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train elevator - am I dreamin?

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train elevator - am I dreamin?
Posted by crossthedog on Saturday, October 9, 2021 1:42 PM

You know all those movies you saw where a group of people are in a desperate situation and one person submits a hare-brained scheme and another person snaps his fingers and says "it's just crazy enough to work!"? I'm wondering if this is one of those moments. Also whether this post should go in the Prototype forum, because one never knows.

My small layout will require a 3 - 4% grade to get my branch track up and over the mainline. I've said before I'm okay with that, but another modeler and I were talking about the possibility of a cassette that might hold the entirety of any train I'm likely to want to bring up the branch -- at most a mixed local of two freight cars, a caboose, a passenger coach, a baggage combine, and the locomotive, so maybe 4 feet total.

I hadn't considered this before, and then I started thinking whether it would be <possible | a dumb idea> to invent/introduce the world's first total train elevator to lift a train in toto or in halves straight up to a second level. Not an incline cable lift against a hillside, more like a vertical lift bridge but with a different level at each end. And not as a hidden device but out in the open, as if it were prototype, a feature of the modelled world. It would look like this:

It would accept maybe half a train, locomotive in front, lift it and allow it to exit at a higher level, then drop again to accept the rest of the train pushed onto the elevator by a dedicated switcher, and then raise that second half. It could be modeled to look like a gargantuan steel bridge.

What say you all to this idea? I'm not really saying I would do this -- I don't believe I have the skill to engineer such a contraption. But I've seen some of your photos of vertical lift bridges for tracks crossing in front of doorways. If my longest train is four feet, the elevator would only need to be two feet long to lift it in two halves.

Let the dogs loose to tear this to pieces. I'm very curious what it would take, or why it would be a nonstarter.

 

-Matt

 

 

 

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Posted by rrebell on Saturday, October 9, 2021 1:44 PM

there are comerical products even.

 

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Posted by gregc on Saturday, October 9, 2021 1:50 PM

i've seen others that are much longer

greg - Philadelphia & Reading / Reading

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Posted by BATMAN on Saturday, October 9, 2021 1:54 PM

Years ago there was a Youtube video where the guy had a sixteen-foot long one that lowered the trains up and down to and from staging. It has been done and I don't think they are that complicated to build. Considering some of the grades I have seen used to access staging, it is a good option. 

Brent

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Posted by NorthBrit on Saturday, October 9, 2021 1:55 PM

Matt.

Here in the U.K.  we can buy The Nelevator.   They make it in N Gauge and 00-HO  gauge

 

https://www.nelevation.com/nelevator/

 

David

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Posted by DSchmitt on Saturday, October 9, 2021 2:02 PM

https://www.trains.com/mrr/news-reviews/news/video-watch-the-train-elevator-in-action/

Articles

2001 Model Railroad Planning page 78

2009 Model Railroader pg 60

https://www.aglasshalffull.org/article-logging-train.html

There used to be several commercial train elevators offered, but I just searched and only found the Nelevator linked by NorthBrit

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 7j43k on Saturday, October 9, 2021 2:42 PM

crossthedog

And not as a hidden device but out in the open, as if it were prototype, a feature of the modelled world. It would look like this:

It could be modeled to look like a gargantuan steel bridge.

 

Let the dogs loose to tear this to pieces. I'm very curious what it would take, or why it would be a nonstarter.

 

 

Woof.

That it can be done has just been established by several posters.  But can it be done so that it looks prototypical?  

 

Well.  Woof.  Yer problem is that, in the real world, that would be one expensive propsition.  So you'd likely NEVER see one on a branch of a small railroad.

However.  Of course it COULD have been done in the real world.  Witness lift bridges, as you note.  What you need is a SINGLE SPAN bridge long enough to hold your train.  That, unfortunately, is pretty long.  And consequently VERY expensive in the real world.  

For a small railroad like yours, it would likely only lift one piece of rolling stock at a time.  A passenger car maxes out at about 85', so you could do it with a bridge 90' long.  And two locomotives, of course.  One on the high track, and one on the low.

