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HELIX CONSTRUCTION

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HELIX CONSTRUCTION
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 9:35 AM


I'm in the process of planning construction of a double decker
around the walls layout and to utilize a 48" diameter helix 6" wide
to run my trains between the levels.The distance between the
levels wiil be 12".I have never built a helix before and need all the
expert help I can get.

Thanks in advance,
John Hill
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
HELIX CONSTRUCTION
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 9:35 AM


I'm in the process of planning construction of a double decker
around the walls layout and to utilize a 48" diameter helix 6" wide
to run my trains between the levels.The distance between the
levels wiil be 12".I have never built a helix before and need all the
expert help I can get.

Thanks in advance,
John Hill
  • Member since
    October 2002
  • From: US
  • 6 posts
Posted by jbd522 on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 11:52 AM
Begin by cutting your subroadbed material into "O" 's that match the dimensions you require. Cut as many "O" 's as you need circles in the helix. Cut each "O" across one side. Splice "O" to "O" at the cuts. Think about a Slinky toy--that's what you are building. The club I belong to has had good luck using threaded rods and nuts to assemble the helix, allow for adjustment, and maintain a rigid structure.
  • Member since
    October 2002
  • From: US
  • 6 posts
Posted by jbd522 on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 11:52 AM
Begin by cutting your subroadbed material into "O" 's that match the dimensions you require. Cut as many "O" 's as you need circles in the helix. Cut each "O" across one side. Splice "O" to "O" at the cuts. Think about a Slinky toy--that's what you are building. The club I belong to has had good luck using threaded rods and nuts to assemble the helix, allow for adjustment, and maintain a rigid structure.
  • Member since
    April 2003
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 10:53 PM
One or two issues ago, N-scale Magazine had a article on building a helix that, perhaps, might be applicable.
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, July 15, 2003 10:53 PM
One or two issues ago, N-scale Magazine had a article on building a helix that, perhaps, might be applicable.
  • Member since
    April 2003
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 5:45 PM
I built an elongated helix for my layout, using the method described by jdb22. I use 3/4" BC plywood for sub-roadbed, wityh Homabed for roadbed. I paint the Homabed on all sides with latex paint to seal it. I suggest that for the plywood, draw a donut for the sub-roadbed, with the inside radius 2 1/2" smaller than your minimum radius for your track, and the outside radius 2 1/2" larger. If you are going to double tack the helix, add the necessary spacing for between the tracks, depending on your equipment requisites. This will provide room for attaching the mounting hardware and a "safety net". Then cut through each donut from inner to outer radius, so you can separate the elevation of the ends. It's easier to lay your roadbed at this time, before putting in the helix in, a lesson I learned the hard way. I used 1/4" threaded rod with fender washers and nuts to assemble the helix. I drilled 1/4" holes opposite each other every 45 degrees in all the donuts, put a fender washer and nut on the rod under the piece of sub-roadbed and another fender washer and nut on top in each of the holes. Attach the end of your first piece to the existing sub-roadbed (I used two flat joiner plates with three screws in each to join the pieces of sub-roadbed), and then support the first donut with risers around to the other end, according to your grade. You should have threaded rod sticking up in the air from this first piece. Put a nut and then a fender washer on each rod, put next donut over the rods, and use the nuts to adjust the grade. When you have it set, put a fender washer and nut on top of the 2nd piece of subroadbed, and climb to the ceiling by repeating the process. I used a ruler and measured from the top surface of the first donut to the top of the next donut to make sure my grade was consistant and accurate. Don't forget to use a joinder plate where the ends of the donuts meet, so there's no flex. After my helix was installed, I cut 4" wide strips of thin styrene from some bulk stuff I bought at a surplus store, and screwed it to the outside and inside edge of the helix all the way around. I serves as a safety net to prevent any locomotives or cars from taking the plunge to the floor. It's flexible enough that I can bend it to cure any derail or other problems. It occurred to me after I built it, that I might have been better off using code 100, and putting in a re-railer piece of sectional track ever few feet to insure trouble free operation. As it turns out, it wasn't, and hasn't been necessary, and that portion of my layout has been in operation over 9 years. Those are my thoughts. Good luck and enjoy.
