Derek Osborn's
HO Suspended Layout

At a Canadian Association of Railway Modeller's (CARM) meeting at Derek Osborn's workshop, we had the opportunity to see how to make a suspened layout. Derek has a small, crowded manufacturing facility behind his house. Every inch is crammed with equipment and supplies for making Osborn Model Kits. Which left no room for a traditional model train layout on the floor. Derek came up with a creative solution. Build a suspended layout.

Overview of suspended layout
suspended layout

This is not a completely new idea. John Armstrong and other have discussed the concept. I toyed with the idea of building one in my garage so I could still get the car in. I could never quite figure out how to do it efficiently.

Derek has done his with pulleys. The layout is 4 feet by 6 feet. He uses it to test and showcase his work and as a creative break from manufacturing.

Supporting pulleys
closeup of pulley

This is a closeup view of a pulley and the ropes he used. Nothing fancy. Plain and simple.

Pulleys at right end
closeup of suspension

This view shows the pulleys at one end. There are also safety hooks on the two shorter sides to hold the layout up.

Metal strapping and bolts attach the pulleys to the ceiling beams.

Raised layout
raised layout

This is the suspended layout when in a raised position. It can be lowered by one person. It's necessary to use one's hands to steady it as it is slowly lowered because there is some swaying. The ropes at either end are not interconnected. Each end is lowered or raised independently a little at a time. Derek uses locking wheels to grip the rope. I think these are the kind of roller grips used on sailboats when lowering or raising sails. Same principle used in your window blinds.

Layout in lowered position
raised layout

Here the layout has been lowered. The view is looking towards the left end when standing in front of the controls.

Left end of layout
left end of layout

This is the left end of the layout viewed when lowered. One advantage of a suspended layout is that you can lower it to whatever operating height and working height is comfortable.

Right end of layout
right end of suspended layout

Derek's layout is small enough that counterweights are not needed. Using lightweight materials such as an aluminum frame and foam insulation board would make it easier to raise and lower. Derek, as you can see, used a plywood frame. Two of us had no problem lowering and raising it. We derailed a few freight cars in the process, but that is a small price to pay to have a working layout when you're tight for space.

If you'd like to learn more about Derek's Canadian models, go to Osborn Model Kits.

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