Multiple Staging Areas & access to them (perhaps via a 'sub helix') is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.


Well-Known Member
Finalizing 3-way Turnout Location

Yesterday I spent quite a number of hours trying to figure out a few things about my 3-wat turnout that will feed the staging tracks.
1) How will I mount it (on what roadbed that stretches between the shed's rear wall and the helix) ?
2) Where exactly will I locate it?

3) How do I limit the size of the opening thru the wall such that I limit creature access, as well as limit lost of AC from the main shed?

Those are a few of questions I had in mind when I began. At first I started trying to just jury rig several placements of the turnout and its curved tracks, then take approx measurements. This was all becoming to much of a hassle trying to hold multiple objects in place, and make measurements, and view things overall.

I decided I needed to make a paper template, then trim that down to size during fitting. I decided paper was a good template,...easy to drawn on and flexible enough to fit thru the narrowing hole thru the back shed wall, and transferable to the wood plywood I will eventually be cutting for the roadbed itself. Turns out it was a good choice as I was able to just use scissors and free-form pencil to determine areas that needed custom fitting to clear around upright post, etc. I'll be transferring that pattern to plywood today and doing the roadbed piece.

First I needed to get an accurate form of the3-way turnout and its 'spreading' 2 curves. But first I still had this nagging thought about which brand turnout to utilize there,...(I had a Peco, a Roco, a Fleischmann, and a Shinoharra). After renewed evaluation I decided the Peco was the best. But just in case I should ever change my mine about brand, OR need to change out to a new one, I will make it so it can be replaced fairly easy.

I then came to the balancing act of exactly where to place the 3-way along the axis of the single track going into staging from the helix. If I placed it very close to the hole in the back wall it would make my requirements for the size of the hole cutout the smallest possible. I had thought this might be ideal to limit the size of the openings between the main shed and the helix structure. But now that I have even better insulation in my helix than I first imagined, this has become less of an issue.

Besides as I played around with ideas I came upon another solution. On the helix side of the opening I could make a simple wedge-shaped transparent cover of plexiglass that would just sit over the 3-way, and be quickly removable. It would stick out from the opening in the wall to form a single track opening at its 'entrance end'.

Now I can place the 3-way turnout further from the back wall of the shed which will accomplish several things:
a) more easily accessed should I have to perform maintanence or rerail trains

b) more flexibility in hooking up those 3 tracks connected to the turnout
c) permit slightly longer staging tracks down the 2 sides

Paper mockup, cut the wood subroadbed



Well-Known Member
Yesterday I cut the entrance hole to the shed a bit wider, then cut out my wood roadbed piece (Its hidden under the paper pattern). I also cut out a square hole for the two Peco under-switch machines/controls to be housed in (not shown yet)

You can see I have room for the trains to pass by that one upright post by carving out a little relief.


Well-Known Member
Over the past year I have been thinking and experimenting with ideas for my benchwork for my new layout in a shed.

I was over at my local metal scrap yard this past Fri and noticed some hollow square steel tubing they use to mount street signs with. Its 2" square verses my flanged 1-1.25" bed rails, and its really strong, and its galvanized. So now I am definitely considering this stuff.

I was originally considering making vertical brackets at each of the wall stud location to support the plywood shelves. then I ran across these steel square tubing at the local metal scrap yard.
My contractor friend. who was going to weld up the considerable number of vertical brackets I had sketched up, came back with an interesting idea. Why not lay these square tube 'beams' horizontally along the walls and lag them into the wall studs. Then the plywood shelves (decks) could be attached along their wall edge and cantilevered out. And where the shelf/deck is of a substantial depth, the outer edge might also be supported primarily by another long piece of this horizontal square tubing with only an ocassional vertical support.
I am now planing on utilizing this 'horizontal framing' idea on my staging track level and my lower primary deck. I may even utilize the idea for my upper deck, particularly as they will be more shallow than the primary deck. I will definitely utilize the larger 2" square tubing to support the lower primary deck. For the staging level (relatively shallow), and the upper deck I may utilize my 'bed frame angle iron'. I'll document this more thoroughly as I get to building it.​

Quick update,....the first piece of horizontal steel tube framing along the back wall of the shed. The large size square tubing is the type that will be utilized to support the edge of the plywood deck next to the walls.. This will be selectively placed around the perimeter of the shed. There will also be central pieces at the inner edges of the shelf somewhat like shown on this preliminary dwg.



