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Video: Watch the train elevator in action

By | April 27, 2009

Check out model railroader Steve Harris' alternative to a helix

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Model railroader Steve Harris uses a fully automatic train elevator to connect the two levels of his HOn3 Rio Grande Southern layout. Read about how he built the elevator in the June 2009 Model Railroader. Watch Steve describe and demonstrate this innovative device.

25 thoughts on “Video: Watch the train elevator in action

  1. I've pondered an elevator for many years, but never thought of the garage door trick, and just last year I replaced a operating opener because the remotes were so old they could not be replaced. Your idea is terrific, and it is so surprisingly smooth. I have one suggestion that may save many bucks in the future.
    Of the four isolated track sections, two each are controlled by one limit switch. If either switch were to fail in the "close" position, it could be messy, as it appears that the failed switch would power both the lower or upper fixed track and the associated elevator track, whether or not the elevator was in the proper position. A second switch in series with the first and located either adjacent to the originals or in different locations would offer a fail safe against a sticking or failed first switch.
    I recognized the potential problem, because of a identical situation and fatal problems with aircraft flight control trim switches, primarily, the elevator or horizontal stabilizer trim. As originally designed and installed, a double pole, single throw, on-off-on switch on the control stick or wheel was pressed by the pilot to relieve the force needed to take-off, fly or land. A number of trim runaways, some that led to fatal crashes, was found to be caused by a sticking or failed switch. The mandatory fix was two switches in series, and was FAA approved, and is now industry standard.
    The cost of two more switches, and some wire could save someone a bundle and judging from the comments, I'd bet there will be a run on used garage door motors, and more elevators in the future than tax cuts.

  2. awesome idea….genious….im working on a simple gate system,cause i hate duck unders.hinge track on 1 side and reconnect track locks down back onto table….simple
    also you must glue all scenery down and buildings of course or it would fall off…dah

  3. That is too cool, to bad I need to use a helix on the GS&M. Train are just too long for that.


  4. I recently had a complete new door system installed in my garage and the fellows after completeing the job said they could leave any parts I had a use for. I had not idea this could be usful so I declined . After I had occasion to speak to the young fellow again and he said any parts I needed he would gladly save for me . He was very impressed with my layout in the house. Great job fellers. Been modeling for fifty years and never seen anything like it .

  5. Such a radical idea, I would have never thought if it.

    Adding to other comments, he is great at talking in front of a camera.


  6. Excellent Idea!
    I've used a helix also but never heard of an elevator. Is it a first?
    I see your point in building one, with a seven minute wait on a helix.
    Very well done and well executed. Looks very smooth in operation.
    I agree with the other modelers, Steve Harris is a natural in front of the camera. Nice job Steve and Model Railroader!

  7. Cleaver use of space and time I can see this used more often. I for one exceed the speed limits on the helix and it still makes me dizzy and time who cares.

  8. Video is much more impressive than the mag article. The vid shows the high degree of precision involved. I can imagine many hours of testing and adjustment to perfect the landing and track alignment. Time well spent! A boffo job!

  9. Quite a clever idea! Because my layout takes up my garage, my wife is bothering about making room for the car. So, I'll be converting to a shelf layout. This gives me some ideas in extending the length of my layout as well. But if space is limited, why stop with two levels? Why not try three?

  10. That's the coolest thing I've ever seen! A wonderful alternative to the helix. It reduces time and adds more fun to operate the layout. I wish I thought of that!

  11. wow! thats awsome great idea my layout is in my garage and its a cork screw and its ho to bad i didn`t do a elevator but that gives me a idea for my z layout i have a n scale tehachapi loop layout sence tehachapi is my home town.great idea.

  12. Thanks for sharing your creativity! I loved the concept. Just have to figure out how to more cars on the elevator for my layout design.

  13. Nice piece of engineering!

    It could be made longer by rigging the garage door opener to act through multiple lift points, and the 'locomotive on the point' rule could be relaxed by providing either a different sensor (photocell or IR LED/detector) or a bit of fancy circuitry.

    My own to-be-built elevator will be straight, 54" long and based on a length of steel stud, following John Armstrong's 'dehydrated canal lock' design.

  14. Your elevator is just perfect for short trains. Unfortunately mine are of the fifteen to twenty car lengths. Maybe I should just run shorter trains. But your idea is very clever, and probably will be copied by many other model railroaders.

  15. This is a very well done article. The next question is, what are the costs? I would like to see a Bill of Materials put on your web site. What kind of garage door opener was used and where is it available? I understand the circuit had to be modified. How was it modified?

  16. If a real stable base was used that elevator could run an entire loop of track, or 2 from a helix so that long trains could be run.

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