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How to build a raisable platform?

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  • Member since
    December 2019
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How to build a raisable platform?
Posted by Anthony2816 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 2:14 PM

I haven't had a train set since having a large Lionel 027 set in the mid-1960s...a set that never had a permanent home...I built, played, dissembled it every time. 

Now I'd like to try making something more permanent. Looking around my house, it seems the best location would be to have a platform on top of my 8' pool table, so I'd like to be able to raise the platform to the ceiling when not in use, and lower it onto the pool table for play time. The platform would be roughly 5-1/2' by 9-1/2'.

I'm hoping some of the experts here can point me in the right direction to learn the best way to accomplish this. I'm pretty handy with tools, but I need to know how to construct the platform (like what sort of materials and construction methods are best in the strength-vs-weight decision), what sort and how many cables to use to pull it to the ceiling, and how to move the cables (hand crank vs some sort of electric winch). 

Assuming I'm far from the first person to think of doing this, I'm hopeful that the answers are all thought out for me. My main problem initially is that I don't know all the correct terminology, which is hampering my ability to search. 

  • Member since
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  • From: Reading, PA
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Posted by rrinker on Thursday, December 5, 2019 5:56 PM

 I recall this exact thing was in an old issue of MR - maybe in the 70's some time. Layout that lifted to the ceiling over a pool table. I think it even had lights under the bottom for playing pool.

 The key part of engineering something like this is to keep the lifting force equal and distributed so the layout doesn't flex or have any chance of just one side going up and tipping the whole thing over. 

                              --Randy


Modeling the Reading Railroad in the 1950's

 

Visit my web site at www.readingeastpenn.com for construction updates, DCC Info, and more.

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Posted by York1 on Thursday, December 5, 2019 6:05 PM

Welcome to the forums, Anthony.

You may notice your first posts are delayed a little.  That is only for your first few posts.

I don't have an answer for your question, but I'm sure someone else will.  Please post your decisions and pictures for us to follow your progress!

John  --  Saints Fan  

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Posted by Anthony2816 on Saturday, December 7, 2019 7:15 PM
Yes, I was planning to put some LED lights under the platform for lighting up the pool table. Thanks for mentioning that. But I'd still like to benefit from some veterans' experiences on just how to construct the platform, and what sort of system to use to raise and lower it.
  • Member since
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Posted by hornblower on Monday, December 9, 2019 2:32 PM

I tried this in my son's bedroom several years ago.  We built a 6' by 6' open grid structure with a 3/8" plywood top cookie-cut for grades. A 3' by 3' opening in the center of the layout acted as the operators position.  I used a 440 lb capacity electric winch from Harbor Freight Tools to raise and lower the layout.  The winch was mounted low on one side of the room with an aluminum flat stock spreader bar attached to the winch cable.  The spreader bar was about 3 feet long with two cables attached to each end.  I mounted double pulleys to the ceiling above the ends of the spreader bar and single pulleys above each corner of the layout.  One cable from each end of the spreader bar was run to the corresponding near corners while the other cables were run to the far corners but on the opposite side of the layout (near left corner plus far right corner - near right corner plus far left corner - six pulleys total so the far cables wouldn't cross across the middle where the light fixture was).  This cable arrangement kept the layout level at all times and never required readjustment after the initial setup.  I made pockets on the underside of the layout into which 2" by 2" legs could be inserted and pinned in place.  With the layout raised to the ceiling and the legs removed, the layout was completely out of the way and the center operating position cleared the ceiling mounted light/fan fixture.  With the legs inserted and the layout lowered to the floor (the winch control cord was long enough to allow you to do this while standing under the center operating opening), the layout stood about 40" above the floor to be at a comfortable height for my kids.  I know I took pictures but have no idea where that are now.

Unfortunately, even this small layout proved too large for the room as you could not walk around the layout without crawling over the bed or squeezing between the layout and other large pieces of bedroom furniture.  It was fun for a while but a more permanent solution was needed for us.  

Since you're talking about lowering a layout on top of an existing pool table, I must assume that you have sufficient clearance all around the table to use pool cues at any angle.  Another plus is that you won't need to include legs as the pool table will support the layout.  I would finish the underside of the layout so it won't detract from the pool room decor.  You could either install flush or recessed mounted lights in the bottom of the layout or design a center opening like I did to clear whatever light fixture already exists above the pool table.  

