15/04/2019
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Where to store your model railway layout?

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The necessities of family life, modern homes with small rooms and a lifetime’s worth of accumulation of ‘stuff’ can all restrict the space available for a train set. Unlike many of our cousins in North America, we’re not usually blessed with large basements where we can build large models, but there are plenty of opportunities for the creative and flexible layout builder.  

Building the smallest train set possible is one possibility, or making it fold-away on a wall using hinges or slide under a bed are other possibilities, but what if you want something more permanent? In such a situation, you’ll need a reasonably large space – count on 3m x 2m for comfortable access, a little less if against a wall.

Below are some ideas for the most common locations for layouts and the advantages and disadvantages of each. Some are better than others, it’s a case of making the best of your available space, whether that’s inside the house or elsewhere.

Spare room

In many ways, a spare room – usually a bedroom - is the ideal place for your train set. It’s secure, warm, dry and has easy access to all the things you’ll need – mains electricity, light and tea! However, in most houses, space is at a premium so it only becomes an option for many once the kids have left home. Even then, you’ll have to compete with alternative demands for office space, storage, guest bedrooms or other hobbies.

Pros

  • Warm, dry and secure
  • Mains electricity in place
  • Easy access to household facilities
  • Can be stored under a bed

Cons

  • Competing demands for space
  • Odd-shaped rooms can cause planning headaches

Attic

where to store your model railway layout

Out of sight and out of mind, loft spaces are often under-used or filled with stuff we don’t need or can’t bear to part with. They can be a very useful and secure space for a model railway. Although the roofs of many older houses limit the height inside, many modern homes have higher pitched roofs that allow you to stand up and move around freely between joists. Many companies around the country offer loft conversions (usually to add extra bedrooms) that make it easier to get access to your loft and create a more comfortable environment. Always check with the planning office of your local council before making alterations because planning permission will be needed for some modifications such as additional windows.

Pros

  • Dry and secure
  • Easy access to household facilities
  • Simple to fit mains electricity
  • Good use of an otherwise wasted space
  • Potential large usable space

Cons

  • A lot of work involved if not already converted
  • Subject to extremes of temperature in summer and winter
  • No natural light unless windows are added
  • Restricted height issues
  • Easy to bang your head or trip over joists

Cellar/Basement

Where to store your model railway layout?

Many older houses have a cellar that’s often under-used or acts as a dumping ground. If you can overcome the issue of damp it can be a great location for a layout. Ensure that you have a good level floor and lined walls to keep out the damp, plenty of lighting and a power supply. A dehumidifier will help reduce the damp atmosphere. You’ll be making good use of a room that would otherwise be wasted.

Pros

  • Secure and easy access to household facilities
  • Mains electricity in place or easy to install
  • Good use of space that’s out of the way
  • Steady cool temperature

Cons

  • Damp without natural light
  • Uneven floors need to be levelled
  • Can be easy to bang your head

Shed

Where to store your model railway

If there’s nowhere available in the house, it’s time to look outside. A shed in the garden can provide you with the space you need without disrupting domestic arrangements. The term ‘shed’ encompasses so much more than the rickety 6ft x 4ft wooden structure. It’s possible to buy good quality, solid buildings in any size you like, from a basic garden storage shed to a 100ft-long wooden building or a fancy log cabin style structure – it all depends on the space available and your budget. Whatever you choose, you’ll need to consider insulation, security, damp-proofing and mains electricity supply. Spending a little extra to keep your train set dry, at a stable temperature will be a wise investment.

Pros

  • Space outside the home
  • Can be any size/shape you like
  • Endless designs and quality options
  • Can be a cheap way to get started, blank canvas

Cons

  • Subject to damp and extremes of temperature in summer and winter
  • Vulnerable to burglars
  • Environmental conditions will affect performance and running conditions
  • Mains electricity required

Garage

If you’re lucky enough to have a garage, it could be the ideal space for your train set. Many garages are too small for modern cars, so are used to store unused furniture, exercise machines, fridges and bikes. But, even if you use the garage for its intended purpose, it doesn’t mean you can’t keep your train set there too. You can fold its board away, against a wall or hoist it up to the ceiling when not in use, freeing up space for other things. Like a shed though, you’ll need to consider how to keep things dry and secure.

Pros

  • A large, clear space
  • Mains electricity easy to install
  • Large door gives easy access for installing boards.

Cons

  • Subject to damp
  • Temperature differences in summer and winter
  • Vulnerable to burglars
  • Environmental conditions affect performance and layout

If you don’t have room, get in touch with your local model railway club as they can provide all the information you need.

Once you’ve decided where you want your new layout to be, then comes the fun part of baseboard construction. Make sure you read our complete guide to model railway baseboard construction, which includes all the hints and tips you need to get started.

If you’re still undecided on what your trackplan will be, our model railway trackplan ideas article, gives you a few examples of different complexities to help get you started.

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