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Building a layout on a rotisserie

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Building a layout on a rotisserie
Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 6:25 PM

Hi Gang!

Several people have recommended that I start a new thread about building my new layout. There has been some discussion about what I propose in the last few pages of the thread below, but the thread just got way too long and convoluted:

http://cs.trains.com/mrr/f/11/t/263414.aspx

I want to build something similar to the Milwaukee Road Beer Line railroad that MR first showed in the January 2009 issue, but without using modules:

 

https://mrr.trains.com/how-to/track-plan-database/2008/11/milwaukee-roads-beer-line

What will be unique about my layout is that I will be able to do almost all of the work while sitting in a chair, that is if things work out as planned. Standing for more than a couple of minutes is painful thanks to a bad back, and getting under a layout would be impossible. What I propose is to build the layout on a rotisserie so that it can be rotated to allow me to reach both the top and the bottom of the layout while sitting in a chair. This is a very rough sketch of how the benchwork and supports would look:

The layout will be 12' long x 5'4" wide. The center of the actual layout frame will be a box, or spine if you will (not spline) made out of 1x6s and 1x4s. That should be plenty strong enough to support the 12' length of the layout without flexing too much. The cross members will be attached to either side of the spine and the outside framing will then be attached to the cross members. That will form the benchwork.

To support the benchwork, I'm going to build two end supports which will be linked at their bases by L girders using 1x6s and 1x4s. The end supports will hold the rotisserie bearings, which will be similar to those used on lazy susan kitchen cabinets and swiveling bar stools. The bearings are not designed to be used on their sides, but they will only be rotated very occassionally. I'm hoping that the end bearings will keep the proper distance between the top of the end supports so I won't need to use long angled braces.

The end braces will have solid plywood inside of the 1x6 framing so diagonal bracing won't be required across the ends. The primary purpose for the plywood is to allow for an indexing system that will allow me to lock the layout at whatever angle suits my needs. I still haven't figured out what type of mechanism I can use for the locking pins.

As it sits right now, the layout has a double track all the way around. I like to watch trains run so I'm hoping that I can run a train continuously while doing a bit of switching. I have yet to prove that the current plan will actually allow for that without fouling the mainline too badly. Here is the plan so far:

The scene will be mostly urban. I have all of the structures that I am showing on the plan except for the residential houses, and I am anticipating adding more structures to fill in some of the blank spots. I hope to scratchbuild a lot of the structures.

I haven't shown the roads but there will be lots of them. There will be a main street that will run down the center of the layout. The Atlas Middlesex Manufacturing buildings will dominate one end of the layout. I'm planning on combining several City Classics kits to create taller and wider office buildings downtown, and the Bachmann Ambassador Hotel will add some height to the downtown as well. There will be a passenger station on the bottom of the layout.

What's missing is a freight yard so I am still pondering that. I could add a couple of short tracks in the upper right, but I am torn between having a small yard or having another industry or two. Seems I need both!

Anyhow, that is where I am for now. I need to find someone who sells 1x4s and 1x6s in 14' lengths. I only need two of each for the bracing between the end supports. I know I can get them in poplar at Royal Woodworking but they won't be cheap.

Please comment!!

Cheers!!

Dave

 

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by gregc on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 6:41 PM

are you familiar with The One Module at A time (TOMA) approach to building a layout by fully completing each module before starting the next.   Each module is built on a rotisserie

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by rrinker on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 8:20 PM

 Greg's picture, or something somewhat along the lines of a free-standing hammock I think would be a better way to frame up the rotisserie itself. With eh supports at the outer edges, there's pretty much zero chance of rolling up close to the layout seated in a chair. ANd if standing, with the layout vertical to access the bottom, like for feeding a wire through from the top to the bottom, it's something to trip over.

 I'll have to draw it out, but I'm thinking something like a U channel (made like an L girder - just add another small side), with the verticals going up and being braces like the ones shown in Greg's picture. Possible one extra brace at each end, diagonally from the upright tot he U channel.

                                   --Randy

 


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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 9:28 PM

Dave
I like your ideas and design.
 
I have back problems too as well as a bone to bone knee so I’m with you on this one.
 
I took a fall from a tower in 1965 and pretty much busted everything.  I did pretty good until 2006 when things started caching up with me.
 
