The Design of Small Model Railways

Starting Off with Moppe

Starting Off with Moppe
[100×28 cm²]
 Farmhouse  Playground
To-1021  Straight S140 (2×)
1×To-1025  Straight S99 (2×)
2×To-1099  Straights S18 (2×) and S33 (2×)
2×To-1111  Curve C103-60/30 (2×)
1×To-1123  Curve C541-15 (2×)
1×To-1210  Manual turnout N-PL541-15 (2×)
1×To-1523  Rerail track S140-RE

In 2004 my daughter asked me to build her her own model railway. Because she didn’t want to have a permanent layout in her room, we decided to build a small portable model railway. Based on the idea of Adrian Wymann, I bought a Moppe chest from IKEA. Because I wanted to re-use models I’ve collected over the years, the scale was set to H0. I wanted to build a oval, because that’s the most suitable track scheme for a seven year old. The most convenient theme was a industrial narrow gauge railway. The most readily available models for this theme are made by Roco. This rolling stock runs on 9 mm track. I acquired a second-hand diesel locomotive, some cars and a N-gauge turnout. N-gauge flex tracks, buildings, fences and other scenery materials were lying around in boxes, some for more than 30 years! Because the layout should be operated by a child, the emphasis was on interesting but not very realistic scenery. Together with my daughter we went through the buildings available and she made her choice. A Faller ruin, a Faller chapel, a Faller playground and a farmhouse, I’ve scratch-build a long time ago, were used to create a romantic atmosphere.

In a couple of weeks I built the layout. Laying the flex tracks with a radius of 12 cm turned out to be the most difficult part. More on that later. The scenery has been built with old-fashioned techniques from 30 years ago, because the scenery materials were also 30 years old. This is most visible in the use of sawdust based grass and the plastic pine trees. The hills are made from layers of Styrofoam, covered with pre-coloured plaster. Real sand from the beach was used for ballasting. Be careful: any stone-based ballasting requires throughough vacuuming afterwards to avoid the grains entering the gear wheels of your precious engines.

Photo Gallery (2004)
Starting Off with Moppe: Overview Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (1) Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (2) Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (3)

Running around the curves tended to be a problem. The flex tracks weren’t laid carefully enough and derailments occurred quite frequently. Well, careful operation could avoid this, but that cound’t be expected from a little girl. So after much complaints I decided to replace the tracks with sectional tracks from Tomix. These Japanese tracks come in very narrow curves with a radius of 103 mm. Exactly what we needed. It is N-track and not narrow gauge H0-track, but we didn’t care less. I removed all the tracks and bought some blisters with Tomix track. To determine the exact configuration, I superimposed the track plan on a real-life photograph of the layout, as can be seen on the top of this page. I was astonished by the manufacturing quality of this track system. After fixing the tracks I had to rebuild the damaged parts of the scenery. The trains run now quite smoothly, but I’m still amazed about the amount of track cleaning needed, compared to the reliable Märklin system.

In the four years up to 2008, we made some enhancements to the scenery. We added some extra features like a swimming pool. And what about a small snow field with a snowman on top. Well, I told you, realism has never been an objective. Also the fake lamp posts from Faller turned out to be very vulnerable. I replaced the plastic posts with steel rods. Now they’re unbreakable. The plastic pine trees tend to fall apart when played with, so some trees are toppled off. Over the years the vivid summer colours of the grass were bleached by daylight. Now the scenery has a more autumn like look.

My daughter, 11 years of age, decided that she didn’t want the layout anymore in her room. So now the layout is stowed away. But because of its overall dimensions, the layout fits in a Ivar cabinet from IKEA. Maybe the layout will come back as a showcase layout.

Photo Gallery (2008)
Starting Off with Moppe: Overview Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (1) Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (2) Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (3) Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (4) Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (5) Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (6) Starting Off with Moppe: Detail (7)

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