No. 28: Ackley Layout – A Change in Staging

A few weeks before I started laying track, I made a pretty significant change to the track layout.

Originally–due to space limitations–I had located the Illinois Central interchange track on the city track on the opposite side of the IC crossing.  I was unhappy with this arrangement because 1) It was not prototypical and 2) Because it limited the number of cars that could be worked to and from the interchange.  You can see the differences in the IC transfer in the drawing below.

Golden - Ackley 1 (1)

I track planned a number of alternatives, none of which held much promise. Then I realized that I could include the interchange track as part of the staging hard and still maintain its prototype orientation.  Here is the new plan:


The IC Crossing is still on the layout, but the actual interchange track is off the layout.   What I did was include a third track in the staging yard with a crossover at the far (south) end and that third track will serve as the interchange track. When a train comes to town and needs to deliver or pick up cars from the IC, I run the train into staging and do the work “live” on that third track in the staging yard.  When that work is done, I bring my train back to the visible layout and continue my work.


Here is a photo of the IC crossing.  On the prototype, the transfer (or interchange) track was on the far side of the crossing.  Since I didn’t have room to model it, I have put that track in the staging yard, which is just off the layout through the “tunnel”.


An advantage to this arrangement is that I am not limited to a maximum of two cars for interchange as I was on the original, non-prototypical plan with the interchange lead off the City Track.  The real M&StL could hold at least 25 cars.  This revised arrangement allows me to work at least six 40-foot cars if needed.  Six cars going to the interchange is quite a lot for a layout this size…but it is better than two!

Here is the new track arrangement for the south side interchange yard.  The track on the far right is the interchange track, and I installed a crossover to allow engines to escape or work the interchange from both ends–very similar to what existed on the prototype line.   I left enough room on the crossover to hold an engine and at least one 40-foot car.


The next photo below shows a cut of six cars on the interchange track.  An important consideration is leaving enough room for straight track on each end of the pickup, which provides a little more room for reliable HO scale coupler operation.


The next photo below shows an engine that has come through the staging “tunnel” layout, past the interchange track.  The engine will work the interchange from the south end.  The crew will drop the loaded Armour reefer on the interchange track and pick up the cut of cars off the IC, and then return to the modeled portion of the layout.  The staging track at the far left holds next northbound train coming through Ackley.


The concept works.  It is a little unorthodox, but it works.  For that matter the whole layout is a little unorthodox, but it works.  I suppose there is a fancy term for this arrangement, such as visible staging, or something like that. I call it “live staging” because now the south staging yard is an active part of the layout and not just a five-finger yard. Five Finger Yard–that would be a great name for a staging yard, wouldn’t it???

I may design a similar arrangement with the south yard, by adding an extra set out track to the staging yard to serve the fertilizer dealer that was omitted from the track plan, or maybe an extra track to the workbench.  – John

2 thoughts on “No. 28: Ackley Layout – A Change in Staging

  1. John…what a happy coincidence! I had just recently been in touch with Doug with some questions about train movements to and through Ackley. My wife and I are planning a build-and-move in the next year, and as things seem to be developing, there is likely to be considerable uncontested space in the new basement. I have long liked the possibilities that Ackley presents, and it was great to see what is going on in Ackley-am-Main (or whatever river you may be close to ; – ) . I will enjoy looking in on your progress. Mike Rahn / Brainerd, Minnesota


    • Hi Mike!

      Thanks for writing. If you do decide to model Ackley I have a mountain of information available. Eventually I’d like to do a series on industries on the blog, but I can pass you everything I have in the meantime. I have to tell you that I love the track plan–it is so simple and generic but interesting at the same time. My blog posts are far behind the actual progress on the layout, as I have completed all trackwork and wiring and am getting close to scenery.

      Once the layout is done and I can play trains, the next project series will be building up a number of Proto48 cars I have stashed away.

      John G


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