One of my favorite layout designs by Carl Arendt is Carl’s Imports. Carl designed the micro layout to fit in a shoebox. Using what he referred to as an “intercontinental research project”, Carl determined that the optimum sized shoebox (male variety) was determined to be 13 x 7 x 5 inches (33 x 18 x 12 cm). He then designed Carl’s Imports to fit such a box. The first article about the layout can be found at his December 12, 2013 article “Layouts in Boxes”.
It did not take long for several others to create their own designs based on Carl’s 13 x 7 x 5 inches (33 x 18 x 12 cm) dimensions. Carl added a unique area to his website just for this phenomena called Shoebox Madness.
Even though I like the idea of such a small layout, I was never impressed by the idea of keeping my hard work in a cardboard box. I had saved a few shoeboxes of the right dimension but never really got one going. I just did not like the box. They all had branding and were just ugly. I want to display my layouts if I can, and that means I want a certain level of cleanliness to the thing holding my layout.
As part of wanting to display my finished work, I also have the problem of unwanted guests. Specifically a couple cats my family has an emotional attachment with. The layout will need full protection as I have found these “fur-balls of destruction” can (and will) reach every spot I select. What ever happened to curiosity killing the cat?
Over the recent holiday, I made several trips to the local craft stores with my family to support several holiday “projects”. While there I perused the aisle ways for ideas to support my model railroad addiction/hobby, I soon came across display cases for sports memorabilia. Now I had seen these before, but they were always on the expensive side. I admit, I am a bit of a penny pincher (my wife prefers the term cheapskate). On this particular day I noticed that these cases were 60% off, bringing the to around $25. A bargain in my book!
I soon found two cases that could work as a stand-in for the old shoebox. They were a football display case and a basketball display case. On the package these cases only supplied the external dimensions which were close to the shoebox size. I took the dive with the helmet case and was soon home examining the exact internal dimensions of the box. It turns out the inside of the case was exactly 13 x 9 x 9 inches ( 33 x 23 x 23 cm ) slightly over shoebox dimensions but close enough (IMHO).
The case has a platform base that as a hole for the football to rest in. This ideal for wiring or other items that need to be below the viewing level. The glass top has a wood frame with a 3/4 inch (19 mm) trim height. This allow for a foam or wood scenery base that will not stick up into the viewing area.
My initial plan is model a industrial tram in the copper mining region of Michigan. The tram will deliver finished copper bars to the dock and transport other materials to a few other locations. My initial thought is to replicate the track arrangement of Carl’s Import but in reverse. The dock area will be stacked with copper bars much like the prototype. The tram will enter a warehouse through one door and use a sector plate to transfer the train to a second track that will run along the back. The rear track will have a turnout to provide additional spotting possibilities.
Now as far as a challenge, I want to invite anyone reading this to challenge themselves to build a layout in a table top display case. The only limit I am putting on this is the case must be table top and fit the micro layout parameters set forth by Carl Arendt; “Micro layouts are small model railroads, usually less than three or four square feet in area, that nonetheless have a clear purpose and excellent operating capability.”
I have seen these cases in all shapes and sizes. Some are very long, and some are larger than what I choose. One football helmet case I found has outside dimensions of 11.5 x 15.6 x 11.6 inch (29.2 x 39.6 x 29.4 cm). It would be very interesting to see if someone could design a functional layout within the confines of a baseball bat case.
I am not placing any other limits on what you can do. I will continue to post updates on this website of my progress and I would welcome anyone to post what they are doing. If we get enough feedback, I will open a page dedicated to this challenge. Please make sure to provide where you found your case and its dimensions for any layout design posts. I will close the challenge at the end of 2020, so there is time, but time flies when you are having fun!!
I look forward to hearing other peoples ideas on this challenge.