A home for your railway…

In order of preference, I think my favoured railway room locations are:

  1. A room directly accessible within the house: if I want peace and quiet, I can shut the door, but the mess stays in the room! I would include an internally accessible garage in this category, preferably with an internal lining fitted behind the front door and a decent floor.
  2. Space within a room that is used for other purposes. If shared with another person, this can be pleasant, but if shared with other (non-hobby) interests, such as work, then it can be a distraction – a division between work and play is not a bad thing.
  3. A loft conversion to create an attic room with permanent stairs. Often offers more space than a cellar, but usually means going up an extra flight of stairs from the kitchen and then the first floor landing, and visitors pass through more of the house.
  4. A dry, tanked and lined cellar. Usually accessible from the kitchen – handy for tea and coffee, and visitors aren’t traipsing through the whole house.
  5. Loft conversion with fold away attic ladder. Depends on the ladder, your agility, and the insulation you install in the roof, rather than the ceiling which is forming the floor. Also needs a house that’s older than about 40-50 years in the UK, as house building styles changed to use more but slenderer timber.
  6. Log cabin in the garden. If you like gardening as much as I do, then the opportunity to reduce the amount required by converting ground area to recreational/office space (call it this yo add value to the property!) and at the same time house a decent layout if that’s your thing should not be dismissed lightly. If you can arrange an allocated space in the house for model-making and use this for layout housing and woodwork, etc., then this goes up the list!)
  7. Garage with external access. Usually strong and secure with a solid base, but may need power, insulation and better waterproofing. This may be built into the house, but if there is no through doorway, it may as well be outside.
  8. Garden shed. Cheap, cold, draughty. Only benefit about the log cabin is the much lower cost. Needs lining, and possibly replacement every ten years. Only as a last resort in my mind!

I have actually experienced quite a few of these, and whilst the above list reflects my personal opinion, it is not without a factual basis.

As a child, my “model railway” was in a bedroom, which was also used as a, well, bedroom. It was a simple board which was hinged to a basic framework so that it could fold up against the wall. When we moved house, a more shelf-style arrangement was made, which was OK as the house had quite large rooms. But the loft was a suitable candidate for a basic conversion with simple flooring, some old carpets and basic mains wiring installed by a professional. A sliding ladder and a hinged door made access easier, but it was cold in the winter and hot in the summer! Luckily, I had a desk in my bedroom which I could use for modelling purposes. There then followed a student’s nomadic lifestyle, and then settling down.
The first two houses of early married life had small “spare” bedrooms which really weren’t much use for a bed. Neither for setting up a layout, but modelling bench and stores were kept tidy, and I did build a portable layout for exhibition use – and it still exists!

The next move saw an “integrated garage” as part of the house. Except there was no internal doorway. After I installed a wooden stud wall to provide space for lawnmowers and bicycles, it meant I had to leave the house, enter the garage, and then open another door. I was not in the house, and felt that I was somehow excluding at least a part of myself from the rest of the family. In hindsight, a failure to address this – there was always something else to spend the money on, or disagreement over where the door would go, etc, may have been a small but important factor in the increasing separation that led to my eventual divorce. Be warned!

That’s 1, 2, 5 and 7 dealt with! Option 8 is very much, to my mind, a last resort: the inaccessibility of going outside, plus the hostility of a cold or hot environment. The fact that people can and do line sheds and enjoy their existence in them says a great deal about personal resilience and choice. Options 3 and 4 will hopefully be part of my future, as I am moving to a house with a nicely and properly converted attic room, and with a cellar waiting to be “tanked” and lined.

So, option 6: a log cabin. The building of one of these started in September 2021, with various interruptions and a long winter hiatus it lasted most of a year. If you cannot arrange options 1 to 4, and can afford it, it has a lot to offer, but it is not cheap. But it is neither a waste of time nor money. To cut a long story short, mine has cost about £10,000, but has added twice that to the value of the property. I know that to be true, as the house sold for £20,000 more than a simple indexed valuation, and the estate agent confirmed that this was why. More expensive than putting in a doorway for option 7, though…

Next: A Tale of a Log Cabin