Proper Yard modeling

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otiscnj

Well-Known Member
Ok, maybe I'll regret starting this thread, but what's life without a little bit of excitement, right? Feel free to jump in and ride this shark!

So, for the sake of those with a need to know:
1) what is the proper method (i.e. track layout, etc), to model a yard, on a model railroad?
2)Is it dependent on the size of the model railroad?
3)Is it a function of how long the layout owner has been in the hobby?
New Question:
4)Is a yard required on a model railroad?

Ground rules are:

-All opinions and comments welcome, as long as they are respectful.
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-Any other ModelRailroadforum.com rules that are appropriate.

I'll check back in when things get to simmering....
 
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John P

Member
I think you might be expecting precise answers to vague questions.

1) So it does its job efficiently.
2) Depending also on how many yards there are, yes.
3) Might well be. But there are beginners who have their eyes open, and veterans who've been asleep for years.
 

RCH

Been Nothin' Since Frisco
I've operated on a few model railroads and very few I've seen operate like the real thing. Almost all are operated as staging yards, which means the trains are placed on the tracks and the trains depart from and return to the yard. There is no switching or classifying of cars at the yard.

Most of the real yards I've worked have a set of arrival/departure tracks (large yards even have separate yards for trains arriving and trains departing) and a set of classification tracks. The longest tracks are for arriving and departing trains, while the shorter tracks are better for classifying the inbound trains into outbound blocks. One or more blocks of cars can be "doubled over" to another block and then placed on a departure track for the outbound train. I've worked yards as small as four tracks and even these use the arrival/departure operation scheme, though the classification isn't very involved and usually happens between two tracks.

Most prototype yards are double ended, meaning there is a ladder on each end. If you have the room, go with a double ended yard. If you can't do that, don't worry. Just make sure you can get inbound power off at least one of your longer tracks and make that your arrival track. You can also use the double ended tracks for making head-end pickups, if you choose to have your trains "work" at the yard as they pass by.

If you're going to work the yard at all, that is, classify cars in it, make sure you have a lead you can work on without fouling the main. This is the single biggest requirement and it is the most often overlooked thing on model yards (I've had to deal with the misery of switching on a prototype yard where there is no lead separate from the main - you get to bug the dispatcher the entire time, not fun). If you have the room, make the lead at least as long as your longest classification track plus whatever you use for yard power. This way you don't have to foul the main to pull your classification tracks and shove your outbound trains over to the departure tracks.

Aside from considering how much room you have for a layout, you need to consider how many people will be operating the layout with you. You'll need to make controls easily accessible to the person operating each section of the yard. If you have a panel for controlling switches, put it nearest where the person switching the yard will stand. You'll also need to accommodate operators bringing through freights or passenger trains past the yard as well as operators bringing inbound trains into the yard and taking trains out. They will need to get around the person switching on the lead and possibly coordinate movements with that person. Make comfort of the people operating here a bigger priority than squeezing as much track as possible into the room.

Your yard should be sized according to the trains you'll handle there. If you only have five industries on the entire layout and room to spot only 12 total cars, you don't need much of a yard for classifying cars for your local. If you have other yards on the layout, and hundreds of cars to operate, you might need a bigger yard. Once a prototype yard is over half full, it becomes difficult to operate and reaches the undesirable state we call "plugged." Try to keep enough room to move, build and break down your trains. Size the yard based on the number of trains you think you'll operate. Realistically you'll only be able to operate about half what you think, so if the yard seems small at first, just make your switchlists harder for your operators! :)

If space (length) is really a concern, look at ways to build a compound yard ladder to shorten the distance it takes up. Short yards are still common on the prototype - often I work out of one that was built in the 40s. I don't think there's a single train I've seen yet that fit in one track. Sometimes you have to use three tracks to yard the longest trains. You might also consider using crossovers near one end of a stub ended yard, which has the effect of a ladder at that end of the yard without eliminating the storage space you get from those stub tracks beyond where the ladder would be.

