tree pose 1

It’s fun to daydream future model railways that explore ideas that are as real as the spaces for them are not. Whether or not on top of a bookcase, as my current layout is, or on its own set of legs everything I have ever built has been placed on trestle legs framed like a series of traditional free-standing tables. I find that my style of trestle framing closes in the room and I don’t like that. Even though the walls aren’t closer the new vertical plane created by the line of the fascia now changes the definition of the room from its original size, measured to the finished face of the walls, to the shape of the remaining aisle space. Not only does this plane reduce the physical size of the room but it also creates a visual mass that feels greater, to me at least, than the purpose of the structure (the model railway itself). Too often, the room feels like that purgatory in the basement where all the unpacked boxes will live out their secret eternity.

So I’ve been playing around with an idea to remove the from leg of the layout and instead build an artificial stud wall “backbone” or “spine” and hang the layout from it on cantilevered shelves.

  • floating shelves screwed into this new thin wall aren’t damaging the face of the actual wall in the room making it easier to restore the space if plans change
  • this thin spin doesn’t need to follow the line of the walls and can easily flow in a more natural form since it can be easily framed with flexible materials

Based on a set of plates that can be made up from plywood and then using regular studding this wall can be very flexible in form. Initially just to flow around corners and avoid right angles but every time this line wanders away from the face of the wall this fluid form adds stability without additional mass.

  • like the wandering stream if this wall flows occasionally away from the perimeter of the room it’ll change movement in the space inviting us to collect in some places or move through others
  • aisle design for model railways is usually just considered in terms of girth but this could be a place for discussion on how we modulate travel within the space

Space within the cavity of the wall needn’t be wasted either. I can see framing this wall in a series of panels not unlike the office cubicle walls. This way, if the layout’s form needs to change we can edit the set of frames easily to reduce waste. Plus that space within the cavity of the wall can be used to run wiring or even something as luxurious as air lines for local airbrushing ports along the railway.

  • there’s still space above and below the wall for shelving
  • new LED strip lighting is so easy to use that a line of this should be installed in the underside of the lowest shelf for some very soft ambient lighting that deletes that cave under the layout and reminds of the true dimensions of the room

The idea is only starting to form in my mind and I’m between meetings and just wanted to, very quickly, scratch out some very rough notes here to remind Future Chris of this idea and the need to return to it.

Categories: model railway design, tree pose

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7 replies

  1. A simpler option here is obviously strapping the wall and screwing metal shelving brackets to that strapping. The layout and shelves can still float so the goal of reducing the impression of a shrinking room is achieved but to do this the actual walls are being screwed to. Even if I own the walls and am not worried about an apartment lease’s conditions I like the idea of how this inner thin wall removes this problem. Further, strapping the wall and using shelf brackets means that the layout’s form (footprint) is also decided by the lines projected from those same perimeter walls.


  2. I like your idea of under-shelf lighting. I do find that when the lights are on in the two sub-layout desks, the layout seems to float rather than blocking out the room. The other thing I think I did right was to use upper cabinets that are the same colour as the ceiling to hang my lighting and make my valence.

    • Bingo! That’s the thing I’m playing with: floating. I was thinking (hoping) that by removing as much structure as possible from under the layout plus leaving this area painted white plus the ambient lighting would collectively delete the feeling of a cave under the layout.

      I don’t mind the overhead cabinet idea as you’re describing. In terms of prioritizing storage this would probably be useful for true storage of things I need to keep but don’t need easy access to. I like this and am adding it to my list! Thanks!


  3. Oh, boy! Here we go!

    This is a great idea but a lot of work without adding an iota to operation.

    That doesn’t mean you shouldn’t do it, but I can’t, despite a drawer full of photographs of minimalist kitchens from design sites like Remodelista and particularly Dezeen. Minimalist kitchens have pretty much all the elements you have laid out and are a great source of inspiration. You can, of course use kitchen cabinets of different heights and depths (ikea are now 15” deep) and have an instantly finished façade. If you want to do the false wall, Malcolm Furlow did one in an MR project many years ago that simply jammed the plates between floor ad ceiling without hurting the walls. This is often done to turn 1 bedroom apartments into 2 bedroom apartments.

    So if this is such a good idea, why am I not doing it? Well, I am 77 years old on Saturday, I had to tear out much of my layout last year for utility relocation, and I have my hands full remodeling — not just reconstructing it. . If/when I go to Happy Acres, the cabinets will go right in.

    • That reference to kitchen design is a wonderful one. I think there are so many parallels to the places where we eat we should be making when we consider design beyond the track plan.

      “My current layout rests on top of a bookcase” which itself is a series of Ikea Ivar components all clicked together. The ease of using these units has seen them moved around to various places in our home and the design of their assembly changed to suit where and how we’re using them at the time. Model railroaders are using these as framing components (one superb example is James McNab’s use of the Ivar system under his Hills Line layout) and I think that I would too because it allows me to quickly evaluate in real materials what a design would look like built.

      That said, any design that depends on legs or even boxes under the layout where their face is in the same plane as the layout fascia will create the same visual mass that feels like closing in the room. This becomes the driver for this thought on Tree Pose — that by removing this front framing member the “foot” of the layout is not too different from the original perimeter of the room it exists within. Important to remember that for this plan, which I probably neglected to say, is that this layout is a large room-sized layout.

      As a framing project it’s not far removed from what we do already. I’m using one continuous vertical frame (this is the back leg in traditional table style framing plus the backdrop support and then what carries that lighting valance) and then cantilevering the layout from this–same as if I had just screwed metal shelf brackets to the wall.

      It is a lot more work than I’m used to. Every layout I’ve ever started for myself has been less than eight square feet and as I contemplate a much larger project it’s all learning to think differently about how I want to occupy the space and share it with the layout. I’m forever in the debt of every modeller who has shared their experiences with building larger layouts.


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