Building A Model Train Layout Portable Platform

To say that much has been written about model train layout platforms which are also referred to as benchworks would be an understatement.  And rightfully so, because it is the foundation for your layout. 

With that said, it is important that this part of every model railroad be constructed using the best and most solid of building methods, which also includes the materials that are used in the building process.  These can include wood, steel, plastic, and foam board.

More importantly, a decision must also be made early on, and that relates to whether or not you are going to build a platform which is stationary and will remain in place for many years, or whether you should build a portable platform right from the onset of building your model train layout.


If you think that there is a possibility that your future may include a move from one residence to another, you should consider the advantage of constructing a portable layout.


Other reasons for building your platform in this way could include the need to disassemble (because of limited space in your home or apartment) your platform for storage when not in use.  Another possibility, but certainly not of least importance to consider when building your platform is that you may be planning on displaying your layout in the future at model train shows, and a portable platform will aid in breaking down and reassembling your platform much easier.

Also, by building your platform in portable sections you’ll discover that this construction approach will allows you to focus, which then makes it possible to see a given project through to its conclusion.  Often a new model railroader will feel somewhat overwhelmed and through building  platform in sections this feeling is reduced through small manageable projects.

Moreover, working on smaller portable projects is a much easier way to develop and improve new skills, and also explore new scenery or prototypes without having to make a huge commitment.

Most portable platforms are built in modules, and as you’ve probably already concluded they’re common characteristic is that they are constructed in sections.  The various benefits for this were described in previous paragraphs.


One of the more common methods for building a portable platform is the L-girder theme, which can be built by applying four easy or uncomplicated steps.

They include making tables and boxes, table construction, building connecting boxes, and attaching layout sections.

Before you actually begin the building process however, there are a few tools which you will need and here’s a list of tools that will come in handy if you’ve decided to tackle this do-it-yourself project:

1.  Tape measure

2.  Level

3.  Square

4.  Claw hammer

5.  Utility knife

5.  Screwdrivers

6.  Bar clamps in various sizes

7.  Spring clamps

8.  A power drill will also come in handy in lieu of screwdrivers


Before we go any further, it might be worth mentioning that if you feel that you’re not handy with carpenter’s tools or simply would prefer to not tackle a project of this type, you may want to consider having someone else to do the work.  That said, you may want to employ the help of a carpenter, or as another alternative there are companies who specialize in building model train platforms, whether they be portable or stationary.  These companies can be found by doing a search online.

Now, as for the actual construction of a portable platform, the order of building begins with a creating or drawing out a working plan that you’ve envisioned.

Next, the materials which you will need include the following:

1.  Lumber – 1 x 2s, 1 x 3s, 1 x 4s, and sheets of ½ inch plywood.  Typically these sheets are 4 x 8 feet, but you decide to choose something smaller which will be influenced in part by the space you have available for your layout  Make sure you select clear pine lumber as it is stronger and much straighter.  It is a little more expensive but money well spent.  Also, make sure that the lumber you select is free of knots.

2.  ¼ inch carriage bolts and wing nuts.