Computer Consulting Without Compromise

Train Winch

Since so many people have asked and are interested here are a few close up photos of the cable and winch system for my model railroad  layout.  For over five years it has been operating without fail.  Never once has a cable slipped or jumped off a pulley. These pictures are current as of October 2013 unless noted.  Please free to comment on the YouTube video page.  Parts list and image descriptions will be added time permitting.  Below each picture i will note what worked well and what i would change if i had to do it again.  The layout is roughly 15×12 “L shape” and is installed in the ceiling of my two car garage.  Since my master bedroom is above the garage i only had a small area to install the cable system.  Because it’s a two story house i have a huge support beam that i was able to use for mounting all the central pulleys. I have done a few other installs without a main beam and it works fine.  Please forgive the rough carpentry as i’m more of a MacGyver than a perfectionist.

Basic Parts List:
Harbor Freight 2000 lb Winch  $80 – (20% off coupons everywhere just Google it)
1/8 Vinyl Coated Steel Cable $40-$80 for 250 feet price depends on breaking strength.
Garage Door 3 or 4 inch pulleys – $2 each on ebay I chose the 3″ ones as i had limited space.
Turn Buckles for fine adjustment near the winch. $3-$7  Look for high load ones depending on your layout size.
Steel Cable Clamps and Thimbles – at least 4 clamps per line!  Two on each end Minimum!
Many 3/8 Grade 5 or Grade 8 bolts/Screws from Ace/Auto Stores – don’t use standard grade 2 they will bend under pressure.
3/8 steel washers – Lots
Long wood screws and plastic tubing for keeping the cables from jumping off the pulleys
Eye bolts grade 5 or better
Snap Hook Carabiners if you want to disconnect your cables. Again make sure load limits are good for your install.
2×4′s for making the framework to hold each pulley.
Little rubber nipples for the bottom of the Eye Bolts.

his is the main cable routing area.  The winch is about 7 feet behind this photo.  Three of the 7 cables run straight in this channel and did not have to be turned.  The three pulleys on the left are guides for the straight cables.  The pulley’s are mounted at different heights so all the cables can pass around one another and not rub.

This is  the 90 degree turn into the left channel.  About 9 feet to the left is the main cable routing area.  The layout is about 5 feet behind this photo. The screw in the photo is to ensure the cables stay on the pulleys and has a section of plastic tubing as a buffer just in case a cable was to come loose it couldn’t. In some of the photos below you can see this in better detail.

emovable carabiners will allow for the cables to be lifted when the layout is resting on it’s legs.

ooking at one of the pulley supports directly above the layout.  Build these super strong and make sure gaps are filled with shims so lag screws will hold tight.

nother shot of the same support further away.

heap Harbor Freight winch that works very well.  I know it says not for lifting… try to find a winch on the market that is for lifting!

oubling up the winch cable reduces the speed and more importantly reduces the amount of strain on the winch with a 2 to 1 ratio.   It’s in my plans to replace the pulley in this photo with a larger one as this one is not rated above 500 lbs.

hese turnbuckles allow fine adjustment of the layout to make sure layout is level hanging and the weight is evenly spread across the cables.

nother shot of the winch.   If i did this again i would have mounted the eye hook below in the center of the wire drum. currently if the layout is all the way up the cable hits the side as seen in this photo.

ore above layout pulley supports.  Here you can see two in a row.  the closest mounted lower allowing for the second and further support to clear so no cables rub or bind.

entral pulley area where cables go all directions.  If i did this again i might have welded up some metal supports for the pulleys that turn cables 90 degrees.  I’m 5 years in and no bending of bolts so far but its still in the back of my head. the bolts holding the pullyes are actually super long and penetrate deep into the main beam below.  These bolts are super strong from one of my clients who makes bolts for NASA.

gain central pulley area

urther back

entral pulley area looking back to the winch about 10 feet back.

ame angle as above just showing hole that cables turn into.

nother of the above layout pulley supports.

ooking straight up from the layout into one of the lower pulley suports.

ide view showing two cables.  One going down in the pulley and the upper continuing on to the next pulley support.

same support as above further away.

 view of one of the eye hooks with rubber nipple and nut/washer.



The hanging layout during bench work and design in 2011.  The layout is roughly 15×12 “L” shape.

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