Saturday, 20 August 2016

Staging setbacks, simple solutions

Sometimes the best laid plans can come undone, and coming up with the right solution calls for a little bit of trial and error. After weeks of drawing up plans for a traverser shelf for my staging area, I was met with one glaring problem. It just wasn't going to fit!

The basic framework had to fit the same 32 mm width of my layout and be no more than 75 mm long.

Following the same design as the framework I built for my layout, (see - Let's cut some wood), I soon had the 730 mm x 320 mm outer frame completed using some readily available 42 mm x 19 mm pine I purchased at my local Bunnings store.

I first had a crack at building a 3 track traverser shelf....

From this point on, I lost the best part of a weekend trying to make the traverser fit into the minimal space I had available. The plan was to fix two strips of 15 mm x 15 mm aluminium angle to two sunken timber struts, and mount two pairs of wardrobe castor wheels to the underside of the traverser that I constructed above. There would have been just enough room for a 3 track traverser shelf to slide back and forth, and align with the 2 tracks that lead to my layout proper through the mouse-hole door.

....but found that it just wouldn't fit within my dimensions.

On a single deck layout, the 650 mm traverser shelf would have comfortably fitted within the confines of the 730 mm long frame that I had built. However, my own plans for the upper level extension proved impossible to incorporate into the framework of my staging addition without impeding on the space needed for the traverser to slide back and forth. Then, after fitting the staging shelf framework to the panels which they will stand on, I quickly discovered the bolts that would be concealed on the inside of the framework also encroached on the recessed space reserved for the traverser. The traverser would need to be shortened to a distance less than the 600 mm of the 2 car Xplorer train that it was designed to accommodate, something that just wasn't an option. If I wanted to keep my staging shelf addition looking uniform with the rest of my layout, then this was simply not going to work.

The mouse-hole door would also have to be concealed when the staging addition was on display.

So, after abandoning the idea of building a traverser, I instead turned my attention to figuring out how I was going to build two levels of staging tracks within a width of just 320 mm, and that meant carrying my unfinished project up 5 flights of stairs to position it alongside my layout. I was then able to check that the framework height levels were all correct with the track levels. Most importantly, I was able to design a way for my layout's mouse-hole door to be concealed within the staging shelf framework.

The top staging shelf also had to align with my upper level expansion.

The upper level shelf was next constructed at a height of 237 mm above the lower level framework, once more using 42 mm x 19 mm pine topped with 9 mm plywood. The support columns were affixed to the framework using 6 mm dowel joins to dodge the 2 screws and coach bolts in each corner. Leaving a 38 mm gap between each of the support posts, allows the mouse-hole door to slide between each column like a piece of toast slides into a toaster. The upper level extension will then be built to this height along the entire 6'1" length of my bookshelf layout. This will keep the varnished strips of timber sitting uniformly along the top and bottom. The bottom panel will be finished with 3 mm MDF panel and coated in the same steel checker-plate finish as on my layout. In the end, I want this to look just as much a piece of finished furniture as it is a model railway layout.

In the end I settled with two levels, two tracks, too simple!

Abandoning any plans whatsoever for a traverser, sector plate or cassette system, then made the track plan for my staging yard ridiculously simple. After omitting the right hand turnout from the upper level on my track plan, (I may simply move this forward to create a shorter siding before the upper level mouse-hole exit), it then became a simple case of 2 tracks exiting to a staging area on both the upper and lower levels. There is plenty of space around these tracks for me to simply enact the 'Hand of God' in moving trains between the upper and lower levels, (something I had envisioned at the very start), and wire 4 toggle switches to control the power to each staging track.

Envisioning how the layout will look when finished, I'm now leaning towards NOT enclosing the upper level.

A staging shelf or fiddle yard is purely a place to park your trains out of sight, creating the illusion that the train has continued on beyond the borders of your layout. With my layout designed for only 1 train at a time to be operating on each level, the four 75 mm staging tracks will provide me with enough room to enjoy watching my trains come and go on what is still a relatively small 2.6 metre long bookshelf layout. With a new locomotive having arrived at Philden this week, completing my staging area and the framework for my upper level has become my highest priority. So tomorrow I will carry the staging extension back down the 5 flights of stairs and begin the week-long process of sanding and varnishing the timber, (including the two panels that I had originally stained in the wrong colour varnish). But as usual, that is a story for another day.

See also; Weekend morning planning sessions and Avoiding space sapping staging

Saturday, 13 August 2016

Avoiding space sapping staging

If you have, or are planning, on building a small HO scale bookshelf layout like mine, then chances are the last thing you want to do is build a staging yard that is as large, if not larger than your layout itself. If a bookshelf layout with point-to-point operation is the only layout design that lends itself to your present living environment, then not only do you have to get creative when planning your layout, but you need to be extra creative when planning your staging yard to maintain the illusion that your model railroad tracks are imaginatively connected beyond the borders of your bookshelf. That can be as simple as hiding a siding within a warehouse, or like I have, extending the tracks beneath an overpass to a hidden shelf that stores the train until it is next ready to return to the scene you have modeled. Chances are, if your bookshelf layout is around 6 feet long, you'll only be running relatively short trains anyway. But turnouts, switches, points.... whatever you like to call them, sap up huge amounts of space.

