Tuesday, September 11, 2018

Old Habits Die Hard... But Must!

I can consider I've been an active model railroader since 1996 when my English teacher rekindled my interest in miniature trains. More than two decades have past since  then and stuff accumulated. Locomotives, cars, paint, detail parts, structures, scratchbuilding supplies and many mores. Many project started, many aborted before reaching the goal line and all that stuff accumulated... It was a one way ticket.

In the last few months, I finally completely ran out of space. No storage alternative. Boxes started to clutter my office room until last week when out of hospital, the sight was unbearable. One side effect of my medication is that I have to stay away from the sun as much as possible for a few weeks. It could be seen as a very sad thing, but with my very low level of energy, I must admit it isn't that much. However, this is an excellent opportunity to sift through the collection and start clearing up a path toward better days. Thus started my endeavour to put some order in my modelling life.

A typical locomotive project storage box.

The first step was to take a look through the locomotive collection and determine what I would keep and what would have to go. About a dozen of models were selected for sale, all based on the fact I rarely or never used them in the past and had absolutely no interest in using them in the future. Other locomotives were carefully stored and then I moved on my various detailing and kitbashing projects. Each locomotive requiring extensive work was placed in a sealed plastic box with part containers. Yes, it's basic, but I certainly didn't work that way before. Now, no excuse for missing parts or not finding the drive. The same was applied to freight cars WIP, which are now neatly stored in plastic boxes.

Freight car parts typical storage box.

Taking care of various kind of trucks is easy with a bait storage case.

Then I purchased several fishing bait storage boxes and went through my growing inventory of freight car parts. All these details were in various cardboard boxes all over the house and I quickly lost the count over the years, often reordering parts I already had on hand but couldn't locate. Now, there is a box for trucks and wheels, one for brake rigging and ladders, and another for carbody parts such as roof, walkway, doors and car ends.

The sloped bottom makes retrieving parts easy.

Smaller parts such as grabirons and stirrups are stored in a pills organizer case, which is both handy and take very little space on the workbench.

Choosing windows, doors and structure details is now intuitive.

I also did the same with my structure detail parts and supplies. The bait storage boxes were perfect to put some order on hundreds of Tichy parts. Now, at a glimpse, I know which doors and windows I have. It was also a good excuse to take apart several old structures given by fellow modelers over the years. Most were unusable for our layout, including many European kits, and certainly glued together by the most unskilled people out there. We kept them for almost ten years thinking they could be useful some day for parts. Well, I took a few hours and removed every bit of details that were deem good enough including doors and windows. Everything else was trashed, freeing a substantial amount of space!

For scratchbuilding supplies, a second box containing styrene sheets of various size and texture, roofing material and larger parts was necessary. In my office closet, several hooks have been installed inside the door where Plastruct and Evergreen styrene profiles and brass rods and plates can now be seen easily.

Parts organizer for diesel and steam locomotives.

Each drawer is divided in two sections for sealed parts and loose parts.

Finally, I ended my journey by putting some order in my locomotive parts. Back in high school days, probably around 1998, I acquired a small part organizer and started to fill it with details. At first it went well, then all kind of junk ended up there. When I moved in my actual house in 2009, I put it in the back of a closet which was a bad idea. Accessing the organizer was quite hard and soon I stopped to go there. Meanwhile, I still had old scale model boxes from the 90s filled with parts and bits, including empty packages. The boxes were at full capacity and finding a diesel locomotive part required to go through about a hundred packages. Not very fun nor efficient. The solution was simple: clean up the parts organizer to use it exclusively for locomotive detail parts. Each drawers is now labelled according to its content, be it horns, bells, fan grills or rerail frogs. It was also a good occasion to throw away a bunch of useless stuff like plastic wheels, horn hook couplers, Atlas switch controls and other completely obsolete stuff.

Now, I still need to go through the decal collection, which is quite huge, the tools and paint, but the worst is now behind me and it is making my life much more easier. I'm glad I did it... I certainly don't understand how I could tolerate such a situation for two decades.


  1. Nice work! You might want to look up 5S from Lean as you’ve done three of the Ss. You might find value in the other two as well.

    1. It's always funny how humans always end up applying similar solutions to similar problems. I can already tell you the two last S are my major weaknesses. However, after two weeks, I already reap the benefit of my new method, so I believe I'll be able to sustain it. Thanks for pointing out these others aspects that shouldn't be overlooked.