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Designing and Building Staging Yards


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Designing a Staging Yard
Designing and Building Staging Yards

Once scenery is completed on the upper level, this seven-track staging yard will disappear. Plan ahead to ensure you can run this yard blindly.

©2010 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

Like any yard or track arrangement, there are many ways to build a staging yard. Some important things to consider when designing yours:

  • Capacity: How many trains? How many cars / train?
  • Reuse: Will trains need to return to the active layout during a session or is it once and done?
  • Active Staging: Will you reclassify trains in staging yards during the session?
  • Access: How will you get to the trains and tracks in the yard to fix derailments, clean track, etc?
  • Power / Control: How will you power the tracks and turnouts? Will the yard tracks stay powered when not needed?
  • Detection: How will you know which tracks are full / empty? Which train is on which track?


While excess capacity in staging equals wasted space and resources, most modelers end up with the opposite problem. You think you only need room for two trains of fifteen cars each. Five years later, your roster has increased so that twenty car trains are the norm and you've decided to add a new passenger train. Adding track, especially in a hidden staging yard, can be a challenge.

Try to estimate the number and length of trains you'll want to run. If you have room to make tracks a little longer than necessary without compromising other goals, do it. If nothing else, you'll give your operators a little extra clearance. If you have room to add one or two extra tracks, it is probably worth taking the time to do so up front. Even if not used regularly, the tracks can be useful for storing special trains out of the way or provide a location for future acquisitions.

Keep in mind that every train doesn't need to have its own track. Fewer but longer tracks capable of handling multiple trains are also an option.

Rarely will every track in the yard have exactly the same capacity. See the Operating page for more ideas on handling this problem.


How you will turn, or restage trains in staging for their next run is also a concern. Staging yards come in two forms, stub or double-ended. Stub staging has an entrance at one end only. Through yards have connections to the layout at both ends. Often these yards are built as reverse loops.

Stub tracks usually allow the greatest car capacity / length. Double-ended staging, especially in a loop, allows faster re-staging of trains as they can re-enter the railroad without being reversed. Even if trains won't be reused immediately, its nice to have them ready to go the next time you want them.

If you will be actively changing trains in staging, make sure to provide adequate storage space in or around the yard and convenient access for operators.

Access, Power and Detection

These concerns are easily addressed in construction, but its good to have an idea of what you'll need before you start to build.

Even in hidden yards, make sure you can access the entire yard to fix a derailment or clean track.

Choose a detection system and make sure to accomodate any needs, like camera or detector locations in your plans.

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