Excuse the poor graphic (away from home and I don't have a graphics program or a mouse with me), but here's a picture showing what I'm talking about:



The red line is the main. The long black line beside it is the yard lead. The top layout shows a standard ladder, with a group of parallel tracks coming off switches placed end to end. The second layout shows a compound ladder, with a switch coming off a switch. This increases the angle you can build your ladder and allows you to shorten the space the ladder takes. The bottom layout is a butterfly style with two ladders. Mirror the ladder onto the stub end and you have a double ended yard. Mix and match the different types of ladders to your liking or based on the space you have on your layout. Or use crossovers on some or all of the tracks to create a ladder at the other end. The possibilities are limited only by your imagination.
 
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Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
Ok, maybe I'll regret starting this thread, but what's life without a little bit of excitement, right? Feel free to jump in and ride this shark!
No need to feel this way. I think a discussion like this is interesting and informative.

So, for the sake of those with a need to know:
1) what is the proper method (i.e. track layout, etc), to model a yard, on a model railroad?
2)Is it dependent on the size of the model railroad?
3)Is it a function of how long the layout owner has been in the hobby?
....
I will answer these as best I can, or at least the best I can, based on my experiences. These are of my own opinion and should be taken as such. My direct answers will be in bold, while my reasons supporting that answer will not be. I will not include staging, as this topic is about "regular" yards.

1) I don't believe that there is ONE proper method to model a yard. The reason being if there was one and only one way, then the yard would, oftentimes, simply overwhelm a layout, scenically and operationally. While I personally like a yard that is modeled and used as the prototype is, I also realize that that may not be a "big deal" to someone else. There's someone, (I can't remember his name), who's part of the Layout Design Sig, and he has a list of 10 items which make up a"proper" yard. It's even called the "10 Commandments of Proper Yard Design". First off, I think the title is a poor choice of words, and I've seen too many prototype exceptions of each and every one of his "commandments" for me, to take much of what he advocates as a suggestion, and nothing more. However, I believe that the yard should represent the rest of the action on the model, and be designed in proportion to the size of the layout. On some layouts this means a full blown "layout" of a typical, (What is "typical"), yard.

2) The size of the layout should determine the basic size of the yard.
IMHO, this is very true. A yard, if "over" designed, can make the rest of the layout seem a lot smaller than it is. It's size also should be determined by the action that takes place on the rest of the layout. When you have action that involves a separate mainline, interchange, and branchline trains, and doesn't involve a "paper" designation of these trains, then a yard needs to be of a size that can support this action, but not dictate it.

3) An Emphatic NO! While a layout owner's time in the hobby can sometimes indicates skill level, it can't indicate what his knowledge of what a yard is and it's operations. He could have been a rabid railfan for years and years, and involved in the study of a specific prototype's operations, motive power and rolling stock for years, but he's now just gotten to the point of being able to translate that knowledge into a model of that prototype. He knows what he needs in a yard and if he designs his layout, I can almost guarantee that his yard will be close in design to a yard on his favorite prototype.
 

Rico

BN Modeller
I just did an article on modeling a yard for a newsletter, maybe I can condense it a little bit. You've got some pretty good answers already, all I can add is that yards come in all shapes, sizes, and functions both model and prototype.
For most purposes a yard can store a few cars when not in use, sort cars for distribution, and ultimately become a layout itself if the need arises.
A yard can be is simple as a couple tracks by the main or as complicated as a "bowl of spaghetti". (I got lost in one once in a high rail truck!)
Best thing is to think about your current needs, plan the yard for expansion later, and look at what others have done both model and the real deal.

Here's a couple pics from my previous layouts showing one of my larger yards and a friend operating a smaller one.
Both could keep operators busy for an entire evening!
 
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choops

Member
I may rethink the yard on my layout and design it as an interchange with hidden staging instead of a large yard.
Steve
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
RCH,

I agree with what you have said mostly. The only thing that I "disagree" with is the separate yard lead. I not saying that it isn't a very good idea to have one, just that it may not be necessary.

