Back to the matchbox

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It started with an idea based on a simple box of matches. (Before I get much further in, bear with me while I wander. It’s okay. I’m old. I do these kinds of tangents all the time.)

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I’d had this idea: “Traditionally, a model railway remains fixed in place. If we need that extra length of track, we achieve it by adding to the layout by attaching staging to a free end like a pier jutting from the land out into the sea. In this case, I propose moving the layout out of the way to make room for the extra track we need. This is made easy by mounting the layout on a set of drawer slides built onto the top of the integral storage unit. It slides open and closed like a matchbox and in doing so, both reveals the trains stored inside and also evolves the plan from static diorama to operating model railway.”

Before I’d even talked about the matchbox, I proposed a tightly framed shadowbox of a layout. Even though it was never more than a series of sketches I still enjoy looking at this series of curated views of the scene to watch an imaginary first generation GP placing a few grain boxcars at the elevators.

One idea that did move beyond a series of sketches was the above. It became a massive foamcore mockup. Did I mention my curiousity to explore a tightly-framed view?

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One by one, a series of ideas that invite me to look around my living room and wonder what I could store in something like an IKEA Billy bookcase. Of course, the problem with “in a bookcase” is, well are, those gable ends.

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Something like the simple view above would fit ever so nicely in the volume created inside a bookcase’s shelf. In the above drawing, as in traditional layout construction, the layout is constructed as one complete unit and the layout is fixed into this volume, early on in construction.

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What if the layout, instead, was built on a set of drawer slides?

The frame stays nested inside the bookcase. When the layout is simply on display, between uses, it fits nicely in the envelope of the bookcase. The biggest challenge with the layout is always when it comes time to interact with it and gaining reasonable access from the top. So, as I asked, if it could be slid out you’d have full access to the top so you could uncouple cars, fix some scenics, or attend to a wayward detail.

Matchbox2-3

Freed from the confines of the bookcase, this is where I recall the matchbox-inspired idea that I opened this post with. The layout emerges from its frame like a drawer. Once opened, a wing that was previously tucked inside the main body of the layout is open as another drawer to extend the length of the layout. Over top of the drawer, you could rest of a storage cassette to extend the running track on the layout.

When you are done, the storage cassette is tucked into the drawer “wings” along with the leftover railway cars. Those wings are slide back inside the layout. Then, wings safely stored inside, the railway itself slides back into its frame. It’s a bit coy in its presentation and that playfulness? I think amusing its creator is something a model railway must do.

As a concept, it feels like a great way to use up a collection of drawer slides and indulge in some puzzle box construction. As much as any of that this serves the opposing needs of the static diorama and the operating model railway; most of all my personal need to create a tailored envelope not only for the scene but to contain all the “stuff” that follows a model railway around so I’m not left with a shelf filled with clumsy looking rolling stock and a rummage sale of loose parts.

Most of all it feels like an idea that belongs here.


I’ve referenced some previous posts throughout the above. Here’s some links back and in the same order as I’ve presented them above:

The Matchbox first appeared in this post: https://princestreet.wordpress.com/2017/06/15/the-matchbox/

It reappeared in this post, which I think did a superior job of illustrating the idea: https://princestreet.wordpress.com/2017/06/21/matchbox-part-2/

The prairie scene was revealed in an untitled post here: https://princestreet.wordpress.com/2017/02/27/8539/

That massive foam core mockup? Check it out: https://princestreet.wordpress.com/2017/03/21/1-2-3-4-the-mockup-edition/

9 comments

  1. I really like this idea Chris and had forgotten about the matchbox idea. I think go with what feels right to you and invoke the rule 1 rule. I think we both like the convoluted, quirky, edgy design/planning mode and this plays well to that. I particularly like the fold out fold in factor of it. Maybe this is something to take forward? 15 mins at a time :)

    1. Your 15 minutes is brilliant as an attitude.

      As for the foldout, I wonder how much tolerance is in a set of drawer slides to keep things aligned when opened?

      Chris

  2. Pure genius Chris. It satisfies both criteria (operation and presentation) in an innovative way that’s worthy of further consideration and development. Apartment and small space dwellers, take notice.

  3. This is a really interesting idea! I think it would be great for an apartment or small layout – lots of ideas on how to extend the distance once the drawers are pulled out. I worry a bit about visibility for onlookers, but if you’re the only operator – it works!

    1. That’s a good point: visibility.

      It might look odd when fully expanded during an operating session but the context here would be the activity. Between sessions, it just sits there politely tucked in.

      Maybe?

      Chris

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