Workshopshed: I first spotted Suitcase Trains on Twitter and have been following them there and on Youtube ever since. Their idea is ingeniously simple, they make a small gauge railway set inside a suitcase. You can get it out whenever you want and close it up into a smart suitcase when you don’t. You can even take the set with you to show to others. Each set is unique and can be made to your specification. I caught up with Sheena and asked her about these wonderful creations.
Workshopshed: Sheena, thanks for agreeing to be interviewed. How did you get the idea to build your first train set?
Suitcase Trains Sheena: After taking a break from a 27 year career in teaching, my dad soon became ill and was hospitalised, luckily I was able to spend lots of time with him, whilst there all I can remember seeing was lots of other elderly men in the ward with no visitors and with nothing to do. I remember thinking , wouldn’t it be great if I could sneak something in to cheer them all up.
I’ve always loved arts and crafts, so inspired by Andy’s Dad, who has a railway in his back garden and couples with the love of vintage I had the idea to create a portable train-set. I bought a vintage suitcase and railway parts and had a go !…….it worked and the first set was sold as soon as it had been completed.
It was all trial and error to start with as I wanted it to be functional as well as portable.
Workshopshed: What is the process from a customer coming to you to the finished results?
Sheena: We offer 2 services really. All of our suitcases are bespoke and when we are not working on commissions we make one off trainsets and put them up for sale on all of our socials.
We also have the special commission service where people contact us to make a special set from something they have in mind. We love the research that goes alongside this.
Workshopshed: What is the key to producing a great layout?
Sheena: I think for myself personally its when I see the reaction of peoples faces as the case is opened. To me that is when I know I have done a good job!!.
We love going to fairs and shows which sadly have been cancelled this year where we take a selection of sets we love the interaction we get when showing.
The key to a good layout for me is actually making someone smile or relive a past memory.
That then tells me I have produced a great layout.
Workshopshed: Where do you build your suitcase trains .. is the lockdown affecting this?
Sheena: When I started making the suitcase trains I literally made them on my dining table, then I bought a bookcase to house the art supplies, then a wardrobe. After buying a few vintage suitcases to be able to have stock I filled many corners in many rooms!!, I decided to bite the bullet and have a workshop made in the garden, so I could at least put my Christmas tree up in the house!.
We did all the interior ourselves to make it a lot cheaper, this took lots longer but we are incredibly proud of it. You can find a film about it on our YouTube channel: Welcome to our workshop
Lockdown has affected mainly our ability to go to shows, so we have upped our social presence and I’ve even got brave and appeared on camera !!
Workshopshed: The strangest layout we have been asked to do ?
Sheena: We are very lucky to be able to have produced many special places for their suitcase train, we do get some people with ideas for their case that even though we try and fulfil peoples wishes, there are some that wouldn’t work on an engineering level, eg, track that runs around the lid when opened also.
Workshopshed: Many thanks Sheena, thanks for being interviewed and for creating these wonderful suitcase trains.
You can reach Suitcase Trains at http://www.suitcasetrains.com/ and on their social media, https://www.instagram.com/suitcasetrains/ https://www.facebook.com/suitcasetrains