I've been working on my (model) railroad, and the equipment that I've collected over the past 30 years has become difficult to manage. I have cars in boxes in a closet, in the attic, and even in a display case in my office. Most of the cars are in the original boxes they were purchased in, and after many years, they are becoming brittle. Another challenge that most model railroaders face is that the box is just big enough to hold the car kit. Once you add details, couplers, and assemble it, it becomes the proverbial 10 pounds of stuff in a 5 pound bag.
Since I enjoy woodworking and have a fairly well-equipped shop, I decided to make a cabinet to store everything. I started by measuring the standard height of the cars, and the most common lengths. Using a spreadsheet, I was able to calculate the optimal size of the drawers with cabinets ranging in width from 36 to 40.5 inches wide. This also allowed me to determine, based on the number of each size of car, how many rows of storage would be needed. I could fit six of the standard scale 40 foot cars in one row in the drawer, and in a 22-inch depth could fit 11 rows, or 66 cars. This is for HO Scale, but the process could easily apply to other scales with fewer, deeper drawers for the larger scales. Shorter drawers for N Scale may not be practical due to the height of the slides.
The final size is an overall height of 34 inches, a depth of 23.5 inches, and a width of 40.5 inches. This will fit well under the model railroad with room to spare. I'll likely add castors to raise the cabinet off the floor and allow it to be moved for wiring or maintenance under the layout. So the detail would be clear, the drawer face in this drawing is semi-transparent.
Well, with all of the calculations complete, I set about creating some drawings. I use InkScape - a free drawing tool. My only complaint is that it doesn't have an auto-dimension feature like Corel Draw and most CAD software, but it works well for me. I drew the plans in outline form, but for presentation here, filled the objects.
Below are the front and side views. I'm waiting for delivery of a sheet of half-inch ply for the drawer boxes. I just built a couple of box-joint jigs for the router table and this will be the perfect opportunity to put them to use. Once construction starts, I'll post some photos.
The drawings show 10 drawers, with the top-most drawer face being 5/8" taller to handle a few of the taller cars, like the domed passenger cars. These could fit into a normal height drawer if I added some felt lining and laid them on their sides. 10 drawers might actually be quite a bit more than I need, but I can remove 2 drawers and roughly double the drawer face height and use them for storing other structure kits. The design is quite flexible. The images show a typical 40-foot freight car illustrating the placement of 6 cars per row in the front view and 11 rows of cars in the side view. The front view does not show the drawer faces.
Edit: It's July 2023 and after relocating in August 2021, the cabinet has finally been built! The drawings have been updated to reflect the final build - 6 drawers for rolling stock and 2 for building kit storage. The dimensions were updated slightly as the cabinet now supports the end of the layout benchwork peninsula. I had originally planned on using short dividers between the rows of cars in the drawers, but instead glued strips of Masonite to the inside-bottom of the drawers, allowing the trucks to sit between the strips. This provided a half-inch of clearance between the rows.
The plywood edges were covered with 1/8" thick strips of Poplar, which was also used for the drawer fronts. I used 1" over-travel drawer slides to easily reach the last row of cars. Once the humidity drops, I'll stain the cabinet and post some photos
Laying out drawer slides
Face mount drilling jig
Aligning the face
Aligning the face (detail)
Drawer and face installed
Drawer Track Jig
Installing drawer tracks for cars
Checking car alignment
The finished cabinet!
Finished cabinet with open drawer
Room for 4 full passenger trains!