Saturday, 10 September 2016

Making staging look sensational

After 3 weeks of sawing, sanding and varnishing, (and a weekend away from any model train projects to go to the Gold Coast for my Mother's 70th Birthday), the staging shelf for Philden is now finished and in position in my apartment. Never one to do things by halves, I turned what was a design setback into something that now resembles a railroad art-piece, thanks to sticking to my goal of giving my small bookshelf layout a museum quality finish.

Even a model railway staging yard deserves an authentic railroad presentation.

Always one to trawl the pages of eBay in search of interesting yet small collectible railway items, I had some aluminium station indicator name signs and a 520 mm long Countrylink station sign pointing to the coaches bay, set aside for such an occasion. With my staging shelf needing to be confined to a dimension of just 730 mm x 320 mm, it was time to turn my relatively small staging area into a part of the layout.

I used the same vinyl film covering I used along the rear of my layout for the panel on my staging shelf.

Following the same process I outlined in my previous post (improving rear layout views), I first turned my attention to the 3 mm MDF panel board that would fill-in the gap at the rear of the staging extension. I had already measured, cut and painted what would be the inside face of this panel in the same satin black water based enamel I used on the underside of my layout. So it was just a matter of covering the viewing side in the same steel-checker-plate vinyl wrap as I had previously used, and trimming the edges with a sharp hobby knife. After spending the best part of a week painting, staining and varnishing the staging shelf to match the rest of my layout, it was time to bring the finished staging extension up the 5 flights of stairs to my apartment, and give it the finishing touches.

This time I was able to hide the LED lighting power pack away from view.

Before gluing the now finished steel-checker-plate panel into position, I first had to mount the coaches sign into place on the black backdrop using 2 x 25 mm cup head bolts and washers (as you can see in the above photo). I also mounted the control pack for the LED strip lighting away from view inside the cavity of the framework. The LED lighting strips were then attached beneath the overhanging pelmet for what will be the staging shelf for my upper level extension. For this project, I scored a free LED lighting pack from Arlec, sent as a replacement after reading my previous post installing LED strip lighting. This time there was no problem with any non-matching white lighting strips, and I didn't even need to cut a strip to size, 2 x 300 mm strips fitted perfectly beneath the pelmet.

The mouse hole door leading from my layout also needed to be concealed when open.

This final view before I glued the steel-checker-plate panel into position shows the ample amount of room I have inside the cavity of my double-deck staging extension. The LED lighting power pack, the mouse-hole door from my layout proper and any future wiring or DCC receivers can all be concealed within here.

I glued the checker-plate panel to some plywood strips using clear, fast drying craft glue.

I used Boyle craft glue to glue the panel into position. If you look carefully, you will see that I added some 9 mm plywood strips to all four sides of the staging shelf framework to enable the panel to be recessed back from the edge of the framework. This was just to keep it looking uniform with the removable backdrop I constructed on the layout.

The rear of my staging extension faces our lounge room, so I decorated it with some railway artifacts.

Here is the finished view of the rear of my layout. I mounted the Woodford station name sign on this side, and also two signal box plaques I had left over from my project where I turned awful into awesome by using some railroad artifacts to disguise an eyesore. The varnished timber on the top level is the same height that my upper-deck extension will be built to. The black painted strip of plywood is to screen the trains on the upper-deck staging from view. At this point, the upper level layout will be open-aired, without any backdrops positioned in place. For what is essentially just the back of a model train layout, I think it looks pretty appealing.

The current level staging shelf on the bottom, with the upper-deck extension staging on the top.

I next did a swap-sie with the end panels that support the layout. Readers may recall that I initially built two of these in my post replacing legs with panels, only to stain them in the wrong colour Jarrah stain and have to start again by building two new ones. Well, they were sanded back and re-stained as best I could and are now in use as the two middle panels. This enabled me to move the panel with the Butlins girl metal advertising sign to the outside of the layout where she can remain visible. The above side-on view also shows the importance of having your levels line up on a project like this, and I am happy to say that the track level transition between the layout and the staging extension is millimetre perfect!

Finally Philden has some staging in place. And it's not too bad looking either!

My staging shelf was only supposed to be a place to park my trains away from view, and be removable so as to pack it away when I wasn't operating the layout. Somehow it has ended up looking like this. In a small apartment where I didn't really have any room for a staging yard to begin with, being able to hide a 2 car Xplorer train from view without impeding on the space required for us to move around the apartment is simply an added bonus. As my desk was already there to begin with, building my bookshelf-style layout above the desk has only taken up the amount of room required for my staging extension to stand beside it, and going up a level is not going to require any more space either. Having decided to build the upper-deck extension open-aired (in other words, not enclosed like my current layout), will also avoid interfering with the views from our apartment as you can see in the photos below.

Staging only creates the illusion that your trains go somewhere, but with a night view such as this....

At night time, with only the layout lit-up, this is the view we enjoy from our apartment at the top of Caloundra on Queensland's Sunshine Coast. I'd rather have my trains running on the upper level of my layout set against the backdrop of a real city, instead of adding another sky blue painted backdrop that would essentially divide the layout of the lounge room in two.

....those tracks can be anywhere I like!

Finally, with the coaches railway station sign protruding 12 mm from the black staging backdrop, I need to fan the 2 staging tracks out a little to allow enough room for my hands to add or remove trains from each staging track. I also plan to install 4 x LED light toggle switches to the left side of the shelf to control power to my various staging tracks, which will make the above scene look pretty cool at night. I agree that it is probably the most simple staging yard design you could come up with, but for a small layout I think that it's big on presentation.

See also; Visualising the upper level

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