An N Scale Interurban Layout in a Vodka Box
by Richard C. Bell

While out for a walk recently, I noticed an old wooden vodka box in a neighbor’s trash. I thought that it would make a handy storage box for modeling materials so I liberated it from its pending trip to the dump and put it on my workbench where it sat for a few weeks. The box measured 14.375 inches long x 10.25 inches wide x 6.625 inches high. I have long been inspired by the small layouts featured on the late Carl Arndt’s web site, http://carendt.us/scrapbook/linkindex/index.html and, and the more I thought about it, the more I wondered if I might be able to fit a small N scale layout into the box.

As I did not want to use track with a tighter radius than 140mm, it was not possible to fit a layout featuring a continuous run oval into the box. But, there was another possibility. Perhaps the components of a layout could fit into the box for transport and, after removal from the box, be set up to operate as a continuous loop. That was certainly an idea worth exploring.

I set about to construct 2 modules using 1/2 inch square stock for a frame topped with 1/4 inch plywood. Each module measured 14.25 inches x 10.125 inches which, when placed side by side on a table top, formed a layout base of 14.25 x 20.25 inches. As the modules barely fit into the box with little room to spare, holes were drilled in the plywood surface of each module to facilitate getting the modules out of the wooden box. A simple track plan with a siding was designed, Tomix track was attached to the modules, and scenery applied.

A small modification was made to the box by glueing a 1/2” x 1/2” x 4.5” piece of stock vertically inside each corner of the box. When in storage or transport, the two modules are stacked on top of each other inside the box supported by the inside corner pieces. That leaves a 4 and 1/2 inch space inside the box under the modules for the power pack, some rolling stock, and various scenery elements (structures, catenary poles, automobiles, etc.). A few coats of varnish were applied to the inside and outside of the box and the project was complete.

The set-up procedure for operation is simple and takes only a couple of minutes. First, the two modules are removed from the box, placed on a table or desk top, and the tracks connected together. Next, the power pack, rolling stock, and scenery elements are removed from the box. Last, the scenery elements and rolling stock are placed on the layout and the power pack plugged in and connected to the layout. That’s all there is to it.

This project took about 4 hours from start to finish and was a lot of fun to execute.

  Vodka box
  Vodka box
   
  Top of two modules together
  Top of two modules together
   
  Bottom frame of a module
  Bottom frame of a module
   
  Track and scenery down on modules
  Track and scenery down on modules
       
  Rear of layout   End of layout
  Rear of layout   End of layout
       
  Front of the layout   Detail bits packed away in a small box
  Front of the layout   Detail bits packed away in a small box
       
  Scenery items packed in the bottom of the box   Supports glued in the corners to support the packed modules
  Scenery items packed in the bottom of the box   Supports glued in the corners to support the packed modules
       
  Layout all packed away in the vodka box!    
  Layout all packed away in the vodka box!    

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