Curse You, Red Baron!
Staff member
You are really making progress ... I like the detail of the work you are performing.
I sort of got to thinking that you were overthinking everything -- but I see that it's all falling into place!


Well-Known Member
Just trying to think ahead at times,...but just yesterday I discovered I put a double pole electrical switch in the WRONG place, now it will interfere with my lifting bridge at the entrance to the train shed.

When I was first installing the outlets all around the room I had them TOO HIGH up on the wall such that they would interfere with the staging tracks,...what a mess that was to straighten out....bah humbug


Well-Known Member
Easements in staging and/or Freight Yards

Correct me if I'm wrong, but there is no real need for easements in a staging area such as mine,...nor a freight yard in general,... where trains are moving at low speeds, and/or there may be a need for compactness??

For the moment I'll just post this drawing of the 3 zones of staging. There will be 5 tracks to either side of the room/shed. These will be mounted on a 12"-14" board of 3/4 plywood cantilevered off of a very substantial metal framework attached to the 2x4 studs of the shed.
Then there will be 5-6 tracks down the center under the peninsula. These will be off to one side of, and cantilevered to 'metal frame spine' that will support both the peninsula main deck and this staging deck.


Well-Known Member
Big Staging Justification


Sun, 2017-10-29 12:11 — dave1905

There is a great misconception that staging is for just “prototypical” operation. Nothing could be further from the truth. Staging is just as important for just running trains. If you want to run trains having several queued up to run is a good thing. Otherwise you have run a train, stop, take the cars off the layout, put a new train on the tracks, stop, take the train off the tracks, put a new train on the tracks, etc. Having staging allows multiple trains to be “pre-loaded” run in succession without any handling of the equipment.
Thats why I suggest staging for people who just want to run “trains”. If you want to run “train” don’t add staging. If you want to run “trains”, add staging.

Dave Husman


Well-Known Member
Compound Ladder or Pinwheel Ladder for Staging Tracks

I'm back to drawing up my staging tracks for final design before cutting the plywood decks that will support them on either side of the shed. Previously I had given very little recognition to pinwheel or compound ladder arrangements, but now i want to take a final look at these possibilities.

1) Pinwheel Arrangements
Quite awhile back a gentleman in this discussion suggested a pinwheel ladder design, and even provided some alternative arrangements.

2) Compound Arrangement
Just recently I ran across this on another forum,...

Espeefan wrote:
Just looking for some input on a design I drew up for a compound yard ladder. I am working on designing a double deck layout, with one level dedicated completely to a staging yard. My original plan used a standard ladder track arrangement, but after I decided to increase the center to center track distance to 2.5", I thought I'd give the compound ladder a try, to better maximize the length of all the tracks, and keep them more consistant. My concern is the 's' curve that is naturally created where the right hand turnout is joined to the left hand turnout, after a short tangent of track. All turnouts in my plan are #6s. The 3.63" long straight between the right and left hand turnouts should ease the effect of the 's' curve, but will it be enough? I hope to run all the usual modern day equipment, but is that possible? I thought of using #8 turnouts in place of the two #6s, which cause the 's' curve, but when I layed them over the plan, I noticed I did not gain anything. Probably due to me keeping the same center to center track distance, which requires a 3.63" long straight between the #6 turnouts. With #8s, I need no extra track to maintain the spacing. ladder_zpstvbsccvq.jpg.html

My geometry capabilities have greatly diminished with age, so I ask this quick question. Would that compound ladder example sited as #2 above still hold up with its track spacing down the side, if the horizontal feed line was slanted down at something like 20 degrees??


