Saturday, August 18, 2018

The Great Sawzall Massacre of 2018

For a variety of reasons, most importantly to shorten my commute and get some free time back, I recently moved.  I have a nice new space designated for an industrial switching shelf style layout.  I'm still in the toying with ideas stage, serious planning will probably start in a month or so and, with luck, a bit of construction before the end of the year.  More on that in a coming post.

Selling the old house is of course a rather critical part of the proceedings, and having a train layout screwed to the basement walls is not a good way to try to sell a house.  So it had to go.  My weapon of choice was a sawzall type saw (porter cable tiger saw).  With that and a crowbar, pry bar. cordless screwdriver, and some coffee it took me most of a weekend to separate the layout from the house and reduce it to small enough pieces for a junk removal service to remove.

When I built the layout I had the attitude that it was going to be a lifetime layout, or at the very least not reusable.  So I built it from the walls in - I started by screwing the back frame member to the wall, then added the cross pieces, front frame, and braces.  Some sections were built during my massive overkill lag screw phase, some in my drywall screw phase, and some in my pocket screw phase.  Due to both the build in from the walls construction and the number of changes over time, there were screws that were buried under other framing pieces, fascia, etc.  In retrospect, that wasn't the best idea.  The sawzall and crowbar were required.

First step, remove the Palmer Industrial peninsula to free up floor space.  The trickiest part was excavating the head of one screw that held the frame to the door frame.  The fascia was vigorously glued over it, and I needed to leave the door frame in good shape.  I couldn't just pull it out, or try to cut the screw between the layout and the door frame because that would mess up the door frame.  A bit of prying and chiseling eventually revealed the screw.  Here's the Palmer Industrial after being separated from walls and floor.



I used the sawzall to cut it up into manageable pieces and stacked them in the corner.



By the time I got to this dismantling operation I had already started thinking about a new layout, so oddly enough one of the biggest moments of regret was seeing those nicely curved MDF fascia corners in the junk pile.  I had fun making those.

So, with the Palmer Industrial out of the way it was on to the O scale No-Name Industrial.  As I mentioned it was screwed to the walls.  The walls it was screwed to have a 10" or so ledge just under the layout height at the top of the foundation.  It would have been excruciating to try to unscrew the layout as is from the wall.  Cutting off everything except the back few inches seemed like the best approach, so I fired up the sawzall again.  In this photo the corner with the interchange has already been removed except for the back edge screwed to the wall, and I've sliced through the layout for the whole length a few inches from the wall.  All that's holding up in this photo is habit.


One tap on the front edge while standing out of the way in the corner, and the habit is broken.


The remaining bit attached to the wall.  What kind of idiot uses this many lag screws for a train layout!


A bit of backdrop removal, not too hard in spite of painted over screw heads.


Then it was relatively easy to remove the pieces from the wall and the lower end of the brace supports.  Chopping the remains into easily carry-able pieces and stacking them in the corners finished up the front wall portion of the layout.




The side wall portion of the layout was not quite as straightforward to remove.  The portion closest to the corner was built to allow scenery and track extending below the baseline elevation of the rest of the layout.  A sheet of plywood was screwed directly to the ledge in the wall, and then track/scenery was built up from there - in other words lots of buried screw heads.  The remainder of the wall was more normal construction.  My approach was to cut out the normally built portion and then nibble away at the remainder.

Hm, what's holding it up?
Maybe a couple more whacks?
That did it!
Next problem was the oddly built section.  I had built it up by screwing joists of the right height to the plywood underpinnings, then screwing the plywood roadbed to the joists, and then gluing homabed on top.  Lots of screws covered up by other layers.  I ended up just brute force crowbaring off the plywood subroadbed for the main and runaround behind Catania-Spagna - you can see some of the supports split across the middle.


Then I was able to cut it off just inside the ledge.


The weapon of choice.  That's the third or fourth blade - I kept bending the tips hitting things I couldn't see under the layout.


Eventually I managed to find all the screws and get the remaining plywood off the ledge.


The second pile of layout remains when it was all over.


And a few days later it's all gone.



That last bit of "backdrop" is where I "cleverly" painted the back drop right on the door for the bulkhead.

So, what did I learn from all this?

  • Even if you don't want to build a layout that can be moved to a new home, at least build it so it's not too difficult to remove.  Even if you don't have to move, you may want fewer obstacles to re-arranging portions of the layout.
  • Layouts do not need to be lag screwed to the wall!  The section just drywall screwed to the wall held up just as well with me crawling on it as the section lag screwed to the wall.
  • Pocket screws are cool.  But they can be harder to find when you're taking something apart.
  • Sawzall style saws are fun!

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