PRR Chartiers Branch: Hazel Mine - Disassembly
No, don't worry, I am not throwing this layout away! As a matter of fact, the whole purpose behind this effort is to no longer send layouts to the dump. In 2003 I built a series of cabinets upon which my layouts have been ever since, precisely because I was tired of sending a bunch of stuff to the dump and having to go buy a new round of stuff to build the benchwork for another layout. I am now trying to do the same thing with the layout itself. By keeping it modular/sectional, it should be flexible enough regardless of where I live.
What this article is about, and its primary audience is likely to just be me, is how to disassemble the modules from each other. I thought it was trivial, but as I started to do this for the first time for this layout (so that I can more easily install the components needed for controlling the turnouts under the layout), I realized that there may be some steps I might forget if I need to do this again in a few years.
Once a module has been disconnected from its neighbor, I want to put it on its side, so that I can it stand up and work on its underside. These particular modules are all 4 feet deep and between 2 and 3 feet wide. Standing them up on their 7" edges seemed like a disaster waiting to happen. So, I decided that I need some extra, temporary, feet to make them more stable while I work on them. Since I laid the track on the layout with rails spanning their borders, the rails (after being cut) come right up to their edges, so I also need to raise the module up to avoid the rails touching the surface upon which they will be stood (the cabinets under the layout, in this case). So, I cut two longer boards out of plywood, and got two shorter boards from my scrap pile. On the longer boards, I marked off where the module's edge was going to be, and then drilled two holes in each, which were countersunk (so that the boards can slide more easily on the tops of the cabinets.
The next step is to disconnect the overhead lighting for the module to remove. This particular module has three overhead lighting arms, so I disconnected their wires from the connectors on the back of the modules. Since these provide the main lighting for the room, I left the other modules' lights connected.
As stated elsewhere in this section of my web site, the three modules together weigh about 125lbs. So, they are not easily moved. They are bolted to each other with 1/4" bolts, so, as seen in this photo, I slid the whole thing off of the front of the cabinets by about 8 inches. This then gives me access to the bolts (two in the front).
With the front ones removed, I then pushed the whole layout to the back, letting it overhang on the back by about 8". I used one bolt in the back, so that was removed as well.
With the bolts removed, I figured that the modules would just come apart. No such luck. When I built them, I painted all of the exposed wood. About a week or so later, I bolted them together. They've been like that for over a year and a half, and so the paint acted like glue. Nothing I did separated them, so I eventually went to using a wide chisel and a hammer and tried to drive the chisel in between them by hammering it on the back on the bottom. Eventually, the paint let loose and they came apart. Luckily, no damage to anything. Phfew! I took some photos, so that I know which rails use a rail joiner for when I put them back together again.
Now it is time to put the module on one of its edges. I can't do it on the front or back edges, because the modules are 4 feet deep, and there is only about 3-1/2 feet of space between the top of the cabinets and the ceiling. So, I am going to place it on the long side, choosing the side that has the rail (the other side is a show-side, so I don't want to damage that. I put the boards I had made earlier on the cabinets in such a position that when I lift this module on its side, they will provide the support, and that they clear the area where the rails are.
The short pieces of board are used to hold the module up while I am attaching the longer boards. I have to slide the module off of the cabinets, so that I can drive the two screws into the module's edge (after pre-drilling holes in it).
I did the same thing to the other end, and these now hold the module up while I work on it. When the work is done, I can just unscrew the temporary feet, and put the module back down in its normal position. I am thinking about keeping the temporary "feet" boards with each module, so that the holes are already drilled and in the right spot for the next time I need to do something like this.