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.|
As a simple shelf extension, the 650 mm traverser would have comfortably fitted within the confines of the 730 mm long frame that I had built. However, after fitting the staging shelf framework to the panels which they will stand on, I quickly discovered the bolts that are 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. This was simply not going to plan.
|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 conceal the mouse-hole door. As it opened to a fixed angle, it too needed to clear any tracks without being a visible eyesore to my layout's appearance. Since everything was still in the experimental stage anyway, I pulled out the plans I had drawn up for a future upper level expansion to see how I could accommodate two levels of staging within a width of just 320 mm. 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 cavity of the upper level 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. This allows for 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 to 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 covered 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), 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.|
The staging shelf or fiddle yard is purely a place to park my trains out of sight, creating the illusion that the train has continued on beyond the borders of my 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. My biggest concern at this point is the height factor of the layout. As you can see in the above photo, the height of the framework on the staging shelf gives an idea as to how tall a second matching shadow-box like the current layout is going to stand. Effectively it will divide the room of our apartment in two, something which my wife and I both are not pleased about. Perhaps the option will be to not have the upper level enclosed like the present layout, and let it simply stand open on full view.
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; Making staging look sensational and Avoiding space sapping staging