Lifting Entry Flap/ Section

Easy Access without Crawling Under

A light weight lifting flap (entry panel) to make getting into and out of the Layout Room  easier than ducking under. Especially for an around-the-wall layout and useful for geriatrics!
The panel has an electrical interlock which cuts all power some distance
either side of the panel when it is raised a few millimetres. That still doesn’t cater for person who attempts an “underpass” but rises a little early, distributing locos etc. onto the floor.  I think a mechanical interlock is the next project!

This is a view of the completed lifting section before scenery. The hinges will be covered by a scenic “feature” (!)
The non opened clearance under is 950mm (3′ 1.5″) for tiny people and flexible adults. This has been in use for 4 years with no problems but normally opened to enter. My mechanical wire-in-tube manual point control is visible. Works well but I have been seduced by the magic of MERG (worth looking at even if you only download the EXCELLENT free “Electronics for Model Railways” book) and using electronics, DCC and computers is my thing, so all are in the process of conversion to servo control, the fitting of which is the subject of this post.
Preparation of the bench work either side is critical, as is assuring that the whole thing is level fore and aft.
This shows the basic construction using quality light timber (in this case hoop pine – Araucaria cunninghamii). The joints are all epoxied together and reinforced by using biscuit joiners.
The CRITICAL consideration is that timber shrinks and swells ACROSS THE GRAIN and there is very, very little shrinkage along the grain.
So as much longitudinal timber as possible must be used across the opening so that damp/dry weather changes have minimal effect. The next photos show other additions to further reinforce that in the other direction.
The underside showing additional cross bracing, both to support the 1″ (25mm) foam and to restrict any shrinkage or expansion at right angles to the track so that the latter remains aligned where it crosses the joins. There has been no problem with track alignment or binding of the lifting panel since July 2014 even through flooding rain periods and temperatures in the room between less than 10°C and over 32°C.
The section alongside the lift up section has been prepared to accept the 2″ foam. This photo shows a hinge rebated into the support.
The hinged side. Quality heavy duty brass hinges (3″ 75mm) were rebated into the frame and panel and the foam is being bonded to the top of the layout with PVA & weights (no, this is not a Valvoline advert!)
The “landing” side carefully fitted so the top surface aligns when shut.
A later photo showing the H/Duty micro switch interrupting the DCC feed to the section behind.  The inset shows the one on the under side.
Underneath with the wiring necessary for the track on the lifting panel.
The track feed to the lifting panel has two terminal blocks near the hinge line and a short section of flexible cable which can be replaced if necessary.

 

The joins across the lifting hatch require a little bit of care and attention.
Track is laid straight across the join substituting PCB sleepers at the join. Doing 5 sleepers would be better than 3 for more surface contact. The conductive copper is removed between the rails. I used a paper sanding disc in the Dremel before soldering them in place. Clean the copper and the bottom of the rail with a flux. “Tin” the surface of the copper PCB and you will need little if any additional solder to sweat the rail in place.
I always attach the track to the substrata with diluted Carpet Glue (latex adhesive). It is quite thin, very cheap, and only needs application to the foam / wood etc followed by weights to hold it in place until dry. The great advantage of this method is that there is no mechanical connection to the substrata AND … it can be lifted if you have a stuff-up. Just brush some water over the track or point (turnout) you want to lift, leave if for half an hour or so, then carefully slide a thin spatula under it.
After the latex adhesive has set, cut the track with a very fine blade. I had to cut a sleeper as the track was diagonal at this section.

Also see the section on “Laying Track Across the Join” Yet to be added.

 

Reinforcing Foam Sheet

This section explains the important step of reinforcing (or stressed skinning) the 1″ (25mm) foam sheet to give it tensile strength on the bottom surface. The top is not such a problem as the extruded foam seems to have reasonable compressive strength.
This technique borrows from bridge building and surf board building techniques – remembering that our loading is occurring primarily from the top. You can also use it on 2″ foam to allow increased distance between the supporting battens.

I am assuming that you are not going to be walking around on the top of the layout! Having said that, I have stood on the layout by placing strategic wide pieces of plywood on distributed spacers between the tracks and close to the edges.

The technique is extremely simple – coat the bottom side with a layer of cloth glued to the the surface with PVA. You could use exotics like fibreglass or carbon fibre cloth – but we are not building a spacecraft! Just some cheap muslin cloth is what I use from a fabric shop. A tea towel may do the job. Cut it a bit oversize; coat it with a generous layer of PVA glue and squeegee it into the surface … as below.
foam-reinforcement
Reinforcing using muslin cloth and PVA glue.
Squeegee / roll/ brush the PVA so that it fully impregnates the cloth.

No hi-tech tools here! You may need to thin the PVA with water just a little to help spread it. Re-coat if doubtful.

When it is completely dry, cut around the edges with a sharp knife. The reinforced surface will be the bottom!

Then glue the sheet in place with PVA. (No, this is not an advert for Valvoline!)

The underside showing additional cross bracing, both to support the 1″ (25mm) foam and to restrict any shrinkage or expansion at right angles to the track so that the latter remains aligned where it crosses the joins. There has been no problem with track alignment or binding of the lifting panel since July 2014 even through flooding rain periods and temperatures in the room between less than 10°C and over 32°C.

The reinforced side is down (up in the photo) and and the assembly rests on a flat surface to keep the top true. I then glued the battens and all the support timbers to the bottom of the foam and to the supporting structure so no screws were needed.

Shown below is a  test run I did in 2008 when I lived at Bensville (I tend to live in places with strange names). It was a test track for both DC and DCC which fitted on the bar in our lounge room. It vaguely reflects the track layout (considerably condensed) used at Oberon in the Central West of NSW when I lived nearby at Hazelgrove. The latter was a station on the now closed/ suspended railway from Tarana to Oberon. A model of the mighty Hazelgrove station will feature on Kalrail layout (later to be re-named “Brolgan Road”).

I couldn’t resist adding this photo of Hazelgrove Station posed on a temporary diorama. Yet to be finished and weathered.

The underside of the test track shows that 1″ foam has been coated with muslin and fitted with a light weight frame. The ugly blocks on the right were added to help it fit on the bar which was a bit narrow. It is 2m long, 58cm wide and weighs 4kg. Could be made much lighter with thinner timber and no ugly blocks.

Could be a neat way to take a 2m x 1/2m layout to a display. Carry it in one hand.