Most model train layouts are constructed using a single large table or custom built display. For hobbyists, this is usually a long-term investment, with incremental steps taken over a longer period of time, like reconstructing an antique car or motorcycle. A large amount of space is dedicated to the project, enough to house the display as well as to stage its construction, including material storage and preparation. In archetypal cases, this is usually a basement or a garage; most people do not construct a train set in their living room or dining room, at least not intending for it remain there long. The key consistencies here are permanency and size.
For the Burnesyd Magical Muggle Railway project, both of these are deviating from the norm. We need to create a display that has the same type of permanency as a standard installation but is modular and small enough to transport and/or store between setups, in this case for the Christmas season. Ultimately, the best size was approximately nine feet by eight feet. This gives a reasonably sizable track, plus room for display components and a Christmas tree in the middle.
I had already determined the location for the display and laid out the track, so it was time to start designing the segments where the majority of construction would occur. The design I chose had two loops on each side so those would be where the segments would be constructed. Because of the plans I had for each segment, I decided to design these segments as ‘sandwiches’.
I use the term sandwiches because I designed each segment to have an interior space for routing wires or constructing mechanical systems. Since the display is going to be directly seated on the floor and I want to keep the train as close to the floor as possible, this means that my ‘sandwich’ segments would need to be as compact as possible. Additionally, I want to build as much ease-of-access into the design as possible, so I have created a design where the top layer – the track layer – is less permanently constructed. This of course poses a potential conflict in that the top lay will also be the layer I attached the majority of my construction onto. Indeed, all of my design work will be attached to that layer.
Below is the design that I ultimately made for each of the ‘sandwiches’. Included are a break-away of the pieces with list and the footprint for each sandwich:
One segment will be around 34″x 60″ and the other will be approximately 40″x60″. The top layer will be seated on three of the four sides and a series of small spacers, giving each sandwich around 240 square inches of interior space. The top layer will be flush with the interior side (the side that will connect to the central loops) and have a ½” raised lip on the other three sides. The entire sandwich will only be 3″ tall. I chose ½” thick pieces of wood to keep the construction compact and as light as possible. The top layer will also not be attached directly to any of the sides, but instead to the spacers. My goal is to set a series of small bolts into the spacers which will thread through holes in the top layer and be anchored with nuts disguised as scenery elements. In this way, I can easily detach the top layer to work within the interior of the sandwich or underneath any design construction attached atop it. The end products should look something like this:
Between the two ‘sandwich’ segments will be the dual loops and crossover that will encompass the tree; I’m calling that the ‘pretzel’. The Pretzel will simply be a single board cut around the track and elevated on 2 ½” platforms along the bottom. This will keep the entire track level, negating the need to attempt to calculate a proper incline for each segment. It will also serve to elevate the train by a few inches, helping to showcase it if it travels between rows of presents instead of it simply disappearing for long stretches of the track.
Finally, we have all of the design work completed for the base units and it is just about time to begin the actual construction. However, before I do that, I have one remaining step left that I feel needs to be finished first, if only to give myself not only a map of where I’m going, but also a picture of my destination: design mock-ups.