When I started my current layout in 1988 I put a lot of thought into the future, the doctors back in 65 warned me that as I grew older my fall would haunt me with age.
 
I made it as large as I thought I could and still work from a chair.  L shaped 10’ x 14’ x 30” high.  So far I have been able to keep at it baring Arthritis flare-ups.  The center of my layout is about 3½’ from the sides.  I’m 6’2” but still too far.  I bought a TopSide Creeper (Micro-Mark on sale with free shipping) and that gets me into the middle of my layout.
 
 
Not me
 
I can work off the TopSide Creeper for about 45 minutes at a go even with my bad knee.
 
I bought a Doctors Chair that is adjustable up and down.
 
 
“Were there is will there is a way.”  Without the proper layout design, TopSide Creeper and Doctors Chair my model railroading would be a thing of the past.
 
We made a hobby room out of a spare bedroom, I have a 4’ x 3’ workbench where I do my building.  Everything is wheelchair accessible incase things get worse.
 
If I can do it you can do it. 
 
 
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
 
 
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Posted by mbinsewi on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 9:47 PM

RR_Mel
I bought a TopSide Creeper (Micro-Mark on sale with free shipping) and that gets me into the middle of my layout.

I don't have the room under my layout for that contraption.  It's full of stuff in storage.  I'd have to move everything out.

Right now, a milk crate with a 3/4" plywood top does the job.  Laugh

I like the rotisserie thing for Dave's sake, just interested on how he's going to build it, and have full access, getting around any needed braces, for something that long.

Mike.

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 9:47 PM

rrinker
With the supports at the outer edges, there's pretty much zero chance of rolling up close to the layout seated in a chair. And if standing, with the layout vertical to access the bottom, like for feeding a wire through from the top to the bottom, it's something to trip over.

Good points Randy. Thank you for pointing out the flaws in my design.Bow More to think about!

There is no reason that the supports between the end panels have to go on the outside edges. Your suggestion of using a U channel in the center makes sense. One minor drawback to doing that might be that the layout will have to be a bit higher off the floor so it can clear the U channel as it rotates. However, I have to ask whether or not the layout actually has to rotate 180 degrees. I can do all the under layout work with the benchwork on its side, or nearly so, which it would be if the benchwork bumped up against the U channel. Turning the layout completely upside down would be counterproductive because I would still have to stand to do a lot of the work, which is exactly what I'm trying to avoid.

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 9:47 PM

Dave,

I don´t want to rain on your parade, but I don´t think that building a 5´4" deep layout "on a spit" is really a workable idea. To be able to rotate the layout, the layout must be close to 3´ above the floor, which puts the top 5´8" high. Either you have to stand up doing all the wiring or you have to crawl on the floor. I would not be able to do either!

I think that building this layout in manageable segments, similar to the original "Beer Line" layout is a better idea.

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 9:54 PM

Dave, I think it can be done exactly the way you drew it.

Idea 1: Have the frame made from alluminum at a welding/erection/fabrication shop. That will solve all the problems with wood.

Idea 2: If you do wood, do not try to find 14 foot long 1 by 6s. Make them by biscuit joining 1 by 3s on end with plenty of glue. You can use 8 goot long boards and stagger the joints. Make 1 by 4s using 1 by 2s and the same technique.

I have know many modelers that develop mobility issues and cannot use their layouts. It is better to design all this in from the beginning.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:13 PM

Tinplate Toddler
To be able to rotate the layout, the layout must be close to 3´ above the floor, which puts the top 5´8" high. Either you have to stand up doing all the wiring or you have to crawl on the floor. I would not be able to do either!

Your concern is appreciated Ulrich, but I have done some measurements and I can quite comfortably reach up to 5'6" above the floor when seated in my office chair. There won't be much wiring that close to the fascia, and things like control panels will be built on my workbench and their connections can be wired into terminal strips that will be within easy reach.

I would be using my workbench chair which can be raised a bit higher than my office chair, and it is on casters as a bonus. This is the chair, but mine doesn't have arms to get in the way:

https://www.hermanmiller.com/products/seating/office-chairs/caper-multipurpose-chair/

As far as having to reach down to the floor, I don't think that would be necessary. In order to work on the lower portion of the layout I simply have to rotate the layout in the opposite direction and roll around to the other side. What was the lower portion on one side becomes the upper portion when the layout is flipped in the opposite direction. The U channel will prevent the layout from turning a full 90 degrees, but it will rotate far enough to make the underside easily accessible.

