Filling Gaps


If you take a good look at the plan for The Hills Line, you’ll see the oft-mentioned segments that make up the layout. Joining them together is a set of custom built lift-out sections assembled from whatever scraps were left over from benchwork construction.

Since the sections are supposed to represented unmodeled portions of the prototype, in some cases several miles of the prototype, my goal was to have the lift-outs serve as “resets” between visual elements. The sections will not be scenicked, ballasted, or otherwise detailed beyond a simple track on planks of wood. I did, however, stain the sections to match the shelving underneath the benchwork in an attempt to visually tie them to the layout. The track will also be painted a base brown coat to further signify their off-stage persona.


To mechanically link the lift-outs to the benchwork, I went with flush-mount hangers. So far, they do a good job of keeping the sections tight to the mating benchwork without the effects of expansion and contraction caused by a less-than-ideal layout environment.


American Tie & Timber’s Gapmaster ties were used to keep the track in alignment. The prebuilt PC-board ties were glued into place, then the Micro Engineering Flextrack ties were removed from the same relative position in the track. As the name implies, the Gapmasters fill the gap.



Once positioned, just solder, cut, and voilà! Track that stays in alignment! Once painted the ties should disappear into the boards and not bring attention to themselves.

Unfortunately the lift-out’s electrical connections do bring attention to themselves. My original plan was to have the metal flush-mount joiners pull double duty by passing electrical current to the tracks. However, a test of my setup showed inconsistent results and spotty connections. I’m sure I could have made it work, but reliability trumps aesthetics.


As a compromise, simple DC plugs and sockets were soldered to the tracks and bus wires and mounted to the fascia next to the lift-outs. I wish I could have kept the inner workings of the layout more hidden from view, but sometimes you have to see how the sausage is made.



10 thoughts on “Filling Gaps

  1. Hi James, That is a great tip about using the Gapmaster ties for your lift out section, I wish I had know about them when I built my layout. I don’t think anyone will notice the electrical plugs for the lift out sections as they will be more concentrated looking at your amazing scenery and structures. Many times we worry about little things that no one else would even see or notice. Making the lift outs easy to remove and install is more important than hiding the inner workings. -Tom

    Liked by 1 person

  2. With regards to the non treatment of track, I do the same on my liftout section. Ballasting is not practical as one of the liftout section gets stored standing on one end…
    However, I am now thinking of at least painting the track and the base just in earth tones. It might make the contrast between sceniced and non sceniced less jarring when looking down the main module.

    Love the work you do on this as on previous layout. The idea of “small” industrial type layouts that are achievable is something often overlooked.

    Liked by 1 person

      1. Nothing fancy Dave. The connectors are simply wooden planks between the foam benchwork segments. Think of it as a bridge between two land masses. The flush-mount connectors on either end interlock top to bottom. The tolerances allow for a near seamless transition between benchwork to liftout. Gravity does the rest.


  3. James, thanks for the flush-mount hanger idea for lift out sections. I was about to fab a bunch of wooden edges to hold a horizontal 2×4 girder when I caught up on your posts and saw the hangers. Now I have a solid bearing on each end of my room-door lift out.

    Liked by 1 person

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