...
If you're going to work the yard at all, that is, classify cars in it, make sure you have a lead you can work on without fouling the main. This is the single biggest requirement and it is the most often overlooked thing on model yards (I've had to deal with the misery of switching on a prototype yard where there is no lead separate from the main - you get to bug the dispatcher the entire time, not fun). If you have the room, make the lead at least as long as your longest classification track plus whatever you use for yard power. This way you don't have to foul the main to pull your classification tracks and shove your outbound trains over to the departure tracks.
There are 3 yards, that are in areas that 1. I grew up in, just short bicycle rides away. 2. Were in a town I lived in for almost 20yrs. I spent many an hour railfanning these yards. One of these were on the mainline between Birmingham, AL and the port of Mobile, AL on the Southern main and the other was on the L&N, GA, and WofA, 4 blocks from the Southern yard in Selma, AL where I grew up.

The two yards in Selma, both had their mainlines pass on one side of the yard, but due to physical restrictions placed on these yards by manufacturing plants, warehouses, and private homes, there was simply no room for separate leads. They are however, both double ended. Both had to use the main as a lead.

The trains through the area on both lines, were generally re-blocked in both yards as Selma was the only place to do it between B'ham and Mobile on the SRR, and Montgomery AL, Meridian MS, and Flomaton AL on the L&N, GA & WofA. The trains were re-blocked based on the switching requirements for the lines between there and other industries and destinations, between these areas.

The yard on the Southern in Mobile, could be considered "unique" I guess as the mainline physically ended there, just next to the State Docks and the GM&O terminal, where all passenger trains into Mobile went. I don't think that they ever had a yard tower there, as I never found any information indicating that the SRR had one. There is a substantial yard office, which is still in use by the NS.
 
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Gac66610

Member
Then there are some (me) that are not sure how much yard is needed.
I'm looking forward to learning more, so I will be following this thread:)
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
I am interested in switching, so a yard is very important to me. For those who prefer to run it may not be, but my layout is a point to point (with a hidden staging yard that does allow continuous running) with at yard at each end, along with engine facilities.

The pictures are of what I have under construction at one end. I have two tracks entering the town. The town also has two tracks for passenger service. I didn't draw out a plan, but rather put the track and turnouts where they would have to be to accomplish what I needed. I have learned from experience that no matter how well drawn a prack plan is, it will probably need some tweaking.

Along the wall, I also will have 3 to 4 industries (background buildings) that will need switching. This required a run around track to be added to the plan. It took a bit of planning, but it will work. I will probably have most of the track laid this next weekend except for the tracks to the turntable and roundhouse. I am spiking the track directly to the plywood (carefully) and Don't want to have to go back and fix any mistakes. I have temporary power to the rails and have pushed a string of up to 20 cars through all trackage and haven't had a single derailment yet.

My freelanced railroad is a shortline that connects with other railroads, plus serves a number of industries between the two ends. A railroad should have a purpose, and I tried to tie as many as I could together to generate a lot of local traffic. I have grain elevators that will ship to a mill. Cattle pens shipping to a meat packing plant. A logging spur that bring logs to a lumber mill, and then to lumber retailers and manufacturers all within my layout. Lotsa local switching along with handling through trains.
 
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joed2323

Member
I agree with montanan
I think or prefer a layout to have industries to switch at and to be able to run laps...
Its good to have industries planned out to support local switching this way you can have a constant supply of freight coming and going amongst the layout to support endless operational ideas
You wouldn't want to build and spend money on a layout that you will get bored with...

I think switching is a very important part of modeling real life
 
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montanan

Whiskey Merchant
This would depend on the modeler, and their tastes. I have seen large layouts both in person and in model railroad magazines that have nothing but a long mainline, with almost no sidings, let alone yards. Aparently these modelers like to see long trains run. Then there are layouts that have either visible or hidden yards that are used mainly for storing excess freight cars. Then there are modelers, like myself who prefer switching.

