A Tale Of Two Desks

Years of reading model railway publications in addition to personal experience have convinced me that, if you’re going to get much modelling done, you need a comfortable place to undertake the activity. I draw a distinction here between the space where we build our layouts and where we build our models. Just because a layout room and a modelling work table can be located in the same space, this doesn’t necessarily mean they have to be: a modelling table might be in the same room as the layout, in an adjacent room, a room in another part of the house or, as in my case, about one and a half hours drive from where I will eventually build my layout.

There seems to be a theme running through some of my recent posts on this blog that parallel what’s happening in my life at the time I write them. So I’ll apologise up front for this being another of my “filler” posts, where I rabbit on about all the complicated manoeuvres I’ve been going through getting to a point where I can actually start to build my next layout, rather than describing actually building it.

In spite of all expectations the house where the latest incarnation of Morpeth was going to be built sold relatively quickly and as a consequence has to be vacated in the next few weeks. I’ve been gradually working on getting the house emptied of contents for a couple of months but, now that someone has actually offered to buy it, I’ve been in a mad rush trying to finalize this emptying process to get it ready to hand over. My partner and I have been trying to cram anything we haven’t tossed out or sold online into a spare garage and into our main home. That’s the home we share, on the rare occasions we actually see each other. This is also the house we’re going to eventually tear down or have hauled away so we can build my new train room…oh, and the new house of course! πŸ™‚

Before I go on I probably need to explain I actually have two modelling desks, one for best and one for away games. My main modelling desk is a creaky old student’s desk I acquired for the princely sum of $15 from a deceased estate. At the same time that I picked up this desk I also acquired a very nice piece of ancient, thick plywood that I used to make a hutch for the desk. You can see it in the photo below: everything above the level of the work surface has been added by myself. Not terribly pretty I’ll admit but this was custom-made to fit my needs and it has worked wonderfully well for the last 15 years. I’ve never had to modify it in all that time except to glue bits of the original desk back on when they fall off, and they do fall off fairly regularly πŸ™‚

This old desk and hutch may be a hotch-potch of cheap student desk, ply and left over pine, but it works perfectly well as a modelling desk. I would estimate that about 90% of my modelling has been done on this desk over the last 15 years has.

This old desk and hutch may be a hotchpotch of cheap student desk, ply and left over pine, but it works perfectly well as a modelling desk. I would estimate that about 90% of my modelling has been done on this desk over the last 15 years has.

My other modelling desk is an old second-hand roll top item I picked up cheap and re-purposed a few years ago when a career move led me to live in a different location during the week. Because of this split existence I needed somewhere to work at home on weekends and somewhere to work on weeknights. Both desks work well as modelling spaces: they have flat, level work surfaces, plenty of drawers and storage, hooks to hang things from and lots of nooks and crannies. I really like nooks and crannies. The roll top is definitely a better looking piece of furniture and it has the advantage that you can roll the top down, thus hiding the mess of my modelling endeavours and protecting same from wayward felines. However, in my opinion, the best feature of these modelling desks is that both are mounted on wheels. The roll top desk in particular is a hulking, great beast made from solid pine and moving is made infinitely more manageable by the wheels!

As things really started to get a bit manic while I emptied the house it suddenly dawned on me that I needed a modelling desk in the house I share with my partner. I had the old ugly one stored in the garage adjacent to this house while the dressier roll top was over an hour’s drive away in my weekday home. At this point I broached the topic of setting up one of these desks in the living room so I could do a little modelling on weekends.
After working to cram all the furniture from three houses into two we were really pressed for space so it had to be in the living room. When I asked the better half which of the desks I could use inside the house you wouldn’t need to be Sherlock Holmes to deduce which one she chose. Not the one just 10 meters up the driveway in the garage: no she chose the heavy roll top one over an hour away and that had all my modelling paraphernalia stored in it. Moving it would mean emptying it of materials and tools, getting it loaded into the trailer, hauling it home and then maneuvering it into the house as opposed to just wheeling the one that was stored in the garage about 10 meters down the drive! This choice also meant I had to load the old one into the trailer and haul it out to where I live during the week! If this makes you tired just thinking about it imagine how I feel! πŸ™‚

Anyway, after mucking about with this change over for the last week, I was finally able to do some modelling on my old work desk tonight. I have to admit that I love working at this desk. It may be a bit of a home-brewed job but the design just works: the sizes and dimensions were made by me, for me and I think this is part of its success. I spent all of my years of modelling in HO working at a workshop bench that had been built by myself to do woodwork on. It was ok as a modelling space but its essential design was directed at woodworking, not modelling. About the same time I changed scales from HO to O I moved into a small home unit and I needed a desk to model at and the desk you can see in the above photo was the result. It transformed my hobby and I flatter myself that I’ve done all my best modelling at this desk. If you’re “making do” with a partially successful modelling workspace my advice would be to do something about it. You’ll wonder how you ever managed without a dedicated work space after you make the change.

Please note: the only reason the desk looks so neat in the photo is because I had only unpacked my modelling gear and placed it on the desk just prior to taking the photo. After only an hour of modelling tonight it’s gloriously messy again πŸ™‚

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