Phase 3: A Double-Ended Switchyard


I wanted a switchyard for a lot of reasons. First to have a place for rolling stock when running trains, so running them does not tie up the mainline taking cars on and off. Also it's fun switching cars. Also, I would eventually like to have some operations on the layout.

So I intentionally did not add landscaping in the center of the South side yard.

I did a lot of reading on what is needed and design for operation, see this Link to switchyard design.


yard sample

Notice that the a/d (arrival/departure track is separate from the body tracks.

There is a way to "run around" a train - get the loco at the other end.

The switches in the yard body are all at an angle to a main route that collects them all, this means no S curves in the yard, you can handle longer cars in a smaller space.

The "caboose" track is nornally a separate track, not always double ended, to make pulling a caboose for a train easy.

Engine servicing tracks are still part of the yard, but not the body tracks.


Objectives / design

My design is double-ended. This allows two yard leads, and in my case helps out with some of the space restrictions.

It incorporates all the important features above, although some are compresses.

It uses Aristo Wide Radius switches for the body tracks. These are a curved switch matching a 10' diameter with about a #4 frog. The track to track spacing is 6.5", set by the spacing of the turnouts.

Below is a schematic of the switchyard.

Notice how this design ("diamond layout") eliminates S curves in the switchyard proper, so long cars can be handled. It yields longer body tracks than a pyramid. This yard is also double-ended, with two switching leads. The switching lead in the foreground is curved and somewhat limited in length.

yard layout


 The mainline is the far left hand track, and the far right hand with the curve is one yard lead. The yard lead on the near side can be seen in the last picture.

There are two tracks on the left that "split" from a wye switch. They continue to the main line, which continues off to the right.

You can see a crossover that takes the main line into the yard. The short tracks on the lower right are an engine terminal. The stub track on the bottom is the caboose track.


 I laid the track on the ground first just to do final alignments since it pretty much just fits.


 Instead of pulling it all up off the ground, I slid sections of 3/8" hardibacker under it. The larger sections are 3 x 4 foot.


Here I have begun the 2x4 grid to support the hardibacker. It is made from TimberTech, a very dense synthetic wood. It is almost twice as heavy as Trex, and is more resistant to absorbing moisture. There will be supports every foot underneath, since the hardibacker is not really strong.

Here is the yard as it was pretty much finished. is currently, still need to finish the 2x4 grid structure underneath. In the distance you can see the West end yard lead.

In the foreground are 3 tracks. The left two go to the mainline in a "wye" configuration. This allows entry to and exit from the yard from either direction on the main. Also, you can turn a train on the wye.

The rightmost track is the yard lead for the East end of the yard.

switchyard long

BUT redesign needed:

This seemed fine for a while but I did not use the yard much as I have been working on other parts of the railroad first.

Now that the rest of the layout is pretty worked out, and my new DCC electronics are stable, I've noticed some shortcomings.


First, it's clear that no one cares as much for your layout as you do, and not everyone is 6' 2", so where I could jump the tracks to get into they yard, many people had trouble doing this. Also you notice in the picture above, the curved switching lead, and the engine terminal tracks (see the 2 turnouts with no track connected) "fill in" the area make it almost impossible to "jump over".

You can see a some blocks in the center of the wye as stepping stones, and more blocks off to the right. And really they are sitting where the engine terminal tracks will go.

So even though there was a nice area for a bench seat against the house, getting there is a nightmare now, and will get worse. Also the bench would block anyone trying to walk past.

Also at the far end you still would have to jump across the end of the track, the yard lead.

I was originally thinking of a bridge in the foreground, but it now becomes obvious that such a bridge would be almost 8 feet long! It would have to be huge, very strong tall, and block a lot of visibility. Clearly a bridge at the far end is also impossible.

Another final obstacle will be when the main line cuts over to the right to connect with the yard lead (so a train can exit from the yard at that end.

Operational problems:

The yard lead nearest the back yard is too short, and no place to put it.

Also the end of the yard is so close to the last tree on the left that the whole yard needs to shift towards the house to get clearance, but then you have issues with the yard lead that already has a curve in it.

Also the yard capacity is not as much as I would like. The body tracks were only 103 feet, including the caboose track.


OK, to solve these problems, the major one being access, it became pretty obvious that the "open space" needs to be next to the wall, not the house. Doing this immediately gets rid of the problem with jumping over the corner of the yard and the switch lead at the West end.

Also, if I reposition one of the tracks that feeds the yard, then I can put 3 tracks together, and one small bridge across from the backyard to the "aisle" next to the wall.


 new yard


So the entire yard has to be shifted towards the house. Immediately the problem with the yard lead to the right is solved, nice and straight, and lots of room to make it as long as I want.

The issues with the engine terminal are gone, a few more tracks could be added. The downside is the switching lead on the left side is now shorter, but since I have an unlimited length on the "far" switching lead, the one on the left can be used for locomotives and short trains.

Also, at the top left you can see 3 tracks all close to each other, so a small, short bridge can easily be made, crossing everything at once, and the "aisle" is continuous down that side of the switchyard.

It took more work getting the "top" part of the wye working, just no room to make the curve from the outer main, so the only way to get this in there is to start the entry from the other track, the one on the left. That is part of a passing siding off the main. Some extra complexity, but this can still be done without affecting the trains on the inner loop, so, actually a little extra interest, will probably exercise that passing siding a bit more. Good.

And finally the amount of track, not counting the engine terminal, but counting the caboose track goes from 103 feet in the original design, to 135 feet.


First, I took a look at where the wye switch needed to be moved, 18 inches towards the house, and I mocked this up.



At this point I was hoping to keep the same entry to the yard (at the middle right) from the outside main, and to keep the 3 tracks on the left together as much as possible, to allow the bridge to be compact. It's a bit hard to see, but I was thinking of a LH #6 switch, removing the wye.

You can still see the original wye tracks too. Unfortunately, the curves here did not work, both were too tight, and I introduced a "S" curve at the left side.


 So, I worked on the yard exit and smoothed out the S curve. That also allowed me to keep the wye switch. Much smoother!




But now I need to work on the yard entry.




Try as I might, moving the wye 18 inches towards the house, made the existing entry impossible.

So starting the entery from the inner loop track, which is actually a passing siding helped:





And after working it a bit, got a nice smooth layout:







Finally moved the switchyard 18" towards the house. I did this mainly because it will allow a continuous walkway on the left (south) side. Before people had jump over a number of tracks, and then I could not finish the engine terminal. Now a small bridge to get over the mainline, and people can walk along the South side.


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