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 to the "walkway" many people had trouble doing this. To make matters worse, you had to jump TWICE, two tracks to get into the "WYE triangle" and then 2 more to get next to the house. To make matters worse, I had never added the tracks for the engine terminal (notice 2 switches with no track attached)

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 to get to the front courtyard in the distance.

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 a huge difficulty.

Another final obstacle would 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.


One that kills the hobby is having to spend too much time maintining things, no one has fun with that. The hedge was right next to the tracks, so not only that you could not get close to the hedge to prune it, but all the leaves fell directly on the tracks. Also when the window washing guy appeared, it was trouble with the ladder. Moving the switchyard to the house means that the hedge and watering system was much more accessable and easier to clean up.

Operational problems:

The yard lead nearest the back yard was short, but so was the other yard lead in the distance, and it had clearance issues and a kink around the planter.

A big problem was the far end of the yard on the left was so close to the last tree on the left that the whole yard needed to be shifted towards the house to get clearance, but then the yard lead that is already tight becomes impossible.

I did not like the far yard lead being so far away from the mainline (leftmost track) bringing them together and getting out of the front courtyard in the distance would be difficult.


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 at the upper left, 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 "right hand" 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 "walkway" is continuous down that side of the switchyard, next to the property line wall.

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, The entire switchyard would move towards the house 18 inches, so I disconnected the wye switch, moved it 18 inches and tried to mock up the toughest part, the entry from the lower right, since it has to go around the corner of the house, which was NOT moving!


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 switch.

You can still see the original wye tracks too. Unfortunately, the "entry" curve on the right did not work at all, the angles from the switches were way off, which does not really show well here. Also I introduced a "S" curve at the left side coming in.

 So, I worked on the yard exit and smoothed out the S curve. That also allowed me to keep the wye switch. Much smoother! I did have to separate that track from the other 2 in the bottom left corner, but I figured I could work with that.


But now I needed to work on the more difficult problem, the entry to the wye from the right side around the house.

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 at that point) helped. You can see that the switch has been moved to the inner track and a crossing to get over the outer main.



So here I am working out the curve to the wye switch. Notice I have some concrete blocks set up to have a bridge over the 3 tracks at the lower right, and I have leveled and ballasted part of the track on the left entry to the wye.


And after working it a bit, got a nice smooth route into the wye:



I was finally ready to move the the switchyard 18" towards the house. I did bit by bit, as there are 3 x 4 foot panels, and I could slide a panel and slowly slide the track, as it is not tied down.

It became immediately obvious how much nicer an arrangement this is, with the continuous walkway on the left (south) side. Now I can finish the engine terminal tracks and the switching lead.

20180922 183001



The final touch is the bridge to get from the back yard:

20181001 172543


20181001 173021


Weather Underground PWS KCACARLS78