Earlier this week I shared a sketch I had titled The Wing. I had in mind a vision of a freestanding model railway design and an alternative to how we design benchwork. Rather than thinking about how we use the space for track planning it’s the design of that frame that is different. By drawing each edge down to a fine point it has no need for fascia and released from a backdrop it works more like a feature in a room.
But there’s another design change here too. One that is fundamental. I created the above sketch based on pretty much how we frame just about every model railway we build. It’s a design not unlike the balloon framing style we’d use to build wood-framed houses built in the last century. The principle is based on a framing member that forms the perimeter. “Loads”, such that they are, from things within the model railway like the track and trains are distributed by stringers out to that perimeter. “L girder” or other styles of benchwork all work on this same basic principle of spreading the load outward to a perimeter of main carrying members that gather those loads and carry them to legs which, more often or not, are out at the corners of the layout.
In The Wing we rely on a single structural member that concentrates loads and those legs are moved inboard, like the landing gear on an airplane. We still have crossmembers that are placed perpendicular to this core but their length is ambiguous and determined only by how far from the core we need to reach outward to carry the scene at this particular section of the layout. Considering this form it feels more natural and it’s hard not to see that it’s pretty much also how most mammals are engineered. Our arms and legs and like extremities are tied back to our spine and the spine does the work both of coordinating motion. The spine is not rigid and can move fluidly, flexibly, to facilitate the movements of our life.
In my sketch I have shown an aluminum tube mostly as a nostalgic hangover from the days of selling model airplane kits at the hobby shop. Aluminum tubing is easy to find in most towns and isn’t something you need to buy at a hobby shop–if you have a hardware store you have it. Similar materials that would work as well include tubing used for electrical conduit or even plastic water or sewer pipe. The round section feels familiar and I just like the look of it in a sketch. A square section will work every bit as well.
I’ve been talking about this spine in The Wing considering it as a structural form but it’s tubing. Is it too much to suggest that, also just like our own spines, it too can be a conduit, carrying wiring from the tracks and other electrical appliances on the layout along its core back to where they go?