Storage Cabinet Schematics

NEONS Module Storage Cabinets
by Steve Gillett

The North East Oklahoma N-Scale club and its members have over 46 N-Trak modules of various shapes and sizes. Eight of them are semi-permanently set up at our sponsor’s hobby store. The other 38 must be stored so that they take up the minimum of space and are easy to load into a truck for transportation to shows.

Many years ago the club designed and built stackable plywood end caps that screwed onto each end of every module. With the end caps in place, the modules could be stacked up to five high on 4-wheeled dollies. This design met our storage space requirements and the modules easily rolled into a truck for travel to shows. However, there were three major problems. First, the stacks were unstable and wobbled which caused damage to the scenery when being transported to and from shows. Second, it was a time consuming task to bolt on and remove the end caps during setup and teardown. Third, our sponsor, Challenger N-Scale Hobbies, had two “shop cats” that lived in the hobby shop. Being normal, inquisitive cats, they could and did occasionally crawl up on a module and cause damage.

Our solution to these problems was to design wheeled cabinets to house the modules. The cabinets are built like a chest of drawers, with the modules acting as the drawers. When slid into a slot in the cabinet, the module’s skyboard acts as the drawer front and semi-seals the module in the cabinet, making it inaccessible to cats, and also minimizes the accumulation of dust. (Figure 1)

All of the cabinets are 27” wide and 80” high so that they will fit through a standard door frame. The cabinet length is 5” longer than the modules they hold, i.e. a 4’ module cabinet is 53” long, a 6’ cabinet is 77” long and an 8’ cabinet is 101” long. Heavy-duty 4” swivel wheels are mounted on the base of the cabinet, giving it a clearance of 6” so it will not go high-center when going up a loading ramp into a truck. (Figures 2, 3, 4 & 5)

The NEONS module guidelines specify that the skyboard should extend 12” above the surface on which the tracks are laid. On a standard module built with 1 x 4 sides, and a ½” plywood top covered by a sheet of ¾” foam, the total height of the module is 3.5” + 0.5” + 0.75” + 12” for a total of 16 ¾”. A cabinet can have four 17” clearance drawer slots even with a mid-high 2x4 horizontal brace, and still meet the 80” max and the 6” base clearance requirements. All of our modules have hinged legs that fold up and latch under the module and Velcro straps secure all pigtails and other normally hanging wires so they will not be crushed, crimped or otherwise damaged while being stored. As further security, Masonite sheets are screwed into the base of each drawer slot to eliminate any possible damage to a lower module if something comes loose on the one above. (Figures 6, 7 & 8)

Fig 6 - 4' Cabinet

Figure 6 - 4' Cabinet

Fig 7 - 6' Cabinet

Figure 7 - 6' Cabinet

Fig 8 - 8' Cabinet

Figure 8 - 8' Cabinet

Our modules also have a sheet of 3/16” thick Plexiglas attached to the front fascia board. This Plexiglas shield starts about 2” above the bottom of the fascia board, so we glue two strips of ¼” Masonite to the back of each shelf just above the drawer bottom so the Plexiglas will not rub against the back of the cabinet.

Fig 10 - Cabinet, End View

Fig 10 - Cabinet,
End View

Fig 9 - Module Latch

Fig 9 - Module Latch

Each module has one or two nylon straps attached to the skyboard to aid in extracting the module from the cabinet. Fold down 2” x 6” aluminum strips are attached on both sides of each slot to lock the module in place. Pull ropes are secured to each end of the cabinet for front and rear steering when the cabinets are moved. A large eye bolt is attached to each end so the cabinet can be secured when it is packed in a truck for transportation to a show. (Figures 9 & 10)

With our old stacker system, we could reduce the height of the stack by stacking fewer modules. This gave us some flexibility when traveling to smaller shows with a smaller layout and a smaller truck. Unfortunately, our 80” tall cabinets will not clear the door of smaller rental trucks and necessitate the use of a large, 24’ box truck that has an 80”+ door clearance, whether we need that much space or not.

The NEONS currently have four 4’ cabinets, four 6’ cabinets and two 8’ cabinets. Our 8’ cabinets are slightly modified to store our two 6’ inside corners in each top shelf. Two of our 4’ cabinets have been modified so that the bottom two drawer slots are used to store our clamps, and stanchions. This bottom area has a removable Masonite lid. When the lid is in place, it acts as a shelf for miscellaneous storage. (Figures 11, 12 & 13) Also notice the next-to-bottom shelf in Figure 7. That is a narrow 4’ corner module that fits perfectly in a 6’ cabinet. Scrap pieces of skyboard are screwed onto a triangle of 2’ x 4’s to cat-proof and latch the corner module into place.
Fig 11 - 4' Cabinet w bin for clamps & Stanchions

Fig 11 - 4' Cabinet
with bin for clamps
& Stanchions

Fig 12 - Closeup of Clamp & Stanchion Box

Fig 12 - Closeup of Clamp & Stanchion Box

Fig 13 - Closeup of Clamp & Stanchion Box

Fig 13 - Closeup of Clamp & Stanchion Box

Our cabinet style module storage system has reduced our setup and teardown time by over one hour. They are safer, sturdier, and provide a much greater level of protection for our modules.