Tracks to expand your railroad world
I guess we all have a desire to expand the operations of our model railroad as much as we can, whether that railroad is an HO gauge layout in our basement or a virtual route on our computer screen. In the basement layout we are limited by the walls and where the oil burner is, while the virtual route can be limited by the speed of our computer, how much memory it has and the storage space available on the hard drive.
Model railroaders have used methods of track design to expand their operation with a minimum of space being added to the layout since the hobby began and these methods can be used in Trainz. Three basic track techniques for adding operational opportunities are team tracks, interchange tracks and staging tracks. Team tracks and interchange tracks are based on prototypical railroad operations. Staging tracks are a model railroading concept.
Team tracks are usually a single track or a small group of tracks in a freight yard where loaded cars can be dropped by an incoming freight and then picked up by the local train for delivery on the route. They are not related to a single industry. Local trains can deliver loaded cars to the team track for pickup by the outgoing freight. Team tracks can also be used for the loading of empty freight cars that will be delivered to other destinations. In the picture below, the tracks next to the freight depot are being used as the team tracks.
The Caribou Freight Depot pictured above will get deliveries of freight cars from various sources. These cars may be full of goods to be unloaded and then picked up by truck, they may be full and require movement to other locations on the route or the cars may be empty and will be loaded at the depot. The Caribou Freight Depot will also act as the agent for the movement of goods between the Maine Central Railroad (MEC) and the Caribou & Cape Porpoise Railroad (C&CP). If goods are to be delivered to points on the MEC, the depot supervisor can make a request for delivery of an empty car from the MEC. The MEC will deliver and transfer the car to the C&CP at the interchange in Friendship, Maine. The C&CP will bring the car to the depot’s team track for loading. The depot supervisor will schedule the loading, pickup and delivery of the freight car.
Exchange tracks are more than team tracks. They are tracks where two different railroads can meet and exchange goods. On my C&CP, which is a fictional short line railroad located in Down East Maine, there are exchange tracks that link it with the tracks of the MEC. The exchange tracks are located in the seaside village of Friendship.
In the picture above you can see on the right the two-track main line of the MEC passing through Friendship. The tracks at the left of the picture belong to the C&CP. The tracks in the middle of the picture are the exchange tracks. At the Friendship Station there is a northbound MEC passenger train. A southbound MEC freight is on one of the exchange tracks and is about to drop off a boxcar which will then be picked up by a northbound C&CP freight. There is no freight storage yard in Friendship, Maine. Friendship is only a place where the different routes converge and use the interchange track for the movement of goods from one line to the other. Since my route is focused on the operations of the C&CP, I only need the MEC to pass through Friendship. The question is: Where does it come from and where does it go? This is where the operation called “Staging” comes into play.
In model railroading, staging areas are used to expand the operation and in many cases simulate the movement of traffic into and out of the layout. Many times a staging area will be located under the layout to conserve floor space. There will be a tunnel or other visual break where the tracks to the staging area will leave the layout. The track will then run under the layout or behind the visual break to the staging area, which may have an extensive storage yard and a return track to the primary layout. Because staging areas are not seen as being part of the layout that is visible, they do not have to be detailed with structures or scenery. They normally just contain the tracks for the storage and movement of trains. The movement of trains into and out of a layout from a staging area can really make a model railroad come alive. Large freight trains can rumble through a layout from “outside” and then disappear again without tying up the local operation. If there are two staging areas that loop back to the main line, continuous movement is possible. It is important that proper signaling be used on the staging system to keep trains running smoothly. On the Caribou & Cape Porpoise route I use two staging areas that loop back through Friendship. If I wish, there can be a continuous movement of MEC trains coming through the town while I work the C&CP trains. Each staging area consists of a return loop, storage tracks for different trains and a multi-industry track for the loading and unloading of freight cars such as lumber or coal. Shown below is a Map view of one staging area:
One example of a day’s operation
As the morning sun rises, the C&CP peddler freight gets ready to pick up a boxcar scheduled to be moved to Portland, Maine. The empty boxcar belongs to the MEC and was delivered to the team track the previous day. The freight car had been ordered by Elmer Johnson’s potato farm, and the farm crew can be seen getting the last boxes of potatoes loaded. As soon as the boxcar is loaded it will be added to the consist and then the peddler freight will work its way from Caribou Maine northward, dropping off and picking up cars as it heads towards Cape Porpoise.
At the same time, the MEC freight leaves the staging area and heads south.
The peddler freight heads north towards Friendship with the boxcar loaded with potatoes directly behind it.
Both trains meet at Friendship. The transfer of the boxcar with the potatoes takes place with a number of switching moves by both trains. The southbound MEC diesel backs up from the switch where the northbound peddler will come in to leave room for the transfer. It uncouples from its consist and then moves forward past the switch. The northbound C&CP peddler uncouples the potato car from the rest of the train and then moves forward onto the track where the exchange will take place. It then backs the potato car onto the southbound diesel and uncouples from it. After the C&CP locomotive has handed over the boxcar to the MEC locomotive it then returns to its own consist and couples up to it. The southbound diesel then backs up and couples the potato car to the rest of the southbound freight. The picture below shows the positions of the trains after the transfer has been completed and both trains are ready to continue onward.
The MEC freight will now continue southward on the main line to the second staging area representing Portland where the potatoes will be delivered. The freight train will then be stored there and scheduled for a later return run to Friendship. The Caribou & Cape Porpoise peddler freight will continue its run northward until it finishes at Cape Porpoise, where it will be turned around and then proceed back to Caribou.
I feel that using these three simple concepts of team tracks, exchange tracks and staging areas can allow you to greatly increase your operational horizons with a minimum of processing load being added to your route. Happy rails to you!
Article and screen shots ©2004 John D'Angelo. All rights reserved.