OPERATIONS ON THE LAKE TOWN & SHIRE

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INTRODUCTION

POWERING YOUR LAYOUT

LAYOUT DESIGN

YARD DESIGN

CAR MOVEMENT

TRAIN TYPES AND TRAIN CREWS

OTHER JOBS FOR OPERATORS

TRAINING

EQUIPMENT AND MAINTENANCE

A COMPANY STORE

 

LAYOUT DESIGN

END-TO-END

An end-to-end layout has a straight mainline with no loops at the end. In this article, we will look at the possibilities for operations on a layout with an end-to-end design.

It is possible to design an end-to-end layout that allows you to put a train on the track and let it run without further attention. To do this, you have to use an electronic auto-reversing unit. These are available for DC track-powered layouts, but I have not seen anything comparable for DCC or battery power. The train will shuttle back and forth from end to end with the engine behind the train as it travels in one direction and behind the train as it travels in the other direction. You would have to do some special wiring so you could disable the auto-reverse unit when you want to control your train with a throttle. I don't think this is a very practical option. Most people just use auto-reversing units for a trolley an a separate track. So I would not recommend an end-to-end design for your layout if you want to option to put a train on your track and let it run without attention when you don't want to do operations.

That being said, most shortline railroads in the real world have an end-to-end configuration. This also works for a small industrial railroad, a timber railroad, or a mining railroad.

One thing to consider is whether you always want the engine at the front of the train. A small industrial railroad might push cars in one direction and pull them in the other. Some timber railroads always keep the engine on the down hill end of the train to prevent run away cars if a coupler comes loose. But most other railroads always run engine-first.

If you put a passing siding at each end of the mainline, then you can run the engine around the train at each end. This will work fine for diesels. If you do this with steam locomotives, then the engine will always be in front of the train, but it will be running backwards in one direction. That might be acceptable for tank engines or geared locomotives, but it would be extremely unusually to see a locomotive running backward on a mainline with it's tender in front of it. If you plan to use tendered steam locomotives, you will want both a way to move the engine to the front of the train and a way to turn the engine around.

There are three ways to turn an engine around: a turntable, a wye, or a reversing loop. I will talk about reversing loops in later articles. Here, I will just talk about turntables and wyes.

A turntable requires some way to power the rails on the table. A simple way to do this is to use rail joiners that slip over the ends of the rails. These connect the approach rails to the rails on the turn table. After pulling the locomotive onto the turntable, you slide the connectors off of the turntable rails and turn the locomotive. Then you slide the connectors back onto the turntable rails and drive the locomotive off of the turntable. We have a turntable that is powered in exactly this way on the LT&S and it works fine. If you have additional tracks going from the turntable into a roundhouse, etc., then you need to power them from the mainline using jumper wires. Then you can have slip rail connectors on each track you actually use. This lets you provide power to the turntable rails from any of the connecting tracks. The diagram below shows an end-to-end layout with a wye at one end and a turntable and passing siding at the other end.

End-to-end layout with a wye and a turntable

Notice that I have not included a passing siding at the end of the layout where the wye is located. If the ends of the wye are long enough, then the entire train can be turned on the wye and you don't need a passing siding to run the locomotive around to the other end of the train. The turntable takes a lot less space than the wye. The space for the passing siding near the turntable isn't considered because that is a common track formation in front of a station in any case. Because they took less space, turntables were used most often to turn locomotives during the steam era. However, wyes were also used fairly often. A reverse loop takes even more room than a wye and reverse loops were rarely seen on real railroads. But reverse loops have advantages for garden railroads that we will discuss in later articles.

The design shown above works fine for operations involving a single train, and it can even be used for operations where a couple of trains are running at the same time. But the trains can only pass each other at the ends of the line and the movement can be a bit complicated. You could even keep three trains going, although only two could be on the line between the ends at the same time and they would have to be going in the same direction. If you plan to run more than one train on an end-to-end layout, I recommend including at least one passing siding somewhere in the middle of the layout.


LOOP

The most popular layout design for garden railroads must be the loop. The reason for this is most probably that you can place a train on a loop of track, start it running, and walk away. Loops may not be nearly so simple as the one in the diagram above. They can be squeezed in the middle to form a "dog-bone" or twisted to form a figure-8. A large loop can be permuted into all sorts of shapes, some so complex that it is difficult for the casual observer to realize that the track is in reality a loop. Many garden railroads include multiple loops that overlap each other, making it even harder to detect the loops. Multiple loops also allows several trains to run unattended, although this can also be done with a single loop with some passing sidings and clever circuitry. In this article, we will look at the possibilities for operations on a layout with a loop design.