Well-Known Member
Pinwheel Preference
There is actually a reason I believe I prefer the pinwheel arrangement. Tell me if my reasoning is incorrect.

If I power all of the turnouts with switch motors they could all be located on the front curving edge of the staging deck plywood,...within relatively easy reach for servicing/replacement. Or they might even be manually controlled from the front edge of that staging deck??

This was my original track plan for the ladder. I was going to have all the switch machines (Peco's) lined up along the rear edge of that supporting plywood deck (not shown so close to the edge in this dwg), and be able to access them from that 'hollow triangular space' between the staging deck and the shed's corner.

If I now place the ladder turnouts out on the front edge, I will have even easier access.



Well-Known Member
If I power all of the turnouts with switch motors they could all be located on the front curving edge of the staging deck plywood,...within relatively easy reach for servicing/replacement. Or they might even be manually controlled from the front edge of that staging deck??

Here is my first mock-up using Peco mediums. Got interrupted with having to do eye surgery today (just cataract), so it will be a day or so before I get back to it.

BTW I am doing this mock-up on a piece of plywood at the main deck level rather than my staging level that will be 8" lower.

And that piece of white paper taped to the rear wall is actually a depiction of the 3-way turnout that feeds the staging tracks, and is located just on the other side of that back wall.


Well-Known Member
Refining the Mock-up of the Staging Yard Entrances

First I had to assembly all of the Peco mediums together in a firm manner so they could be moved around as a group in that pinwheel ladder configuration. Then I went searching for how I could make them line up correctly with the shelf I was planning down each side. I found I could now get 6 tracks down the side in a14" depth shelf, with a 2 1/8" center between tracks.

None of the connecting tracks are less than 24" radi.

Then I went to mocking up the center peninsula staging that includes 6 more tracks on a 13 inch wide shelf located under the 24" peninsula main deck above it.

All thet urnouts in these photos are Peco mediums

Then I drew in a proposed curve line that would represent the outer edge of the staging track shelf in the area of the pinwheel ladder.

I'm hoping to rig up some 'fixtures' mounted on that strip of shelf just outside of the turnouts that will allow a cable type manual operation of the individual turnouts, ie, wire within a plastic tube that would come up to a small panel mounted of the front face of the main deck's edge at the front of the aisle.


Well-Known Member
Bridges between Exterior Helix and Interior Layout

I've been building alum bridges for the tracks that connect my 'external' helix with my internal layout. I started another subject thread on that particular phase of the construction rather than just continuing on this subject thread,...probably confusing in some ways, so I thought I would put a reference link back on this previous thread.


Well-Known Member
Finally Cutting Some Plywood Decks

So yesterday I began to cut my plywood decks for the staging areas. Going to cut all of them, align and fit them together, drill holes for bolts that will bond them to the steel box frames mounted on the walls. Then I will remove the wood decks and drill all the countersink holes, then paint/waterproof those plywood deck pieces and set them aside for a little while till I drill the location holes for the main deck bolts just above staging tracks.

After the main deck bolt holes are located, those sheets will be removed to the outside and painted/sealed. While those are drying I will be laying track onto the staging decks.

It feels good to finally be cutting and placing the decks into place,...INSIDE the shed.



Well-Known Member
Waterproofing Staging Decks

Cut out all my staging decks yesterday, and decided to give them a waterproofing. Despite all the negatives one can read about Thomson's Water Sealer, I decided to experiment with some on my staging deck(s). I was very pleased with the application, so went ahead and did all my staging deck's (3) plywoods, front and back sides.

The sealer is very liquid, and it appeared to soak into the wood very readily. I like this idea rather then some sort of painted product that might act only as an external barrier to moisture, rather then a product that actually penetrated the surface of the plywood. Naturally it utilized more product as it was soaking into the surface.

Nice thing also was there was very little waste as it appeared to readily all soak in. And as a result it appeared to dry very quickly so I could handle and stack the decks for drying.

I had been thinking of secondary coating with some sort of paint, BUT I am giving serious considerations to not doing this at all.

