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Mojo's Train stacker. - Scratchbuilding. - More Practical Help - Your Model Railway Club
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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 04:14 pm
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mojo1
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Space, the Final Frontier. Sorry about that, Trekkies, but it is a major consideration for any of us struggling to fit the East Coast main line, in whatever guise, into the average UK household. Faced with the imminent downsizing from an attic space the size of a Mark 3 coach in a detatched bungalow to a 13' x 6' or less bedroom I had to look at alternative storage methods in order to avoid handling those lovely delicate products of messrs Bachmann and Hornby and to run reasonable length trains. Available space precluded the usual methods of traverser, train turntable (nice post) or a ladder of points. Having spent a lot of my pocket money on the latest items on offer I didn't want them languishing in their oh so tight boxes. I remember reading of Peter Denny's plan to build a train lift (primarily to lift trains from one level to another rather than storage) and had also come across Iain Rice's plans for a manual lift stacker, albeit not quite as gargantuan. So, in the best plagiarising mode I came up with this prefabricated mechanised monster built in my garage. This had to be done prior to our move as there is no workshop or garage available in our new house. As the move is taking time I have had the chance to re-build the stacker and operate it. I have just finished the second level with track and running trains, but the actual mechanism plus weights had been tested thoroughly previously. The capacity of each shelf is 6 trains consisting of a Deltic sized loco plus 6 Bachmann coaches or a 9F with around 19 wagons. This makes up 3 tracks UP and 3 DOWN each of which can also be divided in two, giving 12 short trains or light locos on each shelf. Given the tight curves I have had to put in (down to 21 ins minimum radius) to make the oval of track work then this train length is not unreasonable, although I do miss the 40 plus wagon freights I was able to run on my old layout.


The first picture is of the stacker, about 15" wide by 78" long by 78" high. Made out of offcuts of timber hanging about the house plus angle iron from B&Q, steel rod from my local blacksmith plus a bicycle wheel. I had the plywood shelves cut at my local DIY to ensure consistency. Drive is from a reversible variable speed AC drill purchased from Woolworths. The pulleys on the top were part of the original intention of counter balancing the shelves as a way of moving them up and down. As the whole thing in its present state weighs about 180 lbs then this would, inevitably, mean doubling the weight. I've kept them in place as I forgot to take them off before I took the photos! At least the mechanising means less effort on my part!


This shows the drive system. The steel rod is bolted to the wheel and the wheel is turned by another connected to the drill (see later photo). The rod passes through all the shelves and is about 6 foot long. It is supported in a bearing under the bike wheel which is kept well greased. Reversing direction of the shaft raises or lowers the plate and so the shelves which are separated from each other by 3 in lengths of 2 X 1. The drive nut is brazed onto the supporting plate which in turn is fixed to the bottom supporting shelf. So far I have not noticed any discernible wear on either the threaded rod or the nut although it is early days. My blacksmith friend thought it would take the weight as long as I kept the rod well lubricated. I had great fun trying to explain the concept to him.


This is a view of the railway room showing the general layout with the stacker on the left. Sorry about the darkened image. It's not quite as gloomy as that. In the distance on the right is the end of Bradford Westgate station, my imaginary through route via the West Riding's premier city. At least that's what my next door neighbour says and he doesn't come from Leeds.


This photo shows the drive rod centred in the top stack shelf by means of a copper pipe which runs the length of the shaft through the shelves. It is in turn enclosed in a plastic pipe which is araldited to the shelf. Again I don't think this will wear too much and makes applying oil to the shaft much easier. The shelves swivel slightly on the shaft meaning that one can align one end of the shelf and connect it to the indexing point then move the shelf up or down in order to align the other end. If I mange to work out how to submit diagrams then I might draw a plan. However, my technical diagrams usually end up somewhat Picasso-ish.


As an aside this is a miniature camera bought from Maplins for about 50, (complete with receiver), and mounted on a Bachmann Weltrol. Works from a 9v battery also on the wagon. Ignore the low tech tape fixing. Once the dodgy track has been fettled then this will give me a chance to take a driver's view courtesy of the tv perched up in the corner of the room. Works well in natural light and photo lights but ordinary house lighting makes everything take on a greenish glow. The layout needs some scenery first to make the most of it, but could be a good way of members posting layout shots through the video connection at photobucket.


