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Offline baggio  
#1 Posted : 24 August 2015 02:41:25(UTC)

Joined: 21/09/2012(UTC)
Posts: 1,729
Location: Toronto
Hello, Everyone:

I am thinking of putting together a Helix with an R1 radius but do not know where to begin. Confused

Some of the questions I have are:

1. Does having a helix put too much strain on locos?
Going up a climb seems like a lot of work for a small engine; am I wrong?

2. Is an R1 radius too small?
My space does not really allow for any wider helix.

3. How do I actually put it together?
I mean, do I go to my Marklin dealer and ask for an already made helix? Somehow, I don't think so. I think I need to put it together myself or I need to have it done for me. Does the Markling shop have the paper "blueprints"?

4. Are K tracks good for doing this?
I know that C tracks are. Any problems if I used K tracks?

Offline SteamNut  
#2 Posted : 24 August 2015 03:58:46(UTC)

United States   
Joined: 11/05/2013(UTC)
Posts: 488
I have noticed in the Model Railroad magazine that there are companies that will construct them for you also there are videos and articles on the internet if you want to try yourself. Any grade will effect the pulling power of a lok and a 3% grade won't be too bad.
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Offline Fishman  
#3 Posted : 24 August 2015 05:50:28(UTC)

Joined: 16/07/2015(UTC)
Posts: 43
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Offline fkowal  
#4 Posted : 28 August 2015 01:39:20(UTC)

Joined: 01/02/2012(UTC)
Posts: 67
Location: Toronto

1) The strain on the loco's is dependent upon the grade (rate of climb), the amount of curvature (curves give more rolling friction than straight sections), and the weight of the wagons you are pulling. In general, less grade is better, fewer wagons are better, and larger curve radii are better. I am building a helix with a grade of 2.5%. My goal was to have a BR85 pull 6 (24 cm) tinplate passenger cars without any wheel slippage. My original design was 3.0% and it was too steep. I am using R5 radii. Next time you are Westend Trains, take a look at the showroom layout. It is using R1 and R2 grades and is very steep. Have Mike do some tests for you with small locomotives.
2) R1 is the least preferred option, but is manageable with lower grades and shorter train lengths.
3) Noch makes helix kits which are very attractive. They are pricey. My helix has 6 loops so the Noch solution would have set me back around $1000 (not realistic). I have build my own. Not difficult really, you need a jig saw to cut the ramps your self. I have used 11 mm plywood (home depot) along with 1/4 inch threaded rod to control the support elevation. ( I would sent a photo but do not know how to attach here.)
4) There is no issue with "K" track. You will need to use 7500 and 7504 for track ground and power supply respectively as your helix probably does not have any straight sections.

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Offline clapcott  
#5 Posted : 28 August 2015 04:49:42(UTC)

New Zealand   
Joined: 12/12/2005(UTC)
Posts: 2,360
Location: Wellington, New_Zealand
Hi Baggio,

Just some of my thoughts on the subject

A) Re: My space does not really allow for any wider helix.
While most people conceive a helix to be made solely of curved track and of the same radii, consider the option of an oval with progressive curves or even insert straights in one dimension. Anything to allow reduced gradients.
- A related specification here is the height you need - i.e. do you use catenary?

B1) Allow for servicing, and good construction access
- if the track to track height distance does not allow for your hand to get hold of a derailed loco and do basic maneuvering you will be sorry,
- for getting your head and hand/arm up the middle of the helix, eliminate any bulky infrastructure - e.g. use metal rods instead of 4x2's
- getting track laid properly is well worth a bit of extra time, however designing for ease of access to do the work is just as important.

B2) Expect derailments - e.g. of the type caused by a 2nd train rear ending the fist and causing an accordion effect
- this may mean adding some side barrier for protection to prevent items testing their bounce coefficient as they fall to the ground.
- In lieu of B1 - accessibility - it may be worth making the barriers removable.

C) The Entry and Exit slope transitions should never be overlooked - reference the bridge approach diagrams in the Marklin Catalogs.
- Tip. for C-Track, you may make saw cuts across the roadbed from the underside (say 10 cuts per piece) , this will allow for a better curving rather than leaving the gradient change to a kink at the join of track pieces.
- ideally do not start the track curving until the locomotive has all wheels on the main gradient
- maintain a consistent gradient - hyper-elevation may creep in with construction and may assist with draw-bar effort but it has to be extremely well designed if you want max traction with all tires touching the rails.

D) Unlike a straight incline where you can get away with a stiff board and in-frequent pillars, (I believe) a curve/helix should be supported at least once per piece of track. In doing so you need smaller (thinner) supports and may benefit by using 6mm, 4.5mm or even 3mm base board which will better conform to gradient changes while curving.
- suggest cutting track baseboard out of a single sheet (as much as practical) to allow natural conforming of gradient changes.
- work with the board - not against it.
- suggest the width of the base board (where the track sits) be only marginally wider than the track itself (safety consideration of A2 not withstanding)
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Offline baggio  
#6 Posted : 28 August 2015 04:57:49(UTC)

Joined: 21/09/2012(UTC)
Posts: 1,729
Location: Toronto
Wow, Clapcott, that is what I call helpful feedback. BigGrin

You and others have made me realize that there is no way I can do this myself and I will not spend $1,000.00 for a helix.

