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 through a mouse-hole door beneath an overpass, to a hidden shelf that will store the train from view. 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 wasn't 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. So with my best laid plans in hand, and all the timber I need to complete this project at the ready, it's 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; Staging setbacks, simple solutions and Using PECO track templates

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Thanks for taking the time to visit Philden. I hope you'll book a return ticket soon. Cheers, Phil