HCD layout pros and cons?

SP&S #750 Mar 15, 2014

  1. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

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    Hi guys, I'm curious about the HCD layouts pros and cons as I'm considering starting one here soon.

    I've been looking and looking at photos and what not, can't get much gathered from the few pictures that are of HCD layouts amongst the rest of the spam(useless pictures).

    I'd still like to use my Peco Code 55(yes I'm aware of it's inadequacies) but I'm going for survivability.
    I'm also planning on using an NCE Powercab DCC system, may add another throttle(the basic one).
    In that thought would I need a booster for the layout? at most there may be 4-6 locomotives one layout at any given time, but I'd like to have at least one other operator/throttle.
     
  2. MVW

    MVW E-Mail Bounces

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    For me, HCDs offer a lot of positives. Sturdy, lightweight, available in a range of widths, easy to get some solid legs under. I'm using HCDs.

    On the other hand, some guys are doing some really cool things with Free-Mo modules. If you have the rudimentary skills necessary to build modules, that might be worth a thought.

    I learned late in life that the first commandment of layout building is, "Keep it portable." That doesn't mean it has to be small. It just means you have to be able to move it should the need arise. Designing in options for reassembling to fit different spaces is also a plus.

    Jim
     
  3. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

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    I've considered modules the only thing that I'm getting a red light on is the connection between them.Haven't figured that out yet.
     
  4. MVW

    MVW E-Mail Bounces

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    Seems to me MC Fujiwara (sorry if I butchered the name) has written some excellent online pieces either here or over on The Railwire regarding module construction and connections.

    Jim
     
  5. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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  6. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

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    I'll have to check them out, I try to stay up to date with his modeling. I'm failing miserably though, not just in keeping up with the hobby either.
     
  7. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I can't think of anything worthy of being stated as a negative, concerning HCD layouts. I have seen some nice ones.
     
  8. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    The only possible negative would be that you're constrained/restrained by the size and geometry of the door. Much like the old traditional 4x8. However, with a good plan in advance there's nothing to say this would seriously hurt the ability to build a satisfying, appealing layout, it just is a consideration. But then, absent a warehouse to build in and a winning powerball ticket to finance it, all of our modelling has constraints, so...
     
  9. mtntrainman

    mtntrainman TrainBoard Supporter

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    My original layout...more years ago then I can remember..was a HCD that sat on my dresser. A dbl track with a couple of crossovers and a mountain/tunnels on one end. A recent HardDrive crash took all the pics of that one :-(

    Second layout...also a HCD was inside an OLD travel trailer. The original HCD layout was set along the front and it had 5 other HCD's of varying lengths along both sides and the back. Snow collasped the roof on THE Travel Trailer...

    [​IMG]

    so I made a new hanging HCD layout in my room...

    http://www.trainboard.com/grapevine/showthread.php?138860-New-hanging-HCD-Layout

    That lasted until I found THE RV :)

    [​IMG]


    THERR is now on 1/2 plywood laid accross kitchen base cabinets inside THE RV.

    I always liked the concept of a HCD. NOT much involved to build benchwork. Some say you cant 'move' a HCD layout...especially if you move to a different house etc. I always figured...if you got the HCD in the room in the first place...you can get it back out if ya have to. Unless your scenery is hugh mountains or building. In which case...you would have the same problem moving a module out ;-)

    JMHO YMMV
     
  10. robert3985

    robert3985 TrainBoard Member

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    Well...not to be a contrarian, I don't like the whole concept of a "table top", which is rudimentary at best and difficult to work with at its worst. Since a HCD is mostly airspace (the "hollow" part of the name) what you lay your scenery base on is nothing other than a very thin skin and really isn't that sturdy as far as any structural attachments unless you attach legs, fascia, skyboard etc. to the edges.

    I also don't like the idea that you've got the thickness of the door, then the thickness of the 2" or so thick piece of extruded Polystyrene foam glued to the skin of the HCD...then roadbed, all between your cosmetic surface (the top of the layout) and what you normally put under the layout/benchwork. That's over 3" of "stuff" between the bottoms of your ties and the bottom of the HCD.

    Then, you gotta get under it all the time when wiring, mounting Tortoises (if you're gonna do that), attaching feeders to your track then running them downward through a 3" long hole to the power bus wiring. If you ever do train detection or signals with some kind of circuit board attached to the bottom of the mast, it's a whole lot more difficult to mount them properly with that 3" thick door and scenery base to worry about, carve out, cut a hole in, etc.

    Those are a few of the reasons I won't build a layout, or sections of layouts on a HCD. I prefer L-girder benchwork, risers supporting subroadbed to which cork roadbed is glued and then flex is glued to that. It allows me to do all of my wiring from the top, test it then paint my track and test it...then cut in and attach the 2" thick Styrofoam scenery base. I get flowing front fascias, folding legs, a great place to secure my main power buses and sturdy durability. There is no "tabletop" in any of my sections/modules and all of my under-the-layout wiring and other accessories are easily mounted, wired and tested before the scenery base is cut in.

    I am a firm believer and practitioner that open benchwork has it all over table tops, particularly if you're interested in topography with rivers,gullies, canyons and other deep below-track level features. It's way easier to work with, even though it takes a bit longer to construct.