It was a good idea at the time.... Sad

Thanks to all. ThumpUp
Offline mike c  
#7 Posted : 28 August 2015 06:31:03(UTC)
mike c

Joined: 28/11/2007(UTC)
Posts: 7,509
Location: Montreal, QC
Noch makes a very handy helix kit that can be easily installed into a self built layout.
If you intend to make the helix hidden, make sure that you provide an access panel into the space so that you can take care of any derailments or other problems.
These days, it is possible to install LED lighting and digital cameras so that regular monitoring can be done from the control desk.



Mike C
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Offline baggio  
#8 Posted : 29 August 2015 02:35:19(UTC)

Joined: 21/09/2012(UTC)
Posts: 1,729
Location: Toronto
Just now I have had the time to look at the links, wow! That is stunning and not too expensive either. BigGrin

Thank you, Mike.

So as to be clear, do I get the whole wood assembled as a package so that all I need to do is add the track?
Offline mike c  
#9 Posted : 29 August 2015 03:54:22(UTC)
mike c

Joined: 28/11/2007(UTC)
Posts: 7,509
Location: Montreal, QC
I am not an expert. I think that it can be bought in kits that provide one loop, two loops, etc for single and/or parallel track. The kit contains the brackets that support the helix and the supports to which the tracks are attached. The Noch website should provide more details.


Mike C
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Offline Tex  
#10 Posted : 12 October 2015 07:10:23(UTC)

United States   
Joined: 30/01/2004(UTC)
Posts: 276
Location: Houston, Texas
I have been operating a three level marklin layout with a helix for a number of years and would like to offer some words of advice.

(1) building a helix is not difficult and can be done in different ways. The key to making one is to use careful planning

(2) Use R2 radius as a minimum

(3) MY R2 helix has a rise of 3 3/4 inch per each 360 degree loop. This amount of rise is no problem for my marklin trains.

(4) I constructed my helix from 1/4 inch plywood cut into 180 degree segments. The plywood is supported by eight 5/16 inch threaded rods with nuts and washers top and bottom.

Good luck , I had a good time building my helix and expect you will to . but, remember to plan ahead

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Online kiwiAlan  
#11 Posted : 12 October 2015 12:53:01(UTC)

United Kingdom   
Joined: 23/07/2014(UTC)
Posts: 7,106
Location: ENGLAND, Didcot
My comment about a helix would be as follows: -

If at all possible, when having a twin track helix, arrange the track layout so the outer track is the one that is for the train climbing the helix, and the inner track for the train coming down. This makes the grade for the climbing train ever so slightly less, and the drag due to going around a corner just that little bit less than if it is trying to do the same on the inner track.

It is not always possible to arrange the track layout like this, but i think it makes enough difference to be worth the effort.

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Offline Mark5  
#12 Posted : 13 October 2015 17:37:34(UTC)

Joined: 29/01/2012(UTC)
Posts: 1,240
Location: Montreal, Canada
Hello Gentlemen,

As I'd like to make a DIY helix for my next layout, your post got me looking online.
An interesting link step-by-step with no video:

However, there are loads of videos on youtube, of varying quality.
Some are fun to see, to inspire:

Another takes a basic step by step approach:

I've made some rather annoying problems for myself in the simple curved gradient on my last layout....
....not-so-very-smart idea of banking my curves with a tight industrial M-track radius
and making a sloped yard, that required functional sloping catenary over the yard. It does look great though.
[I hope to post photos of these someday in another post, as I try to better resolve the problem.]

- Mark
DB DR FS NS SNCF c. 1955-65, fan of V200, electrics and steam, so hard to narrow down...
...signaling systems, yard traffic and shunting, Sommerfeldt catenary,
and station architecture (esp. stations from 1920-70).
In process: a new modular layout, track planning and drawing benchwork.
Email anytime or chat live: https://discord.gg/jAEKyTWQPQ
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Offline Timnomads  
#13 Posted : 23 May 2022 09:33:27(UTC)

Joined: 16/09/2015(UTC)
Posts: 269
Location: Grandvaux - Lausanne - Switzerland

Here is another Helix maker


in the instructions, it explains how to maintain a steady gradient (3%) on R2 R3 double helix.

Cheaper than Noch and caters for all sizes etc.

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Offline Michael4  
#14 Posted : 24 May 2022 10:07:11(UTC)

United Kingdom   
Joined: 02/02/2017(UTC)
Posts: 571
Location: England, South Coast
This thread is great, just what I was looking for the other day.

I have limited space for my helix which gives me something of a problem. The helix will have to be round, M 5100 and 5200 radii and I do not think I have enough space to add straights to lessen the incline. I use powered catenary so the height to be achieved in one 360 degree turn is 104.5 mm according to Marklin if I use the catenary posts. However, if I can fix wire to the underside of the helix and dispense with posts this could be reduced to approx 83mm.

Still steep though!
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Offline Toosmall  
#15 Posted : 24 May 2022 10:30:31(UTC)

Joined: 26/07/2021(UTC)
Posts: 326
Location: Sydney
Make the spiral partly visible to effectively increase radius thus reduce gradient and make the layout more interesting.



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