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Saturday, December 18, 2010

Staging trackage installation-2

My “transfer table” staging drawer, with background explained in the first post with this title, is now in place and mechanically complete. This post expands on the first post with some details of construction (see: ).
     My locking mechanism (or, if you will, indexing) uses aluminum strip, 1 inch wide and 1/8-inch thick, which is a size available in many hardware stores. I simply cut it to length to match the width of the table. Along its center line, I drilled 5/16-inch holes, spaced to match the spacing of my staging tracks, 2-1/4 inches. The hole size matches the bolt diameter of the two barrel bolt mechanisms I purchased at my neighborhood hardware store. The idea is that when the bolts are engaged in these holes, the table is locked both vertically and horizontally. I now have this arrangement at each end of the table.
     Here are two photos of the arrangement:

     The upper view shows the barrel bolt engaged in the aluminum locking strip, in this instance locking Track 3. The strip stands off from the L-girder to which it’s attached by means of a spacer of 1/2-inch Homasote. The lower view is a bit more distant and shows the upper surface of the table. The reason for the stand-off is evident, as it permits the bolt to extend securely through the locking strip.
     I used Atlas rerailers, cut in half, on each side of the gap between layout and table, facing so as to re-rail any wheels which wander in crossing the gap. I’ve experimented by operating deliberately derailed cars through these half-rerailers, and they do work as planned.
     So far this arrangement is mechanically very solid and dependable, and I’m continuing to test with various locomotives and rolling stock. Electrically, I have arranged wiring so that only one track can be energized at a time, and it’s possible to turn off all tracks. This is useful if one doesn’t want DCC decoders and sound to be energized on an entire yard of stored trains.
     If further developments occur with usage of this staging arrangement, I will post further.
Tony Thompson


  1. Hi Tony and Group,

    I have not been exposed to this great idea before your post; it is neat that the concept came from home territory (Signor) rather than from some "eastern" source. :-)

    I can see what a savings this is because I have been acquiring Atlas #6 and #4 turnouts here and there (hello ebay!) for my future "staging" yard (I am still many years away from even contemplating a formal layout). I have been collecting Shinohara #6 and #8 turnouts for use on "visible" parts of my future layout. With this approach there are no extensive turnout "ladders" needed and the inherent electrical isolation issues. And you use 100% of your staging tracks length rather than the reduced lengths in a traditional ladder yard.

    As such, I am interested in how you are switching the power to the individual tracks with your transfer table. I have none or very little knowledge about DCC so I am wondering if DCC would be an asset over traditional track blocks in this situation? Nonetheless, I believe that DCC is the only way to go as animation is the next dimension for me in model railroading.

    I have thought about lift out sections (and without getting too complicated electrically) using a type of "phone" plug between the departure track and transfer table that works in concert with your barrel lock system.

  2. Thanks for the comment, Paul. I had much the same thoughts as you list, that using full length of all tracks and consuming no space with a ladder were big assets in a limited-size layout.

    On the electrical design, I use a rotary switch to select the desired track, and this ensures only one track can be powered at once. Having 12 tracks, I have a pair of 6-pole rotary selectors. I also have a DPDT switch which provides a choice of throttles. I'm in the middle of DCC conversion, so have the option of either DC or DCC for any track. I intend that this is a transitory situation, and will move toward DCC.

    On the issue of protecting against wrongly selected (or unselected) staging tracks, I put in a 2-foot section at the end of each layout approach track, and each section can be turned on or off. I leave the switches off if working on the other side of the layout, and then a locomotive will come to a stop upon reaching either of these "protecting" sections.
    If any of that's not clear, say so and I will try to explain further.

  3. With all the talk about layouts that abound on the appropriate Yahoo lists (Prototype Layouts; Espee; even focused lists like STMFC (Mike Brock in particular) mention medium to large model railroads. For those not on the Yahoo Prototype Layout list and have an interest in scenery/layouts (even if that layout is in the distinct future for many of us including me) I would strongly recommend that you join and "lurk" like I do. The Prototype Layout list is pretty much a small list of prominent east coast/central US layout owners talking about their vast railroad modeling masterpieces. The short list includes Lance Mindheim (sic?), Tony Koester (NKP layout), Jared Harper's (ATSF Alma Branch), Clark Probst (sic?, sorry). I apologize for not confirming these fine gentlemens names but I am sick with an upper respiratory infection (too many years in sunny southern California under my belt) and don't have a lot of patience at the moment, so I will just continue to type away.

    If you are not on this list and have an interest downstream in a layout I would recommend that you join. Recent layout topics have included photo backdrops, shelf layouts, subroadbed construction, etc. If you have not seen the photos/videos of these layouts you are indeed missing something. These guys are doing this layout thing full bore and there is a treasure trove of information available to those who lurk. These layouts have been through all of the failures and dissapointments that a neophyte layout modeler may encounter. Let these guys tell you the right way to do things without having to invest the money and time to find out on your own.