Before proceeding with the roadbed at Ascape, it was thought the better part of wisdom to complete the staging yard underneath. Once again previous experience and the many scars on top of my head from installing staging under a complete railroad suggested that it is easier to reach through the open benchwork than to reach into a 10 inch shelf to install roadbed and track. By the way my wife bought me a hard had for working under the railroad. When I remember to wear it I don't get so many scars form whacking my head.
Staging is an important concept in model railroading. The best thing to do is think of a Model Railroad as a stage where action takes place for the viewing public. On a stage there is a back stage area where actors prepare to enter the stage and perform their role. A model railroad is similar. There is a staging area where trains are prepared to enter the visible part of the railroad to perform their role, moving across the railroad while delivering rolling stock to various industries, picking up or delivering passengers, etc. For the AT&SG this staging area is under the town of Ascape on the left side of the railroad. The staging area is about 10 inches below the ruling grade of the railroad. Trains enter the railroad by entering a helix at the left side of the staging yard or the bottom of the diagram shown here. (See the post on the helix for more details).
On the ATSG Railroad the staging yard serves both ends of the railroad via the helix. The trains enter at one level of the helix, travel across the railroad and return at another level of the helix to return to the staging area.
The operation of staging is as follows: trains enter at the left (bottom of the diagram) and travel though the ladder track to the short track on the near side (right side of the diagram). They then proceed around the reverse loop and enter an assigned yard track via the ladder at the right side (top of the diagram) where they await their next assignment.
Staging also allows a staging operator to use the reverse loop as a yard lead to switch the staging yard to rearrange trains for their next assignment or trains can merely wait for their next turn configured as they were when they entered staging. Trains leaving the staging yard can travel either direction across the railroad depending at which level they leave the helix.
The staging yard is suspended from the benchwork above as shown in the photos. The base is 3/8 plywood covered with homasote as a base for the track. The homasote we used is in 3 inch strips so these strips are staggered to accommodate the ladder tracks rather than covering all of the staging area.
The reverse loop at the end of the yard is constructed via spline roadbed as previously described. The spline in this case is suspended by supports from the benchwork above. One could never construct a railroad of this size without the help of friends. Craig Harding and Doug Whetstone deserve an award for duty exceeding all expectations as they labored several hours before they successfully got the suspended spline roadbed installed under the benchwork.
The other engineering challenge was to match the height of the roadbed to the homasote. The homasote is 1/2 inch thick, the cork on top of the spline is 3/16 inch so the spline had to be adjusted to come just above the height of the plywood base of staging to match the homasote.
At this posting the staging area is complete, the homasote in place, the cork installed on the reverse loop and in most of the helix and we are ready to begin laying track.