|Publication number||US20060021905 A1|
|Application number||US 11/058,400|
|Publication date||Feb 2, 2006|
|Filing date||Feb 15, 2005|
|Priority date||Feb 17, 2004|
|Publication number||058400, 11058400, US 2006/0021905 A1, US 2006/021905 A1, US 20060021905 A1, US 20060021905A1, US 2006021905 A1, US 2006021905A1, US-A1-20060021905, US-A1-2006021905, US2006/0021905A1, US2006/021905A1, US20060021905 A1, US20060021905A1, US2006021905 A1, US2006021905A1|
|Original Assignee||Johnson Kevin M|
|Export Citation||BiBTeX, EndNote, RefMan|
|Patent Citations (10), Referenced by (7), Classifications (7)|
|External Links: USPTO, USPTO Assignment, Espacenet|
This application claims the benefit of U.S. Provisional Application No. 60/545,104, entitled “Portable Toy Train Carrying Case And Track Layout”, filed Feb. 16, 2004.
This application relates generally to toy trains. More particularly, this invention is directed at a carrying case for a toy train, the case being unfoldable from its storage configuration to form a flat playing surface for the train. The outer surfaces of the case include the track and other features consistent with the activity theme.
In the world of toy trains, there are two primary play scenarios. The first consists of “Free Play”, where a train set-up is created from scratch, piece-by-piece to create a layout, and the second is “Fixed Play”, where a train set-up is glued or otherwise affixed to a train table or other surface.
Free Play typically takes place on an open floor space, but may also take place on a train table. Because boys, the overwhelming users, are most interested in trains between the ages of 1½ and 4, for much of that period they lack the motor skills and patience to create a satisfying set-up by themselves. In addition, boys in this age group are also very destructive and are largely incapable of preserving a train set-up for any period of time. So, when parents help their children create a great layout, it may not be long before the children intentionally, or accidentally, wreck it and become very frustrated. However, this is also the age when parents want to encourage creativity and help develop motor skills for their young children. Consequently, there is a dilemma—the very activity of setting up a piece-by-piece layout, one which promotes spatial reasoning, motor skills and creativity, is at odds with what children of that age group find satisfying-immediate play that can stand up to tough play. Free Play has a number of advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages Disadvantages Encourages spatial reasoning Requires a large floor space Promotes motor skill Very difficult to do on train table Promotes creativity Set-up is easily wrecked; frustration for children Provides unlimited configurations Requires a lot of time for set-up Train set may be stored or Children can't play independently transported in pieces
Fixed Play consists of a single train layout glued or otherwise attached to a train table surface. This may frequently be found in retail stores, where trains are set up for children to play with. This may also be found in some households, where the drawbacks of free play drove a parent to more permanently affix the tracks. Children absolutely love a fixed train table. They can focus on maintaining the trains and not be concerned with wrecking the tracks. This may provide immediate satisfaction, with no waiting and more than one child can play at a time, where “traffic” and sharing may be the only problems. However, there are few parents that resort to gluing down tracks, in fear that they may be fundamentally destroying the educational, creative and developmental value of a train set. And, for many families who don't have room for a train table, Fixed Play is not an option.
Fixed Play has a number of advantages and disadvantages.
Advantages Disadvantages Immediate interaction, no set-up Requires a train table and generally a required large space Can't easily be wrecked May limit creativity Fosters independent play May limit motor skill development Only one configuration is generally available No portability, set-up is “permanent”
What is needed is a configuration for a toy train set which provides ease of storage and transport for the various components, yet may easily be set up, preferably in multiple configurations that allow interacting with other children as well as creativity, development of motor skills and spatial reasoning.
What is needed is a carrying case for a toy train which may be unfolded and laid out to form a semi-permanent train table capable of reconfiguration, expansion and/or interconnecting to other like train tables.
In a first summary exemplary embodiment the present invention is directed at a case suitable for use as a play surface, comprising a first portion and a second portion, each portion having a plurality of peripheral walls and a side wall, the side walls having an outer playing surface. The first and second portions are connected along one of the peripheral walls by at least one pivotable connection and the case can be configured in a first closed configuration and in a second open configuration. The peripheral walls of the second portion are capable of fitting within the first portion when in a closed position. The pivotable connection is positioned so that the case when in an open position is capable of positioning the outer playing surfaces of the first portion and second portion at substantially the same height when the open case is placed on a support surface.