So after paying close attention to what goes on behind the scenes on some great pint-sized model railway layouts at some recent model train shows here in South Queensland, I set out to design a staging yard that wouldn't impose too much in my living room. As you can see from the above photo, I really only needed to park a 2 car Countrylink Xplorer train that measures 580 mm long away from the public's view anyway. In trying to contain my entire staging area to less than 750 mm in length, I needed to explore options such as sector plates, traversers and cassettes, something that in a small apartment will prove to be a huge space-saver!

My staging extension will match the timber frame of my layout, while the tracks need to line up with the mouse-hole door.

After once more drawing a life-sized plan to see what was possible, I drew a track plan on a separate piece of paper to see if there would be enough room for a three track traverser shelf. A train arriving on track 1 would need to be able to slide across to depart on track 2, and vice versa. The third track comes into play as a storage track, and the geometries of the track work needs to ensure that any of the 3 tracks on the staging shelf will always line up with the 2 tracks exiting the layout through the mouse hole door. I would have loved to have accommodated 4 tracks on my plans for the traverser shelf, however with the layout frame being only 32 cm wide, and the opening mouse-hole door needing to be positioned inside the paneling that will conceal the staging shelf from the viewing public, it just wouldn't be possible.

I gained my inspiration from Keith Trueman's traverser shelf on his British EM Gauge layout Lesney Park.

Recently at the Railway Modellers Club of Queensland's Strathpine Show, I was invited behind-the-scenes of Keith Trueman's EM Gauge Lesney Park layout to see first-hand how his traverser shelf worked. Another fine British layout, (aren't they all?), Keith had laid his entire track by hand, including the traverser shelf! Keith's modelling was to the highest standard, and more photos of his layout at the Strathpine Show can be seen on Craig Mackie's blog or on the British EMGauge70's website. So building a smaller traverser shelf, albeit using commercially available HO scale track, should by all accounts be much simpler. Another site that I found extremely useful when exploring options for my staging area, was a website dedicated to the late P.D. Hancock, which explains the importance of having a 'fiddle yard' and the benefits of using cassettes, sector plates and traversers.

My plans for a 650 mm long traverser should fit within the confines of a 730 mm long staging shelf.

So once more having to compromise my grand ideas on account of a lack of layout space, I arrived at the above plan for a 750 mm long removable staging area. The framework will measure 730 mm long x 320 mm wide, while the traverser shelf that will glide back and forth within the confines of the framework measures only 650 mm long x 165 mm wide. The odd protrusion on the left of my plans is for a plywood cutout that will align the staging area extension around the overpass foundations that protrude beyond the mouse-hole door, and bridge the gap between the two sections of my layout.

Originally I had allowed for a staging shelf that measured 920 mm long, so substituting the use of a pair of turnouts for a traverser shelf equates to a saving in space of almost 200 mm. My focus is now to get Philden finished to an exhibition standard, and the staging area is paramount to my layout operating as I originally intended it to. But, and this is a big but (pardon the pun), whatever I design for my staging yard will also need to accommodate the staging roads from my upper level expansion, and that means allowing on space for support beams, wires and of course, track. So with my best laid plans in hand, and all the timber I need to complete this project at the ready, its back to the garage for another weekend of sweat and sawdust. Only this time I plan to use the two panels that I incorrectly stained when replacing the legs on my layout. After all, they're just sitting there, ready and waiting, (although stained in the wrong colour varnish). But as usual, that's a story for another day.

See also; Using Peco track templates

Thursday, 11 August 2016

Review: Auscision Models' HO scale Railer

Recently I picked up an Auscision Models' HO scale rollingstock railer from a trade stand at the Gold Coast Model Train Show. Although I have no problems in placing my HO scale rollingstock on the rails, I'd read that Auscision had these manufactured to aid with placing their Tangara sets on the rails. With the bogies hidden beneath the side cladding of each car, aligning each bogie would be akin to feeling your way in the dark. So knowing that my pre-ordered Tangara set will be arriving before the end of the year, I wanted to be prepared.

Auscision Models' Railer lines up perfectly with HO scale track, even code 100 like I have used.

At first glance it looks like you are shelling out $20 for a piece of plastic with some advertising on it. But once you take it from the packet, you soon realise that the railer is actually well designed. Whether you are using it in a staging yard or on your layout's mainline complete with ballasted track, the railer sits in position over the rails and allows for a smooth transition from the railer to the rails.

Simply place a wagon on the raised end of the railer....

I tried it out using one of my cement wagons belonging to another manufacturer, and found that it was as simple as placing the wagon on the railer and letting go.

....and sing 'let it go' as it rushes down to join the other wagons on your layout.

The wagon doesn't gain too much speed as it rolls down the railer and onto the rails, however, if you're worried about too much coupler crash as I am, then simply place the railer a little further away from any other rollingstock before singing the words to the song from Disney's animated movie Frozen. These HO scale railers come in 7 different colours, I chose the colour closest to Countrylink Blue. Only now as I write this I realise that it is also the same colour as Elsa's dress from the movie Frozen, and my biggest fear is that I'm going to be singing "Let It Go" every time I place a wagon on my layout.

Review Card: Auscision Models HO scale Railer

My Rating:


Final Thoughts: A simple device? Yes, but a brilliant little one at that. Because I can't compare Auscision's Railer to one of their 5 star locomotives, I give this 3 stars, but 3 out of 3.

See also; Auscision Models' 421 Class