I entered a search for "vertical lift bridge 90'" and got this:

http://bridgehunter.com/la/st-tammany/625200060705291/

It's a road bridge, but I think you could work up something similar for a lightweight branch line setup.

Here's a bridge that's on my short list of all-time favorites (along with the Queensboro and others):

https://www.railpictures.net/photo/678101/

 

Anyway, just do a search for variations on "vertical lift bridge", and you should find a great candidate to copy.  Including modified road bridges.

 

As far as finding one that was built for the purpose you describe:  Woof.  I mean highly unlikely.  Perhaps in Britain or Europe?

 

Ed

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Posted by doctorwayne on Saturday, October 9, 2021 4:03 PM

I could accept an elevator for storing trains on shelves, as Greg has posted, but in an on-layout scene (even though it might do what you want) it's going to look odd.

My choice would be for the steep grade instead, as it will give you a good excuse to use multiple locomotives.  The former Saluda grade, on the Southern, was 4.7%, and there were others, in various countries, which were steeper.

Another option, with lesser grades, might be a switchback, with stub-end tracks zig-zagging up the side of a hill.

I used a fairly stiff grade (just under 3%) to get my trains to a partial upper level on my around-the-room layout.  The grade, which includes multiple curves, is about 45' in length.

Wayne

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Saturday, October 9, 2021 5:50 PM

There are more things...than are dreamt of in your philosophy, Horatio"

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Falkirk_Wheel

 

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Hay_Inclined_Plane

 

 

 

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Posted by Overmod on Saturday, October 9, 2021 7:01 PM

An alternative might be a combination of a marine railway and a ferry: multiple parallel tracks with wooden deck mounted on an inclined frame a bit like that of a Mt. Washington cog Vauclain.  This would be cable hauled up a proportionally steep grade to a level 'slip' at the top; the cars and locomotive would never 'see' a steep grade or the need to be cable-hauled or 'barneyed' as at Ashley with the risk of rapid and lethal runaway...

Run it just like putting the train on a ferry, with the cuts balanced transversely. Note that it can be raised laterally with a little more alignment complication.

This involves less structure and alignment than a straight vertical lift would involve.

I would note that there were multiple-deck lift bridges, and it would not be 'that much of a stretch' to have multiple levels of line available for a short train or cut of cars to be selectively lifted to some elevated track on the 'far end'...

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Posted by gmpullman on Saturday, October 9, 2021 8:13 PM

Overmod
This involves less structure and alignment than a straight vertical lift would involve.

An HO version of the Mount Adams Incline in Cincinnati:

 Mt. Adams Incline by Dan Gaken, on Flickr

You could expand this idea.

Good Luck, Ed

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Posted by SeeYou190 on Saturday, October 9, 2021 10:32 PM

crossthedog
Let the dogs loose to tear this to pieces. I'm very curious what it would take, or why it would be a nonstarter.

As others have stated, it has been done before, many times, and with success.

The term I remember for such a device was "vertical transfer table".

-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 gregc on Sunday, October 10, 2021 3:39 AM

an alternative, John Arnstrong's Dehydrated Canal

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Posted by richhotrain on Sunday, October 10, 2021 7:00 AM

crossthedog

Not an incline cable lift against a hillside, more like a vertical lift bridge but with a different level at each end. And not as a hidden device but out in the open, as if it were prototype

The trouble is, it would not be prototypical. But, as a hidden device it would work. Build it as a hidden passing siding to get to the next level. Use scenery to hide it.

Rich

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Posted by davidmurray on Sunday, October 10, 2021 9:46 AM

If I remember the MR article correctly, the author called it a "train eater"  because his held four or five trains stacked on top of each other.  So it was both staging and a life between levels.

 

David Murray from Oshawa, Ontario Canada
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Posted by DanRaitz on Sunday, October 10, 2021 10:01 AM

I've seen one used, versus a Helix, to raise the whole train to a second level.  Used up alot less space.

Dan

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Posted by Lakeshore Sub on Sunday, October 10, 2021 11:00 AM

Hi Matt.

 

It's not just possible.   It can certainly be done because I have a train elevator.

Mine is a semi-circle but the principle is the same.   Here are some pictures.