Please keep your comments and suggestions coming. Randy just saved me from having to do a lot of corrective carpentry!

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:18 PM

Dave
 
To work on my wiring I use this roll-around goodie.
 
 
The bottom tray is real handy for tools and parts.  I haven’t been able to get on my knees for all most 20 years.
 
I string all my wires around the outside perimeter of my layout using Telco D Ring hangers.
 
 
I just scoot around run my wires, none of the wire hangers are even close to full after more than 20 years and hundreds of wires.  They are mounted 4” below the layout surface and 12” in from the edge, easy to get to and fast too.
 
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:29 PM

Dave - I may be wrong, but most of your track is either in the upper part of the layout, or the lower, so most of the wiring will have to be there. I wouldn´t want to handle a hot soldering iron with my hands raised nearly above my head and risk hot solder dripping down on my face.

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:30 PM

SeeYou190
Dave, I think it can be done exactly the way you drew it.

Hi Kevin,

I hope so, but I will build in Randy's revisions.

SeeYou190
Idea 1: Have the frame made from alluminum at a welding/erection/fabrication shop. That will solve all the problems with wood.

That raises a couple of concerns for me. One is cost, and the second is the fact that I had better get the frame right the first time! Wood I can change, aluminum not so much.

SeeYou190
Idea 2: If you do wood, do not try to find 14 foot long 1 by 6s. Make them by biscuit joining 1 by 3s on end with plenty of glue. You can use 8 foot long boards and stagger the joints. Make 1 by 4s using 1 by 2s and the same technique.

Your suggestions are valid for sure, but I really don't want to spend the time  doing all of that joining. I can get 14' poplar 1x4s and 1x6s just down the road in Aurora. I only need three pieces that long for the U channel. The rest can be done with 12' lengths. There is a real lumber shop in Barrie that has 12' clear pine 1x4s and 1x6s for very good prices. They supplied the lumber for the club layout and there were no rejects in the shipment and almost no knots.

Thanks for your suggestions.

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:33 PM

RR_Mel
To work on my wiring I use this roll-around goodie.

Hi Mel,

I have tried to use one at the club but I can't tilt my head back far enough to see what I am doing.

The Telco D rings are a good idea.

Thanks,

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:39 PM

Tinplate Toddler
I may be wrong, but most of your track is either in the upper part of the layout, or the lower, so most of the wiring will have to be there. I wouldn´t want to handle a hot soldering iron with my hands raised nearly above my head and risk hot solder dripping down on my face.

I don't think that things will get to that point. The bus wires don't have to be directly under the track. If I use #22 gauge feeder wires it won't matter if they are 12+" long. Most other connections will be made with terminal strips. There is also the option of using suitcase connectors but I really don't care for them.

Thanks,

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:49 PM

gregc
are you familiar with The One Module at A time (TOMA) approach to building a layout

Hi Greg,

I was not familiar with the TOMA concept. Thanks for bringing it to my attention.

The rotisserie shown in the picture is much lighter in construction than I plan on doing. Of course, I always build things like the proverbial brick outhouse! If two screws will do, I'll use four!Laugh I built my deck with 2x10s on 12" centers.Whistling After 24 years it still doesn't squeak or move!

Thanks,

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 10:53 PM

mbinsewi

 

 
RR_Mel
I bought a TopSide Creeper (Micro-Mark on sale with free shipping) and that gets me into the middle of my layout.

 

I don't have the room under my layout for that contraption.  It's full of stuff in storage.  I'd have to move everything out.

Right now, a milk crate with a 3/4" plywood top does the job.  Laugh

I like the rotisserie thing for Dave's sake, just interested on how he's going to build it, and have full access, getting around any needed braces, for something that long.

Mike.

 

I built two 2” x 4” frames, one for the layout top and one for the bottom.  I used ½” plywood for the end panels between the two frames.  I covered the bottom frame with ¼” plywood as I use it for storage under my layout.  The layout plywood top is ½”.  The bottom frame is mounted on 3½” metal casters so that I can move my layout around for cleaning the garage floor under my layout.
 
