So, in one of my last posts on modelling in apartments, I made a comment that as I talked, I was having an idea hatch. I’ve spent a few days mulling on the idea, and looking at others who have done similar things. I’ve for some time been trying to crack the code and find a way to be able to run trains in the apartment, nothing fancy, but something where I can do some simple switching, and have some of the large collection of equipment which is currently packed away out for use and display. But, living in a two bedroom apartment, it needs to be compact, and theoretically easily taken down and safely packed away.
The answer to this, is something modular, whether is a single sceniced module and a staging/fiddle yard, or something else. The idea that came into my head while talking about Ikea bookcases falls deep in the “something else” category. One of the problems I have, is being indecisive in what i want to model. I have interests in Canadian Railroads and modelling, and British Railways and modelling (to the point where instead of going prototype when i build a layout, i’ve contemplated a double deck freelance layout with Canada on one level and the UK on the other). But, in a small space, you can’t have your cake and eat it to…or can I? Realistically, the maximum space in our apartment that might become available when we replace the double bed in the office with a futon is 8′ long. Width is a bit more flexible, but I don’t want something that’s so large its unwieldy to move or take down when people need to use the futon.
Initial Concept of an Ikea Billy Layout with a replaceable scenic section on a Billy Shelf
Using the Ikea Billy bookcase system, the shelves on the wide unit are 30″ wide by 10″ deep, just enough room to be useful if you have off-scene fiddle yards or staging at either end. The 3D sketch above shows a 3 part unit, two end units with a billy shelf on drawer rails that can align with tracks to be a fiddle yard, and a centre section with a permanent backdrop, that a shelf can be dropped into to create the visible trackwork and sceniced area. The result, a layout where you can change the scene by popping out the bookcase shelf, and putting it back into the bookcase as a diorama, and putting in a different shelf for a different scene. One day its a gritty inner city industrial area, next day, it’s the end of the platforms at a busy British station. The day after that, it’s a wayside stop on a rural line and so on.
Early Concept Track Plans, 5 Track sliding fiddle yards, three fixed possible entrance points to the scene, then the removable scene on the Billy Shelf.
The initial concept as I’ve visualized it has a five track fiddle yard on either end, mounted on drawer sliders, that can align with one of three fixed points on either end of the central frame that holds a replaceable Billy shelf. On the Billy Shelf, is a sceniced section, that aligns with one or more of the three fixed tracks.
Obviously, this is a very high level first conceptualization of this. If I actually go with bringing it forward to be an actual thing, it will clearly evolve and change. There are lots of technical challenges to make something like this work, from ensuring track alignments, making power routing work, and all kinds of other issues. It would obviously need to have legs and be self-supporting, but that also offers opportunities to make provisions for a screen around the staging to take the layout to shows and run trains. Take a Canadian Scene to the Barrie-Allandale Show, take a British scene to the Great British Train Show, take a prototype scene to Copetown and so on.
Concept with a View Block around the staging/fiddle yard and a name board across the view window to create a portable/changeable exhibit layout.
There are some big limitations on making trackwork work in this space in HO, this may be better for my N-Scale or narrow gauge friends, but its an idea that I’m going to keep exploring and see where we wind up in the coming months.