When I was growing up, I had relatives working on both the Milwaukee Road and the Northern Pacific and was lucky enough to have spent many hours in the cabs of steam, diesel and electric locomotives. I really didn't care for switching at the time. I wanted to get out on the mainline and eat up the miles, but my relatives did make it very clear that if it weren't for the lowly switcher shifting many freight cars, that there wouldn't be any trains out on the mainline.

Local work was boring at first until I realized some of the problems that could be found in local work. an engineer may have to move a number of cars just to drop or pick up a single car.

Then there was the work of bringing the cars to the yard from the local run and sorting them out to be picked up and headed out to their destinations. There were no big hump yards back then and a yard switcher always seemed to be busy doing something. I did learn to appreciate the importance of these trains and duties.

Give me a switching layout any time. I don't have a very long main line because it only passes through a scene one time. This allows me to have more room to build more detailed towns, and more room for industries in these towns. Even with a short mainline, it could acrually take two hours or more for a local train to drop and pick up it freight. From there, it's off to the yards, one on each end. Sort out the incoming and outgoing cars, Break down the incoming and make up the outgoing. As a lone operator, believe me, I can keep plenty busy.
 
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Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
:eek:
I added a 4th question regarding whether a yard is even required on a model railroad.
Otiscnj,

Yes, I believe that a yard of some type, should be on the layout. This provides a place to sort or just rearrange cars at the very least. It doesn't have to be big or sprawling, but just big enough to get the job done. So at the minimum, I believe, the "yard" should be at least 2 tracks wide, but in a pinch, esp with a very small layout, 1 track. As long as the trains have something to do, while on the layout, (deliver cars to/from industries), there is always a need to have a place to get the cars together into a proper order, to continue on to their next destination(s).
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
... Then there are modelers, like myself who prefer switching.

...
I'm like you, Montanan, in that I like switching! I too have a short mainline, compared to other layouts as well. My mainline goes through only 3 towns before it hits staging, where trains are held, until needed. Also foreign road transfers and interchange trains are held here as well.

But in one of the towns a branchline comes off the main, and winds around 3 sides of the room, and this is where most of the traffic is generated. There are 5 towns, each with 1 major and several minor industries. Another interchange is also located on the branchline.

So I do need a place where all the traffic, to & from the branch, the interchanges/transfers etc, needs to be resorted into the proper trains for their next destinations. That place is the main yard in the town of Selma.

I also treat the locos as something that has destinations, and primary uses, and as such, they also get "switched" as well. There will be full service facilities as part of the yard, (coaling tower, sand & water), along with a roundhouse to handle minor repairs. There is a ready track that locos will be "picked up" from by their road crews prior to going out to the A/D tracks for their trains. While the layout was designed to handle 6 to 8 operators, I can run trains by myself as well.
 

Boris

Beach Bum
So I do need a place where all the traffic, to & from the branch, the interchanges/transfers etc, needs to be resorted into the proper trains for their next destinations. That place is the main yard in the town of Selma.
My yard consists of a main track, a runaround, another double ended yard track and a single ended yard track. This is based on a small yard in Pennsylvania. I use it to hold and classify cars for six industrys along my relatively short main line, as well as two customer sidings adjacent to the yard.

I also have a small two track passenger terminal which is served by two commuter trains, and a MB&E train. Both operations require switching, but just as easily could be used as a staging if desired.

Without the additional focus of the yard/terminal, my layout would be considerably less interesting.

Joe
 

Iron Horseman

Well-Known Member
1) what is the proper method (i.e. track layout, etc), to model a yard, on a model railroad?
2)Is it dependent on the size of the model railroad?
3)Is it a function of how long the layout owner has been in the hobby?
4)Is a yard required on a model railroad?
1. That question is generally impossible to answer. As the other questions already imply the "proper" way depends on many variables. That include
A. Interests of the owner.
B. Desired operating scheme.
C. Prototype.
D. Size of the model railroad.
E. Purpose of the yard.