In a second summary exemplary embodiment, the present invention is directed at a case for a toy train including a first portion and a second portion to configure in open and closed positions, the case including a storage compartment. The first portion and the second portions each include a plurality of peripheral walls and a side wall connected thereto, the side walls having an outer surface. The first and second portion are pivotably connected along one of the peripheral walls and an inner cover is provided for the second portion, the cover adapted to be located opposite the side wall of the second portion to cooperate with the peripheral walls to form a storage area in the second portion. The inner cover is pivotably connected to the second portion peripheral wall wherein the inner cover is capable of pivoting and engaging with the first portion to secure the case in an open position. Additionally, in a first closed position the peripheral walls of the second portion are capable of fitting within the first portion and the pivotable connection between the first and second portions is capable of positioning the outer playing surfaces of the first portion and second portion at substantially the same height when the open case is placed on a support surface.
In a third exemplary summary embodiment, the present invention relates to a method for forming a case that provides a playing surface including supplying a first portion and a second portion, each portion having a plurality of peripheral walls and a side wall having an outer playing surface. This may be followed by connecting the first and second portions along one of said peripheral walls by a pivot connection wherein the case can be configured in a first closed position and a second open position. In addition, the second portion is capable of fitting within said first portion when in a closed position and the pivot connection is positioned so that the case, when in an open position, and resting upon a supporting surface, positions the outer playing surfaces of the first portion and second portion at substantially the same height.
To better understand and appreciate the invention, refer to the following detailed description in connection with the accompanying drawings wherein:
The present invention, entitled a “Portable Toy Train Carrying Case and Track Layout” may herein create a new category of play, called “Hub Play.” However, the present invention is not limited to a toy train as the basic concept and its configuration may be extendable to a wide variety of other play scenarios for children, including but not limited to, a construction site or rock quarry, a circus, a farm, a village, an airport, and even combinations thereof to form a town or city.
Hub Play consists of a central, self-contained, effectively indestructible element, which can be used independently or added to in any variety of configurations. It allows for all the advantages of both Fixed and Free Play while largely eliminating their negative aspects. Although the concept of Hub Play can be applied to any number of play categories, for instance toy trains, as well as construction sites, farms, villages, etc., Hub Play is described herein as only a preferred embodiment. The present invention therefore may provide a means for rapidly setting up a play scenario so that play may begin virtually immediately. The central layout or hub is sturdy and not easily damaged. It may be comprised on any of a variety of materials, including, but not limited to, cardboard, wood, plastic, foam, metal or combinations thereof. The carrying case is portable and may easily be converted to the playing surface of table top even by young children. A single child may play independently and enjoy a creative experience developing their motor skills, or a number of children may interact with one or more of the cases linked together. The carrying case may be unfolded onto the floor, a table or any flat surface for use. The case includes an area for storing the various pieces of, in one embodiment, a toy train set; spare track, engines, cars, caboose, ramps, human figures, trees and other decorative or functional components. The track may be used for directing the movement of a hand propelled train or may be constructed to allow electric trains to be used. As will be explained below, the toy train set of the present invention may be set up in a wide variety of configurations. It may be further constructed to interface with the current major brands of wooden trains (Brio, Thomas Tank, Imaginarium (TRU) etc.) or built to match the scale of other toy trains popular with children (e.g., 1/220th (Z), 1/160 (N), 1/87th (HO), etc.). In addition, it may be constructed to provide a platform for electric trains, and the case when opened can be configured such that electrical connection can be made across the entirety of the playing surface. The case is further constructed such that when it is unfolded the top surface of both portions of the track may be at an even height and may be easily connected to other versions of the invention whether toy train sets, or other venues.
