Operational Switching Layouts


12' 6" x 11' 8"  Bedroom HO Layout

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30" radius, #6 turnouts (unless noted).

Blowup of Armstrong or Ellison.

This is my current HO switching layout designed for a spare bedroom.

Fortunately, the entry door is in a corner ... just where we like it. Diagonally opposite is a door into a walk in closet. This closet is a good size and ideal for an accessible staging yard. Six tracks can hold a loco plus 10 cars ... about the limit for this size of layout. Staging tracks could be bent around the corner for longer trains, but the rest of the layout would not be able to handle them.

The closet door was reversed so it opens inward into the closet. 

In essence, the layout consists of two L shaped areas that could be incorporated into a larger design should more space become available in the future. 

At Armstrong, the lead for the run around track could be just squeezed into a 3.5" width behind the  door.  In order to keep the bridge track straight across the entry door, the main needed to be as close to the wall as possible. Hence, most structures are building flats. There actually is a short curve on the bridge.

The run around tracks were bent around the corner to gain sufficient length. By using a 30" radius for both tracks, there is a natural widening of the clearance between the tracks on the curve. This larger than normal radius for a small switching layout should allow Kadee couplers to mate on the curve. Fairly often, it is necessary to center a coupler to get them in alignment.

The main track for Ellison is a bit closer to the aisle to permitted deeper structures on this section.

The existence of the ice house is dependent on the era chosen for this railroad. I just happen to like ice bunker refers. So, a couple of industries that require these cars are in order. While the grocery distributor only receives refers, the cold storage facility can both receive and ship. Empty refers for loading must be cooled prior to delivery.  Locating the ice house close to the cold storage plant is a natural. If a later era is selected, then forgo the ice house for another industry.

There is no yard. So, there is no means to classify cars. There is no need either. A way freight leaves staging with a string of cars for Armstrong and Ellison. Any sorting or rearranging of cars can be done en route.

The front track at Armstrong can hold 7 cars. This track is used for (a) holding empties; (b) used as a clean out track; (c) a place to temporarily hold deliveries that could not be completed because the industry track is already full and (d) as a spot for an unloading ramp.  

If two crews are available, we now have a real challenge if not an operational flaw depending on your point of view.  How do we operate this railroad with two crews working? One solution ... the simplest and probably the most prototypical..  is to stage a train for Armstrong and another one for Ellison. The Ellison departs first. Each does their own work in their respective towns. If the Ellison turn finishes first, the Armstrong train must clear the main to allow it to pass back to staging. Other than this operation, there is no interference between the crews. This option means the cars must be re-staged in between operating sessions.

What if the trains emerge from staging with cars for both locations? Blocking the cars in between sessions helps. The Armstrong train leaves first and waits on the siding for the Ellison train. The latter must take the main. The Armstrong switcher gets the job of exchanging the cars.

Another method is to have the Ellison crew block their train before leaving the staging yard. They can use two tracks ... the one they occupied and the empty track left from the departed Armstrong train. Meanwhile, the Armstrong train is cutting out cars for Ellison ready to exchange them when the Ellison train comes through.

Personally, I would favor the later scheme. It saves me from having to do a lot of setup prior to a session.

If locos are void of a sound decoder, I would add a push button horn near the ice house so a returning Ellison train can alert the Armstrong crew to clear the main.

Whatever scheme is devised, it takes some cooperative effect to make the railroad work. All part of the fun. 

One more consideration. There would probably not be any on line industries shipping to another on line industry. The distance is too short to be realistic. Empties are a different story.  An unloaded shipment frees up a car that can be loaded by another industry. I hesitate to route an empty to another industry unless the car is held on an empty track in the yard for a session or two. Since there is no yard, the spare track at the front of Armstrong can be used for this purpose. Your preference may differ to create some additional variation in car movements.

Construction (without any grades) is very simple. I suggest using L girders with 1x2 joists topped with 1/2" 5 ply plywood. 

When I first laid out the plan, this was the track arrangement on the bottom wall:

It is a little more interesting track arrangement plus another spur with a 6 car capacity. However, This interfered with the light/fan switch for the room. It was not possible to make the bridge track totally straight so part of the curve is on the bridge. It is advisable to keep a short piece of straight track over the joints.

In the above plan, the ice house had to be out on an angle because of the depth of the structure. 

In the final drawing, I put the ice house in front of the main track. It is the only place on the layout where the a mainline train is partially hidden during its run. Here, as with Sunrise Feeds at Armstrong, the building MUST NOT block operation of any manually thrown turnout behind it.

Initially, bridging the entry door was only for running a train around just for fun and for visitors. During an operating session, it would not be used. A train from staging would need to reverse direction to switch Ellison. My railroad buddy, Tom Lewis, suggested using it so a train leaves staging for Armstrong, then Ellison via the main door bridge.

Tom also had another good idea. Put the staging yard at a lower elevation and tie it in with a crossover (to keep the running loop) in Armstrong just before the bridge. Traffic flows from staging to Ellison and onward to the ends of the line at Armstrong. This creates a longer run. It would take a 2.7% grade to get up to the main level.

I liked the idea but it means the whole layout must be built before operations begin. With the above design, operations can start after Armstrong and the staging yard is complete.

Turnouts are #6: 7 Atlas lefts, 11 Atlas rights. Staging throat uses 3 Peco medium lefts and 2 Peco medium rights. 23 in total.

Last updated: 08/31/2009