Introducing the “C”

Woodworking is another hobby I enjoy, but getting time to do woodworking, well there is even less of it than model trains. When I recently spoke of issues with “Keeney Creek” needing to be cleaned so often, it set me on a path to find a modular type of system that would encompass both a backdrop and a top. The top would hold the lighting as well as protect the layout from dust etc since I do not have a drop ceiling in my basement yet. Last, but certainly not least was to be a portable system. A tall list of requirements, a self-contained shelf system that could also be portable.

The search for a design that would provide these requirements lead me to some of my cabinet and storage building books. However, nothing that I found really meet all of our requirements. Lots of good permanent cabinet designs that could support a shelf, but I did not feel like building a basement full of cabinets just to hold a model railroad. I knew would could certainly use the storage though, so I saved some of those ideas for later.

During my search through various cabinet making books, I kept coming back to the need of a bookshelf. Next I put up some temporary shelf brackets and placed “Keeney Creek” on them. I then placed more shelf brackets above the layout and mocked up a “ceiling.” Not bad, but really not a 100% self-contained system. Back to the drawing board.

One late Friday night, after taking “Keeney Creek”  down I banging my head on one of the temporary shelf brackets attached to the wall. My first thought, this isn’t going to work either. If no layout is up on the brackets, the brackets would be an accident waiting to happen. Some areas below the layout would be occupied by woodworking tools being stored between use. Some areas would have storage below the modules, and some areas would be open. So again back to the drawing board. What really would be below the layout area and how would I support the layout.

I finally recalled that Model Railroader magazine had a several issue piece on bookshelf layouts. After doing a search I discovered that Robert J Lutz wrote a two piece article in the January and February  1977 issues. The February issue includes extensive details and plans on creating a bookshelf layout, which is what I needed. The article got my pencil and pad going. I did another search of the internet and discovered Marshall Stull’s excellent blog post, “Modular Design for a Shelf Layout.” Marshall was using a similar design to Robert Lutz’s, minus the shelf bracket. I liked the idea immensely, and will always be deeply indebted to Mr. Stull’s design! What I really liked was the adoption of a french cleat to attach the module to the wall. I also discovered another modeler, Tim Watson, also using the “C” or “U” type of layout design in the comments section of Marshall’s blog post. You can see more of Tim’s work here.

After seeing Marshall’s and Tim’s design, I knew they were using a design that I could use. The modules were four feet in length, enclosed, and meet the need of being semi-permanent.

Next post, building the prototype “C”, or how I used up some plywood left over from building my house!

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2 Responses to Introducing the “C”

  1. Tim Watson says:

    That’s excellent that you found the info helpful Matt that makes me happy. I’ve edited the design a bit so that the top of the “C” (the ceiling portion) points up. I’ve done this to increase the vertical space out front of the layout for people wanting to do city based or tall scenery. I’ve got a miniature version but I just need to take some pictures. I have also started to use plain white foam core for the ceiling since there is nothing being supported on the ceiling, it really is best to just use something light. Keep up the great work – Tim

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