Life Makes Constant Changes

As much as you like to plan for things in life, sometimes things do not turn out the way you wanted it to be. Take for instance the model railway. When I was in Malaysia, I wanted so much to have a layout even a small one. For first 30 years of my life, I lived with my extended family – uncles, aunties, cousins in my grandpa’s shophouse in Kuala Lumpur. Imagine 20 people in one house. It was in 1998 that I bought my first Life-Like HO-scale starter set – Santa Fe freight set – with my own life saving. Only managed to put out the oval track once awhile. Never a chance to build a proper one. So, I started collecting railway books and learn about railways.

When I finally got a nice double-storey house on top of a hill at a suburb of Kuala Lumpur, I have a spare room dedicated for my trains. So I thought I had a chance to build Rosenberg Meet in N-scale. I invited Jason and Bharani to help me with the benchwork planning. Not too long later, I decided to leave Malaysia to do my MBA in Germany. There goes my second chance to do model railway.

After moving to Frankfurt in 2011, I needed time to settle down at work and with my new life. For the last two years, I did just that but in the meantime, Germany is a place of trains – real and model. I took this opportunity to visit layouts, exhibitions and railway museums all over Germany.

Mid this year, I had some time to think and rekindle with my hobby. After spending time planning for a 2.4m x 1.2m tilt-table layout – complete with all the technical drawings and getting quotation for the woods, yes, you guess it. Another change came. The whole apartment needs to be remodelled and thus, I lost the space to put my tilt-table layout. In return, I was promised something else – the balcony!

This is how the balcony looked like before I moved in 2 years ago. I initially planned for this space, of all the rooms available for my model railway. This is the only one that I thought I could use. And 2 years later, I reclaimed this space.

View of balcony from living room – looking out. 2 see-through portals and entrance to balcony.

IMG_1768Left side of the balcony. This space is now occupied by a dryer.

IMG_1772Right side of the balcony. This spot is currently occupied by my bookshelf but will be moved elsewhere.

This balcony is 4.0m long and 1.4m wide. The 1:10 sketch of the balcony shows the positions of the see-through portals and entrance to the balcony at the bottom of the sheet and the windows at the top and sides of the sheet. The soft lines marked the parameters of my new layout, divided into 7 modules. The dotted lines show the separation between modules. Starting from the right side, this piece – codename Module A – is 1.4m x 0.6m. As we go clockwise from Module A, Module B is 98cm x 20cm. In fact on the “longtitude” of the balcony, the width of the module will be 20cm max; perhaps occasionally breaching up to 30cm at certain spots. Otherwise, I am maintaining 20cm width. The entrance of the balcony forms Module C, which would have to be a lift-up or duck-under module. The length of Module C is 91cm. Module D occupies the front of the left see-through portal – is 101cm in length.


On top of the existing dryer is Module E. Module E takes up a space of 1.4m x 0.5m, slightly smaller than Module A. I do not want this module to block the see-through portal when I remove Module D. Module F and Module G occupy the front of the larger windows. Module F is slightly longer – 1.48m versus Module G which is 1.42m. Total area offered by these 7 modules is 2.7 sq. meter; basically retaining the almost the same area as the tilt-table layout!


Ground Zero will be 110cm – 100cm to the top of a chest drawer and 10cm for the base module – from the floor level,


As a result of the new space design, the track plan would need to be reworked. This concept of a table layout versus an around-the-wall layout requires one to view a given track plan on almost like a long line around circumferring the walls. In the next post, I shall share with you my track plan and benchwork development. The idea of a NTRAK module comes to mind but I need to make them even lighter as these modules should be removable anytime especially, yes, you guess it – Modules B, C, D, F and G.

Updates 20.10.13:  I have darkened the borders/parameters of the modules and added the measurements and module markings. This helps you to orientate yourself around my layout.

One comment I received was why did not not standardise the length of each module (B-D, F-G) and the width of module (A, E). I have to consider the physical structure and the pillars support the balcony. For example, module B-D is between 90.5 and 101cm long. The pillars will support these modules. Likewise, Module F-G are even longer at 140-142cm. The pillar between the windows will support the modules. I am aware that such a length will cause the module to sag in the middle. Hence, additional support legs will be added or a long support will be added along the length of the modules.

Updates 25.10.13: Always follow the carpenter’s golden rule – Measure twice, Cut one. Remeasured all corners and found that the balcony is 3.96m x 1.37m. Module A and Module E will now be of equal size – 1.37m x 0.6m. The other modules will now be standardised to 30cm wide.


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