Piedmont Division Blog

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Swing Gate Tutorial Posted in TrainBoard.com Forum

March 27th, 2008 · No Comments

This is a copy of the Swing Gate - Tutorial posted today on TrainBoard.com Forum. Dave H. (aka ppuinn on TrainBoard.com) suggested that I post a thread here in the Layout Design Discussion forum about my swing gate that I built on my Piedmont Division (PD) HO scale layout. So after a few days of thought on how to present it here in the TrainBoard.com Forum archives I have come up with this initial introductory post. I will get started with a copy of the introduction as well as some Frequently Asked Questions (FAQs) that Dave wrote up on the subject, and I will also provide you with a web link to my full tutorial on how I approached and built the swing gate on the PD layout.

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Inspired by the article "Build a swinging gate for easy access" by Gary Hoover published in the April 2007 issue of Model Railroader, I took the ideas in the piece and applied it to what was already my own accepted wisdom in tackling my layout design dilemma. After reading this article I felt it was missing more detail, and that I was left empty handed, or wanting to know more. So I set out to study what I could and what it would take to build my own swing gate. What follows in this tutorial is my step by step approach to solving one of the major hurdles that hindered further progress on my layout. I would like to also hear from others how they tackled a similar issue on their layout. Did you build a swing gate, duck under, or lift out section? How did you solve the track segments across aisle way dilemma? Read More Here - - - Please come back here to read the FAQs after you have read the tutorial.

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FAQs – Questions asked by Dave H. and answers by Ryan B. Q: Is there anything you would do differently if you were to build it again or any lessons learned? A: In a perfect world if I could re-design the track plan I would try to avoid having a track segment that crosses over and into the aisle ways. The swing gate serves a purpose in that it solves the duck-under issue, but I still have the swing gate to open and close each time I want to cross that section of the aisle way on the layout. In a perfect world I would liked to have designed the track plan without the need for it, but in my planning stages I just could not avoid it so the swing gate was the answer. Q: Are there any design elements that others should change or avoid in constructing their own swing gate? A: Again, if you can avoid having any track crossing aisle ways or door ways then try that plan first. As I said, “…in a perfect world…,” but when reality dictates the need for crossing the aisle way, the swing gate was my answer! Q: Would you recommend any changes in the particular materials they use to build the gate? A: As far as the actual swing gate construction goes, other modelers might want to consider using other materials depending on the environmental changes that would expose their layout. For example, is the room air conditioned in the warmer months and heated in the cooler months? Mine layout room is climate controlled year round. Does the area experience high humidity? Some folks might need to use a de-humidifier if they have high humidity levels. Some folks have suggested using piano style hinges for better long term alignment of the gate, or using sheet metal for the main structure to avoid expansion and contraction issues. If your layout has similar issues already, then using the building materials that work for your area and that you currently use would make sense. My swing gate reached its 1st anniversary this month (March, 2008) and has been exposed to one complete cycle of the four seasonal changes and I have not seen any major expansion or contraction that would cause track alignment issues on either side. Q: Were there any construction methods or tricks that you found especially helpful or that did NOT work for you? A: I created a scale drawing plan in 3rd PlanIT Track Planning Software with top, side, and profile views. As I was creating and drawing out the plan I created a parts list and modified it as I went along. Having a printed out plan or “blueprint” in front of me was a great help when construction started. It is a good idea to measure twice and cut once with all the pieces and then do a dry run with fitting them before drilling the holes and screwing all the pieces down. Use a good carpenters square to ensure accurate angles when piecing the 2X4 sections to make the “L” of the swing gate base. You want solid construction here because the actual swing gate mechanism is actually just a really strong door. Think like your working on a door and you will be focused on what it takes to build it like one. The supports on either side of the swing gate are built similar to a door frame as well. So getting into the mind set of building a door and you will have great success. Q: Did you have any electrical or mechanical fail-safes to prevent mishaps if the gate wasn’t correctly positioned? A: At this time there is no electrical or mechanical fail-safe to prevent locomotives and rolling stock from taking a dive should the gate be open. However, I do have plans to incorporate a set of micro switches about 8” to 12” into each side of the benchwork that would shut power to those leading sections when the swing gate is open. The actual design or electrical schematic has not been worked out at this time, so any suggestions on this particular topic would be greatly appreciated. Q: Would you change how you have incorporated the swing gate into the overall track plan? A: Again it goes back to the “lesser of evils” approach. While I would have liked to not put one in, at the time the plan was made I could not avoid having track cross the aisle way. The neat thing is that the swing gate does give the layout a unique look in that track is crossing such a narrow strip of sub-roadbed (3” wide), but all in all if I could do it all over again I would try to put more thought and planning into trying to avoid having one. Q: Did you have to do any special tweaking/fine-tuning/reconstruction to get it to operate reliably the first time? A: The way I built the swing gate did not require any special reconstruction or tweaking. However, the only fine tuning that I did was to do some light file down of the rail heads and flange sides just a tiny bit on the swing gate and on each end of the track leading to it, and this step is included in part II of the tutorial. Q: Is there any routine maintenance (besides cleaning the track) that should be scheduled to keep the swing gate operating reliably after you’ve gotten it set up the first time? A: The only thing I have done is tighten the screws within the two hinges a little bit. At this time it is too early to tell if there would be any other routine maintenance other than track cleaning. Q: Have there been any serendipitous outcomes: any benefits that you hadn’t expected when you first built the gate, but which, nonetheless, really enhanced effectiveness of the gate, helped the track plan or operation, or made life on the layout easier? A: This is hard to explain without actually seeing the sections of the layout that I am referring to, but here goes. The section of main line track that leads from the hinge side of the swing gate is about 4” above the benchwork for that side of the layout and then this track segment crosses over other lower tracks and this was a helpful benefit that was not originally planned. Already having the 4” clearance between the two levels of track helped in keeping the overall grade % much lower and thus more prototypical. Q: How about unintended consequences or unanticipated negative outcomes that others should consider or plan for, if they build a similar swing gate? A: During operating sessions or while puttering around the layout remember where the swing gate is located! Sometimes I run into or bump into the swing gate and over time I can see where this might cause some concern. So far I have not seen any real changes because of the incidental contact, but only time will tell.

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