Track Planning Based on Op. Session Length

Certainly, there are many reasons to feature rail served industries on a layout beyond the operational aspect.  If you’re modeling a section of a specific prototype, and the industry is there, you’d probably want to include it on your layout just to be accurate.  You’d do so whether you care about operations or not.  If your primary interest is structure building, you may want to include a structure whether you care about operations or not.  You’d do so simply for the enjoyment that building it provides.  That’s all fine.  However, if you are adding structures and track primarily for the operational play value, then it’s important to be conscious of how little it takes to spin out an op. session or you run the risk of building in a lot more capacity than you’ll ever use.

Case in point is the mini session shown below.  I’ve written many times that I enjoy running a lot of short, thirty minute sessions on my own in the evening as opposed to longer formal sessions.  With that in mind, when I plan a layout for myself, once I know I have enough track/industries to run a few half hour sessions, I stop adding capacity.

Shown below is a simple sequence involving classifying cars in the yard and spotting them at the BT warehouse complex.  I intentionally made the movements relatively easy but even so it timed out to a half an hour op. session length.

Here’s how things look at the beginning of the mini session. All of the cars on the warehouse lead are empty and get pulled. If you wanted to add length to the session you could set it up so a few cars were still being unloaded and needed to stay in place. The cars in the yard need to be classified by spot but the fact that the yard is otherwise empty makes sorting easy. Again, you could add length to the op. session if you filled up the yard with other cars you needed to work around.


Begin by classifying the cars in the yard by spot order. Again, since the yard is empty this involves a simple sequence of pull/push moves.


Pull the empties on the warehouse lead and spot them on the parallel holding track to get them out of the way. Pull the inbound cars up to the run around track and run the switcher to the other end of the cut.
Shove the cut of inbound cars into position in front of the respective doors and then take the empties back to the yard. (see lead photo at beginning of blog)


So, there you have it.  We only used five of the layout’s turnouts for this sequence.  There were no operational obstacles built in and what we end up with was a relaxing half hour running trains.