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It is easy to stay in the comfort zone and build rectangular baseboards or layouts. They are easy to build, with all our tools set up for right angles. Also we are so conditioned to building things square, such as the rooms in our houses etc., that it is hard to consider the alternatives. We also think that building things that are not square is somehow much more difficult. Sure it does become more difficult as the shapes get more irregular, but their are simple shapes that can vastly improve our layouts, and are easy to build. Shaped baseboards can really enhance the design and finished look of our railroads, and can often allow us to include things in our layout that would not have fitted if we had stayed with a rectangular shaped baseboard.

The ability to build simple shapes or angles into your baseboards, especially if they are to be transportable, can open many new options that can be included in our layout plans. A simple example of this can be seen in the following. We have decided to build a two module layout to take to a model train exhibition or convention, and our trailer measures 6 feet by 4 feet. If we are going to stay with the conventional rectangular shaped modules we have only two options, which are two modules 6 foot by 2 foot or two modules 4 foot by 3 foot (figure 1 opposite). This will give us either a layout that is 12 foot by 2 foot or 8 foot by 3 foot. Lets take the first size as an example. While it gives us good length, the width is only 2 feet. This may be suitable for some track plans, but can be a bit restrictive if we want to include a turntable and roundhouse or that favourite industry that we have always wanted to model.

                BASIC SHAPES

As can be seen in figure 2 opposite, we can take the 6 by 4 foot shape, and from a point exactly in the middle of the 4 foot side, divide the shape anywhere we wish. For example, the dividing line could run from the middle point or 2 foot on the 4 foot side to a point 1 foot from the edge at the other end (see figure 3). With the two 2 foot ends joined together, we will achieve a layout that is 12 foot long, but with one end 3 foot deep and the other end 1 foot deep, as seen opposite. This gives us plenty of room on the left hand end for that turntable or favourite industry. The other end that is 12 inches wide could easily match up with off stage staging tracks. A shape like this may allow the layout to fit into a bedroom that has the door one foot from the corner.

Another example could be if we wanted three modules to fit into the 6 by 4 foot size that we have available to us. We may decide that we like the shape in figure 3 opposite, but want to place a thin rectangular baseboard at the narrow end as a staging yard. Because the narrow end of the baseboards is say 1 foot, this is probably a good dimension to start with to see what will happen. Letís start by putting a 1 foot by 4 foot baseboard across the top of the area. We now have 4 foot by 5 foot left. On this design we might want a square end, so lets come down from the top and up from the bottom 1 foot can divide this remaining area, similar to figure 3, from the middle point at 2 feet to a point 1 foot from the left side as seen below. When laid out this will give us a shape as can be seen below, which is 14 feet long by 3 feet at its widest and 1 foot at its narrowest

Even if your layout is not going to be moveable, it is worth considering these type of simple shapes. This is also an excellent way of economically working out how to cut up sheets of plywood or MDF (craftwood) as baseboard tops.

Tip: Often you will find that divisions of the maximum shape of 1/2 or 1/3 or 1/4 seem to work best when doing the initial rough drawings and tend to achieve balanced shapes that are pleasing to the eye.