NOTE: These decks are all INTERIOR woods, so not subjected to exterior sun and rain, so longevity should be very GOOD.

I also found this interesting little bit of testing of various products


Well-Known Member
So here are my Thomson waterseal painted staging deck sections. Just as a quick experiment today I took one piece and tried to coat it a second time. It did NOT readily accept the second coat. Appears the surface is resisting any penetration by a second coat.

I suspect in time (proper FULL drying time of the first coat) that a second color coat of paint could be applied? And I believe if I were to do so I would utilize and oil based paint rather than latex.

BTW here is a cart full of different products I collected up over the past year,...from estate sales, wrong color matches at retail stores, etc, etc

Efficient cutting of plywood.
I cut all 3 staging area deck pieces (both full length sides of shed, plus peninsula) out of just 2 full sheets of 4x8 plywood,...and only had this much waste material,..pretty good !


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Wonder why there are multiple photos not being displayed here??

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Well-Known Member
Turnout Controls for the Staging Area Switches

I've been working on the track plans and structure locations on those 2 upper decks for a long time now,...and just ignoring this staging area. Well its coming time to pull off some of those upper deck plywoods and lay the staging tracks below. But before I pulled them out I wanted to firm up how I was going to control those 18 turnouts I have on those 6+6+6 staging tracks down under there.

I went back and thought about those Peco PL10 solenoid controls, but began to question putting those big round holes in some portions of those rather narrow plywood arms that reach into the central 3 way,....weakening that deck board too much. And do I really need this sort of control on many of those staging tracks that may only be selected seldomly.

Lets go back to the manual control idea, something like this,...
But wait a minute a lot of those control cables will interfere with reaching any derailments of the staging turnout ladders.

Then I began to experiment with locating bell-cranks for each of those turnouts at the deck's edge,....but then again, a possible mess of cables and lots of little bell cranks, studs, screws etc to install. Experiment....

Finally I began to think of how I might just move some sort of manual controls I might have put back there on the curved edge of the plywood deck,...move them out toward the aisle. The idea of just mildly curved metal rods running between the ends of the Peco throw ties and square tube 'panel' ,.... the white tube here with guide holes in it for those rods that will run to the turnouts.

(those multiple white strips laying across the top are just there for photo purposes to indicate the route of the eventual metal control rods)

What I like about this configuration:
a) plenty of room to get back to derailments without having to fumble thru some sort of control rod jumble
b) removable in case of need

The view from the top,..(photo is deceiving as that 'control bar' is totally recessed under that corner edge of the upper deck)

I have not finished wiring up the turnouts yet as I have yet to pull off the upper deck and lay down the tracks/turnouts for these staging tracks. It will be pretty simple to attached this 'fixture' to the plywood of the staging decks, then place the control rods in place.

BTW, note that those control rods line up pretty well with the ends of the Peco throw ties,...and I think I have a nice simple method to connect the rods with the throw ties.


Same Ol' Buzzard
Brian - How's that "helix in the annex" doing in the summertime heat? I know that you most likely haven't run trains in it yet, but maybe you have examined it for track expansion or other kinks. I ask because if I add a helix to my two level existing layout, an outside annex is how I am going to have to do it. I have been considering how to air condition the annex.


Well-Known Member
My outdoor helix (outhouse...:D) seems to be doing rather well, but as you said I have yet to fully utilize it. I have checked it for kinks, and don't appear to have that problem. I think the larger circle of track is an advantage in terms of expansion/contraction.

I have several other advantages;
1) trees block the early day sun beating down on the structure, direct sun until about 11 or 12
2) the train shed itself and the carport block direct sun exposure from 4 to 5 in the afternoon
3) I used a nice thick piece (1.5 or 2") of foam insulation in the roof, then separated with an air space between that foam and the inner ceiling liner.
4) most pleasant discovery so far is the lack of 'insect invasion',.... so far,...don't know if I can explain it yet, but I am not getting many gritter invasions?
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