This shows the Meccano angle pieces glued and screwed to the ends of the plywood decks. These are used to index/align the deck with the baseboard ends and prevent the ends twisting. This is particularly important for the top 2 or 3 shelves which do not have any weight above them to hold them rigid. I have gone for 10 shelves plus supporting base giving the mouth watering prospect of 60 plus trains (120 if they were all short ones)! However, the lowest two shelves might not be usable due to the lack of headroom in order to raise the shelves above them for me to lay the track! I hadn't thought that one out in advance.


Because there is only 3 ins between shelves I need to be able to suspend the shelves while working on the lower ones. I used steel rod at either end of the stacker which seems more than capable of supporting the weight. I actually climbed on it when under construction in my garage to make sure it could take the weight. We do do some weird things in pursuit of this hobby of ours.


This is another general view of the stacker. I used white plastic angle inside the metal angle to guide the shelves. I tried furniture polish (the yellow stains) as a lubricant but this dried out, though it did smell nice. I now use spray on teflon which seems to work well with the combination of wood and plastic.


This shows the indexing system on the first shelf. You can just see the Meccano rods-grey-that I've used in aligning the deck to the baseboard. These pass through Mecanno metal plates. As the central shaft and nut take all the weight then the rods act purely as an aligning mechanism. However, I have made the joint strong enough that in the event of failure then they should be able to support the mass of the shelves (perish the thought). I used 4 rods at each end for the alignment but usually end up only using the outer 2. They are a bit akward to get to but were the only practical position I could work out. Each rod has a Meccano collar on to prevent it pulling out. Friction is sufficient to stop them moving and jamming the shelves.
As stated before the shelves themselves swivel slightly on the shaft horizontally allowing you to align one end of the shelf, fix it with the indexing system, then move the shelves up or down to align the other end. The variable speed reversible drill makes this a doddle.


Another aside. Given the narrow distance between the baseboard and the stacker, and the need to have shelves under the baseboard I have used my "dolly" in order to be able to move up and down the layout without having to move a stool out of the way. Basically it is built on skateboard wheels running on 2 X 1 timber rails. I haven't got round to motorising it yet but I may save that for my dotage. 8 feet seems a lot of walking to do up and down the layout! It ran the length of the attic in my previous house and saved a lot of head banging on the low ceiling. In its previous existence it also supported a work station for mobile repairs. However, since this photo was taken it has been reduced to 4 wheels, and a smaller frame to fit the reduced circumstances (alright, a smaller room).


Another view of the indexing system.


This shows the drive shaft from the electric drill. The shaft to the smaller pulley wheel is enlosed in a copper pipe which is in turn enclosed in a plastic pipe which is free to revolve. Should something get caught up against the shaft then the plastic pipe stops moving. It can also be used as a sort of clutch if the main drive wheel sticks ie you just put sufficient pressure on the plastic pipe to align the wheels. Although I am the only one likely to operate the mechanism you can't be too careful.


When considering how to provide the electrical connection between the decks and the baseboard I did consider using multi way plugs. However, I figured that sooner or later I would move the shelves when the plugs were still connected leading to frayed connections and tempers. Therefore I am using something more belt and braces which would bend, but hopefully not break in the event I forget it is connected. The switching is repeated at the other end in order to provide the doubling up of the track capacity. The power to each track is fed from the main tracks aligned on the baseboard. Basically the copper connecting strips press down on a wired up pad on each shelf and are held under pressure by the grey rod on the left. This rod has been moved to the right on the board below as I discovered it snagged the support of the board above. However, in the likely event I do move the shelves then the worst that is likely to happen is that the connecting strips get bent out of place.

Well, first post. I hope the photos make some sense of the enterprise (not another Trekkie reference). It is early days and I am not able to make any judgement as to how the threaded rod/brazed nut combination will wear. Given that each shelf only has to move 3 1/2 inches horizontally in order to access the next level then the amount of wear should not be excessive. Should the worst case scenario happen and the nut fail then the shelves are a tight enough fit that they would jam rather than free fall (he says somewhat optimistically). I may consider some further fail safe mechanism just to be sure. The vibration is surprisingly limited and there is no evidence of the rolling stock trying to shimmy off the shelf under it's own accord.
Although she has encouraged me in this piece of Heath Robinson technology my wife has a point when she notes that I always go for something just a little bit more complicated than is needed (alright, a lot more complicated). It may be that something with fewer shelves taking up much less room would be more appropriate. For my part I would like to make a stacker capable of taking those ten coach trains-however I would need a bigger house. Back to the drawing board. Any points/comments would be welcome. I still have another 8 shelves to go!



