In my Model Railroad Planning 2015 article, there wasn’t much text or pictures devoted to the one device on my railroad model that is the most important for operations.  Without it, I have a rather large and expensive diorama.  This device is my portable Staging Elevator, which feeds the operations on the engine terminal side.

Why an elevator?  Well, I’m in an apartment condominium and I feel fortunate that I have the linear space for a 12′ layout.  But, I only had 4′ remaining for staging (or I could have built a removable bridge, tunnelled into a kitchen cupboard and out into my den – I did consider this.  And no, I don’t need a doctor).

At first I thought that there was no way 4′ would give me enough staging for a busy engine terminal.  But, as it turns out, 4′ for the locomotive level is quite adequate.  Going to bi-level, effectively doubling available space for trackage, allows space for the terminal service trains (coal, ash, sand, etc), plus I have some surplus trackage to “dump” some engines during an operating session.  The real power of this device is that it eliminates turnouts and tail tracks normally found in a typical staging yard.  It also acts like a transfer-table (with horizontal motion) allowing alignment to adjacent parallel layout tracks.  The result is more dense (usable) staging per square foot.  It is 19″ wide and 47″ long.


The picture above shows the staging elevator on it’s own; it is completely portable and is stored in my den while the layout stores in the living room.  Generally, and I’ll get into the details more as we go, we can see the bi-level staging with locomotive staging on the lower level and the terminal service trains on the upper.  Construction, like the rest of my layout, is from dimensional poplar and finished with two coats of Varathane.  The red device is an automotive scissors jack that raises and lowers the levels.


Having a jack support the moving section ensures that it will not unexpectedly come crashing down (as in a set-up made with weights and pulleys).  This jack has a vertical stroke of nearly 15″ and is very inexpensively obtained from a local automotive supply store.  I move it about 9″ to change levels.  One thing to be aware of is, due to the nature of the jack design, one must crank much more toward the top of the stroke than when in the lowered position.  I don’t mind the hand cranking.

This is simple and effective.