I am not a layout designer, but don’t we all dabble a little in it?  One of a small series of my hypotheticals……..


Does a switching layout need industries to be a switching layout?

Structures take up valuable space!  This rough concept is inspired by fine railroad modellers who like to build plastic/resin/wood, kit bash, and or scratch-build highly detailed and prototypically correct freight cars, who have very limited space for a layout but still wish to operate.  This is called Compact Yard Switching (CYS).  One needn’t bother with industries if the layout design is a classification yard, or more precisely, a very small portion of a classification yard.  At 18” depth and 47” length, this is compact.  Add on a staging traverser and the overall length is a mere 65”!

At the end of this post there is a downloadable PDF file of a CAD drawing with notations.

Construction is like the main section of the MR2G benchwork, only a little wider.  This does not have to be free-standing; mini legs could hold this layout up on top of a table.  Alternately, this could be a shelf layout, either in a dedicated space or as removable where it can be hung on a wall for storage.

The staging traverser is like that found in S4F except I have increased its length to 18”; enough for that Alco High Hood and two forty foot cars or a steam switcher and one fifty foot car.  There are more simple ways to build an effective traverser such as a plain block with a track mounted, sliding on a flat surface.  However, this drawer slider traverser can be dismounted and that may be an advantage with respect to the space at hand (e.g. the layout is in a dedicated 18” x 47” space, the traverser would normally be in the way of everyday life, so by temporarily mounting it when needed, it may keep household relations healthy).  Besides, there isn’t much to actually building this layout and constructing the traverser would be an interesting project and certainly a discussion point when the boys come over.

A layout like this can also be used as a location to photograph all those beautiful freight car models.  For this, a removable photo backdrop would be an asset if the layout were to be stored hung on a wall.  The classification tracks are at an angle for visual interest; the curvature is kept near the traverser so that the main yard rails are straight for easy coupling/uncoupling.

The one structure is kept away for coupler access.  This RIP shed could be removable for storage in a bin if the layout is hung.  In this case, a shallow pocket in the scenery would be handy for location.  Scenic-wise, the ground cover could be my favourite: cinders.  Grass tufts could be placed here and there, patches of static grass can be applied in places or even just bare dirt.

Operationally, this design will accept any type of freight car, so the showcasing and operating those “pride ’n joys” are many.  Now we’re dealing with only about four feet of layout, so there are some compromises, but they are not severe.  I think this is quite workable.  Here’s how it would go:

A string of cars is setup on the inbound/outbound track (see drawing).  There can be as many as 6-9 cars, depending on their length.  Our switcher is traversed over and aligned to this track and then starts to break the train apart.  The classification tracks would be divided into destinations – divisions/sub-divisions, places, directions, whatever is desired.  The cars would be then sorted individually or in pairs into the appropriate classification track using the switcher and the traverser.  A switch list or waybills can be used for this and they would help in slowing down the action.


An optional caboose track is shown on the drawing.

A Bad Order card pops up?  Well, switch that car into the Repair In Place (RIP) track and assign a time for the repair.  After the allotted time has passed, it can be switched out to a classification track.  The usual whistle/horn discipline is in effect and pausing to align switches is recommended to extend the fun.  If Sergent couplers are used the task of opening the jaws and aligning them will add to slowing down our natural tendency to work fast to get the job done; as we all know, this isn’t a race.

Another string of cars could be placed and switched again until the classification tracks are reasonably full.  They could then be removed and the action continued again.  In addition, while it maybe not prototypical, the cars could be taken singly or in pairs from a classification track by the switcher/traverser and placed on the outbound track.  It really doesn’t matter as long as it is fun.

Click here for the downloadable plan (CYS)