It is possible to design an end-to-end layout that allows you to put a train on the track and let it run without further attention. To do this, you have to use an electronic auto-reversing unit. These are available for DC track-powered layouts, but I have not seen anything comparable for DCC or battery power. The train will shuttle back and forth from end to end with the engine behind the train as it travels in one direction and behind the train as it travels in the other direction. You would have to do some special wiring so you could disable the auto-reverse unit when you want to control your train with a throttle. I don't think this is a very practical option. Most people just use auto-reversing units for a trolley an a separate track. So I would not recommend an end-to-end design for your layout if you want to option to put a train on your track and let it run without attention when you don't want to do operations.

Loops were rarely seen on prototype railroads. Even the famous narrow-gauge circle in Colorado was operated as several different railroads or divisions that only operated only on part of the circle. I doubt if a train ever ran around the entire circle. But that is not necessarily a reason to abandon a loop design for a garden railroad intended for operations. There is not simpler way to design a layout to allow continuous running on occasion, and you can still have as much realistic operation as you could want.

If you have no passing sidings on a loop and all sidings are industrial spurs, then you can't have two trains running in opposite directions. Also, all of your turnouts will have to have the points facing in the same direction or you won't be able to switch them. And there is no reason not to design your layout that way if it suits your operating style. Certainly, that will keep the number of turnouts - and the maintenance that goes with them - to a minimum.

If you want to have trains going in opposite directions on a loop, or you want to be able to switch turnouts with facing points, then you will need at least one passing siding.

One interesting way to design a layout for operations is to build a loop with all your industrial sidings in one location. Look at the diagram above. If you treat each building as a separate industry in a separate location, then you can think of this layout as having four different industries at four different locations. You switch one industry, then run the train around the track, then switch the next industry, and so on. You can also have two trains running at the same time if your loop is big enough. Send the train #1 out on the loop going clockwise, then switch one of the industries using train #2. When you are finished switching, wait for train #1 to return to the passing siding. When it does, send train #2 out onto the loop running counterclockwise while you do some switching with train #1. With a single crew, you can operate two trains with one always out on the loop while the other switches the industries.


LOOP-TO-LOOP

A loop-to-loop layout is an end-to-end layout with return loops at each end. If you follow the top rail around either loop in the diagram above, you will see that it will come back to connect with the bottom rail. The result is that if you are using track power, each loop causes a short-circuit in your track. You will have to eliminate these by insulating a section of track in each loop and installing some circuitry to change the polarity of the current on the track. The insulated section will have to be long enough to hold at least you longest locomotive, longer if any of your cars pick up current from the track for lighting or other purposes. The safest design is to make the insulated reversing section long enough to hold your longest train. If you use DC track power, then you will also have to reverse the direction of each locomotive as it passes through the reversing section. This is not an issue with DCC power. If you use DCC, Digitrax makes a simple reversing unit called the AR1. With this unit, you attach one set of wires to powered rails and another set to the insulated reversing track. As a train enters the reversing section, the AR1 detects a short if the reversing section polarity is set the wrong way and reverses the polarity automatically. This happens again as the train leaves the reversing section. Other DCC manufacturers provide units which will also take care of your reversing section automatically.

Like a single loop, a loop-to-loop layout allows the possibility of continuous unattended running, but at the expense of special circuitry to handle the reversing section. One advantage of a loop-to-loop design is that it better models prototype railroads since trains must run back-and-forth over the same track. From an operational point of view, this means that when you run more than one train you will have more frequent meets. With no passing sidings, you can still operate at least three trains at a time. Train #1 can be switching sidings in the loop at the left while train #2 is switching sidings in the loop at the right and train #3 is moving between the loops and switching any sidings in this part of the layout. As soon as train #3 enters one of the loops, the train waiting in that loop can then go out on the mainline between the loops. With a smaller layout, you may find this arrangement completely satisfactory. But as the length of the mainline between the loops increases, you will want to have some passing sidings between the loops so more trains can be on the mainline at the same time.

You will probably want to install spring-loaded turnouts at the entrances to your return loops. I have used the manual switch machines for Aristocraft turnouts for this purpose. I just set the switch to the direction I want the train to take when it enters the loop. As the train leaves the loop, the wheels force the rail over to the other direction, against the spring in the switch machine. Unfortunately, the spring in the switch machine is too strong for some lighter cars to push over and the result is a derailment. I have bent brass wire into a shape that fit into the holes where the switch machine connects to the turnout. I can adjust the tension in this wire so that it holds the turnout in one position for trains entering the reverse loop, but allows even light cars to push the rails into the other position as they exit the reverse loop.

The Lake Town & Shire is a loop-to-loop design with four passing sidings between the reverse loops. That allows six locations where the trains can pass each other. There are industrial sidings within each reverse loop, industrial sidings at each passing siding, and industrial sidings between the reverse loops and passing sidings - a total of 13 industrial sidings in all. We occasionally run four trains at once, but we find that this produces quite a bit of congestion even on a layout of this size. Normally, we run three trains on the mainline at a time. You can look at the Lake Town & Shire layout design on our track plan page.

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