 
 
The metal casters lift the frame up enough for the legs of the TopSide Creeper to go under the frame.  I store my power tools under my layout.
 
When I get in a cleaning mode I often roll my layout out onto the driveway and on a Saturday it is a neighborhood kid and dad magnet.
 
 
Mel
 
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
Bakersfield, California
 
I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by DSchmitt on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:01 PM

I tried to sell my two cents worth, but no one would give me a plug nickel for it.

I don't have a leg to stand on.

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Posted by carl425 on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:03 PM

I also am building a roll-around layout.  I'm using narrow shelves in an around the walls G-shape with a peninsula.  I have the advantage of being in N-scale however so the turn back blob on the peninsula only needs to be 40" across.

I do like the rotisserie idea though.  Just keep in mind that you can have an extra leg or two that you attach to the edge of your grid with a C-clamp wherever it is convenient. 

You could also build the vertical supports and cross members that hold your axle to allow for vertical adjustment of the layout so you can invite Ulrich to come over and solder.

I have the right to remain silent.  By posting here I have given up that right and accept that anything I say can and will be used as evidence to critique me.

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:06 PM

RR_Mel
I bought a TopSide Creeper (Micro-Mark on sale with free shipping) and that gets me into the middle of my layout.

Hi Mel,

I have done some experimenting and with the way I have designed the track plan, I shouldn't have to reach in very far. Almost all of the track will be within a couple of feet from the fascia so rerailing rolling stock won't require me to stand. I believe that almost all of the layout construction can be done from my chair with the layout tilted at various angles. The only things that I can think of that will require me to stand will be installing ballast and any loose scenery materials where the layout will have to be level.

One challenge that I will have to figure out is how to make the structures removable but have them stay in place when the layout is flipped on its side. I'm considering using neodymium magnets but I will have to make sure that the structures are strong enough to withstand a little pulling, and that the magnets are strong enough to hold the larger buildings in place. I think I will use your brass tube connector system to feed power to the buildings. I'll have to rewire most of my lighted vehicles to eliminate the clumsy wiring coming out of the bottoms so I can install the brass tubes into them as well.

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:23 PM

mbinsewi
I like the rotisserie thing for Dave's sake, just interested on how he's going to build it, and have full access, getting around any needed braces, for something that long.

Hi Mike,

Randy's suggestion of using a center U channel to link the two end supports together at the bottom should leave most of the area under the layout clear. The end supports will be a bit of an obstacle to get around, but I think I could get away with making them only 4' wide. That would move the outer ends in under the layout by about 8" so at least from the sides of the layout, I wouldn't be stubbing my toes on them all the time.

The 12' long benchwork will be built with a center box beam made from 1x6s and 1x4s. It will be just like having two L girders glued together. It should be plenty strong enough to span 12'. The 1x4 crossmembers that run between the box beam and the fascia will be about a little over 28" long so I think they will be quite stable. The fascia itself will be 1x6s. I will use 1/4" plywood on top of the benchwork covered by 2" foam. The plywood is only there to make it easier to attach things to the bottom of the layout.

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:28 PM

hon30critter
Your suggestions are valid for sure, but I really don't want to spend the time doing all of that joining. I can get 14' poplar 1x4s and 1x6s just down the road in Aurora. I only need three pieces that long for the U channel.

Yeah, good deal. If you can get 14 foot Poplar for a decent price then ignore everything I said!

I can only get 6 foot Poplar down here, and it is expensive and hard to find.

-Kevin

Wink Happily modeling my STRATTON & GILLETTE RAILROAD. A Class A line located in a personal fantasy world of semi-plausible nonsense on Tuesday, August 3rd, 1954.

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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:28 PM

DSchmitt
https://www.amazon.com/TilTable-Book-Tables-Model-Railroad/dp/0983579008  

Well there you go! Somebody has already done it, which doesn't surprise me at all.

The only thing that concerns me about his construction is that the end supports look to be awfully flimsy. However, by the look of the track plan, the rotatable feature will only be used during construction. Mine will be a permanent fixture.

Thanks,

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by RR_Mel on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:38 PM

I just received some ¼”D x 1/16”L neodymium magnets to use on my diorama for holding structures, I’m going to do a post on WPF this weekend. 
 
