Most home layouts have one or more freight yards which may include passenger stations and engine servicing facilities. Proper track arrangement and turnout location can result in both space saving and reliable operation. In our miniature railroads, a yard can be as small as two tracks or as many as the available space will permit. Yards exist not only as storage space for rolling stock but also as classification tracks for train consists.
The main purpose of a freight yard is to process inbound and outbound cars into trains for routing to their final destination. Empty hopper cars can be arranged for delivery to a mine for loading. Boxcars and reefers may be assigned to a local freight run for delivery. Others may be assigned to an express train for timely delivery to some distant town. Passenger cars can be arranged in groups for a local or swift limited schedule. On smaller layouts mixed trains consisting of freight and passenger cars can provide interesting operation.
For many, switching and making up trains is the most enjoyable aspect of the hobby and so they construct layouts with large yards and short mainline runs. The majority of modelers, however, prefer a compromise consisting of modest-sized yards and a reasonable mainline. Yard tracks can be double-ended or stub-ended. Double-ended yards require more space and provide shorter length tracks for car storage but have the great advantage of accessibility from both ends. Stub-ended yards provide the most storage space for a given length of track but suffer from the obvious problem of accessibility. A satisfying compromise is a combination of the two.
Fig. 1 shows a six track yard with both double-ended and stub tracks. Notice that the stub tracks provide more storage space. Not only do they give more useable track space, but they save money due to fewer turnouts. Keep this in mind when designing yard areas. Use double-ended tracks where necessary but utilize stub tracks as much as possible.
In many cases, yard tracks can be curved. This can be a real plus when trying to fit a design into an odd shaped area. Sometimes this arrangement results in larger yards and better usage of turnouts as shown below. Curves should be as broad as possible to prevent coupling and uncoupling problems.
Turnouts for freight yard storage tracks are normally #4 or #5 while those for full length passenger cars and other types of lengthy equipment should be #6. In some instances curved turnouts or slip switches may be the best choice. The proper selection and placement of turnouts can greatly affect the amount of space required for a yard design. Study the plan carefully and experiment with different types and locations of switches on your layout. Once a plan has been committed to paper, it is then time to test the arrangement on the layout. For me, this means trying the placement of the components in the freight yard area. To accomplish this, if I don’t have the actual parts, I use templates constructed from cardstock. Simply trace the outline of the turnouts or curved sections of track on cardstock, cut them out with a sharp razor blade, label them as turnout number or curve radius and place them on the layout to see how they fit. Believe me; I learned the hard way to test my infallible designs before I spiked them down.