On that point (E) there are many types of yards.
a. Classification Yards (the type most people think of)
b. Storage (where unused cars are parked until needed).
c. Staging Yards (where trains wait to go through some bottle neck on the main).
d. Interchange yards (where cars are transferred between two or more railroads. Think Hoboken Shore RR).
e. Holding yards - generally at the end of the line where a train temporarily puts cars while working the rest of the town or tieing up for the reverse trip.
and probably more types I'm not thinking of off the top of my head. Then throw in the Model Railroader's Staging tracks which one could consider storage or holding yards just for a different purpose than the prototype.

2). Yes. If the desire is to have a "balanced" model railroad the size and quantities of yard would be directly proportional to the size of the model railroad. But No because of the other factors A, B, C, & E above could over ride this balanced approach.

3). Hmmm that is a good question. I think the real answer is no, but I have noticed that almost all layout designs by people new to the hobby seem to include a bunch of parallel tracks that they call a "yard". I believe it is what they see when driving down the road and to them that is what a railroad is all about.

4). That is an easy one. No. Because if they are then NONE of my current or recently past "model railroads" could be classified as a model railroad.
 
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Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
...

Without the additional focus of the yard/terminal, my layout would be considerably less interesting.

Joe
I have found that this is very true, esp on smaller layouts.

While this layout is the largest that I've ever attempted, I have had many experiences with smaller and in 1 case much, much, smaller layouts. I've had a 2x4, 2 4x8's, 2 5x9, 1 11x11, 1 12x17 and this one, 17x23. Plus I've worked on 3 modular club layouts and 1 permanent club layout. Not counting the 2x4 and 1 of the 4x8's, all of my layouts and one club layout have all had handlain track.

But one thing even the smallest had was at least a small "yard" where cars could be sorted. Starting with the 5x9's they all had a decent yard where trains could be tore down, and new ones made. On the first 5x9 I was just getting into operations, and I do have to say that using the yard more than just a place to store cars, made all the difference in the world.

Since then I've always tired to upgrade the ops in my yards. I think that with this one, I'm finally going to be able to accomplish what I truly want out of a yard. Making the yard's operations an integral part of the overall operation scheme, boosts the action on the entire layout as well.
 

Cjcrescent

Master Mechanic
...
3). Hmmm that is a good question. I think the real answer is no, but I have noticed that almost all layout designs by people new to the hobby seem to include a bunch of parallel tracks that they call a "yard". I believe it is what they see when driving down the road and to them that is what a railroad is all about.
Good answer and I can agree with that very much as I was that newbie almost 50 years ago. Then I got a copy of Armstrong's book, and studied the chapters about yards intensely. I learned about double ended yards, stub yards, simple and compound ladders, literally the ends and outs of yards and their designs.

From that I got that if you have a stub end yard, you have to have a way for the locomotives to escape from the trains. To avoid traffic tie ups there should be a ladder bypass. Keep access to the service areas separate from the ladders, etc etc etc.

Here's an edit from the trackplan showing my yard.



Yardedit_zpsbf7dbceb.png


I have my ladder tracks, my A/D, the ladder bypass, engine service/ready track (RH outbound), ash track, (RH inbound), coal dump for tower. The Arrival track has the engine escape onto the departure track, (that crossover is a bit closer to the end of the layout), 7 ladder tracks, caboose track and a MOW track. I actually have 3 tracks that can function as yard leads/extensions for slightly longer trains. There are actually 5 industrial tracks within the yard limits. and arounf the curve to the right there is even a small track to hold the switcher.
 

montanan

Whiskey Merchant
That's a great track plan. You'll have to post some pictures when you get it done. I would have liked a little larger yard, but with the space available, I wouldn't have to room for a detailed town.
 




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