Does an island layout have to be isolated?

Avant-garde railroad modeler David Barrow had a brilliant series of Model Railroader articles in the mid-nineties.  He proposed, and practised, building layouts out of sectional table frames (“dominos”).  In the October 1997 issue (“South Plains District Revisited”), he wrote about using a staging trolley to move trains between two separate benchwork’s.  Having a short layout in two or more corners of a room, or in different rooms, may be one’s only choice for space.  A staging trolley allows traffic moves between them – another case of where not having a mainline between locations is not problematic.

In considering this, and knowing my limited construction ability, I wondered how I could design a relatively simple staging trolley that would account for some differences in rail height between two or more separate benchwork’s that would constitute a layout.  The range of adjustment, I decided, would be 1/2″ – I think this is pretty forgiving.

The rough staging trolley concept presented in following pictures is relatively simple, but is by no means the only way to design one with a height adjusting feature.  It’s just what I concocted.  No special mechanisms are needed.  A hand operated wedge-like sine bar controls the amount of vertical adjustment.  The angled face is finely sanded and Varethaned (varnished) and sanded again for smooth surfaces.  Perhaps styrene strips can be inserted between the running faces to reduce the friction.   In addition, rubbing a dry bar of hand soap will lubricate these running faces – this is done at Fillmore for the staging that rides on the layout “horizontal beam”.  Using rollers under the sine bar and running on top of the angle would be the ultimate if one wanted to go to the trouble (and why not?).  It might be tempting to increase the angle and get even more vertical travel, but then it will be more difficult to push.  There is also a separate adjustment feature to the table-top for levelling.

The one tricky thing is to cut the angle on the sine bars – they do not need to be at an accurate angle, but they both need to be the same.  They are probably best made on a table saw, together and using the same set-up to make the matching sine cams as well.  Otherwise, it’s fairly straight-forward if somewhat complex to look at.

Like my other projects, I would build this of poplar dimensional lumber.  The table-top is 11mm birch plywood.  It is 16″ wide x 48″ long: wide enough for six tracks and an SW switcher with seven forty foot cars on each track.  This amount of staging allows for trains from other non-modelled locations to be stored.  Plexiglas shields protect the models.



The middle tie bar mounted to the sine bar assembly needs to be considered with respect to fowling the beams of the upper structure when the sine bar is moved horizontally.





The levelling mechanism is on both sides.  The metal angles shown are 1-1/2″ x 1-1/2″.  They are mounted to the inside of the 1 x 2’s .  This allows the wood beams to take the load.


Optional fixed couplers could be added to secure rolling stock without a locomotive as I did on the Fillmore staging fiddle yard (below).  On the open end, it is highly recommended that tracks be soldered to brass screw heads placed directly underneath the rail, lest they get caught on a shirtsleeve and get ripped up by accident.




The whole sine bar assembly is mounted low to avoid layout benchwork – it could be mounted higher if there is adequate clearance to the horizontal motion.