Low profile wagon, Broadway-style

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Whenever I see a show on Broadway I'm always impressed by the very low profile scenery wagons, I would guess less than 1" thick. I assume these usually follow tracks and are guided and powered from under the deck. Do they use casters similar to RoseBrand's Pallet Master?

I recently saw a touring production and it used these same very low profile wagons to bring on and off small pieces of scenery, seemingly without tracks. I could be wrong about that not having tracks, I was sitting at the back of the house. But I wondered what the latest innovations are here: is possible to automate these low profile wagons without tracks, ie are there very low profile casters that can power and steer themselves?

Thanks!
 

gafftaper

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The traditional way is a slot cut in the floor. A couple of thin blades attached to the wagon go through the slot in the floor, lining it up on the track. Underneath the floor, the blade is connected to a rope. You don't have to cut a slot in the actual floor to do this, you can put in a false floor and raise the deck up just a few inches and run the rope in the gap between. I too am curious about what the newest ways of doing this are.
 

rochem

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One common method for low-profile wagons is to forgo casters altogether and use UHMW on the bottom of a thin wagon instead. The UHMW has very low friction and so can slide across a well-built deck with relative ease. I even did a show with a 4x10 wagon that was manually pushed on and off stage by a push stick while two actors were sitting on it. However, UHMW is very expensive and so it becomes cost-prohibitive to use it in these quantities outside of very large theatres.
 

bobgaggle

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http://www.rosebrand.com/product2682/Pallet-Master-Caster.aspx

Just built 2 4x8 wagons for some japanese cruise line with these. 1" square tube frame, mitered at all the corners, one toggle. 1"x1/4" flat bar inside welded flush with the bottom. 2 pieces of 3/4" ply cut to 45 7/8"x46 3/8". Ply sits inside the frame and is countersunk screwed in from the bottom through the flat bar. Casters got mounted to the ply and we covered the whole thing with adhesive backed vinyl tiles. Of course for standard uses you can cap it all with a 4x8 of maso. Overall height was about 1 5/8". From what I've been told its holding up well. It had some noticeable deflection when you walked in the center of it, could have been solved by adding more toggles and smaller pieces of ply...
 

kicknargel

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Yes, most likely those pallets are using the Pallet Master or similar. I've done a pallet that was on a curved track and used ball casters (or ball transfers) that were similarly low in profile. Noisy, though.

I'd be surprised if there were self-driving technology that could be that low-profile. In a thicker wagon it is possible. Can't remember where, but I've seen video of a system that was self-driving and used a laser to track it's progress across the floor and hit its spikes via dead reckoning.
 

mozsey

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Seattle, WA
How my theatre does this is taking a sheet of 3/4" plywood, route a bunch of 1.5"x1" holes 2 feet apart on center. Take piano hinges like http://www.mcmaster.com/#piano-hinges/=y52hn8 and seperate the two sides. Take a hole saw and cut out a whole big enough for your casters (I can't find the specific that we use. But something similar to http://www.mcmaster.com/#standard-wheels/=y52idb) to fit between the pin wholes with a little, but not much, amount of wiggle room. Drill your screw holes, screw your casters in. Put a sheet of 1/4" MDF on top and voila! You have a rolling pallet. I'm sorry if it's hard to understand. usually I just design the sets and the carps build the pallets for me.
 

VCTMike

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How my theatre does this is taking a sheet of 3/4" plywood, route a bunch of 1.5"x1" holes 2 feet apart on center. Take piano hinges like http://www.mcmaster.com/#piano-hinges/=y52hn8 and seperate the two sides. Take a hole saw and cut out a whole big enough for your casters (I can't find the specific that we use. But something similar to http://www.mcmaster.com/#standard-wheels/=y52idb) to fit between the pin wholes with a little, but not much, amount of wiggle room. Drill your screw holes, screw your casters in. Put a sheet of 1/4" MDF on top and voila! You have a rolling pallet. I'm sorry if it's hard to understand. usually I just design the sets and the carps build the pallets for me.
A sketch would help. I don't follow what the piano hinges are used for.
 

Skervald

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Minneapolis, MN
Time to revive an old thread. I'm doing some long range planning for a high school and thinking about stock wagons. (wagons and high school productions are like...well, insert your own cliche) I've got a donor who owns a metal shop, likes projects, and wants to help. He's a good welder and has done some excellent work for me in the past so it makes sense to go with a steel frame/supports with a plywood deck. I'd like to keep them fairly low profile which isn't too difficult until you get to the casters. The school has a pretty smooth plyron stage deck and only a slight threshold between the shop and stage. The Rose Brand Pallet Master is certainly attractive for staying low profile and tracking in a straight line but not so great for maneuverability which would cut down the versatility of a stock piece. Rose Brand mini single swivel looks like a good possibility. UHMW also looks attractive. I've never used it, what are the best practices? How much of a surface does one need to cover? How thick should it be? I suppose it depends on weight and construction.

So bottom line question: What's under your wagons?

Bonus question: other than what's already been mentioned in this thread, any wisdom on tubular steel wagons?
 

gafftapegreenia

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If it's small/light enough, we've been using huge sheets of felt and the typical knife and dog guides. Works fine for small platforms with say, a writing desk on them.
 
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JohnD

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gafftapegreenia

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bobgaggle

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Dover

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It would be theoretically possible to guide a wagon around a stage with linear induction motors under the deck.
Automation of a pallet would be greatly simplified however if the pallet only needed to drive on and back off stage. There are several types of 24v motorized conveyor rollers around 1.5" in diameter that could be mounted as drive wheels under a steel framed pallet. All that would be needed on top would be a place to hide the batteries.
 

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