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 5:45 PM
I built an elongated helix for my layout, using the method described by jdb22. I use 3/4" BC plywood for sub-roadbed, wityh Homabed for roadbed. I paint the Homabed on all sides with latex paint to seal it. I suggest that for the plywood, draw a donut for the sub-roadbed, with the inside radius 2 1/2" smaller than your minimum radius for your track, and the outside radius 2 1/2" larger. If you are going to double tack the helix, add the necessary spacing for between the tracks, depending on your equipment requisites. This will provide room for attaching the mounting hardware and a "safety net". Then cut through each donut from inner to outer radius, so you can separate the elevation of the ends. It's easier to lay your roadbed at this time, before putting in the helix in, a lesson I learned the hard way. I used 1/4" threaded rod with fender washers and nuts to assemble the helix. I drilled 1/4" holes opposite each other every 45 degrees in all the donuts, put a fender washer and nut on the rod under the piece of sub-roadbed and another fender washer and nut on top in each of the holes. Attach the end of your first piece to the existing sub-roadbed (I used two flat joiner plates with three screws in each to join the pieces of sub-roadbed), and then support the first donut with risers around to the other end, according to your grade. You should have threaded rod sticking up in the air from this first piece. Put a nut and then a fender washer on each rod, put next donut over the rods, and use the nuts to adjust the grade. When you have it set, put a fender washer and nut on top of the 2nd piece of subroadbed, and climb to the ceiling by repeating the process. I used a ruler and measured from the top surface of the first donut to the top of the next donut to make sure my grade was consistant and accurate. Don't forget to use a joinder plate where the ends of the donuts meet, so there's no flex. After my helix was installed, I cut 4" wide strips of thin styrene from some bulk stuff I bought at a surplus store, and screwed it to the outside and inside edge of the helix all the way around. I serves as a safety net to prevent any locomotives or cars from taking the plunge to the floor. It's flexible enough that I can bend it to cure any derail or other problems. It occurred to me after I built it, that I might have been better off using code 100, and putting in a re-railer piece of sectional track ever few feet to insure trouble free operation. As it turns out, it wasn't, and hasn't been necessary, and that portion of my layout has been in operation over 9 years. Those are my thoughts. Good luck and enjoy.
  • Member since
    April 2003
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 5:49 PM
I forgot to say that I elongated the helix by cutting my donuts in half, and inserting a 18" piece of plywood between each half of the donut, making an oval helix.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 5:49 PM
I forgot to say that I elongated the helix by cutting my donuts in half, and inserting a 18" piece of plywood between each half of the donut, making an oval helix.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 10:09 PM
There is a pretty good article in the May-June issue of N-scale railroading. Regardless of your scale, it has a great basic concept you could adapt to your scale
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, July 16, 2003 10:09 PM
There is a pretty good article in the May-June issue of N-scale railroading. Regardless of your scale, it has a great basic concept you could adapt to your scale
  • Member since
    April 2003
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, July 17, 2003 10:25 AM
First bit of advice would be to get real familiar with the relationship between radius, grade and track seperation. The "oval" approach provides a good solution, but takes a larger (longer) "footprint". These really govern your construction if you have a limited amount of space to put the helix in.

