Automated Storage System For Rolling Stock

  Have you ever wanted to simply run your trains without the hassle of hauling your rolling stock and locos back and forth to your layout? There have been many times when there was only a short time to run trains around the garden layout, but to carry everything out, two cars at a time, and back again, made it impractical. Garden Railways Magazine had a couple of articles on people that were able to drive their trains right into a storage area or shop. This approach seemed more practical then to come up with a mobile carrier to transport and store all rolling stock. In order to connect the main layout with the storage room on the back of the shop, the “Railroad Right of Way” law was invoked for this 100’ spur line. Yes, some bushes were hurt in the making of this spur line!

 

   A dedicated 6’ X 25’ room was added to the back of the existing shop building with the specific purpose of storing rolling stock and charging locomotives. Fortunately, this room addition was at a level that was about 24” below ground level, which made the transition from spur line track to the building entrance level less than a 4% grade.

 

   The first step was to design all of the parts of the “elevator” in 3D CAD software to check for viability of this project. The biggest concern was the weight of the multi-shelf unit with the weight of the rolling stock. A guide system was used to provide smooth operation up and down and to ensure the alignment with the incoming rails. (Picture 1)

 

   The “center frame” was designed out of 1” square steel box tubing to give the shelf unit the rigidity using a simple truss design. Two upright frame sections are made of 1-1/4” square box steel to fit over the upright guideposts. The two upright frame sections are machined to accommodate the integrated bearing/guide blocks. The bearing/guide block have two adjustable roller wheels and two spring/ball plungers to provide the freedom of movement on the two up-right steel guide posts (picture 2).

 

   The shelves are made of high quality ½” plywood with grooves cut into the top to eliminate the need for many feet of track. The wheel flanges travel in the grooves and the tire tread travels on the surface of the plywood. The shelves are secured to steel shelf brackets that are in turn secured to the “center frame” with sheet metal screws. The total amount of storage area is; 6 shelves X 4 tracks X 16 feet = 384 feet.

   The transition from the incoming rails shelf to the moving shelves was done by machining a block of ABS plastic with grooves that matched the plywood. The rails from the switches are also secured to the machined blocks to ensure alignment (picture 3).

 

   Powering the whole system was actually very easy. A simple worm drive winch, purchased from Harbor Freight Tools was modified to increase the drum size to 3” diameter for proper cable radius and powered through 2:1 sprocket arrangement (picture 4). The 12V lift chair worm drive motor was used with a reversible variable speed PWM power source and control. Four 3/32” steel cables were used to lift the shelf unit. The empty shelf unit weighs about 295 lbs. and is well within the working load of the cables. In order for the small motor to lift this weight, a 280 lb counter weight was hung on the opposite side of the winch. Therefore, the only weight that the winch is lifting is the rolling stock, which can be up to 240 cars or about 500 lbs. The winch is set up like a “payout” drive with two turns around the drum. The four cables are fastened to the counter weight with adjustable terminations to keep the cable tension equal (picture 5).

 

   Now that the cars have a place to stay, the next step was to create a safe place to store and charge the locomotives. The opposite side of the room was used to build a fixed shelf with a lift bridge to run the locos across. The frame was made of 1” square box steel and secured to the wall (picture 6). The top was covered with ½” plywood so the track and switches could be secured to. The switch arrangement was design to allow five locomotives to enter and leave the yard without having to move any others. The back two sidings are long enough for three engine multi-units (picture 7). The RWW railroad now has a new home.
 

   In the future, a Micro Processor will be added to the control circuit to simplify the operation. In stead of having to wait at the controls while the elevator moves to the destination level, it will simply be done by pressing a button for the corresponding level and the Micro Processor will go to that level and then stop at the exact height.

 

   All rail used for this project is SwitchCrafters Code 250 Aluminum set in Micro Engineering plastic tie strips and all switches are SwitchCrafters #4’s and #6’s.

  

   If anyone would like more information about this project or CAD drawings, please email Bruce Milligan at  SwitchCrafters@comcast.net or call 541-990-4455.