I recently was asked for more information about the tiered staging arrangement I devised on my layout when it was in Pittsburgh, PA, and reported in the issue of Model Railroad Planning (MRP) for 1999, page 84. This one-page description had been requested by MRP editor Tony Koester after he saw my staging on a visit to Pittsburgh.
In brief, I was adding eight staging tracks to my layout, and was familiar with the problem often encountered in layout staging areas, that it can be hard to see what all is in there, since staging is often underneath something, or in the dark. All I did was to stagger the height of pairs of tracks, so that each pair was separated by about 1-3/4 inches. This is how it looked from the side. The surface under the track is simply painted ballast gray, and the rails painted rusty brown. There is an escape crossover just visible on the second tier, at the right. This is the same slide used in the MRP article, though cropped differently.
The purple-gray horizon line on the backdrop is worth pointing out. It is just a quickly painted, monochrome addition to the sky-blue wall, but it magically adds depth to the scene. It was surprising to me how much even this little “scenery” improved the look.
The black posts supported an upper level, removed so I could take this photo conveniently. When the upper level was in place, I installed under-shelf fluorescent light units to provide good illumination of the staging. This was effective, and identification of cars in staging was easy.
Perhaps the only additional information I can supply is that I did spend some time arranging the lead into this eight-track yard. It was connected by a single track to the rest of the layout, and I used a large sheet of plywood for the transition from that track into the yard. The cookie-cutter technique allowed me to manage gradual changes of slope for all four of the track boards (none were quite level with the approach track). I used twin-coil switch machines to throw switches as well as power frogs, and built a diode matrix so tracks could be selected by pushbuttons, one per track.
I have placed a scan of the article on Google Drive, and it can be downloaded (and printed, if you like) by anyone. Here is the link:
This is a simple idea and not particularly difficult to implement. I recommend it if you have space to carry it out.