I would recommend lightweight construction.  I build all of my open grid benchwork from 1/2" birch plywood ripped into 3" wide strips.  I use 18 gauge brads to assemble the benchwork and glue all joints using reinforcing blocks in the corners (the glue makes the joints strong - not the fasteners).  Once the glue cures, you will have a light and incredibly rigid layout base you can top any way you like. I would screw 3/16" plywood or 0.80" styrene sheet to the underside of the open grid to give it a nice finished look while the screws will allow you to remove the plywood/styrene for layout construction and maintenance.  

My only warning is to maintain a maximum scenery height so you don't crush trees, hills, light poles, etc. into the ceiling.

Hornblower

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Posted by Anthony2816 on Monday, December 9, 2019 4:03 PM
Thanks, Hornblower. A lot of good information there. Did you have some sort of limiter on the winch to prevent it from smashing the layout into the ceiling? And do you recall what sort/diameter material you used for the cables?
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Posted by 5150WS6 on Monday, December 9, 2019 10:42 PM

I have done something very similar to hornblower. We have a 10'x16' layout in my garage. We have a 90 degree pulley system with two harbor freight 800lb winches. We have not gone light. We used 3/4" plywood for the table top and 1x8" pine for the sides and 2x4's for the bracing on the inside. 

It works fantastically well. We are no where near the 1600lb weight limit for straight pulling. A few things to consider though. We have it set up for the winches to pull each end. So one pulley does the South end corners and the other winch does the North end. This makes it nice to level things out. We drop it down and rest it in some plastic sawhorses. Or the pool table would work in your case.

You do have to watch your height to the roof. I have to get mine pretty close to the ceiling in order to get my garage door up and down but it works out until I can get my dream shop. Just have to keep the buildings and trees on the lower side.

Let me know if you have questions or want pictures!

 

Good luck!

 

Mike

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Posted by riogrande5761 on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 11:36 AM

Whatever you suspend the layout from, you should make sure that it can bear the weight of it.

Rio Grande.  The Action Road  - Focus 1977-1983

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Posted by hornblower on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 3:55 PM

Anthony2816
Did you have some sort of limiter on the winch to prevent it from smashing the layout into the ceiling? And do you recall what sort/diameter material you used for the cables?

As it worked out, the load spreader bar would reach the winch before the layout reached the ceiling.  I don't remember the exact size of the cables I used although they were not that thick (maybe 5/16").  I used the clear plastic encased cable to avoid people scratching themselves on the cables and to ensure that the raising/lowering operations were fairly quiet.  I also remember using some sort of one-way mounting cones that made installation and the initial leveling adjustment a breeze.  The cable is inserted into the one-way cone and cannot back out without inserting a special tool. Even though these cones came with "not for overhead use" warnings, I never had any problems with the suspension of the layout and I live in earthquake country!  I also tested the suspension strength by hanging my 220 pound body from the "lightweight" open grid frame with no problems.  Other than making sure my pulley anchor points were attached to the ceiling joists, no other reinforcement was needed to suspend the layout from the existing bedroom ceiling.  

Hornblower

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Posted by 5150WS6 on Tuesday, December 10, 2019 8:31 PM

I did almost exactly the same as hornblower again. Although I didn't use the coated cables. I used harbor freight aircraft cables or something. They were rated to 2000lbs or something ridiculous. I then had a buddy fab up some metal plates......1/4" that the cables connected too. Then those were lag bolted into the frame in each corner or edge.  When working on the layout I unhook the cables and raise them back up so they are out of the way.

And my winches came with a red safety ball on each of them that you can adjust. Once it gets to a certain point it trips a kill switch and it won't go any higher. They move slow enough though it's really not hard to eye ball.

Mike

 

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Posted by Anthony2816 on Saturday, December 14, 2019 10:18 PM
Was that winch kill switch part of the winch, or was it an add-on item. I really like the idea of that. I hate to think of someone else raising the platform, and inadvertently continuing until it pulls out of the ceiling and crashes down onto the pool table... I just thought of another issue, too...how to get power to the train set on top of the platform? I guess I could just run an extension to it each time we lowered it. But then there would be no power to the pool table lights I'd hoped to mount underneath it...
  • Member since
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Posted by 5150WS6 on Tuesday, December 17, 2019 3:28 PM

My winch motors came with the kill switch bar installed. And our original plan(we are now on #2) of the layout included a giant square "donut" hole in the middle for light and basic access on the layout. I'm sure you could do the same so it would just raise right around your pool table light.

It's a very doable option. We haven't had any issues with the track, switches or anything so far and are going on 7 years now.

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Posted by Anthony2816 on Friday, December 20, 2019 8:36 AM
Thanks for all the useful replies!

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