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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 05:16 pm
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henryparrot
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Mojo this is a superb piece of engineering you realised a problem and have designed and created a perfect answer.

You also have used equipment and materials that is not high tech but is very functional i assume many things you designed as you went along.
THe whole concept is very good loosing the space requirements of large fiddle yards.

You must have spent an immense amount of time creating this but i think you must be very pleased with the result.

The gap between the shelves does this give a problem if there is a derailment reaching rolling stock?

A super post which i will be reading more to digest it better.


cheers Brian.W

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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 09:43 pm
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Sol
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I can only repeat what HP has said.
As I have read elsewhere, sometimes the journey to get to the end is just as interesting as the final station. To me the hobby is the building part of the layout.

You would have to be careful that you did not get a flat tyre :lol:

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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 10:00 pm
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rector
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I am speechless :!: This project and thread takes us to an entirely new level of excellence :!:



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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 10:11 pm
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Gwent Rail
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In over 40 years of modelling, I thought I'd seen it all and could not be taken aback by anything that cropped up :!:

This project has blown me away, I'm stunned by it's innovation and skill. :shock: :shock: :shock:

Outstanding mojo 1, simply outstanding :!: :!:

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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 10:15 pm
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mojo1
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Thanks for the comments.
Re the possibility of derailments it is more likely at the point where the trains move off the stacker which is accessible at both ends. I have been fastidious about track laying, back to back measurements etc but in the event of a derailment then it is possible to reach both outside tracks. If it is one of the inner tracks then it is a matter of moving the trains out between me and the offending articles. Of course the derailment will only become apparent when I am using a particular level so I would be running the other 5 trains out at some point anyway. I have found that OO gauge is very forgiving of height discrepancies between tracks (as long as you don't run lightweight stock at terminal speeds over the joints) but not lateral discrepancies so I'm keeping my fingers crossed I don't have too many.
Re the flat tyre I might just call in the AA. Certainly I am keeping a very close eye on the track pins.
Cheers



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 Posted: Thu Apr 10th, 2008 11:28 pm
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MikeC
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Stunning!

Mike

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 Posted: Fri Apr 11th, 2008 02:06 am
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Marty
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Speechless, just speechless.

I've just had a quick read and sticky at the photos and will have to go back at my leisure to digest the full journey. Wonderful stuff and a well put together and explained thread.

While I plan on using a cassette system it won't be anywhere near as involved as what you have achieved.

Oh, and I love the trolley/stool, brilliant.
cheers



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 Posted: Fri Apr 11th, 2008 03:52 am
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phill
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What can i say, its amazing what a way to run and stack and keep the stock accesable when ever you want. I have never seen anything like it in my life amazing.
When you have the time in the future maybe you could do a short video of it in action :D .
only briefly read the thread but deffo be looking and reading more closer when i can.
Well done.
Phill

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 Posted: Fri Apr 11th, 2008 12:44 pm
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Wayne Williams
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Mojo, what an undertaking you done. That is simple amazing! How long did it take you to build this?

And I thought I could "Engineer" something!!!!

Great Post,
Wayne



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 Posted: Mon Apr 14th, 2008 08:23 pm
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henryparrot
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Mojo

Start yourself a layout thread in the layout section so you can tell us more about your east coast main line layout.

Did you get a bachmann prototype Deltic?

cheers Brian.W

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 Posted: Mon Apr 14th, 2008 08:37 pm
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mojo1
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Hi, and thanks again for all your favourable comments. Living where I do there is not a club within reasonable travelling distance and I don't know of anyone in the area who is into model railways. So, it's very heartening to receive feedback from one's peers.
I should emphasize that this is a work in progress. Although the basic scheme appears to work I will only know for sure, once I have the whole thing loaded up. So far two decks have had track laid and trains running on and off with only the odd mishap, due to back to backs drifting on some wagons. Indexing works with the Mecanno but it is akward as the plywood decks twist sufficiently to make lining up more difficult. This is something I will be looking at again.
As far as length of time I estimate it took about 3 weeks to build after lots of rough sketches and sourcing the materials. I then had to dismantle it to transport it to our soon to be new home and rebuild it. This was complicated by the fact that I also had to build the basic framework for the baseboards in order to set the stacker in place. As we are going to be renting our home no major building works are allowed, so the whole layout and stacker have to be free standing.
I am learning as I go along, but one thing is clear, a right angle is a right angle whatever scale you work in, and I have had to remedy a number of issues resulting from building the structure initially on an uneven floor in our garage. However, now that the first two decks are occupied I will be endeavouring to lay more track. I have tried to take a video using my digital camera-however when I try to play it it runs for a few seconds then crashes the computer. Any digital photo buffs out there have any ideas?
In the meantime here are a couple of stills showing the first deck raised to the top of the stacker. It is held in place on steel rods but in normal practice the decks rest on each other.




