Wanted: In Depth Understanding of the Switching Yard

Discussion in 'Getting Started' started by Radstar, Nov 21, 2005.

  1. Radstar

    Radstar New Member

    Hi guys,

    I am going to start a new layout in the basement of my new home.. my past experiences includes mostly about a million different layouts with wood trains & tracks :)

    I did a layout 2 years ago with N-scale- the train went around in an oval loop, had a valley in middle of it with a lake & a river.. which ran under a bridge I also built.. as well a mountain in the corner which had a tunnel for the train to go through- it was a very nice BEGINNER project heh

    For my very first big project.. I am doing alot research before determining the final layout.. one thing I know I want is a large switching yard because I can see how it would be alot fun playing around with the engines and boxcars when running my trains in a loop or 8 figure gets tiring

    So anyway.. the switching yard.. I want to TOTALLY understand every aspect, function and purpose of the switching yard.. what is the purpose of every single track, switch, ,etc

    I need to also understand some new vocabulary such as main line, doube track, alternate line. etc..

    Oh yeah also could be good if I could understand what typically is being done in the yard.. unload, load stuff.. do passengers also get on/off at the yard? there's so much stuff I dont even really know about.. im really interested in the hobby mainly for the electronics and modelling.. dont know very much about trains im afraid!

    So anyway- im sure y'all will be able to point me in the right direction, wether it is a specific issue of model railroader, webpage, or book.. etc. Just keep in mind i really really really want to understand every single thing about the switching yard.. i am already envisioning the switching yard being the centerpiece of my layout :D

  2. zedob

    zedob Member

    Track Planning for Realistic Operation by John Armstrong. Kalmbach Books.
  3. baldwinjl

    baldwinjl Member

  4. GeorgeHO

    GeorgeHO Member

    As Zedob said "track planning for realistic operation" is great, well worth the money, the best. Anotherbook to consider is "Locomotive Servicing Terminals" which has a wealth of information, and goes in depth on that aspect of the yards. It's the same price, but only half the pages (80 vs 144).
  5. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    You haven't mentioned how big you intend to make your model railroad. You mention an oval or a figure 8, which sounds like a 4' x 8' or 5' x 10'. A layout that size won't fit a large switching yard, but you can make something that will allow switching.

    A switching yard is also called a classification yard. The way a railroad works is empty car of the appropriate type are sent out to industries in all directions from a central classification yard. At these industries, the cars are loaded and then the switcher picks up the loaded cars and takes them back to the yard. Additionally, other cars may come in with loads for industries around the yard. At the classification yard those loads will be separated from the trains that brought them in and put together into a train to be delivered locally. Now the local train will take those loaded cars out to the various industries and leave them on sidings to be unloaded. Meanwhile another locomotive may pick up the cars from sidings that were left previously for loading and bring them back to put into trains going to various destinations. After the loads that came in are unloaded, a train will pick them up and take them back to the yard.

    Now understand that it is possible to have a yard full of freight cars. Some will be loaded cars that just came in to be delivered locally. Other cars will be loaded cars that just came in from local industries to be sent out to all parts of the country. I live in Southern California, so I'll use a local yard as an example. The Barstow Yard in the dessert 150 miles or so North East of Los Angeles is one of the BNSF's main yards. A train comes in from Chicago to Barstow. It has loaded cars onit with freight for Los Angeles. It has cars on it with loads of freight for Bakersfield, or Fresno, or somewhere else in the southern part of the central valley. It may also have freight on it that is bound for Riverside, San Bernardino, San Diego, or Orange County. Another train arrives at the same time from Texas, and it has loaded cars bound for all of those places as well. Another train arrives from the Pacific Northwest Washington or Oregon. It may have loads for all of the towns that the other trains had loads for as well as freight to go back East to Texas or maybe Florida, or Chicago. At Barstow all of these trains will be broken up and made into new trains with cars ineach train to go to a specific destination. I think you can see that a switching yard can be huge. In fact Barstow yard is so big that a scale model of it in ho would fill a normal basement. We may model a compressed version of a major yard on our layouts if it is a big enough layout, but many modelers don't bother because we don't have enough space. We might model a small yard and an industrial area with warehouses, factorys, lumber yards, cold storage facilities, etc. The mainline for us is the tracks that run from that yard to the industrial area. Then each industry will have a siding or two coming off the mainline. Then we take cars that are loaded out to those sidings and drop them for the industries to unload. We take other empties to other industries to have them loaded. If the layout is big enough, we bring the cars back to the yard and make them into trains that leave the yard for destinations all over the country. We can't begin to model the rest of the country, so we build hidden staging yards where we send the trains off the layout and out of sight. We pretend those trains went to Chicago, N.Y., Boston, Atlanta, Orlando, Houston, cities all over the country. What it comes down to is that the smaller the scale you model in, the more you can model. Also the more space you have available the more you can model, but no one has enough space to model the entire rail system of even a region, let alone the entire country.

