I pulled out the benchwork and removed the track for the return loop. I also took out the the turnouts for stacking two trains on a single track. I am left with 12 tracks with a minimum length of 11' 4". Plenty of room for my needs.
I removed four inches from the plywood. This brings the width down from 32" to 28". It will bring the track closer to the edge. I then modified the benchwork to match. I am now wiring the track for the back eight feet so I can slide that piece back in.
The upper level will have the front board of the frame removed to give me 3 1/2" more head room. This will help make the reach easier in case of derailments on the lower level.
I decided to have each track dead in the back foot or so. I will separately power the back of the track off of a switch located near the local control panel. This will make it so the engines can't be power driven into the end board. When I re-stage the trains I can flip on one switch to power up all of the back tracks so i can back the engines out. When restaging is done I can power down the end tracks again. There will also be cameras so the engineers can see what is going on in the hidden space.
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5 years ago