I’ve been using ⅛”D x ⅜”L magnets for about three years and they work great.
 
 
 
 
Unless your structures are pretty flimsy they should work out very good.
 
I’ve experimented with power poles and so far so good.  I still us ¼” dia ABS tubing with a ⅛” hole for poles and WS trees.
 
 
 
 
Mel
 
 
 
My Model Railroad   
 
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I'm beginning to realize that aging is not for wimps.
 
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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, March 11, 2020 11:39 PM

SeeYou190
eah, good deal. If you can get 14 foot Poplar for a decent price then ignore everything I said! I can only get 6 foot Poplar down here, and it is expensive and hard to find.

Hi Kevin,

We have a large company by the name of Royal Woodworking that makes mouldings for new house construction, strictly solid wood using only North American species! They have a warehouse that you can walk right into and choose each piece you want. All of the wood is superb! I bought 5 beautiful, flawless 1"x1"x12' poplar pieces to build the finished frames for all of the club's control panels. They were less than $70.00 total, and that's $Cdn.

Sorry to rub it in!Smile, Wink & GrinLaughLaughLaugh

Dave

I'm just a dude with a bad back having a lot of fun with model trains, and finally building a layout!

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, March 12, 2020 1:36 AM

I decided to make some more accurate calculations, specifically with regard to what the layout height would actually be. My conclusion is that I can get the layout to +- 36" from the floor which seems to be an acceptable height for me.

Here is a drawing showing an end support with the benchwork rotated as far as it can go until it meets the lower U channel that will keep the end supports in proper relation to each other:

The casters in the drawing aren't particularly large so the height might increase by an inch or so.

I also looked at Randy's suggestion of having the height of the layout adjustable. I'll do a mock up at the 36" height and if I feel it is too tall then I will explore ways of being able to change the height.

Dave

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Posted by gregc on Thursday, March 12, 2020 5:05 AM

a relatively high layout.   platforms are used when working on the layout and some operation.   chairs with wheels are fine for working under the benchtop decking (feeders, installing switch machines).   the stool with the red seat was used to work on a circuit panel closer to the ground

    

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, March 12, 2020 5:16 AM

gregc
a relatively high layout.   platforms are used when working on the layout and some operation.   chairs with wheels are fine for working under the benchtop decking (feeders, installing switch machines).   the stool with the red seat was used to work on a circuit panel closer to the ground

Good morning Greg,

I wouldn't be able to cope with that layout because it requires one to stand when operating. My ability to stand for even a few minutes is decreasing day by day. However, the 36" height that I am projecting for my layout will give me the same perspective from a seated position as the operators in the pictures have when standing. It will be about my mid upper arm. That allows me to have a reasonable reach into the layout. I'll just have to be careful about what details I have to reach over.

Dave

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, March 12, 2020 5:40 AM

carl425
I do like the rotisserie idea though.  Just keep in mind that you can have an extra leg or two that you attach to the edge of your grid with a C-clamp wherever it is convenient. 

Hi Carl,

I'm working on how to make the layout stable. Using locking pins on the rotisserie may not prevent the layout from shifting a bit if bumped which would obviously cause problems when trains are running. Extra legs are certainly a good idea.

carl425
You could also build the vertical supports and cross members that hold your axle to allow for vertical adjustment of the layout so you can invite Ulrich to come over and solder.

I'd be glad to have Ulrich come and do all the soldering! Seriously, Randy had suggested making the layout height adjustable but I don't think that will be necessary if my calculations are correct.

Thanks for your input,

Dave

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Posted by hon30critter on Thursday, March 12, 2020 6:01 AM

I thought it would be prudent to add some gusset plates where the end supports and the U channel meet. Unfortunately doing so would restrict the rotation by several degrees, so I decided to trim the corners of the benchwork a bit so that they will clear the gusset plates. The benchwork will look something like this, that is if I can figure out how to round the corners nicely. This diagram also shows the roads:

Dave

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Posted by Tinplate Toddler on Thursday, March 12, 2020 6:16 AM

hon30critter
'd be glad to have Ulrich come and do all the soldering

You wouldn´t want me to do that! There is one thing I always had problems with and that´s soldering!

Happy times!

Ulrich (aka The Tin Man)

"You´re never too old for a happy childhood!"

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