A set of ball-bearing drawer guides are attached to a 3/4" piece of plywood and those are attached to risers that support the elevator which is also 3/4" plywood. Here is the picture of the drawer guides.

The whole thing is counter-weighted so the elevator can be moved by hand.

It was a compromise between having to give up the space for a helix, (which I didn't have) and the scenic issues with the structure.

If you have more questions, please let me know.

Scott Sonntag

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Posted by Overmod on Sunday, October 10, 2021 1:53 PM

gmpullman
...the Mount Adams Incline in Cincinnati

Knew there had to be a version of it somewhere... and that you'd probably be someone that would have pictures...

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Posted by jjdamnit on Sunday, October 10, 2021 2:33 PM

Hello All,

When I first read this post what came to mind was the Falkirk Wheel in Scottland.

Something similar could be modeled for rail use with PVC piping for the lifting structure rather than a flat structure, that as has been discussed here, or the bathtub structure that holds the water in The Falkirk Wheel.

A 3-inch diameter section of PVC could work, 4-inch diameter would definitely fit an HO locomotive and track.

The track would be attached to the inside of the pipe. Cutouts, the length of the pipe could provide exhaust ventilation and allow for inspection.

Weights between the curvature of the pipe and track would be needed to keep the unit level during operation.

Unlike The Falkirk Wheel, one (1) of these "tunnels" would be attached to the lifting arms of the structure.

The other side would be counterweighted- -either a ballast-filled piece of PVC pipe equal to the length of the structure, or square counterweights like a bascule or lift bridge equal to the weight of the structure and the train.

External bearings between the lifting tunnel and arms would be necessary.

The operation I envision is not full circle like The Falkirk Wheel, but rather a lift in one direction only- -counter-clockwise- -for example.

In this way, the lifting tunnel would raise from the lower track, move up, in a semi-circle, and drop down to the upper track section.

Gravity would hold the track in place for electrical connection.

A cog or chain drive would power the movements, realizing that the unloaded downward) direction would put the most stress on the system.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by crossthedog on Sunday, October 10, 2021 7:51 PM

Lots of good ideas here about inclines and hidden apparati, which tells me that my idea of an out-in-the-open behemoth trainlifting bridge structure probably is an idea so unwieldy that no one here wishes to consider it for longer than it takes to submit a better idea Smile Thanks all. I was just curious. I think I'm leaning (so to speak) toward the grade. It will be less than 4%.

Although, Scott...

Lakeshore Sub
It can certainly be done because I have a train elevator. Mine is a semi-circle but the principle is the same.
This is a slab of earth being moved as if by the Hand of God and not a "manmade structure" as I'd proposed, but oddly enough in considering my options I actually considered exactly this solution. My grade would go up around a wide curve and I could use this very contraption to lift the whole curve instead. I could even put it inside my tunnel, since this is not a built structure but a sort of geographic one; i.e., the "lift" event is not one that the inhabitants of the modelled world would be experiencing (unless this is a slip fault at the edge of a tectonic plate). Thanks for posting photos.

Weirdly, the day I posted this, I came within about two hundred yards -- without knowing it until I'd gotten home -- of a lifter that is still in existence on the hill above the town of Diablo below the Diablo Dam here in Washington. It's an incline, and only could take one railroad car at a time (much like this), so not what I'm after at all. But it's interesting that a number of you turned up variations of that idea. Thanks for the responses.

-Matt 

Returning to model railroading after 40 years and taking unconscionable liberties with the SP&S, Northern Pacific and Great Northern roads in the '40s and '50s.

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Posted by gregc on Sunday, October 10, 2021 8:08 PM

crossthedog
It's an incline, and only could take one railroad car at a time (much like this), so not what I'm after at all. But it's interesting that a number of you turned up variations of that idea.

if your just interested in moving cars between levels, railroads built "inclined planes", such as the Mahanoy Plane which used a stationary steam engine at the top to pull loaded coal hopper cars up while lowering empties at the same time (and providing a partial counter weight).   Other planes lowered loaded and raised empties without the need for any engine

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Posted by Lakeshore Sub on Sunday, October 10, 2021 9:22 PM

crossthedog

 

Although, Scott...