Turning to the figures,
The outer surfaces 22 and 24 of portions 12 and 14 of case 10 each include, in a preferred embodiment, a set of tracks 32, 34 for a toy train. The case may further include an opening 40 for access inside portion 12 such that the train may ride along tracks at two different levels. Also shown are tunnel openings 50, 52, 54 which are accessed form the outer surface 22 of portion 12 by a ramp 60 (see
In addition, it can be seen that peripheral wall 42 is preferably connected at a location within the perimeter of wall portion 43. Portion 12 has a peripheral wall 44 which may therefore be conveniently dimensioned to configure over wall 42 when the case is folded up. This creates a design which when unfolded may form an open and substantially flat playing surface positioning the surfaces 22 and 24 (see
Tracks may be formed on or applied to the outer surfaces 22, 24. Both portions 12 and 14 are dimensioned in height so that when they are unfolded (see
Turning then to
In addition, also illustrated in
For example, in the event that one desires to form a case which:
Furthermore, another feature of such offset “X” in combination with offset “Y” is that as inner cover 18 engages with portion 12 as shown at 18A, and is accommodated by a recess in one of the peripheral walls of portion 12 (or any another mechanical features such as a latch) the cover will then prevent pivot location 16 from any further rotation. Accordingly, it can be appreciated that cover 18 then provides a structure and technique to form a case that provides in open condition a playing surface that may be locked into such configuration.
The case as displayed in
Thus, one may appreciate that the present invention, in a preferred embodiment provides a carrying case 10 consisting of two primary portions 12, 14 which, based on the unique pivot location, may doubly-envelope into one another through the action of one or more hinges or pivot locations 16 positioned on one of the peripheral. When closed, these two portions 12, 14 create a six-sided box, or storage and carrying case, capable of being closed and transported. When opened, the location of the hinge 16 allows for each side to pivot relative to the other, with an included travel angle of about 180°. The location of the hinge may allow each side, when unfolded and placed flat, to maintain a play surface which is preferably about 3 inches from the supporting surface. Furthermore, because of the “double enveloping” design, when closed, the box may still be approximately 3 inches thick. The three inch dimension is of course only one preferred dimension around which the standard elevation increments have been established for all brand name wooden toy train sets. Consequently, the two sides of the case may be designed to open to one preferred standard elevation increment.
On the outside surface 22, 24 of each portion of the case 10, there may be, preferably, an integral track layout 32 that is united with a mating track layout 34 on the opposite portion as the case is opened. This may create a complete layout, with any variety of configurations, when the case 10 is opened. In addition, each portion of the case may have one or more connection points 82, 84 upon which external tracks can mate. These connection points may allow the play surface to expand the layout onto the surrounding surface supporting the case (i.e. the floor, a train table, a kitchen counter, etc.). The integral tracks may only be of partial height of standard tracks on most of the case surface, but expand to full height at the connection points near the edge. These connection points may be located anywhere along the outside perimeter of the unfolded case, either orthogonal or at an angle. Because the case 10 may also allow for train and track storage when closed, the partial height tracks allow for maximum utility of the storage area 70. Of the two primary portions that create the case 10, the inside of the second piece 14 may be largely dedicated to storage, and the inside of the first piece may become an integral tunnel area. A train setup may then be created such that one or more tracks run “through” the first portion, or tunnel area. The second portion, also in the instance where the case 10 is folded up, may contain an inner cover 18, largely flat, which better retains the stored tracks and trains. This cover 18 may be removable or pivotable to gain access to the storage area. This cover 18 may also contain integral track segments 36 on one surface that may be used in the tunnel area or connected to the primary train layout.
The case 10 may also have one or more access areas 50, 52, 54 which allow for user access to the tunnel area. This may enable the child to reach into the tunnel area and manipulate the trains.
Because the case 10 pivots as it is opened, there exists the possibility that fingers could get pinched between the two portions 12, 14 of the case as the included angle of travel begins to reach 180°. The invention contemplates a “compliant” pivot which may allow for some amount of translation between the hinged walls of the two portions in the event that a finger, or other item becomes lodged between the two walls of the case. One example of such a compliant pivot is illustrated in a perspective view in
It is understood that the embodiments described herein can be modified within the spirit of this disclosure to accomplish similar novelty and unobvious inventions.
We intend the above description to illustrate embodiments of the present invention and it should not be construed to be limiting the invention as claimed herein. Obviously, there are many ways that one might modify these embodiments while remaining within the scope of the claims. In other words, there are many other ways one may practice the present invention without exceeding the scope of the claims herein.
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|U.S. Classification||206/736, 206/223, 446/75|
|International Classification||A63H19/00, B65D81/00|