Who has unlimited space for his hobby? The simple wish for more usable space has resulted in many good technical solutions. The simple task here is to overcome a height difference on the model railway layout (→as shown with the lift concept).

The Collection

Many times there is no room for a helix at large scales (→track layout) or the lift is combined with the visual appeal of a showcase stationary yard: Despite the effort, there are several reasons for using a lift. The top class are then those in which the lifting processes have been fully integrated into the control system. Either way, it’s exciting to see what has already been achieved.
Over time, a collection of model railway elevators has been built here. You can find the complete table at the bottom of this page. Here are some highlights where I put a focus on technical features. And of course I don’t want to withhold →my own solution from you.

The three basic lift concepts

Despite the high number of lifts, there are three basic concepts:

Concept 1: The Paternoster

As the name suggests, there are two synchronous chain drives and the track gondolas suspending from them run along the chains. An essential aspect of this type is the storage of trains and less overcoming of height difference (although this would be technically possible). As a rule, the chains run in the shape of an upright oval, so that the gondolas are guided up like the paternoster, then around a wheel and down again around a lower wheel in a circle.

Paternoster-Lift in H0 scale (Table No 5)

The entry and exit is basically possible at both ends of the lift. It should be noted that with larger scales and especially with unequal loading, sometimes very high forces act on the supporting chains. At the same time, of course, sufficient vertical positioning accuracy must be achieved so that there are no problems when a train passes the track gap. Between 8 and 20 revolving track gondolas are common. Sometimes two parallel tracks are installed per gondola. So trains can arrive and leave at the same time or even train crossings are possible. The mechanical complexity of these systems is quite demanding.

Paternoster-Lift with really large dimensions (Table No 1). Source: →Spur G Blog

Concept 2: The Showcase (engl. Showcase)

A very common type is the variant in which a number of tracks are arranged vertically on top of each other and this group as a whole can in turn be moved vertically. If the front is open or made of glass, the lift also functions as a showcase and the stored trains can also be viewed without layout operation.

Typical Showcase-Lift (Table No 8)

Here, between a few and up to twenty tracks or more are possible, depending on the scale. The showcase can also be entered from both sides; several exits at different height levels would also be technically feasible. As an almost classic solution the threaded spindle drive with nut is used in this concept. Depending on the design, these can be simple spindles from a DIY store or hardened trapezoidal thread systems. One advantage of the concept is that there is only one direction of travel without any other moving elements. This is comparatively easy to handle from a mechanical point of view.

Showcase-Lift in Z scale with many levels (Table No 9)

Concept 3: The Lifting Table

With the lift table, it is explicitly not the storage of trains that is in the foreground, but actually the overcoming of a difference in height.

Lifting-Table-Lift in G scale (Table No 3)

In most cases there is only one track, which can be lifted and lowered by a gear mechanism and a drive. Purely mechanical, therefore, also rather moderate effort. For →my 1 scale layout I chose →this concept because I could save a space-consuming helix then. So I can have a nice stationary yard. Finally I saved about 4m² of “dead” space.

also a Lifting-Table version with very high vertical speed (Table No 23)

Common requirements

The requirements for such a system (as I have already formulated →for my purposes in the concept article) are usually very similar:

  • Lifting with sufficient force: Depending on the scale and the number of tracks with moving train sets, there can be quite a bit of weight involved.
  • Lifting with sufficient (repeating) accuracy: Larger “steps” in the track are unfavorable, so it must be stopped very precisely at the correct position. Especially with small scales (N or Z) the tolerances are narrow and it depends very much on it. Basically it is important to find the right trade-off between positioning speed, force and accuracy.
  • Safety
    • Because of the great forces mentioned above, possible dangers must also be considered here. Crushing and shearing must be avoided.
  • Automation
    • You possibly need a connection to the central station (DCC) for receiving control commands
    • Status feedback to the central station
    • Depending on the type, the lift must be appropriately represented in the software. A turnout is suitable for the lift table (two states). For the paternoster and display case, the logic is very similar to that of a turntable or a transfer table.
  • Comfort:
    • Fast lifting process
    • Quiet lifting process
    • Simple lifting process (degree of automation)
    • Status display

Some Lift Highlights

You gotta see this: A few special solutions here in the quick portrait. The pictures then lead directly to the sources or videos:

The longest track

Source: →Spur G Blog (Table No 1)

With a track length of 5m, the →Kesselbauer paternoster is the lonely top. In this video the mechanism is equipped with 1 scale trains.

The Fastest

You find the lift at the end of the video (Table No 24)

The speed of this lift represents a record: That should be about 200mm per second. Unfortunately I don’t know which drive is used here.

The most Sophisticated

Table No 29

This is the only lift in this collection which, in addition to the lifting movement, can also rotate about its vertical axis. On the one hand, connecting tracks can be reached at different angles, but on the other hand, a complete train turn is also possible. So the train can leave the entrance track turned. Awesome! But it also requires a lot of space.

The most Complex

Table No 17

Actually there are two showcases and a lifting table with two tracks here, which are arranged close to each other. So the mechanics are not that complex, but think about the logic for automated control. Even the control console offers a lot of switching possibilities…

The Quietest

Table No 34

One of the quietest elevators is… mine 🙂 ! Despite the large forces and the average lifting speed, the noise level is kept at a very low level thanks to the timing belts and damping rubbers.

Tabular overview

The database with the lifts →can be found here. Have fun!