Railroads exist to move people and freight between towns and cities. Large industries are a highlight of any railroad, with their many sidings, buildings and never-ending appetite for freight cars. These big industries do have one drawback for modelers however - they're BIG!
For smaller layouts, modelers often try to use "selective compression" to shrink large industries down to size. There are many ways to make larger buildings work on small layouts, but often the model ends up looking too-small to justify rail service at all. Especially if you have multiple towns and want to have a few sidings for trains to switch in each one, something has to give. Fortunately, there are industries that will work in small spaces and don't require any great compromises.
One "industry" that is perfect for railroads of any size is the team track. Team tracks are general purpose sidings that can be used by anyone receiving a shipment by rail that doesn't own their own siding. The sidings got their name from the teams of horses which pulled the wagons to the track for loading. The name stuck long after the horsepower changed. Common in small towns and big cities alike, these sidings are perfect for modelers.
- All you need is a track. Although some team tracks provided loading docks, pits and conveyers or other loading / unloading tools, many were nothing more than a simple spur with an open lot.
- One in every town. Team tracks were common - you could put one in every town on your railroad. Even if there were no other industries in town, a small team track would be appropriate.
- Size to fit. Small town tracks may only be big enough to hold one car. A large city team track may actually be several tracks, each adapted for special cars like covered hoppers, tanks, boxcars, etc. And of course there is room for everything in between.
- Any car, any day. Best of all, since team tracks aren't assigned to a specific customer, any car could show up on any given day. One day its a boxcar of seed for a local agricultural supply company. The next, a heavy-duty flatcar arrives with a new transformer for a local substation. Next week...
It almost seems too good to be true - all you need is a siding, with no structures, and you can put any car you want to on it! For those looking for an easy way to get into railroad operations, this is the perfect industry.
Modeling a Team Track
A team track can be as simple as a single stub-ended spur. For more information on adding a siding like this to your layout, check out the one on the Rio Grande Project Layout. Team tracks were often located near the station. Paperwork for the cars would be handled there, and the station itelf was usually one of the most central points in the town.
In larger cities, the team track(s) may be located near a large freight house or an industrial district. The customers of the team track could be just a few blocks, or a few miles away.
If customers were regular users of the siding, they may leave equipment on site. For example, a conveyer to transfer coal from hoppers to trucks. Such is the case at the more modern team-track equivalent - the trans-flo terminal. Hook-ups for tank cars and even unloading pits built into the tracks.
Small loading docks and cranes were also common additions. Beyond that, all that is really required is an open lot for the wagons or trucks to park, turn and load. The lot could be paved or not. The track too could be paved over as part of the lot. Adding a paved siding is easy and can make an interesting scene. Lighting may also be installed for night-loading and security.
Switching the Team Track
A team track in a large city might receive dozens of cars each day, with a dedicated switch crew working it along with other local industries. A more rural track may only see sporadic set-outs, made by the local freight or mixed train which worked every town on the line. Cars may sit for several days or weeks before being retrieved.
You can route cars to your team tracks as with any other industry using a waybill system. Set the car(s) off at one session, and pick them up at a later date. Since almost anything could show up, a team track is a great way to provide an online destination for cars that might not otherwise have a home, or just to break up the monotony of regular moves. For example, a team track at a small town on a big coal-hauling branch is a great excuse to see something other than long strings of hoppers once and awhile.
Now that you know how easy it is, add a team track (or two) to your layout!