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Chatting to visitors to exhibitions, lack of space for model making seems to be a common problem. Some people assume that to produce anything you'll need a fully equipped workshop full of lathes and pillar drills. Nothing could be further from the truth. My workbench is a pretty small space in the corner of a room and I still churn things out.


My work area is a wooden cutting board around which are the tools and materials I'll be using. I won't pretend to be organised, if you saw me operating, in common with most modellers, it's pretty chaotic. I'm happy with it though and that's all that matters.


Years ago I enrolled on a home study course in accountancy. This meant that I needed to be able to use my desk for books and paperwork as well as model making. Not being a tidy worker I suspected that having to get all the tools out and put them away at the end of every session was going to slow the progress on any project to a crawl or even stop it altogether. A second desk seemed the best idea except there wasn’t room for one in the room.


If you read old railway modelling magazines as I do, you will have seen various devices described to enable the kitchen table worker to have access to a portable workbench. The photograph usually shows a wooden case like device with a prehistoric electric drill mounted somewhere on it. I contemplated one of these but decided in the end that this was all too complicated. I didn’t need storage drawers etc. as these could continue to live on the shelf. What I needed was the work area to be portable. It didn’t even need to be very mobile as the furthest it had to move was around 3 feet away to sit on a bed. What I needed was a second desktop.


My solution is shown in the drawing and has worked for me for over twenty years. Built of 9mm plywood cut to size by the local DIY store (in the days when we wondered “How do Do-It-All do it ?”). All I had to do was cut the curved ends and pin and glue it together. A few coats of wood stain and clear varnish, a length of PECO code 75 track and the job was done. The track is wired up with a set of my standard plugs so I can attach a Gaugemaster Handheld controller as used on the layout for loco testing, although a couple of leads with croc-clips on the end and an HM Clipper normally suffice.


A final touch is the use a 1 inch thick kitchen cutting board which allows me to have a working area raised above the detritus of my modelling activity - tools are pushed off the work area but remain handy. The ubiquitous green cutting mat can be used on top of this but not when soldering.


A bonus of making this is that it is ideal for use when demonstrating at exhibitions and it has become quite travelled. Best of all it works for the intended role. In a matter of seconds I can have a clear desk ready for anything I might need a clear desk for (not the accountancy course - I never finished it).


If you chose to make something similar, dimensions are not critical. The only improvement would be to make the shelf for the track wide enough to take O gauge track with OO laid down the middle of it. Not only does this allow for changing modelling plans but gives helps catch derailments !


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