The lack of space in our hobby is generally discussed from a layout size perspective. Everyone dream of a basement empire and, supposedly, the success of model railroading is measured in similar way we assess the Roman empire successes in term of territorial addition. However, issues with available space can be much more complex than find a fitting room for a layout. It has been proven more than once layouts of any shape and size can share the same amount of interest.
Unfortunately, stuff like tools, working space and storage can hardly be compressed. Many people will work with very minimal space and it is certainly doable. But as you collection of rolling stock, locomotives, parts, scratchbuilding supplies and tool grow, the kitchen table and office desk aren’t no longer viable solutions.
Over the last decade, I’ve been pursuing my hobby at my office desk. It’s a cluttered surface about 10 sq. ft. with an effective working area barely the size of a small cutting mat. Parts and supplies are stored as best as I can in cardboard boxes in various cupboards around the house. While I know were my stuff is generally stored, it happens I make serendipitous discoveries of parts I forgot I ever bought. Another problem is raised by working on multiple projects at a time. I’ve learned that when working on my Harlem Station layout fleet. Models in various stage of completion were all over the place. The final nail in the coffin is the spray booth which Louis-Marie built a few months ago. It sits in the middle on the room, on cardboard boxes near a window. Far to be efficient and certainly bulky!
While a part of the problem is due to my lack of organization, I must recognize conditions aren’t there to improve the situation. It why, as my home renovations progress, I’ve been thinking about creating a decent workshop in my basement.
|Hobby room first rough sketch.|
This is a basic concept that will have to be refined over the months, but it gives a general idea of what I’d like to achieve. First, it would be a dual purpose room serving as a workshop and a layout room. Minimal parameters are that aisle around my Harlem Station layout should be minimally 3 feet large. Going under that dimension would be foolish. Second, storage space should be plentiful and varied to accommodate the collection, supplies and tools.
I imagine a long workbench with storage units for tools and supplies. One section could be dedicated to painting with the spray booth conveniently located near the exterior wall. It would also provide some space for vats used to strip paint from model. A long DCC test track would be available to program and test locomotives. Under the working surface, several drawers would be handy for parts, tools and supplies. Over the workbench, I imagine various shelves to store ongoing projects.
On another wall, I would install shelf brackets units to display and operate various small dioramas ad switching layouts I built in the past. Nothing bulky, just something both convenient and adjustable. I could also easily imagine displaying some models over the layouts.
Finally, another wall would provide extensive storage capacities. It could be cupboards and shelves. These would be useful to store the collection in a pragmatic and efficient way. Havign several interests, I’d be pleased to dedicate various spaces to specific themes determined by our layouts (Hedley Junction, Harlem Station, St-Pie, etc.). Rolling stock could be classified according to state of completion, keeping completed models together and ongoing and future projects somewhere else.
Some will wonder why I didn’t include a possible benchwork around the room for a future layout. It could be possible, but I prefer to keep that dangerous idea at bay for the moment. I’ve got enough on my plate and still have to put Harlem Station in operation. The room itself is large and versatile enough to be adapted for a future project if my interests changes over the year. I planned the room with the future in mind, but certainly don’t want to open the door to a sprawling monster. This choice is also motivated by what I’d like to call neatness. A neat room has more appeal to me than a half finish spaced cluttered with a badly presented layout. I firmly believe the way we interact with our layouts is also a matter of presentation. For the moment, I can easily imagine Harlem Station standing in the middle of the room, at a realistic height and with excellent lighting fixtures bringing attention and life to it. I see it just like a billiard room, with the layout shining in the middle and around which we can gather and interact with the hobby. At some point, I would easily imagine installing a small wooden shelf around the layout fascia to put a glass of your favorite beverage, some switching paper work or simply rest your arms. Something comfy and finished… a real piece of furniture.
Additional notes: Keen observers will quickly find out an islant layout takes up a LOT of space in a room, particularly when you want decent aisles. An around the wall layout would certainly be much more efficient, however, at this point, it's a question of choice. It must be noted Harlem Station is a fully prototypical layout that has about 45 specific car spots and can handle up to 55 cars at once. It is packed with action and don't suffer any kind of selective compression. Operating the layout is just like operating the real thing without compromise. At this point, it can be a selling point. Also, it must be noted I'm not eager to install anything on the long stone wall because of heating, plumbing and various mechanical reasons.