Help on how to pack Layout modules for moving

minesweeper Apr 12, 2021

  1. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

    Hallo Folks,
    in a couple of months I will be busy packing as I will leave Germany to come back to Italy.
    However this is the first time that my layout modules will move with something other than rails being installed.

    So I am asking anyone that knows more about moving layout modules with scenery installed, to help me find how to safely pack these modules to minimize damage and loss during transit by the moving company.

    The modules are three, about 3 feet by 18 inches. (90x50 cm)
    You can see the modules on my layout here.
    Italian HO scale modular layout - WIP | - The Internet's Original

    Thank you
  2. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    Perhaps our own HemiAdda2d could help. He has moved around a few times and packed along a layout.
  3. Pastor John

    Pastor John TrainBoard Member

    Following to get ideas for moving my father's layout.

    Sent from my moto g(7) play using Tapatalk
  4. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

    You might want to build some frame around them, a bit like a wooden crate. You could use screws or nails to attach wood boards to the fascia, or somehow temporarily secure it inside the box. A foam or wood 'lid' may work too.

    Either way, I would remove anything that you can, such as vehicles and any buildings that you can. I have driven modules to shows, but never in a home move. If you are loading a trailer or van, I would try to put them in last or on top to minimize damage.
  5. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

    Mr Trainiac, I was just thinking on getting something of a crate being done from the modules.
    From past moving experience, I am confident that f the modules are clearly lettered as VERY FRAGILE, the movers will treat them with at least some care. I will have no control on this as they normally combine more than one shipping and in any case there will be at least two transloads.
    I will tell the company anyway and see what they suggest.

    I can use the backdrops boards already installed on one side and start from there.
    All buildings are fixed, most of them along the backdrop, I can take most of them off, as only a few are actually glued, but I think they may be safer there along the backdrop and possibly give it more strength.

    My major concerns are:
    - The rails at the module junctions; in some instances (switches) these protrude for a few millimeters due to stability and other issues found during construction
    - How to protect the small details like street lights, trees that I can not take away.... shall I put some foam "inside" the crate? - Past movers told me the 1st rule is to fill up completely every box so what is inside does not move and therefore does not get damaged.
    - The "crate system" collapsing due to some hit by other packages while in transit or during loading, or because it will be squeezed in the truck (do not think the second will happen, but I reckon it may still possible) during transloading.

    I think I may expect nevertheless some items loosening inside, but if the crate holds, I will set these back again.

    Any help and maybe pictures in how to set up the "crate" would be really useful.
  6. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    I have done just this, moving my HCD layout across the big pond twice from Montana to Germany then to North Dakota. Other than some minor repairs to scenery, it came though mostly undamaged.

    Some tips: scenery, details and the like must be firmly adhered. A little extra glue/water mix, or whatever material you used to secure your details to the layout helps. Ensure everything is completely dried/cured before crating it. Vacuum the layout before crating it. this helps prevent stray, loose materials from being lodged in trees and places it doesn't belong. For anything removable, remove it, pack it in separate boxes, using plenty of cushioned materials. I like bubble wrap, soft foam, even crumpled newspaper for the lightest items.

    As others suggested, build a crate for it. I used 1/2" OSB (waferboard) for the sides, 2x4 lumber scraps to reinforce and secure the corners, support the sides of the lid and prevent the top from crushing the taller scenery. Using normal construction techniques, build the crate for the dimensions of the layout, and add 2-4" to the maximum height of the scenery, plus the base and frame of the modules. My layout had 20" of scenery atop the HCD, plus the thickness of the door and folding legs underneath, so my sides were 24-26" tall, but as you can see, a few trees got smashed by the lid, so don't be afraid to give yourself a couple extra inches of space here, too.

    Expect the crate to be handled roughly (look at the corners--mine was!). They still put it in the crate on its side, despite the "UP" and arrows on all sides. Movers don't get paid extra to take extra care in moving your stuff!! Secure the layout to the crate walls every 6-8 inches or so. Add a roof and base for six-sided complete protection. I built mine to be able to be walked on, at least on the edges (not the center), although if you have minimal scenery height, you can add stringers that span the width of the crate at 3-4 spots evenly spaced to support the lid. My scenery is very vertical, so it didn't lend itself to multiple stringers, and I really didn't need them. Since pictures speak a thousand words, here's a couple.

    crate1.jpg crate2.jpg
    Kurt Moose likes this.
  7. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    For your rail junctions: if you have rails that will be cut to separate the modules, you can cut them a little short on both ends, and when you reassemble the layout, replace them with small scraps of track. Most track manufacturers offer small sections of track a couple inches long or shorter that works great for this. If you cut it flush with the ends, the tracks might get damaged by the crate sides and you'll probably end up doing this anyways. Once you cut the track with a rotary tool or flush cutter, you may need to remove the ties and some ballast upon reassembly, so you can soak the spot with a bit of warm water (if you used water-soluble adhesive to glue the track or ballast) and it will loosen after a few minutes.