    Cheerio!
    Bob Gilmore
     
  11. Grey One

    Grey One TrainBoard Supporter

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    I feel that an HCD is a great platform for a first layout. It saves a lot of work in the construction of a table. A possible downside would be loosing out on the experience of building a table.
     
  12. Primavw

    Primavw TrainBoard Member

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    My HCD is my third layout. Portability was the main reason I went for this. My layout is light enough and small enough that two people can pick it up, get it through a door and load it into a U-Haul in less than 10 minutes (hopefully with minimal damage to the layout).

    As far as what someone said about running wiring through the door, I actually did not do that. My wiring is through the foam but on top of the door skin. I have NOT glued the foam down yet. Honestly I may never find a need to as fascia board may be enough to keep the foam firmly in place for display. Keeping the foam free eliminated the need of climbing under the layout. I just slide the foam off of the door and turn it on its side. This only requires me to squat when I need to address something below the layout's surface. Also, I elected not to use switch machines as most of my layout is within reach from any angle.

    I'm not very far along with my layout, so I suppose the jury is still out, but I actually like the ease of working on a layout of this type and do recommend it, if even just to give it a try.
     
  13. Inkaneer

    Inkaneer TrainBoard Member

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    The HCD was the worst idea to hit N scale since the big bang. The cons of HCD layouts.

    1. they are strictly table top.
    2. they are heavy
    3. They are not portable
    4. Wiring is exposed and not straight forward
    5. expansion is a problem
    6. limited as to sizes of doors

    On the other hand open grid modules measuring 2' X 6' can feature below track level scenery and they are light [especially when made with styrofoam] and can be carried by one person. The 2'x6' size will easily fit through a door way, around corners and up/down stairs. Did you ever try carrying a door through a door way? How about around corners or up/down stairs? No need to fish wires through the thickness of a door and the module frame protects the wiring. Expansion is simple as modules can be "C" clamped together [ala Ntrak] and modules can be made in different sizes to suit the space.

    Carpentry skills are minimal. Saw cuts can be made at the lumber store and the module assembled at home. Modules can be joined with "C" clamps and the track and electrical connections between modules can be done like Ntrak.
     
  14. Team DTO

    Team DTO TrainBoard Member

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    I'm currently building my first layout using 3 HCD's, so here's my 2 cents. I had some HCD's that I was using for a temp slot car table a few years ago, so I decided to re use the material I had laying around. I framed the bench work using 1X4 and then attached the HCD, not the usual practice of attaching folding legs. When I eventually expand the layout, I will use 1X4 frame work and risers/plywood/foam/plaster cloth because it makes wiring and attaching turnout controls easier. Since both construction methods use 1X4 framing, I will bolt the sections together like modules.
     
  15. TrCO

    TrCO TrainBoard Member

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    My first layout was an HCD style layout and I experienced none of these problems.
     
  16. RT_Coker

    RT_Coker TrainBoard Supporter

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    I started a couple of years ago with a HO HCD layout, 6 doors and 2” polyurethane foam on 24” high plastic storage cabinets. I ran the turnout control wires through the doors before they were bolted together. The only real problem that I have had with this structure is that I did not have enough of the plastic storage cabinets and the middle of the doors stared sagging. But this was easily fixed by adding more plastic storage cabinets. I also added two more doors for a large removable yard with a reverse loop. These two additional doors are attached together and to the original layout with side latches. I also used a small wooden side extension on one of the doors to provide enough space for the reverse loop.

    We all have different needs and expectations for our layouts, so HCD is obviously an individual choose. Whatever you decide, have fun!
    Bob
     
  17. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

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    hmmmm, SO for the most part HCD's are decent but not the best....

    It'd work for the most part as I would like to build some benchwork that will support it, hopefully I can make some much sturdier benchwork as opposed to the stuff on what would've been a 4 x 6.

    I'll have to check Home depot soon to see if it's right for what I'd like to accomplish, I have a track plan which is essentially an expanded and slightly upgraded version of my 2 x 4 layouts original track plan.

    The table top part doesn't bother me for now, as once I have my own place and a nice career I plan on devoting an entire floor to a layout.
     
  18. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I have not experienced any of the negatives as listed. If you laminate foam board atop, they are not strictly table top. Wiring is also then easily buried, or can be easily drilled through. A solid core is heavy, a simple hollow core is very light. Not sure why they aren't portable? Unless you are planning to haul it around many times in a Honda or Toyota automobile. Number 5 is puzzling, as this would only be true in a place with wide temperature and/or humidity variations. And would be true for anything you'd construct under such conditions. Size limitation is a given when going this route, so is not a negative. Many people using an HCD have space limitations, or need for a non-permanent scenario.
     
  19. Eagle2

    Eagle2 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Unless he's referring to expanding the layout at a future point. Which, in truth, could be planned around by having a track (or two) run to the edge of the door to represent "the rest of the railroad" and leave open an avenue to build more later.
     
  20. SP&S #750

    SP&S #750 TrainBoard Member

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    I have a ford explorer, so hauling an HCD around wouldn't be too much of a bother.
     

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