These came in handy for the upcoming Micro Layout contest organized by MIBA, one of Germany's best Modelrailroading Magazines. The rules state that for HO, the layout shall not be larger than 70 cm x 30 cm. The same size may be used for a fiddle yard. The APA box measures L70 x W39 x H29.
I use the box sideways, so that I have a height of 39 cm and a depth of 29 cm. The MDF sheets for the sides are arranged in a slightly different way as I don't need the bottom sheet because there will be a 10 mm plywood subroadbed. The MDF is cut to yield a small valance and fascia to hide the light fixture on top and the gap between the subroadbed and the bottom of the box. The separate lid will be attached with hinges to fold down when the layout is not in use.
There is not much room in the box for a lot of track. On the other hand I want a layout that offers at least a minimum of operational possibilities. After browsing through the excellent Micro Layout site of the late Carl Arendt (www.carendt.com) I quickly set on a theme representing a Car Shop with an Inglenook track arrangement.
I test fitted some tracks and turnouts in the box to see what could be done and my enthusiasm faded for the first time. None of my usually used turnouts satisfied me. They were all too long. My son has a PECO Starter set with Setrack turnouts and sectional track. Although these turnouts have really tight diverging radii they would fit the bill. I would use a small switcher anyway, so this would not be a major problem. This way I could build a condensed 3-2-2 Inglenook like Carl Arendt proposed some years ago as an alternative to the standard 5-3-3 version.
It was also clear that I had to scratchbuild or at least kitbash all the structures used. Fortunately I have an extensive spare parts box(es) with all kinds of leftover bits and pieces ranging from windows to entire wall sections. The modular walls from Walthers and DPM will also be used to create some background buildings.
Luckily I had a leftover from the Walthers Car Shop that I could use as the main building on the layout. Two tracks lead to the inside and even the spacing of the short turnouts matches with the spacing of the track in the building. The DPM wall sections make it very easy to adapt the length of the building to the available space.
The exit/entrance of the box needs to be concealed. The most common scenic elements are either a tunnel portal, which in my case would not be appropriate, or a bridge with abutments which frame the hole in the side backdrop. I choose the RIX highway bridge. It has nice concrete abutments or legs with the lower part being almost 6 cm high. They hide the hole quite well.
The bridge deck has two lanes, but I will use them as a double lane highway and probably use a second bridge on the fiddle yard box for the opposite direction.
Before I started to fit the structures I painted the backdrop with a sky blue color.
Stay tuned for the next installment.