    As long as this post is, I've barely scratched the surface of the subject which is why you have been directed to books, but this might give you an idea of what is realistic to model.
  6. Dave Flinn

    Dave Flinn Member

    Welcome to Radstar, a person after my own heart. When I get around to building the Housatonic and Cayuga, it will be PRIMARILY a switching yard, with a line or two to send the trains "somewhere." There is lots of information out there, and starting with the books already suggested is probably a good idea. There is another book or two, which I have found useful; but, unfortunately, I can't recall the titles right now and they are not located where I am. Perhaps I can dig up the information and post it tomorrow.
  7. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Thanks Dave. your replay is much more consise than mine was, but it makes the point that I wanted to make. Depending on space, a modeler can model a large yard, and then the operations will consist of making up and breaking up trains. I like to model industries, and then switch them out, so my railroad would have either a small yard, or just hidden staging where the trains would come on scene and be switrched out at the various industries. Due to space constraints, we just can't model everything we would like to model.
  8. Radstar

    Radstar New Member

    Thanks for all the information! I will defentily go and pick up those books- or order them if not available at the hobby shop.

    A question though.. for a switching yard, it means there'd be alot of coupling & decoupling action as Trains arrive to drop off cargo and other trains come to take cargo etc.. is it possible to do all the coupling & decoupling electroncially? I know its possible with HO scale but unsure about N scale

    I am still leaning towards N scale but am wondering about the effectivity of an operating session if I have to go in and manually connect & disconnect cargo & rolling stock..

    (Reminder, Im very new at the hobby- so alot things may not be "obivious" to me :) )
  9. baldwinjl

    baldwinjl Member

    N scale uncoupling can be done remotely. However (and there is always a however) I have read that many deveotees of switching prefer to uncouple manually, feeling that it gives them a more prototypical feel (they can do it anywhere) and better reliability. That's my plan if I ever get that far.....
  10. Radstar

    Radstar New Member

    Just noticed this particular part... so there's a specific engine called the switcher that works the switching yard? Is "switcher" the proper name for this engine? I am having a hard time finding this engine using google..

  11. jon-monon

    jon-monon Active Member

    Yup, them's switchers. Try googling an SW-1500 and you'll get meany returns. There are also multi use versions called Road Switchers that are meant to do the switching work, pull a train down the line. I think your GP's, especially the smaller ones fall into this catagory (GP7, 9, 35)
  12. Russ Bellinis

    Russ Bellinis Active Member

    Actually no. In the late 40's right after WW2 the locomotive manufacturers came out with switch engines in large numbers. They were starting to build them before the war, but increased production after the war. As the railroads rushed to dieselize, they bought 4 axle streamliners for road power for freight, 6 axle streamliners for passenger power, and switch engines for yard work. These switch engines commonly had a long hood that the diesel engine was under and a cab at the back with no short hood. Alco came out with the Rs1,2, &3 series that started a new class of locomotive called "road switchers." The railroads realised thsat they didn't need the streamliners. They weren't really streamlined in terms of the airflow over the train. They were not practical for doing anything but hauling a train from point A to point B. Some streamliners were produced through the late 50's into the 60's for passenger power. The closest thing to streamliners we have today are the engines Amtrak uses to pull it's passenger trains. Meanwhile, railroads like the Santa Fe realized that as their road going freight locomotives got more powerful, the lower hp earlier road switchers like gp9's, gp20's, gp30's & gp35's were obsolete for hauling trains from city to city, but were still very good for switching out local industries. At the time of the merger with the Burlington Northern, the Santa Fe had disposed of all of their yard switchers except an old Baldwin used to shuttle locomotives around the repair shops in Cleborne, I think (not sure of spelling). I don't know what BN was using if they had the traditional switch engines or not. Today the railroads use whatever is available to run the local switch job. Some like the BNSF still have a lot of the older engines that they keep in top shape to use in local service. I've noticed that the UP tends to get rid of older engines as soon as they need any major repairs. I've seen UP using older leased power, often exUP engines that have been sold to a leasing company and leased back. I've also seen them using the latest 6 axle road power for local switching. They also have some traditional yard switchers that have a funny looing bump on the nose, and a few switch engines they got with the purchase of the SP. A good book on locomotives is the "Locomotive Cyclopedia vol 2 Diesel Engines" from Kalmbach. It covers locomotives built up into the early 70's. For more modern engines Kalmbach publishes the "Modern Locomotive Spotter's Guide." It is updated from time to time. Since EMD and GE come out with new locomotives every year or two, the newest offerings may not be included in the spotter's guide since I think Kalmbach updates it every 5 years or so. I suspect they do a printing run, and when that run is close to being sold out, they update it for the next run.

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