Getting Organized

Train Storage 5211

I’m not a very organized person. That may sound odd, given that this “blog” has a fairly extensive set of associated pages that are moderately well organized. But while I’m at least competent at organizing information, that skill doesn’t extend to the real world much at all.

When I started building the layout, I only had a few trains. Over the next two years I bought quite a few more, and partway through that the one shelf I had set aside for storing them became full and I expanded to half of a second. That filled, and there were no more available. Green Kato boxes began getting stacked in odd corners, on the layout itself, on the workbench, on shelves in the living room, and even in a small stack under the coffee table. For a while I managed to at least keep track of what I had and where it was, but late last year even that began to break down. As I mentioned last week, I somehow forgot to photograph one of my new trains (which was one of the few things I’d always done reliably, so I could keep track of them). And this summer it took me a week to find one of my older trains (the box was in a really odd place).

At the same time, I’d never really had a place to store unbuilt kits, not-yet-used ready-made structures, and various supplies. Most of my spare Unitrack ended up sitting on the two tables I’d built below the layout for eventual use as hidden-storage tracks. Other things were piled in boxes under the layout, or atop the workbench (which eventually became a supplies-bench since it no longer had room for work) and wherever I could cram them. This was very disorganized, and I’ve ended up buying new spools of wire more than once, only to discover I already had it.

One of the causes of this is that my small basement tends to accumulate things that I don’t need at present, or which don’t fit elsewhere, leaving little room for the layout and its supplies. This summer I finally decided I’d had enough, and one of my distractions of late has been a major housecleaning, with much discarding of things-not-needed and the acquisition of a storage locker for things-not-presently-needed. And that’s freed up some room in the basement for the trains. It’s also taken away from time to work on the layout, as it’s not just the basement that needs clearing out, and sorting through decades of “stuff” is no small task.

My first success in this is addition of another shelf and a half for model train boxes. In the photo above the top shelf now holds “joyful trains” and other specialty trains, the middle shelf holds freight, subway and shinkansen (I don’t have much of any of those) and the bottom shelf is for commuter trains (a number of mine are still on the workbench or layout, the shelf will be more full when I’ve relocated all of them). All the electrical stuff on one shelf is the main set of switched power strips for the layout, and the battery chargers for my tools. That will likely all move somewhere else before I’m done.

I’m also gaining some other shelves for storing kits and supplies. And I’ve cleaned out most of the remnants of the old HO layout (which I can’t bring myself to render into scrap lumber so it’s gone into storage) and that’s made room for a long-contemplated addition to the layout.

While the layout could work with one train on each of its six tracks and no storage tracks, I’d really like to have a bit more variety, and the hidden-storage tracks below the layout aren’t really practical until I stop working on the wiring and drilling sawdust-creating holes in the layout (which isn’t going to be soon; after the current power-bus and circuit-breaker work, I need to clean up the track feeders in several places, and then build my signals and their controllers). To say nothing of the fact that building the full helix will be a major project.

With the wiring getting closer to done, actually running more than two trains at a time is beginning to seem reasonable. And that makes me want to get to work on storage tracks of some sort. But as noted, I’m not ready to start work on the hidden-storage tracks.

What I’m thinking of doing in the interim is adding an “L”-shaped extension off the unsceniced end, likely reached by a short one or two-turn helix, that can be a set of storage tracks for four trains (with temporary parking for a couple more while swapping trains) in the form of a small sceniced yard. This will still eventually be supplemented by the larger under-layout storage tracks for less-frequently run trains, and longer ones. I only have about 82” (208 cm) to work with, so I can’t store anything longer than a 10-car commuter or 11-car Yamanote train (no 10+5 sets and no Shinkansen). But that would be enough to give me a total of around eight trains to run on the commuter and subway four-track loops, doubling their operational variety.

I’d thought of this off and on before, but until recently there was just no way to make the room needed available. Planning for this new section is still at the contemplation stage, although I’ll probably start doing trackplans soon. I’m thinking that will be my big winter project, as that kind of carpentry and painting doesn’t require the ventilation that painting models does.

There’s more cleaning yet to be done, and following that a lot of organizing of supplies onto newly-available shelves. And possibly the construction of some custom shelving to fit under the layout for more organized storage than what I have at present. But the ideas are finally beginning to come together, and the benefits of the housecleaning to be realized in freed space and less clutter.

Other Stuff

I’ve also been working on the website, with a new page (and a map) describing JR East’s major Tōkyō-area passenger lines, and a major update/rewrite of my E231 Models page. Both are works in progress, but there’s a lot there after just one weekend’s work.