    For the filling up the box and protecting small details, you could experiment with some bits of soft foam, bubble wrap or similar, wrapped gently around the item, and secured to the layout with strings, tacks, or whatever you have. When you remove the packing, you will likely have some minor scenery repair to do. For what it's worth, I never secured any scenery item beyond what I used to secure it to the layout when it was installed. Trees were placed with white glue, and only a couple dislodged. I don't have structures, streetlights or anything on mine, and I never considered doing this. I packed it with empty air inside! I secured the crate with screws, and the packing company just put noted packed by owner on the manifest along with a generic description of the contents.

    For your backdrops, I don't know how robust they are or if they are removable; I would recommend you remove them, ship them separately, and build your crate without them, or expect to install the screws through the backdrop boards on the base (where it probably won't be seen anyways). If you install the screws thru them, add the thickness of the backdrops to the amount of material you will need to secure. Since I installed my crate over the existing fascia, I added the 1/8" hardboard to the amount of material I needed to secure (the 1/2" waferboard crate sides), and with 5/8" of material to secure, I ensured my screws were at least an inch installed into the framing of the layout, so my screws were 1 5/8" inch long. These are common "deck screws" sizes found in most home improvement stores. If your layout is framed with 1x4-style lumber, the screws will protrude though the framing some (depending on the screw size you use), so be careful when crating and uncrating it.

    With the layout style that you have, depending on whether you can remove the buildings and backdrops, you could build a sufficiently tall crate and install all 3 modules in it leaving a few inches between the base of one and the top of another. That would be a bit quicker than building 3 crates, and uses less material.

  8. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

    thank you for the useful information,
    based on this this is my initial plan, please check if it makes sense.

    - will build three separate boxes as I know that for the company the smaller the better, and in any case putting three modules together it will be not easy to assemble and anyway too heavy
    - will use some 4cmx4cm for the corners and the waferboard for the rest
    - will put the corners flush with the long side, will reinforce the front ends by creating a kind of H shaped frame using the corners and a transverse element that will also protect the protruding rails
    - I will try to build the box in a kind of wrapping mode so to avoid using screws and nails and preserve at least the fascia side, but keeping the module firmly locked into it.

    for the scenery
    - will remove the removable (normally the roofs), pack these well and store under the module in a way that they do not move
    - will put another layer of water/glue mix to reduce loose ballast and scenery
    - will see if there is any cheap material to fill the void, at least where the scenery is.

    Any comment very well welcome.
  9. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

    My crate was probably 150 pounds or so, it was not light at all! You're smart to do 3 crates if you need to be able to move them; otherwise, the movers have strong backs and dolly carts to move the heavy stuff!

    I drove my screws into the fascia, with the expectation that I would sand, fill and pant later. Once you fill with drywall compound, you can't tell there were holes. By "building the box in a wrapping mode" do you mean making the crate around the layout, but not securing the layout inside, and using packing materials to hold it in place inside? If you use screws on the non-fascia sides, it might work. Expect the crates to get abused in movement/transit.
    I never added any empty space filler--not sure if it's needed, but if it gives you more peace of mind, that's fine too.
  10. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

    Today was packing day,
    got the three crates almost ready, the movers will fill in with plastic chips to minimize transit damage......
    Thank you for the excellent advice, will let you know hopefully before next year.

    Kurt Moose, BoxcabE50 and Pastor John like this.
  11. Dave1905

    Dave1905 TrainBoard Member

    I had several sections that were the same size. I placed them face to face and then screwed a thin plywood plate to the sides and ends. For my domestic move I didn't need a hard top and bottom but that might be a good idea for an international move.

    By putting two modules face to face it basically halves the amount of sheathing you need. The caveat is that you have to have teh stuff secured on teh layout well enough that they can withstand being "upside down".
  12. minesweeper

    minesweeper TrainBoard Member

    Hi Dave,
    all modules are single, all the items are secured, however the plastic chips should take care of items that eventually get loose by keeping them in place.
    TOP will be insulating polystyrene panels for weight, but the company will wrap the boxes with pluriboll foils and / or cardboard to further avoid damage, and avoid loose items to come out.

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