So last week at work in my new desk  I was working away and had a few trains on display like I always have and someone was like “those trains are cool you should run them around your cube!”. Continuous circuit running is kinda boring to me so while I was going to take the suggestion to heart I was going to lean more towards a tiny switching layout.

I measured the shelf next to my desk where I normally displayed trains or rolling stock and it was a 1×4 flat shelf with sidewalls (so no accidental rolling to its doom worries). Could I fit something into a 1×4 footprint I thought…


I went home and fired up Anyrail and set my work area to 1×4. It was challenging to get something into that size that would actually be workable and I went through 3 tries before I hit what seemed to be a keeper.

Layout plan

My 3rd attempt at a 1×4 yielded something of a compact mini Time saver which was not surprising as I had been reading about the Time saver and other switching puzzles for a couple months now. It started with the special edition of MRR “How to build small model railways” there was a time saver based article in there which I found interesting plus a 1×6 20 car switching shelf layout that also had my attention. So what I ended up with in my 1×4 was sort of a cross between a mini time saver and that 1×6 shelf layout I was very interested so I began to plan trying it out.

Train show

The semi annual Niagara railway museum train show was that Sunday and this was a perfect chance to cost effectively buy the track to test this plan out. Sure enough I managed to get all the track I needed for about $32


I assembled the switching arrangement on the floor at home and used sectionals I had to test the general principal of the layout. I wanted to make sure it could work as a puzzle and a general switching layout before I cut up my flex track. Sure enough it works. The layout allows for a puzzle of 6 cars, 3 spotted in their proper end locations and 3 in the inbound/outbound track. The goal is to swap out/in the existing cars with the new. It takes about 40min-1 hour to complete I am sure that will go down in time.

At work I laid out the same sectional layout to make sure it actually fit and as it turned out I would gain an inch or so at each end once I switched to flex track.

Once the flextrack was in place the layout was clearly a success to me so now it is time to make it more semi permanent.

Running the train

Here’s how a day can play out on my breaks:

  • In the morning I take 3 cars out of the storage fiddle track and place them on the outbound/inbound track.
  • Spot them to their locations
  • At lunch place 3 more cars on the inbound
  • Spot them to their correct locations while getting the current cars to outbound
  • Place the outbound cars into the fiddle track storage
  • In the afternoon sometime take the 3 remaining cars and spot them to outbound
  • Store equipment cars to fiddle track

What’s next

Currently the track is just down flat in the shelf because while my work allows me to have personal items in my cube they wouldn’t want me to start gluing and painting things so the next step will be to get a thin piece of material to go under the track. This will allow me to secure the track and also transport the layout home for things like scenicking and other messy tasks

So just remember with a will there is a way when it comes to model railroading!

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