A Moveable Barge (carfloat)
Adds Operating Possibilities

Bill Payne's harbor and moveable carfloats
moveable ho carfloat

Bill Payne, fellow member of our Nottawasaga Model Railway club has constructed a moveable barge. Actually, he has built a whole bunch of them as "fiddle yards" for off-the-layout operation (or until he builds the rest of his layout across an aisle way his wife won't let him block!)

Cabinet with storage shelves for carfloats and hobby supplies
ho carfloat cabinet

Bill has taken a different approach to building a carfloat (barge) than I did. Mine is really designed to "stay put" while his can be moved around his layout room.

Bill's approach was to accomplish two tasks: allow him to make multiple carfloats that could be moved and stored to let him use the carfloats as hidden staging or "fiddle yards" and, secondly, to let him move the entire carrier and shelves to the other side of a doorway. He didn't have permission from Donna to block the primary doorway so the other half of his layout will only be reachable with the carfloat cabinet. (He decided this was a more interesting approach than making some kind of a swinging bridge.)

Bill enjoys figuring out inexpensive ways to make things work. The cabinet is locked to the layout using a dowel and two curtain hangers. A wooden handle is turned to release the cabeniet from the layout table. The cabinet has adjustable casters so it can be rolled around the layout room. He hasn't built the other half of the railroad yet.

The harbor is made from blue construction styrofoam with a groove cut to the width of the barges. They are also shaped from the styrofoam.

My carfloat  has a top deck of styrene with the rails glued directly to the deck whereas Bill opted to affix track with ties to the styrofoam. He plans to add some planking so the railway workers won't trip on the ties.

Code 70 3-way turnout on apron
apron 3-way turnout

We both began with the Walthers HO carfloat apron (discontinued). He laid a Code 70 3-way turnout over the plastic floor of the apron. I used the built-in rail grooves and a Fast Tracks paper template to scratchbuild a Code 83 turnout for the apron. This also involved making the frog section on the carfloat. 

 If you would like more information about Fast Tracks see my page on handlaid track with Fast Tracks jigs. 

Bill's method is simpler and keeps the turnout throws off the apron. He is also building a carfloat for the club layout and has experimented with laying craft paper on the deck and gluing it in place with the doping method used for building model airplanes.

Bill hadn't finished painting any of his barges when i took these photos. He planned to start with a red oxide base while I have airbrushed my carfloat with Polly Scale Tarnished Black. He also found some interesting magic thread at Michael's that can be curled into ropes. He has some on the tugboat that sits beside the barge.

Removing a barge from the harbor
sliding barge

The slot in the harbor not only aligns the barge with the apron but also allows the barge to sit lower in the water. It is easier to cut down a 2-inch thickness of styrofoam than trying to build up thinner pieces. Another advantage is that the carfloats are light for handling. Push pins and rubber bands can be used to keep cars from rolling off or couplers can be installed at one end of the tracks. I've seen both methods used.


Slot for barge cut into the harbor's base.
ho barge slot

Bill painted the harbor water with cheap craft paints and sealed the water with varnish to give it a slight shine. I poured mine with Envirotex epoxy.

Inserting a tray into a shelf in the rollaway cabinet
carfloat tray

Inserting a loaded barge into the slot
carfloat tray slide

Bill made his own pilings and drilled a hole in the bottom for a pin in order to plant them. The pilings are held together with the magic thread. The pilings also help to align the barges when inserting them in the slot.

The tracks on the barges line up perfectly with the ends of the 3-way turnout on the carfloat apron. Thee's no need for rail joiners.

No electrical connections are needed because locomotives are not allowed on the apron or carfloat. Idler flat are used to reach the cars on the barge. Bill's moveable barge approach may be just the method you're looking for. It's cheap and pretty easy to make.


Cabinet and barge in closed position at carfloat apron.
carfloat apron closed

Here's a short video demonstrating Bill's moveable barge in action.


Other photos of Bill's HO/HON3 layout
under construction

Bill helps me with locomotive remotoring and other mechanical jobs. He is far more knowledgeable than me at those parts of the hobby. We've been club members for many years. At one time the club was located in Stayner and when I moved back to the Toronto area for a few years I left behind some modules from an earlier layout of mine. Bill salvaged them and is incorporating them into his layout. The modules were a combination of standard and narrow gauge. 

Bill loves narrow gauge!  I have posted some photos of his 2012 vacation in Colorado taken in Durango, Siverton, Chama and other famous railroad locales. 

Here are a few photos of the modules built by Joseph Levy and me back in Montreal in the 1970s.

HO/HON3 modules. The waterfall. .
waterfall module

Bill has added two mainline tracks in front and plans to build a dam at the edge. The next photo is of the right hand module that was based on the John Allen switching puzzle but built in narrow gauge. There was dual gauge track crossing from the center waterfall module.

The narrow gauge module
narrow gauge module

The left hand module originally had a logging scene on it. A few of the trees are still standing. 

My Beebe station used to reside here.  Bill just re-inherited it as I won't be doing narrow gauge on my new Utopia Northern layout. See my passenger operations page with photos of the stations I have built. Bill is still reworking these modules into his layout.

The logging module
ho logging module

Flanger car
ho flanger

Bill has collected some neat rolling stock and engines over the years by careful shopping at train shows and auctions. Here is a great flanger he found.


LED rope lighting
rope lighting effect

Bill has also been experimenting with lighting for his layout. The rope LED lights work very well for a night scene. This is a relatively inexpensive way to get a night effect and the LEDS don't generate a lot of heat. They are also inexpensive to run.


Go from "moveable-barge" to How To Make A Harbor.

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Go from "moveable-barge" to Scratchbuilding for beginners.

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