

Glue 2 of the 23 ¼ " x 3 ½" solid pieces to the front panel and 2 more to the back panel. This is the time you will glue the vertical joints at the corners. Use a couple of pre-colored nails at the corners. Notice. You have overlapping of the veneer at the corner to improve strength and gluing surface. If you have moved fast enough, the glue will be tacky and the laminated parts will self align as you assemble them together. The laminated veneer forms an small ledge for the Micor to rest on for additional strength where the meet.

At this time glue and nail the laminated center support. Glue to the front panel, to the back panel, and to the Micor.

Glue in the remaining 23 ¼" solid pieces on the front and back panels. Nail at the corners.

Clamp together (if you have 3 foot long clamps) or wrap string/cord around the module to hold things in place until the glue dries over night.

Module is now complete except for the legs.

Slide a piece of 1/2" thinwall into the 3/4" thinwall. Add a 1/2" hose clamp. I like the type that adjusts with a screw driver, but the spring wire type works just as well. Add a rubber cane tip to the end of the 1/2" and the leg is done.

Use 3/4" two hole pipe straps to mount the legs to the front and back panels. use care to make sure that the legs will be vertical and that the strap is warped slightly to grip the leg tightly. Use 3/8 #10 panhead screw to attach the clamps to the laminated veneer. Note: leave room to easily add the C clamps when you clamp the modules together during setup for shows.

Store legs, when not in use by laying them in side of the module and extending the length for a snug fit. tighten the hose clamps.

Personal Electrical modification

I will have over 20 modules as my layout The costs of N trak specified connectors is too rich for my blood. I also do not enjoy searching out and buying/running multicolored wire and I do not like the looks of loose wires running all over the place. I go to Radio Shack and buy 6 pair connectors and to Home Depot for 6 pair signal cable. Each wire in the cable is color coded and all wires have a strong covering. If all modules use the same style of connectors, it doesn't make any difference. and if a single member has multiple modules, as I do, two adapter cables will permit interconnecting to the types of connectors used by Ntrak. You may if you wish, interchange the male and female parts of the connectors to use the BendRail concept. I remove a short section of the cable covering in the center to permit attaching short lengths of wire feeding the tracks and other items. I use available 24 gauge wire from telephone cables. To compensate for the lower gauge wire, I use two wires instead of a single one.

I am getting old. I don't bend, stoop, or squat as easily as I use to. Once down, getting back up can be a chore. I also rest my modules on a flat surface where it is not practical to run wires under the end pieces. I bring my cable out in each corner of the front panel and then add the connectors. This does not have the neat appearance of under table wiring, but it doesn’t look too bad, and since it makes things easier for me, I can live with it very nicely. Ninety nine point nine percent of the time these modules will stay in my home for my use only. I am happy with the arrangement, that’s all that counts.

I took a short length of control cable and strapped a male and female connector at one end. I used spade clips at the other. This allows me to add a power pack at the junction of any two modules.

I install my 120 volt AC in a similar manner. I install an electrical box with a standard 3 wire duplex receptacle in the right hand corner of the front panel and the plug in the left hand corner. I cut lengths from a standard orange extension cord to provide the wiring for my power. One receptacle is used as a connection point for the adjacent module and the other is available for other uses. Every module will have its own receptacle where I can plug in to 120 volt electrical power. Extension cords are not required.

I intend to use a short power cord from the layout to connect to the receptacle from the room circuit. I am lucky in a way in that I added a room to the house primarily for the trains. Just to be sure I would never have power problems, I ran a 30 amp circuit to all receptacles in the room and at the first location I installed a GFI (ground fault interrupter) receptacle that protects everything. Electrical within the train room from a ground contact hazard.
Robert E. Reilly

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