PRR Chartiers Branch: Hazel Mine - Layout Room
10/16/2015

October 16, 2015

I spent about a year thinking about taking down my previous S-scale switching layout, and starting one that was based on the Hazel Mine only. But in 2014 my parents came to visit, and so I wanted to keep the layout up for them to be able to see the work I've been doing. Then in early 2015 I started experimenting with different ways of building lightweight modules, and so I didn't have a firm plan forward yet. Then, several people wanted to see my layout as part of the National Narrow Gauge Convention held in September 2015 here in Houston, so I definitely couldn't take the layout down yet. After that, however, there were no more excuses, and I knew what I had to do. On October 14, 2015 the entire room was emptied out. This is where we are starting this version of the layout.
I spent quite a bit of time planning the layout of the room, using the 10 cabinets I have upon which two of my previous layouts had been placed. I tried all sorts of configurations, but eventually settled on the one shown below as the one most efficient for the space. This will now be the third layout using these cabinets, so they have definitely been worth building. Those cabinets contain my tools and model-making materials, so all of them need to be accessible. The Hazel Mine diorama will be set up on top of those cabinets. When I originally built these cabinets back in 2003, I numbered them (there were to be 30 of them, but I only built ten). Each cabinet is 18 inches deep, but of varying widths and configurations. Three of them are "corner" cabinets, allowing another cabinet to be placed against its face at a 90-degree angle. There are also a number of larger items that I need to store in the room, which are the unmarked rectangles. Basically, the idea is to space two rows of cabinets far enough apart to fit the full depth of the modules that will sit on top of them. The space in between can then be used to house stuff that needs to be stored, but not accessed. The direction of the photo above was taken from where the desk is in the diagram. In the upper left corner of the room is the door (shown in the drawing), and in the center of the wall on the right is a large window (not shown in the drawing) with blinds and curtains.
I re-cut the previous layout's toe-kick ladders (made out of 3/4" birch plywood cut to 3-1/2" strips) to fit the new design. The visible portion of the toe-kick ladders received a fresh coat of paint (my favorite "pullman dark green"). Ignore the one cabinet in the room on the right of the photo, because it was the last one taken down from the previous layout and the first one to be put back up in the new layout, so I didn't bother moving it out of the room.
External Reference:
To space it all properly, I started at the fixed back corner, with a corner cabinet. Follow the link on the right if you are interested in reading about how I built these cabinets. They were all built out of 3/4", furniture-grade plywood, with the visible surfaces (at that time) stained and lacquered.
The second cabinet contains my "workbench", which has a pull-out, full-extension shelf. In the photo, the third cabinet has also been attached. It, too, is a corner cabinet. All cabinets are bolted together with 1/4" bolts. They are not attached to the toe-kick ladder; sheer weight is enough.
With the first toe-kick ladder frame being firmly held in place by the first three cabinets, I could then calculate where the second toe-kick ladder frame needed to be, such that the tops of the cabinets fully support 4-foot-deep modules that will sit on top of them. I then cut two spacer boards from leftover plywood and screwed them to the ladder frames, as is shown in the photo below.
I could then start to install the second row of cabinets. Those need to be done first, because the room's door is to the right of the photo, and there would be no way to position those if the other cabinets were installed first.
As I started to install the "back" row of cabinet, I could place unused items in the space in between the two rows of cabinets, while I still had easy access.
And here are all the cabinets in place. The door in the one corner cabinet still needs to be re-installed.
The next photo shows all of the cabinets and the overall space that I have for modeling work. It took me about 11 hours (including food breaks) on October 15, 2015 to set-up the room. With each cabinet weighing at least 75lbs, they got heavier and heavier as the day wore on. As I am typing this, every muscle in my body aches!