Do I want easy access to every locomotive? Do I want to display them? Which solutions are available?

Which model railroader are you?

Let’s be honest, a model train layout isn’t always the best item to decorate a room in a trendy fashion. On the other hand, many of us are probably trying as much as possible to put their layout in a separate location (garage, cellar, extra room…). Some people are super creative and even setup their layout to come down from the ceiling.

But what happens with your trains? Most of us gather quite a large amount of trains, cars, engines, accessories and even tools over the years.
It all comes down to how much place your little trains have in your life, and whether you care about other things. One shouldn’t be afraid of liking trains and still caring about having a nice apartment or house that reflects other tastes. If you don’t care, that’s fine. In that case, the only limiting factor might be the old-fashioned “WAF” (Wife Acceptance Factor). It’s an old term that frankly sound very misogynistic to me; it basically comes down to: it doesn’t matter where you put your trains or layout, as long as your partner is ok with it.

It’s all a matter of taste and lifestyle, and there is no wrong answer. I am in my mid 30s, and although I have no shame about my trains, I like most of my place to be decorated in a “train-free” manner. My layout belongs in a separate space, and although I may decide to display one or two beautiful trains in the “living spaces” someday, I don’t want my appartment to look like a train shed.

Storage or display?

There are two basic choices when choosing how to store the trains themselves. That’s assuming of course that all your trains are not permanently on your layout:

  • Storage (hidden, potentially stacked)
  • Displayed (wall displays)

You may mixed the two of course, and in the end it depends on your tastes as mentioned above, and your available space. There are many manufacturers of fancy train display boxes, and in the end it’s not too hard to make one yourself if style isn’t an issue.

There are even very fancy options that combine display and functionality, have a look at that fancy display / train elevator directly connected to the layout:

Real life comes in the way

My solution? Not very fancy I am afraid. My trains are in boxes. It’s not ideal for access, it doesn’t display them at all, but at least they are easy to move and well protected.

I am using a database software to list all my trains and know which trains are which. Incidentally, this is also how I track my repairs, accessories and other things; but that’s a story for another day.
If I want a specific engine, I just have a look at my phone database and know in which box to look for. It’s not ideal (some engines are buried a few layers down), but at least I don’t have to do a lot of packing all the time.

Of course, there are also trains that don’t fit…

There is also another topic: keeping the boxes or not? I know some people don’t. I personally would never think about throwing away the original packaging. Although I must admit using a standard storage box also has advantages. Take a look at my post about the great Kato boxes for N Scale; I used them for second-hand trains for which I never had a box, but I could imagine someone storing all their trains in a bookshelf like style.

This is how I do it, for now. How about you? Do you proudly display your trains in your living room? Are they easily accessible in their boxes or always on the layout? Don’t hesitate to share your tastes and tips in the comment section below!