 
Lakeshore Sub
It can certainly be done because I have a train elevator. Mine is a semi-circle but the principle is the same.

This is a slab of earth being moved as if by the Hand of God and not a "manmade structure" as I'd proposed, but oddly enough in considering my options I actually considered exactly this solution. My grade would go up around a wide curve and I could use this very contraption to lift the whole curve instead. I could even put it inside my tunnel, since this is not a built structure but a sort of geographic one; i.e., the "lift" event is not one that the inhabitants of the modelled world would be experiencing (unless this is a slip fault at the edge of a tectonic plate). Thanks for posting photos.

 

 

-Matt 

 

Matt, one thing I did not mention is that the elevator actually represents  a hill that is part of a fault zone, the Niagra Escarpment in eastern Wisconsin.   The limiting size of the track on the elevator adds operating interest because it actually forces me to "double" or even "triple" the hill if the train is too long to fit on the elevator.   With only an 8' X 19' space and 22" between decks, this was the the least offensive solution.   If I had more space, the long grade would have been my choice.

It was certainly a learning oportunity that cost me more time than money and taught me that I could probably build almost anything when it came to model railroads.

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Posted by crossthedog on Sunday, October 10, 2021 9:48 PM

Lakeshore Sub
one thing I did not mention is that the elevator actually represents a hill that is part of a fault zone, the Niagra Escarpment in eastern Wisconsin.

Ha! Well, there you go!
Lakeshore Sub
It was certainly a learning oportunity that cost me more time than money and taught me that I could probably build almost anything when it came to model railroads.
I'm glad that you went through the process and learned some of your capabilities, Scott.

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Posted by CSX Robert on Monday, October 11, 2021 11:15 AM

jjdamnit
Hello All, When I first read this post what came to mind was the Falkirk Wheel in Scottland...

The Falkirk wheel is really cool, but if wanting to represent something somewhat feasible for the prototype, I wouldn't go with that design for a railroad.  When the load swings out like that it takes a lot more power to lift because of the leverage that the load has.  The design works well for boats because then it is always balanced - when a boat enters one of the tubs, it displaces its weight in water, so as long as the water level in the two tubs is the same it will be balanced.  That means the power to rotate the wheel only has be enough to move the wheel, it doesn't have to actually be able to lift the weight of the boats.

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Posted by jjdamnit on Monday, October 11, 2021 4:52 PM

Hello All,

CSX Robert
When the load swings out like that it takes a lot more power to lift because of the leverage that the load has.
The design works well for boats because then it is always balanced - when a boat enters one of the tubs, it displaces its weight in water, so as long as the water level in the two tubs is the same it will be balanced.
That means the power to rotate the wheel only has be enough to move the wheel, it doesn't have to actually be able to lift the weight of the boats.

Yes, that's why...

jjdamnit
The other side would be counterweighted- -either a ballast-filled piece of PVC pipe equal to the length of the structure, or square counterweights like a bascule or lift bridge equal to the weight of the structure and the train.

And...

jjdamnit
A cog or chain drive would power the movements, realizing that the unloaded (downward) direction would put the most stress on the system.

In modeling there are many situations in which, to replicate the prototypical, the relative laws of physics need to be "stretched" to say the least.

The OP is asking...

crossthedog
"it's just crazy enough to work!"?

Well...my answer is "Yes" with a "...Just crazy enough..." solution to make it work.

Hope this helps.

"Uhh...I didn’t know it was 'impossible' I just made it work...sorry"

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Posted by CSX Robert on Monday, October 11, 2021 8:59 PM

jjdamnit
The other side would be counterweighted

Yes, I saw that, but it's still not going to be balanced, well, maybe sometimes, but not always.  One of the beauties of the Falkirk Wheel is it is always balanced.

jjdamnit
In modeling there are many situations in which, to replicate the prototypical, the relative laws of physics need to be "stretched" to say the least.

True, but this would be "stretching" the laws in the other way, to model something would be highly unlikely to ever be done by the prototype.  There is certainly nothing wrong with doing that, and if someone were to implement such a solution here I would be interested in seeing it.