Good construction description by prhnkp that I agee with. LAY TRACK ON ONE LEVEL, SPLICE NEXT LEVEL, LAY MORE TRACK ETC. When I built my helix, each section of subroadbed was a quarter circle (90 degrees) of 1/2" plywood. I "spliced" them together with 4" electrical box plates below the plywood, rotated 45 deg so that two corners stuck out from subroadbed (Is only one track wide). This also was very thin, to maintain clearance between levels. Holes had been drilled in the plates for the threaded rod - another good helix construction technique I reccomend for ease of adjustment.

To get a low grade (under 2%) in a relatively small area (24" radius curve) I needed to have only 3.75" from railhead to railhead so I nailed my flextrack directly to the subroadbed and use plywood and homosote outside of the helix.

I have scale drawings of the supporting framework I can send in .dxf format if you have a CAD program to read them with. You can contact me at rwichmann@voyager.net if you want them. Regards, Bryan
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, July 17, 2003 10:25 AM
First bit of advice would be to get real familiar with the relationship between radius, grade and track seperation. The "oval" approach provides a good solution, but takes a larger (longer) "footprint". These really govern your construction if you have a limited amount of space to put the helix in.

Good construction description by prhnkp that I agee with. LAY TRACK ON ONE LEVEL, SPLICE NEXT LEVEL, LAY MORE TRACK ETC. When I built my helix, each section of subroadbed was a quarter circle (90 degrees) of 1/2" plywood. I "spliced" them together with 4" electrical box plates below the plywood, rotated 45 deg so that two corners stuck out from subroadbed (Is only one track wide). This also was very thin, to maintain clearance between levels. Holes had been drilled in the plates for the threaded rod - another good helix construction technique I reccomend for ease of adjustment.

To get a low grade (under 2%) in a relatively small area (24" radius curve) I needed to have only 3.75" from railhead to railhead so I nailed my flextrack directly to the subroadbed and use plywood and homosote outside of the helix.

I have scale drawings of the supporting framework I can send in .dxf format if you have a CAD program to read them with. You can contact me at rwichmann@voyager.net if you want them. Regards, Bryan
  • Member since
    September 2002
  • 4 posts
Posted by allowe on Thursday, July 17, 2003 6:36 PM
There was an N-scale article a few years ago about cutting a "spiral helix" out of one sheet of plywood, i.e., no joints. It makes a realistic mountain shape by getting smaller as you go up. I've never built one, but it sounded intriguing. Perhaps someone else knows more about this?

AL
  • Member since
    September 2002
  • 4 posts
Posted by allowe on Thursday, July 17, 2003 6:36 PM
There was an N-scale article a few years ago about cutting a "spiral helix" out of one sheet of plywood, i.e., no joints. It makes a realistic mountain shape by getting smaller as you go up. I've never built one, but it sounded intriguing. Perhaps someone else knows more about this?

AL
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, July 17, 2003 7:43 PM
I'm currently building an N-scale layout and even though my original plan didn't include a helix, I decided by adding one I could extend my layout another level. I wasn't keen on the idea but my layout won, so I used a similar plan to that described by prhnkp I even added an exit on the middle level so I could gain an extra level for the layout and it worked and was surprisingly easy, as long as you have a lot of patience, plus count to ten, quickly., very quickly some times. Good Luck!
Steve,
Downunder.
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Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, July 17, 2003 7:43 PM
I'm currently building an N-scale layout and even though my original plan didn't include a helix, I decided by adding one I could extend my layout another level. I wasn't keen on the idea but my layout won, so I used a similar plan to that described by prhnkp I even added an exit on the middle level so I could gain an extra level for the layout and it worked and was surprisingly easy, as long as you have a lot of patience, plus count to ten, quickly., very quickly some times. Good Luck!
Steve,
Downunder.
  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 10,495 posts
Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 8:08 AM
Don't forget the "Easy Helix" product that Trainstyles advertises in MR and elsewhere. This is essentially a helix in a box (well three boxes actually) that offers everything you need except the track. I have seen a couple of them and they look to be of high quality materials
Dave Nelson
  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 10,495 posts
Posted by dknelson on Tuesday, July 22, 2003 8:08 AM
Don't forget the "Easy Helix" product that Trainstyles advertises in MR and elsewhere. This is essentially a helix in a box (well three boxes actually) that offers everything you need except the track. I have seen a couple of them and they look to be of high quality materials
Dave Nelson
  • Member since
    September 2002
  • 6,871 posts
Posted by ndbprr on Wednesday, September 3, 2003 1:34 PM
I haven' built one but I have thought about it for quite some time and have some thoughts. The easiest way I came up with for cutting the segments is on a band saw with a circle cutter attachment. Extend a 1x4out from the side of the saw bed so it is centered on the blade and install a dowell piece at the radius you want to cut so you get a perfect arc. By drilling a hole in the plywood you can cut the outer radius first and then the inner radius after moving the pin and using the same hole in the plywood. Then repeat. As the piece of plywood gets shorter screw a piece of 1"x4" to edge at the center line so you can cut all the plywood. So it needs to be a couple of inches longer than the biggest radius cut. I planned to make the segments about 1.5" bigger than the radii of the track so I could use threaded rods to mount the plywood. That way I could double nut the rod with a washer under the plywood and if it would ever need adjusting I could back off the lower nut and adjust the top one before snugging up the lower nut to relock it in place. I also planned to mount this from the floor beams above the railroad so I could crawl under without legs interfering with the effort as the lowest level was going to be about 48" off the ground. Alas I have decided too much railroad and will stay one level.
  • Member since
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Posted by ndbprr on Wednesday, September 3, 2003 1:34 PM
I haven' built one but I have thought about it for quite some time and have some thoughts. The easiest way I came up with for cutting the segments is on a band saw with a circle cutter attachment. Extend a 1x4out from the side of the saw bed so it is centered on the blade and install a dowell piece at the radius you want to cut so you get a perfect arc. By drilling a hole in the plywood you can cut the outer radius first and then the inner radius after moving the pin and using the same hole in the plywood. Then repeat. As the piece of plywood gets shorter screw a piece of 1"x4" to edge at the center line so you can cut all the plywood. So it needs to be a couple of inches longer than the biggest radius cut. I planned to make the segments about 1.5" bigger than the radii of the track so I could use threaded rods to mount the plywood. That way I could double nut the rod with a washer under the plywood and if it would ever need adjusting I could back off the lower nut and adjust the top one before snugging up the lower nut to relock it in place. I also planned to mount this from the floor beams above the railroad so I could crawl under without legs interfering with the effort as the lowest level was going to be about 48" off the ground. Alas I have decided too much railroad and will stay one level.
  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 7 posts
Posted by thomaspier on Wednesday, October 1, 2003 7:58 PM
John -

