Best Practices for Model Railroad Staging Yards

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One of the most fun aspects of model railroading is operating your layout much as the prototypes used to do – using a car card system to make up trains. Careful planning of model railroad staging is necessary for a smoothly operating system on a large layout like the Utah Colorado Western. Learn how modeler Lee Nicholas makes the whole process look easy.

Lee only recently rebuilt most of his staging area to make the process more efficient. One side of his large yard represents Denver; the other end is Salt Lake City. When a train is inbound, the operator – in this case, Jim French – receives the accompanying inbound car cards. He checks out the destination of the car on the corresponding car card, then removes the car, places it on the staging track for the outbound train, and puts the card in the “Outbound” section of that destination’s box. He repeats for every car in the inbound train.

When the outbound train is completely made up, Jim notes its interim destinations and which cars will be switched and where, that it will need helper-engines on the 1-½% grade through the Rockies, then takes the corresponding cards and forwards them down the system, and calls the crew to operate the new train. It’s model railroad staging made simple. Here’s what others have done with staging yards.

Interestingly, Lee is living in his childhood home where he first started in model railroading when he was 5. He’s built several layouts in the same location over the intervening 44 years! Learn about other valuable model railway tips.