The On-Line Magazine of Rideable Model Railroading

  NUMBER 200


© June 17, 2013   

 ©Discover Live Steam. This material may not be published, rewritten, or redistributed without written permission.

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My Transfer Table

Written by Laurence Johnson

Needing more storage space I built another train shed. I had scrounged five overseas shipping pallets from a local industry ranging in size of 8’ x 24’ to 8’ x 12’ that used 3/4” planks for decking and 4” x 5” timbers for the framework. Two of the twenty-four footers I narrowed to six feet wide and cut them to twenty feet long; and used them for side walls by standing them on edge. The remaining piece I used as one side of the roof and the eight footers (end to end) for the other side of the roof. This gave me a 9’-6” x 20’ shed with the roof overhanging by three plus feet on the “entrance end.” I made it this way hoping that I would not need a door on that end. With the transfer table and its supporting and rolling rack as well as the track closely meeting the table I felt any kind of a weather sealing door would be quite a design challenge. I covered the floor with gravel ballast supporting four track sections with the door end defined by a eight inch I-Beam laying on its side. That beam is supported on each end by wooden pads and held in place with two foot sections of steel fence posts pounded into the ground keeping it from moving. This beam has two purposes: the inside flange supports and holds in position the loading end of the shed’s tracks (the other end of the tracks floats on top of the ballast); the outer flange supports and guides the end of the transfer table. The other end of the transfer table is rolling on top of an 8” x 10” maple beam resting on the ground using the same type of rollers. I let all of this, the building and both beams rest on ground to float, during the seasonal heave and thaw, move together. I will wait a year or so watching and checking the rail cars at the open end of the shed to see if there is enough protection from the building and roof overhang or do I need to come up with some kind of a drop tarp door covering that I can roll up into the ceiling.

Let me very quickly tell you I have never seen a real-for-true railroad transfer table; I am simply making do with the scrounged and donated materials I have on hand. I started building this table from outside in. I erected the shed making do with those large free pallets on one end and picking up a feeder siding with a switch from my main line on the other end. The width of the shed dictated the number and location of the four track in the shed and the position of the shed dictated the direction of the feeder track section.

The angle iron is welded to these “supports” as well as being welded to the outside of the beam every foot on top. I have a backup plan of cutting sixteen gauge triangular sheet steel pieces into solid brackets being welded to the beam and angle iron for supports if there was any sign of movement or failure of the “angle iron track,” so far everything is looking good. I did make a test of running my heaviest loco coupled to a car that I was riding onto the transfer table to see if there was movement and could not see any.

I did make a decision to align the feeder track with the second track inside the shed so that I would have enough room between the feeder track and the mainline to eventually build another short storage track aligned with the shed’s first track that I could roll out all of the stored cars or transfer some of the cars for holding until the car needed could be shuffled onto the feeder track. 

Unless there is an audience I wanted to impress, all of these moves would be accomplished with 0-5-0 hand pushing/pulling of cars. My I-Beams do not measure 7-5/8” inside to inside to match my track gauge. So I welded angle iron onto the outside edge and used the beam flange as a guard rail. The angle iron is supported by four inch lengths of half inch square rectangular tube stock that is roughly four to five inches in length welded to the I Beam.

Not all of the planning of this transfer table was done by CAD, my usual design tool. This was a mostly field measured using what was in the scrap box, stock stored and on hand construction job. And it was a lot of fun. I knew I could use the V-Grove-guided track, shaft mounted, rollers I had pulled out of the trash back when I was working if I just put my mind to it.

 I knew these four and a half inch diameter rollers could roll on the outside of angle iron. It could also roll on the proper size of pipe, if I had any scrap pipe laying around. I also knew that it had a double sealed bearing which meant I could use it outside and it turned very smoothly. I think they were scrapped at the factory because the inside was worn and each roller I had on hand looked different but that didn’t matter to me for my needs.

It is a non rusting steel smooth running heavily built roller that was free to me. I looked them up in the web’s McMaster-Carr catalog (#6321K39) and saw two things: one, I was glad they were free and two, the roller could hold a couple of tons of weight. I let the flange guide and hold the transfer table in position one end and run on top of the wooden beam on the other end. I will tell you I started with the wooden beam in the shed and the steel beam next to the feeder track but the heights did not work out. To have three inches of gravel under my steel track in the shed and the “other end” lower than the door end I had to swap wood for steel at the shed. Having all of that in place I could finish the groovy track feeder onto the wooden beam and the storage track positioned in the shed. I will admit there was some head scratching and measuring to find the right amount of the correct pieces of scrape welded above and below the center web to align the top of the track to the top of the wood beam to the top of the IBeam and that is the nice thing about using a cutting torch and welder working with steel.

What is cut off can be put back! Or, add more steel! Just before I touched up the paint and then gave a second coat, I rolled a car onto the table and pushed the table from storage track, back and forth, trying it out! Wow! Problems! The Table had to be just right to roll cause the groove in the roller would bind up or jumped off the flange and then the rail car rolled off the other end of the table! A truly black moment in backyard railroading! I popped off a wheel, chucked it in the lathe and rounded the inner shoulder — no more being picky about alignment — a little slop is ok on one wheel, but not both! I made some slotted (arrow) in 1/4” x 1” strap steel that I bolted to each end of the table. Each strap had a U-shaped hook (check) welded that when rotated onto the track would fit into a slot in the rail (circle) aligning table and track — and was aligned on the rail head, the wheels never felt any alignment or bump problems; I did this on both ends and all tacks. And when the strap is up, it cannot be laid down with out being lifted up by hand because the lower end locks; keeping the cars on the table!


Written by Laurence Johnson

photos by Laurence Johnson
© Discover Live Steam


Laurence Johnson is the author of the new book "Build a 7-1/2" Gauge Railroad in your Backyard". It also gives dimensions for 7-1/4" track. This new book by Laurence Johnson includes chapters on the following important topics:

  • Aluminum Rail

  • Groovy Track

  • Ballast

  • Rail and Tie Spacing

  • Bending Rail

  • Building Switches

  • All About Frogs

  • Constructing a Diamond

  • Calculating Curves

  • Calculating Grade

  • Super Elevation

  • Figuring Costs

  • Drainage

  • Grade Crossings

  • Bridges

  • Trestles

  • Weed Barriers

  • Right-Of-Way Maintenance and much much more.




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