• Phase Three: The Helix"> • Phase Three: The Helix"> • Phase Three: The Helix"> 8 • Phase Three: The Helix



The Acreage Line Layout Journal

The Acreage Line layout is an homage to the creator of the real Acreage Line, Joachim Von Reinbek. Built on Acreage Lane in the very house in which he beat Melvin Meeker and Dutch Bill Howard at poker, cementing his plans to create one of the largest personal railways ever built. The layout's main touchstones - a main line, a yard, and even the helix - echo his actual accomplishments.
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8 • Phase Three: The Helix

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I'm not a mechanical engineer nor architect, though I entertained notions of both when I was growing up. Those along with doctor, astronaut, rockstar, you know the drill. This part of the project proved both intimidating and taxing.

The 48" from yard to shelf required a 15-level lift — just under 3" per level. For you train geeks that's about a 2.7% grade. If they were real trains they'd just spin their wheels, but my Marklin H0 trains can make it up and down just fine, though they're at the edge of their capability. Fears about the radius being too tight for long trains proved unfounded.

The fireplace in the corner was the only space that could be adapted. The maximum radius possible is about 18". There was no way to build up — the helix had to hang in the air from the ceiling.

I used six, six-foot bolts hung from the ceiling with aluminum hangers fixed in place with nuts. The hangers were screwed to the roadbed cut from sheets of plywood. The bolts were allowed to torque to the incline, which is why (if you look closely) they angle 2.7% vertically.

There's a video below that shows early progress. Every ring was bolted in place, power connection made from an electrical trunk going down rear bolt, and then tested with a locomotive for continuity and incline integrity.

During the hang I removed the woodstove and most of the chimney. Once it was done I had to snake the chimney back up the center of the helix, and then push the woodstove in place. I also had to do some excavation to shoehorn the bottom ring against the wall. No blasting was required.

The fourteen rings are connected at the top to a final ramp that joins up with the layout. Just above the helix is a turnaround circle that was added to the shelf to provide a way to reverse train direction so they can enter the helix from the top in a forward direction.

The helix is two scale miles. The train shelf is one scale mile. It takes about four minutes for a train to safety transit the helix.

The distance from the chimney to the track is enough to allow for a fire in the woodstove, though I haven't tried it. We spend our winters in Maui, so the woodstove stays cold.
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