My only point was that I would not do that if I wanted something that looked like something the prototype might do.  My understanding is that is what the OP was looking for.

There were also other suggestions that would not be feasible for the prototype, but they were pretty obvious.  The reason I commented on this one is because since they use it for boats, it does initially look feasible.

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Posted by Lastspikemike on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 8:40 AM

Falkirk Wheel is balanced because the lifts are filled with water, Archimedes and all that. The inclined plane type lifts were balanced by lowering a unit at the same time as another was raised. 

When considering fitting a non prototypical lifting system  it may help to remember that a helix is not prototypical either. Nor is a tunnel used to expand the time it appears for a train to run from A to B by stopping the train inside the tunnel. Whatever satisfies your own imagination should be perfectly ok to use. 

Truncated versions of our helices are found in many places: loops. In kicking horse pass there is even a "helix" in that two such loops are used consecutively, just not stacked so never actually forming a helix. A loop that crosses itself is also used on the Festinniog narrow gauge slate railway in Wales but I think that was built when part of the ROW was taken for a water reservoir necessitating a limited space solution and only after commercial operations ended. Model railroads frequently use pointless looping in our layouts which is probably why we feel a helix is acceptable. If you have a return loop on your layout you can turn it into a helix to raise track to a second level. 

Prototypical engineering is used to solve actual engineering problems.  We're just messing around with a bit of fantasy disguised as a version of reality.

Mind you the Falkirk Wheel is a bit of fantasy disguised as an engineering project courtesy of the EU development fund. It's a pretty amazing thing to ride on...

Alyth Yard

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Posted by NorthsideChi on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 11:41 AM

I think if I created something like this, it would look like a double decked truss bridge.  

It would have bulky arch piers intermittent beteeen long spans like it was going over a major river.  The arched piers might have the guideway recess for the bridge to slide that are hidden and contain the counterweights.

Only the lower track is functional The entire thing then raises to allow the train to exit at the higher elevation.  The upper deck just has "dummy track" for looks. It's meant to appear as a double decked bridge that is static.  Following your sketch maybe on the left side, the upper level track (non functional) turns off on a trestle and vanishes behind a tall industrial building or hill or some other pieces of scenery.  On the right side, the lower approach dies off in a tunnel, train shed or overpass with the active tracks overhead.  

Again, the double decked bridge appears static.  I have seen plenty of vertical lift bridges, but never any that were the length of even a short passenger train.  

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Posted by crossthedog on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 11:59 AM

NorthsideChi
Following your sketch maybe on the left side, the upper level track (non functional) turns off on a trestle and vanishes behind a tall industrial building or hill or some other pieces of scenery. On the right side, the lower approach dies off in a tunnel, train shed or overpass with the active tracks overhead.

@NorthsideChi, this is so brilliant I actually started laughing. It's a great idea. The span length would only need to be a little over two feet if the train was lifted in two parts. It would be a big bridge, and in the real world it would be something of a marvel, which is why I would get some Preiser tourist figures with cameras and provide an overlook/viewing area next to the bridge for them to absorb such a behemoth of civil engineering.

Thank you for this great spin on the idea. Well done!

Also, I appreciate what Mike said about the realities of modelling:

Lastspikemike
Prototypical engineering is used to solve actual engineering problems. We're just messing around with a bit of fantasy disguised as a version of reality.
, which gives us permission to do anything we like if it floats our train, so to speak.

-Matt

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Posted by Overmod on Tuesday, October 12, 2021 1:40 PM

Just to point out: if you mounted a piece of track on the equivalent of a narrow canal boat and arranged it to float in a given depth of water when loaded by a train... the self-balancing character and accommodation of rotation of a Falkirk Wheel follow easily, for what might be considerable train length; you can then build multiple tubes, like the chambers in a very long revolver cylinder, that will accommodate 'cuts' of even a fairly long consist with reasonably steady balance and relatively low net driving force.

You'd need a fairly copious source of water with reasonable head 'high up', and some kind of pump to provide it there, but the required pump size might be very small if it runs cumulatively; even hydraulic rams might be made to work...

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