Here is a link to a thorough article on helix construction:

http://users.rcn.com/weyand/tractronics/helix/hlxartcl.htm

This layout, and pictures of the helix, were also included in the 2002 issue of Model Railroad Planning.

Enjoy!
  • Member since
    January 2002
  • 7 posts
Posted by thomaspier on Wednesday, October 1, 2003 7:58 PM
John -

Here is a link to a thorough article on helix construction:

http://users.rcn.com/weyand/tractronics/helix/hlxartcl.htm

This layout, and pictures of the helix, were also included in the 2002 issue of Model Railroad Planning.

Enjoy!
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 1, 2003 8:19 PM
The easiest and laziest way (my kind of construction) is to use L brackets to connect your spiralling laminated plywood to the wooden uprights. People have used threaded rods, but you will be surprised at the expense. Unfortunately I lost a link to a web site that illustrated this type of construction.

I've been around, but not assisted the construction of three helix's. They can be complex; the "L" brackets idea is the easiest because you are working with two angles. With the L brackets you just hold them in place (or a tiny smidgeon of hot glue to hold them in place while you screw them in and your done.
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 1, 2003 8:19 PM
The easiest and laziest way (my kind of construction) is to use L brackets to connect your spiralling laminated plywood to the wooden uprights. People have used threaded rods, but you will be surprised at the expense. Unfortunately I lost a link to a web site that illustrated this type of construction.

I've been around, but not assisted the construction of three helix's. They can be complex; the "L" brackets idea is the easiest because you are working with two angles. With the L brackets you just hold them in place (or a tiny smidgeon of hot glue to hold them in place while you screw them in and your done.
  • Member since
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Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 1, 2003 11:08 PM
I recently finished building a helix but had a much larger radius to work with. Clearances will be tight to maintain a reasonable grade unless you are working in N scale. I set the bottom grade and then just worked my way up using 3" lengths of 1" X 4"s for spacers. As mentioned by many others you must lay your track as you go and would advise you use a standards guage to check your work. I also ran all my locos up and down the helix each time a segment was completed to confirm that the track was in good working order. (My ace in the hole here is an Athearn TrainMaster that is particularly good at finding any flaws in trackwork). Obviously, your subroadbed has to be wide enough to accept the spacers and you can make the spacers any height you need as long as you have clearance from one layer to the next. Good Luck.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 1, 2003 11:08 PM
I recently finished building a helix but had a much larger radius to work with. Clearances will be tight to maintain a reasonable grade unless you are working in N scale. I set the bottom grade and then just worked my way up using 3" lengths of 1" X 4"s for spacers. As mentioned by many others you must lay your track as you go and would advise you use a standards guage to check your work. I also ran all my locos up and down the helix each time a segment was completed to confirm that the track was in good working order. (My ace in the hole here is an Athearn TrainMaster that is particularly good at finding any flaws in trackwork). Obviously, your subroadbed has to be wide enough to accept the spacers and you can make the spacers any height you need as long as you have clearance from one layer to the next. Good Luck.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, October 11, 2003 6:13 AM
is there any article in MR on helix construction I have books back to 1978 thanks Terry
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 302,278 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Saturday, October 11, 2003 6:13 AM
is there any article in MR on helix construction I have books back to 1978 thanks Terry

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