Major yard as theme of layout?

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by kutler, Nov 13, 2007.

  1. kutler

    kutler Member

    Years ago MR had a layout build by a guy who loved passenger trains.

    I think he built Boston Union Station or something like that and the associated passenger yards. It looked like a great layout for the size of room he had.

    I've only heard of one other guy since that time who wanted a major yard as a theme of a layout. He was modelling BN's Superior Wi. yards.

    I believe a MR poll also years ago indicated that most modellers liked to operate wayfreight type layouts, where the operator follows the train along and switches enroute. Usually this involves the train leaving from a yard and either turning at a branchline terminal or terminating in a hidden yard.

    I've visited a layout which themed operations around a busy junction, without a visible yard only staging, Has anyone else contemplated making a major yard the center of focus?

    Railroad yards are veritable beehives of activity. They contain a lot of operation within a limited space. One of the more interesting prototype references to yard activity is Fred Frailey's Blue Streak Merchandise, a book about a train. Both the writing and the subject of this book are facinating. For example at Pine Bluff Ark this train would stop on the main track. The power would cut off for servicing. Yard engines would attack the head and tail end of the train, even pulling one end clear of center cross-overs so yard engines could even add traffic to the gut of the train. Even more facinating was the time allotted to this maneuvre, less than 1 hour!

    Most trains need more than 1 hour to swap blocks, some trains even take 24 hours to hump traffic. Switch engines operate on multiple leads, building locals and manifest freights. Transfers bring in traffic from industrial or satellite yards. Intermodal traffic is routinely harvested to be placed on the head end of fast freights. Foot for foot yard operation offers more bang for the buck.

    A drawback to a Major yard layout is the length needed to operate realistically. A small yard of 2000 ft switch to switch scales out at over 24 feet! With enough room to dedicate to a yard theme one could have a long lead which extends a train length beyond the yard for switching or for trains that are delayed awaiting an arrival track. A pretty interesting layout could be built compressing 10 miles of urban railroading into a 250' layout run.

    Partially scenicked staging yards could represent various satellite and interchange yards throughout an urban area. A few industries might be modelled to provide some wayfreight experience. Urban areas provide lots of examples such as Auto or lumber reloads, multi-track freight sheds and freight forwarders, where boxcars are lined up on 5 tracks abreast with steel plates place between the doors creating 25 mobile warehouses.

    Sometimes it's hard to remember just what railroads meant to the growth of a city. Find an old commercial area and locate or imagine where tracks in the street once lay.

    MRs seldom model yards without dedicating a high percentage of space to a roundhouse and turntable. Certainly this is out of sync with railroad practices thoughout the last 30 years. Even Diesel shops are becoming rare as work is being performed by contractors or in centralized shops. Maybe the space could be better utilized by installing a class yard, piggyback ramps, and a couple of garden tracks with a sand tower/fuel rack for diesel power. Turning power could be done at a wye somewhere else on the layout adding another prototypical operation move.

    Even single track railroads used double track extensively around major yards. Two tracks simplifies operations, keeps things moving and it looks esthetically pleasing in many ways.

    Lots of space might be required to faithfully reproduce something like this. If you can find 6 modellers and quonset hut to do it in , you've performed a small miracle.

    I'll probably be satisfied if I can model a moderate sized yard like St J Vermont. With interchange , run throughs and an interlocking, I'd still need a pretty good sized basement to grasp the feeling of the prototype.
  2. inqzitr

    inqzitr Member

    I've actually seen this as a major theme on a variety of layouts. A lot happens in a yard, esp. with engine service facilities... You'll still need to condense things. Check out 'track planning for realistic operation', the author speaks a lot about the subject, and has a whole section or two on yards.
  3. MasonJar

    MasonJar It's not rocket surgery

    MR had a yard-based layout with associated switch jobs featured in Feb 2007.

    One other "yard-centric" layout is Richard Wakefield's It has Orangeville, ON as its focus. Richard managed to get it almost to scale - I think he had to cut about 200 scale feet off it, but it is still over 24 actual feet long. (Or should I say "was", since he has dismantled it due to a move. :().

  4. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    For anyone here in the Los Angeles area, the S.P. built a n scale version of the Roseville Yard to use as a training device. I guess they have moved on to some sort of simulator, so the n scale model was no longer needed. Admittedly it was many years ago that I last visited, but that model of the Roseville Yard was donated to a n scale model railroad club and is part of an operating layout at Travel Town in Griffith Park.
  5. Ralph

    Ralph's for fun!

    Can't get more realistic than that Russ!
  6. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Yeah, that yard is so big that it is 50% or the model railroad if I remember correctly, but I bet it would be fun to operate!
  7. MCL_RDG

    MCL_RDG Member

    Having a yard is...

    ...better than not. As much as I don't want a yard to dominate a model RR I do like the action in the yard. It's the natural extension of running the trains. Gotta put 'em somewhere and they gotta be shaken and stirred so they can get on their way and do stuff.

    I just wouldn't want just a yard- I want the whole darn thing!

  8. iis612

    iis612 Member

    I want a major yard to be a central part of my layout.
    However, the size and dsign of the prototype makes it nearly impossible.

    Attached Files:

  9. kutler

    kutler Member


    I've been there!

