Track Plan At A Glance
Layout Theme: Industrial Railroad
Layout Type: Permanent Layout
Scale: HO Scale
Track: Code 83
Turnouts: No. 6
Min. Radius: 30"
Article by: Jim Spavins
Posted: June 28, 2016
Published: December 31, 2012
An industrial railroad offers an interesting theme for a model railroad. While often times the modeler who chooses these themes are lacking in space, some industrial facilities are incredibly large and could easily fill a much larger area. For this reason, I wanted to present a plan with this theme to show how a single essence of railroading can be modified to fit the space available.
Before we start the design, a reminder from earlier that the essential features of an industrial railroad should be:
- Manufacturing or production facility requiring frequent spotting of cars
- Industry owned locomotives
- Interchange with common carrier railroad
With a little bit more room, there is space to model an industrial operation which is a bit more substantial than the one presented in some of the other Minimalist Model Railroading case studies. In this case, this is a model of a chemical company which has capacity for almost 40 freight cars. If they cycle through a car every two days, the industrial railroad would handle over 7,000 cars a year. That is a substantial customer on any railroad and will certainly keep a crew busy switching cars every day.
Operating the Railroad
At the beginning of an operating session, the crew would pick up the switch list for the day's activities. After perusing the needs for the day, the crew would take the locomotive, parked inside the facility, and head down the branch to the interchange track where the connecting railroad has spotted a number of cars for the industry. The crew would pick up the loads and head back up the branch and spot these cars in the holding yard. Then the crew would head inside the plant and begin to switch out and shift the cars at the various unloading/loading points. Any cars headed for the interchange are spotted and blocked in the holding yard. Once the crew is done with its switching, the cars for the interchange track are pulled down to the branch and left to be picked up later. With up to 60 cars to switch, this session could keep a crew entertained for several hours.
Presenting the Railroad
The layout is designed so the focus is on the industrial facility in the middle of the room. The center island is fairly wide (up to five feet at certain points) but all the track is within easy reach from the aisles. Since there is plenty of space, the buildings should be built to dwarf the trackage - an industry which will process 7,000 carloads needs to be big! The line to the interchange winds along the back wall of the room on a narrow shelf and provides the backdrop for the entire layout. The lighting set up should probably be fairly bright and encompass the entire room - instead of the shadow box effect some layout builders use. Since this is a switching layout, the crew will most likely have a lot of paperwork to read and will need to be able to see car numbers and reporting marks on the rolling stock.
An industrial company switcher basks in the summer sun at a chemical facility in the 1990s. | Photo by Jim Spavins.
Resource Use on the Railroad
This is a railroad which would work well for someone who enjoys switching as well as building, detailing, and weathering freight cars. As for the other resources needed to build the Chas Chemicals design, here is how they break down:
Time would be spent...
- Building Railroad Equipment
- Laying Track
- Building Structures
- Switching operations
The Space would be used for...
- Industrial buildings and scenery
- Operator aisles
Money would be spent on...
- Locomotives and Rolling Stock
The Skills required to build the railroad are...
- Rolling Stock and Locomotive Detailing, Painting, and Weathering
- Structure Construction
- Interest in switching freight cars