I recently completed a rebuild of my Staging Elevator. I did this to improve operations and to correct some things that were bugging me.
The most obvious change is the switching of the levels (above). The locomotive staging level is now on top, with the terminal service trains on the lower level. I did this so that the elevator is normally in the lowered position for ops. When we run a service train, the elevator is raised, then lowered when no longer needed in the up position. This change involved replacing the four 1×3 wood uprights that hold the levels apart and the four 1×2 longtitudinal beams on each level. I was able to reuse the plexiglass shielding with some minor modifications.
One big improvement is an adjusting mechanism for tuning the rail height prior to an operating session. I believe I was fighting expansion/contraction due to humidity and found that rail heights varied considerably. I temporarily got around this by shimming with electrical tape pieces when setting up for ops. The above mechanism is cleaner and is easy to adjust. Simply undo either the upper or lower locking nut depending on whether to raise or lower the rail height. To raise/lower turn the screw, then lock by tightening the nut. This adjustment is needed for both levels and would be done before ops, however, the adjustment can be done during operations rather quickly. In the picture below, the bracket was made from 1/8″ thick 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″ aluminum angle. The adjusting bolts and nuts are 1/4-20UNC.
By mounting the bracket as shown, it takes the load from the weight of the two-level assembly, rather than have the screws take it in shear.
I also completely re-wired both levels with new feeders and busses. This time I routed the wiring out the back where there is more room (below).
The DCC buss to the upper level is seen on the left while the white wires on the right are for the LED lighting attached to the underside of the upper level.
Although not a recent improvement, I have not shown this placard before (above). It list the elevator operating procedure. A new Staging Master might find this helpful if confused.
Since the turntable is now more visible on the top level, I decided to paint it (below). It is made of styrene sheet and structural shapes and was left before as unpainted white. I think it looks better now.
During operations staging can be quite full of locomotives. This staging is in a separate 5A power district from the layout engine terminal tracks. This is plenty of power to run my sound-equipped locomotives. In a prior investigation, testing locomotives on stationary rollers at high speed with full sound, I found that the most current that was drawn was .25A (the MTH manufactured models). Most others were in the .18A-.20A range. The measurement was made with an RRamp meter (specially design to measure DCC current). The problem is when a short occurs, like someone accidentally running a turnout switch. When more than seven locomotives were in staging, the DCC system did not restart once the short was cleared. This is due to the high initial inrush of current when starting a modern DCC sound-equipped locomotive. A way to gracefully bring up many locomotives for a restart is to control the track power via toggle switches (below)
Upon a short, the Staging Master switches off all track power. Once the layout is up and running, he can then bring up locomotives by turning on the track power one by one. This is very simple and very effective. In addition, when the elevator is raised the track power to the level not aligned to the layout trackage would be turned off for obvious safety reasons. Another benefit of having individual track power is to cut down on the racket of locomotives running (although I don’t usually mind that racket).
The lower level also has a track power switch although it is for all tracks on that level as there would be only a couple of engines on it. When the elevator is in the normally lowered position, the track power is off anyway so that there is no effect for DCC system restart (below).
Also shown above to the right is tool storage for the rail height adjusting tools, in this case a No 2 Robertson stubby screwdriver and a 7/16″ combination wrench.
I am so glad I went back and made these changes even though it wasn’t that easy: I had to cut the wood and aluminum in my apartment kitchen because our hobby room was not in a usable condition. It has been my experience that if something is bugging me about the layout, it’s better to get after it and fix it. I always feel better later.