    What a neat place in the 80s. GP-30s in Chessie and B&O schemes.
    Shortlines with Alcos everywhere. I don't recall the CR yard. It must have been quite small by comparison? CSX sure was in Saginaw in a big way. Thanks for that view of the yard, it's pretty unique.
  10. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    One of the problems we face in model railroading is that we want to model a lot more than we actually have room for. A major yard like BNSF's Hobart Yard in Los Angeles, or the U.P. Yard across Washington Blvd from Hobart or even Amtrac's Redondo Junction in Los Angeles would take up most of a basement if modeled in ho scale. The yard pictured by iis612 looks like it could be easily selectively compressed into the corner of a layout in the center of a wye to allow turning trains around if the tails of the wye are long enough. The S.P. had a bunch of small yard serving various industrial areas all over the Los Angeles area. I can think of 5 or 6 such yards all within 20 minutes to 1/2 hour of my house. When the U.P. bought the S.P. they thought the S.P. was crazy to have all of these small yards and closed them all. Within a few weeks, they discovered that they did not have enough yard space to handle the traffic into and out of Los Angeles, and had to reopen all of the S.P. yards they had closed! I don't have a basement to fill with trains. All I will have is a 9' x 7' "L" shaped shelf layout space in a spare bed room. I'm going to model a selectively compressed "Commerce Yard" on the LA Junction on the 7' leg, and District Ave on the 9' leg. he Commerce Yard is double ended on the prototype, but mine will have to be a single ended yard to fit the space. District Avenue is a Street in Vernon that has the tracks running on the side of the industries to the North away from the street and then tracks crossing the street every 50 feet or so into industries on the South side of the street for a mile or 2. I may have to selectively compress District Ave., but I think I can make a switching layout that will keep me busy for hours at a time switching out industries and working the "C" yard.
  11. ocalicreek

    ocalicreek Member

    Iain Rice published a plan for modeling a major passenger terminal in an L-shaped space. I believe it was in N-scale, and is in one of his planning books...the Small, Smart & Practical book, I believe. But you're right, I've yet to see anyone actually model one except on big clubs. Z yard at the club in Pasadena (HO) is very impressive indeed.
  12. acsoosub

    acsoosub Member

    The focal point of my club's layout (Welcome to the Waterloo Region Model Railway Club) is the yard at Sudbury. Sudbury yard was not a division point yard, but supported the branchline to Sault Ste. Marie as well as all of the industry in the Sudbury basin (forestry, a couple paper mills and numerous mines, smelters and related industry). Mainline trains stop at Sudbury to exchange cars, and numerous locals are based out of Sudbury yard. Also, the Canadian, CPR's flagship transcontinental passenger train was switching into two sections at Sudbury, for Montreal and Toronto.
    We'll be modelling a pretty good length of the mainline and several branches, but Sudbury yard is definately the centre of the layout operationally and the point of the most action. The yard will keep 2-3 switch crews busy plus dodging the arriving and departing freights and locals. Our yard is modelled closely off the prototype, and our version features a 20 track main yard, plus engine and car shops facilities and a 4-track secondary yard along the beginning of the branchline to Sault Ste. Marie. You can see on our trackplan (WRMRC Sudbury Division - Division Map) that Sudbury takes up at least 50% of the first floor. (That's right, the layout is not just multi-level, it's multi-floor. It's what you might call a super-mushroom)
    Right now, the mainline east and west of Sudbury is still under construction and is being extended to Flanagan and Stinson, and up to the second floor via a to-be built helix. From there we'll attach it to a temporary staging yard to get that section into service and continue working from there. So at the moment, Sudbury really is the majority of the layout. Even when complete, it'll still be the centre of activity, but we're working on giving the mainline trains some more run.
  13. kutler

    kutler Member

    Don't forget to model the East and South Transfer tracks at Romford, located to the south and north of the main tracks. As Romford was a Junction, a great deal of traffic is exchanged here by through trains heading for Montreal or Toronto with blocks or single cars for the other direction.

    there is a loop track at Turner, too.......
  14. acsoosub

    acsoosub Member


    Yep, Romford is under construction and will feature the transfer tracks. Because it's still in progress and only has a temporary switch arrangement there at the moment (the proper junction trackwork is being built this summer) we have up to now been transferring this traffic at Sudbury and having the proper arrangement at Romford will allow us to get these swaps out of Sudbury and where they belong. Sudbury local and Sault Ste. Marie and Chicago&Midwest via SOO line cars still get exchanged at Sudbury. Extending the mainline from Romford also means Montreal trains don't have to go to Toronto anymore either, which will improve our staging capacity. :)

    Turner won't have enough depth for a full loop track (the base of the building is 2000 sq.ft. and track is on 6 levels - and we still don't have nearly enough room!!), so we'll have to make do with a runaround. But Turner and little Current will be featured at one end of the layout, Sturgeon Falls at one end of the mainline and the yard at Cartier at the other. With Sudbury in the physical and operational centre of the layout.
  15. brakie

    brakie Active Member

    It can be done..Frank Ellison suggested such a layout years ago..Frank suggested using a large yard for the "stage" and have trains to arrive from and depart to fiddle yards.He said this could be a division point where locomotives was changed and trains was reclassified and it could keep 3 operators busy.

    Also you may want to see Gary Hoover's article in this months MR(June 08) since he models Santa Fe's San Bernardino yard.

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