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 Posted: Mon Apr 14th, 2008 08:45 pm
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mojo1
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Hi Brian W, no, no prototype Deltic. Looks like a motorised Dapol kit for me some time.
Although the track is laid out I have been spending most of my railway time fettling the stacker. However, when I have put in the sections and roughed in the basic structures then I will start a Bradford Westgate thread.



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 Posted: Mon Apr 14th, 2008 08:49 pm
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henryparrot
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looks really good Mojo they should do a feature in one of the mags when you have finished it.

I did notice 2 Blue Pullman sets on the bottom stack
Are they standard or have you modified them at all?
There seems to be a lot of cars in the blue grey set you have there.


cheers Brian.W

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 Posted: Mon Apr 14th, 2008 10:47 pm
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mojo1
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You've seen the reason why I built the stacker the length it is. I have a seven car blue grey pullman set which sets the limit for the length of the shelf. I couldn't bear shortening it! What it's doing in the West Riding of Yorkshire is another story. I also modified a set of Mk I's (Old Hornby) to make up a six car blue Pullman with kitchen cars. I had thought of doing the business on the Blue Greys but the idea of taking a hacksaw to them, then repainting was more than I could bear. Therefore they stay in their original, albeit worn, state.



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 Posted: Mon Apr 14th, 2008 11:08 pm
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owen69
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Mojo1,what a fantastic piece of kit,enjoyed the pics & post, a good inovative
job,
i take it to be about 6/7 ft long,did you realise that the shelf is bending ?
it might need a bit of bracing or could lead to probs later, check the
last pic!
:oops: :oops: :roll: :lol: :lol: :lol: 8)

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 Posted: Tue Apr 15th, 2008 05:01 pm
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Perry
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What a marvellous solution to a space problem! How you came up with such an ingenious scheme, let alone building it and making it work, is beyond me. :shock: Terrific stuff!
Perry



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 Posted: Tue Apr 15th, 2008 06:58 pm
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henryparrot
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mojo

i have a thread Blue Pullman in the general section

It is speciallly for us ones who appreciate a marvellous piece of British engineering :wink: :wink: :wink: :lol: :lol: :lol:

cheers Brian.W

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 Posted: Tue Apr 15th, 2008 09:06 pm
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georgejacksongenius
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Mojo,
First let me say your train stacker is out of this world.Secondly,let me say PLEASE tell me you will be fitting some side walls or something to prevent your stock from falling off!
I dread to think about what a fall from those kind of heights could do to your precious trains!!!!
Once again,Amazing Stuff!!!
Cheers,John.B. :wink:

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 Posted: Wed Apr 16th, 2008 07:30 am
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mojo1
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Hi again, and thanks for the comments. I have been considering panelling in the upper levels on the outside of the frame in order to prevent anything taking flight. Re the bending of the shelf this is primarily because it is on temporary supports. Normally the shelves rest on each other with the lowest shelves braced substantially to keep everything straight and level. It is only in this position at the moment due to working on lower shelves. However, I have found that when two shelves are supported on the metal rods then they tend to straighten themselves out. However, I will keep an eye on it-the shelves are half inch ply and do straighten out under the combined weight of the ones above. One thing I have noticed is that if the coaching stock, modern Hornby or Bachmann, does not have coupling hooks on both ends then there is a likelihood of the stock running back and disconnecting from the adjoining coaches once the bend in the shelf straightens out. Something else to worry about!
Thanks for the information re the thread on Blue Pullmans. I look forward to following it up. I have managed to concoct a sufficiently, in my eyes, plausible reason for featuring both blue and blue grey Pullmans in the West Riding. On the other hand it is my train set and I can run what I want, within a 60's timescale.



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