Friday, November 19, 2010

Staging Yards on the CP Rail Manitoba & Minnesota Sub.

The upper and lower staging yards on the M & M Sub.
That's Thunder Bay/Duluth on the bottom, Winnipeg
on the top. The "helix" can be seen between the two yards.

The first rule of model railroading staging is this: You never have enough.

Oh, sure, you may think that you have enough at the start. But you will soon discover it's woefully inadequate.

That was the lesson I learned the hard way on my first layout. I thought two staging tracks would be enough. Not!

Since the staging on that layout was hidden, I ended up adding additional staging from below the layout—not a practice I recommend. Do you have any idea how hard it is to lay track by feel, in the dark, with your hands above your head? It's not any fun at all.

Eventually, I added six additional staging tracks on that layout. And yet, more locomotives and rolling stock kept appearing. It wasn't long before they were filled, too.

I decided not to repeat that mistake on the CP Rail M & M Sub. The point-to-point layout is fed by two six-track staging yards. (Both visible, thank-you; no more hidden staging for me.) The upper level yard represents Winnipeg, and points west; the lower yard represents Thunder Bay, Ont. and Duluth, Minn. and points east and south.

Another view of the staging yards, which are located
in an adjacent storage room. The trains cross the door
on a drop-down bridge; the control and dispatcher's
panels are across the room.

And yet, even that turned out not to be sufficient. Just as with the first layout, more locomotives and rolling stock appeared. (Where does that stuff come from, anyway?)

It was impossible to add more tracks to the staging yards, so I added a third passing siding in Ritchie, Man., a town on the upper level, and a fourth siding in Fort Frances, Ont., on the lower level. Both of these tracks provide open staging for trains.

As for the staging yard tracks themselves, they are controlled by RETC: Ridiculously Easy Track Control. They are all wired into a single block. Track power is thrown through use of cheap light switches; one track is wired through the switch, which is wired to the block control.

Turn the switch on and the track has power. Turn it off, and it's dead. That was easy!

Since the tracks are are stub-ended, I also needed a way to stop trains automatically. A simple dead track accomplishes that; an insulated joiner on one track stops the locomotives dead.

Even though all of my trains are pulled by two units, this isn't a problem; momentum carries the second unit across the gap, which powers the track, and they both roll until the second unit enters the dead track. They they both come to a stop before the end of the track.

Simple, and cheap. Which, as I always say, is good enough for me.

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