shelf switching yard plan

Jeremy Thurston's picture

I just threw together a plan for a under-the-table shelf switching yard & wanted to get some feedback on it.  It will be accessed via a cassette to the right off the mainline & will accommodate a 5-6 car train.  The line in back is the limit (10 1/2 inches deep).  While switching I will obviously keep the cassette installed to allow for my yard lead / mainline since its not on the shelf.  Comments?

If it's N scale ...

Assuming this is N scale, I think there are some interesting alternatives to consider. I can't read all the call-outs, even under magnification, so i don't know if you are planning to use the parallel tracks as yard tracks or something else.

If the gray rectangles are industries, you have the all-too-common model railroad gimmick of the double-ended switchback, where the industry at left must be emptied to switch the industries at right. Most find this grows tedious after a very short while -- and it's unrealistic compared to real railroads.

It's often a helfpul idea to overlap the industries, run-arounds, and yard tracks, as I talked about in this blog entry and in an upcoming issue of Model Railroad Hobbyist. This would allow you to have larger indutries where multiple cars may be spotted, adding operating interest. One can often make multiple uses of the same track in this way. An interesting example of this is Bill Denton's N scale Kingsbury Branch.

Placing the runaround on the diagonal is sometimes a good idea, as with Linn Westcott's "Switchman's Nightmare". Something like this would fit well in your space in N scale. If one imagines the yard at right as an interchange yard and the tracks at left as a multi-track large industry (brewery, mill, etc.), a lot of ops can be accommodated, even without an extension. Reworking this to take advantge of the extension would be even better.

When you say "under-the-table", do you mean under glass as in a coffee table? Are you planning for magnetically-operated uncoupling? If so, you'll need to allow straight sections for uncoupling magnets.

Best of luck with your project.

[And yes, I realize that Westcott's plan has one of the double-ended switchbacks I dislike -- hey, nobody's perfect!]

LayoutVision Custom Layout Design and Ops Planning
Model RR Blog

Jeremy Thurston's picture

yeah the text is REALLY small...

Starting from the bottom, I have the Main, then the runaround, Yard A, Yard B, then either a rip track or the spur servicing the industry just behind it.  I hear you about the infamous switchback cliche.  My design with the switchback dissappearing inside the factory was simply a view block to hide a touch of the spaghetti bowl track going everywhere.  I don't exactly know why I put it there.  My coffee tasted exceptional this morning & I was having a blast playing with CADD before work. 

By under the table I meant I built a 2x4 foot train table with a shelf underneath it where my little yard will be.  My wife & I live in a very small apartment, so this is the best use of space I could think of.  My trains will pull onto the cassette I will build and then I will move it down to the shelf, thus allowing my trains to literally "leave town".  Here is a photo:

as far as the uncoupling magnets, I hadnt really thought of it.  Are they recommended equipment?

Jeremy T.

Rio Grande Dan's picture

I have a question & a couple suggestion

is the lower shelf set back so you can stick your knees under the table while operating the layout?

I would suggest not ever putting your knees under the table. it's too easy to smack a leg with your knees and lay waist to everything on the rails if not sending some stuff to the floor. I would move the little shelf up to the front legs and make access to it a little easier and make it so you can't put your knees under the table.

If you wish to extend your yard area you could make a hinged drop down leaf on one or both ends so when operating it will close to double or even triple your operations area and when not in use just send all the equipment back over to the main yard and drop the leafs. you could then eliminate the small shelf and all the trouble aligning the cassette.


Rio Grande Dan

Jeremy Thurston's picture

shelf location...

yeah, the shelf is toward the back & it may look like a funny design.  The funny thing here is that I initially didn't plan on having a under table shelf yard.  The shelf was suggested by a carpenter friend that helped me construct the table, & is mainly for stability.  The table itself is about 50 inches tall & before the shelf was there it swayed like a willow tree in a hurricane.  Only recently did I see the shelf for what it could be - a nice spot for a yard!  As Bob Ross the painter used to say, "Artists don't make mistakes.  They have happy little accidents."   He was right.  It is an accident, & the thought of having a switching yard I didn't think I would have room for makes me happy. 

Your idea does have merit.  I may throw another board in the front to bring the yard closer.  I had figured to stand while switching the top, & then while working the yard my computer chair on wheels is the perfect height.  I saw a multi decked layout recently that employs the same idea.  I will just have to find a light source for the yard...

Jeremy T.

Concept before CAD

My often-repeated (and often ignored) advice with any design project, even a small one, is to start with the concept and vision before moving to CAD. In this case, my suggestion would be to think about how this section of the layout relates to the section on the table top. If the section above has a yard, perhaps you don't need yard tracks below. Instead, just for an example, it might be a metropolitan "pocket" terminal reached by car float (the cassette) that requires only the runaround, industry spurs, team track, etc. There are many interesting real-life examples.

As far as the uncoupling magnets, no, they are not a requirement at all. But I think you may find it a little challenging to reach into the lower scene for manual uncoupling (and to see what you are doing) on the back tracks of your current design. This would also make me hesitant to put the primary yard on this lower section. The yard and some industries above with some addtional industries below might be a better mix.

If you do choose magnetic uncoupling, MicroTrains is a good-performing choice in N scale. You can buy rare earth magnets separately that work well for below-the-tracks uncoupling.

So overall, I'd be thinking first about how the upper and lower sections can work together for more visual and operating interest. Some variety in the tasks and industries on each might make things more engaging. And long term, hours of reaching into the lower scene for heavy switching operations might be a bit of a back breaker (and head knocker!).

Good luck with it.

LayoutVision Custom Layout Design and Ops Planning
Model RR Blog

Jeremy Thurston's picture


Agreed on concept & vision and how it applies to my main layout.  My main (upper) layout is the image just below.  A modest N scale shortline located on the Idaho/Washington border with 2 industries (Coal mine & small lumber operation) to switch out on the Shaye Mountain side.  The Dayton side is where the inbound cars are sorted on the two "yard" spurs; One of these will also have a team dock.  Time period is the early 1950's, & since my curves are 10" my rolling stock will be 40 footers.  Engine I have now is a Northern Pacific GP7.  Construction is already underway with roadbed installed & track soon to follow...

The Interchange is where rail service continues to Spokane Washington.  This is where the cassette & under-layout yard comes into play.  I appreciate the feedback, and thanks to Byron for the switchmans nightmare idea.  I had looked at the design & couldn't figure it out.  But I came back to it & simplified it.  My aim is to have a small yard under layout with another industry to service, but I admit I get carried away with the dream & design & have to be brought back to earth...  Here is the simplified version of the switchmans nightmare.  The bold track being the mainline that comes in from the right, two top right spurs are a yard tracks A & B, & bottom left is one large or two smaller industries that I could make to be the destinations of my upper industries.  I eliminated the upper right industry (that switchback) and one of the bottom industry spurs, again for simplicity:

The magnets sound like a great idea to help with the operation.  I hear you about the back breaking head banging (sounds like a rock concert), but I am trying to give my layout fun operating potential with this minimum of space I have to work with.   Again, I admit I do tend to dream a little bigger than is feasible many times.

Jeremy T.


Again, I admit I do tend to dream a little bigger than is feasible many times.


Don't sweat it, Im guilty of the same thing.

I think Byron could even be thinking of me when he mentions his often ignored advice regarding leaving the CAD alone. 

Guilty as charged!

>> Posts index

MRH search (Google)

User login