Anyone who has explored the late Carl Arendt’s micro layouts themed website will probably have happened upon a page or small layout scrapbook featuring layouts in boxes of various sizes, as small as a pencil case box. Model railways in small boxes, around shoe box in size, are quite common in the model railway micro layout community. So I thought it was about time I tried a micro layout in a small box. The boxfile I purchased for the layout was 380mm x 264mm x 80mm (1’3″ x 10.5″ x 3.25″) in size, with a total footprint of 1.1 square feet. The boxfile was the only actual expense for the layout, everything else used to make the layout I already had on hand before I purchased the boxfile.

I purchased the boxfile a number of months before I actually started building the layout, and the empty boxfile sat forlornly in the corner along with some other boxes approximately the same size (can you guess what they might be used for?) In October 2021 I started building the layout, most of the initial construction happened within a few days, and was done while I sat on the couch watching TV with my wife. I would do a bit of construction, wait for that to dry or set, then do a bit more. The first thing I had to do was cut an opening in one end, then paint the inside of the boxfile. I chose a light brown color for that.

I decided the track plan would consist of a ‘main line’, and two spurs, one spur going into a low relief building. It didn’t take long to lay the track and add the wiring. The wiring for the layout is more complex than might be employed for a simple continuous loop of the much larger area as each track had to be wired. The wiring is done in such a way as to allow the turnout to set which track has power and which doesn’t – this probably won’t be needed but it’s always handy to have the ability for a DC powered layout.

I build some landscape forms out of low density polystyrene, which had been used as packing for something or other and I had stored away for the purpose of using it on a layout “in the future”, and a stone wall made from paper and cardboard. I painted the polystyrene land forms the same light brown as the interior of the box, gluing them down inside the box and gluing the wall to the vertical edge of one of them.

The next step was to add the low relief building. It is a simple single door building constructed of a piece of foam core, with a printed building interior added where the doorway is located, and the rest of the building covered with greyish / silver corrugated card.

With the track, building and landforms in place, it was time to ballast. This didn’t take long to do, but it took a long time for the watered down PVA mixture used to fix the ballast to dry so the layout was placed in an out of the way place waiting for the glue to set.

Then the fine weather of Spring arrived, and I was out riding my bike a lot more and the boxfile layout was once again somewhat forlorn in a corner of the train room which also doubles as an office (or is it an office that doubles as a train room).

A few weeks later, I spied the half finished boxfile layout in the train room (let’s call the office that) and thought “I must complete that”. A few days later I started construction of it again. By this time, it was mostly ground cover, foliage and detailing that I needed to do. To finish it off, I painted the inside of the lid a light sky blue color. I planned to add a building photo to that but then decided not to. Within a few days the layout in a boxfile itself was completed. The only thing left to build was a ‘fiddle stick / yard’, which I hadn’t decide how to implement.

As a way of enhancing operations on my Ruston Light Railway layout, I purchased a second Ruston & Hornsby 48DS rail tractor. This model will also be right at home on a small boxfile layout, so will probably do ‘double-duty’ as motive power on the Ruston layout and this yet to be named box file layout.


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