Friday, November 12, 2021

Monk Subdivision – The Yard

I mentioned in my latest article in this series that Monk yard was the heart of this project. Indeed, it’s the very focal point when entering the room, but more on a much more practical aspect, it is a division point on the railway and as such, it must perform a minimum of tasks.

Conceptual sketch of the yard

These tasks determine the track requirement for a basic yard. Keep in mind my goal is to keep track density as low as possible without having to compromise on train movements. In that regard, I built upon the example of Pierre Oliver’s Clovis Branch yard designed by Trevor Marshall and my own experience with Clermont yard. But, more than anything, I based my final decision by studying Canadian Pacific’s Orangeville yard in Ontario as it was rebuilt in 1924. If you are surprised Monk yard isn’t mentioned, it’s simply because I couldn’t find detailed maps of it. They probably exist but wouldn’t be of any help because Monk was a huge and long yard that wouldn’t fit the scope of the project. The only thing I can work with are a few pictures that give an idea about how elements were related to each other. One of these elements was the yard ladder in front of the station… and the fact the yard was build opposite to the train station.

Otherwise, the big source of inspiration was Craig Bisgeier’s timeless “Ten Commandmentsof Model Railroad Yard Design”. I often go back to this neat article and feel Craig has distilled what is a yard in the most pragmatic way.

Functions and tracks

Monk yard serves several purposes, including:

  1. Scheduling train meets
  2. Changing crew and locomotive
  3. Breaking and building manifest trains
  4. Handling local customer freight
  5. Switching cars for way freight trains
  6. Supporting the locomotive facilities

The first point is self explanatory. You need one passing track and a main line to accommodate two trains at the same time. Nothing special about that one.

The second one is all about having a dedicated track to park trains while a crew change occurs. It can be the passing track or something else.

The second point is all about the yard itself. Given we will often have to deal with two freight trains at the same moment which is about 16-20 cars, we need twice the capacity in the yard. Also, I know from experience 2 sidings aren’t enough. We need at least 3 to be efficient. The yard doesn’t need to be two ended because the switcher can work from the same end to perform all moves. That reduces the number of turnouts required and save space for the siding themselves.

This last detail is important because as Craig Bisgeier mention’s it “Thou Shalt Not Foul the Main”. No switcher must run over the passing track and main line when performing its tasks. For this reason, a dedicated yard lead will be implemented on the left. Not very different from Orangeville yard. This has also another benefit; the locomotive can move in front of the station, creating a nice backdrop for railfanning.

Another big commandment of Craig is "You Shalt Use Arrival / Departure Tracks". In the past, I would have skipped that one and honestly, I did in my first drafts of Monk. However, as I better understood train movements on the subdivision, the more it became apparent I would need one. Given most trains will be 10 cars long and the passing track is almost 20 feet long, I'll simply cut it in two separate section. The one in front of the station will be the passing track while the right section will be the A/D track. Two turnouts will separate them so cars moving from or to the A/D track never foul the passing track. Since the A/D track is not always used, it can serve as a longer passing track if ever required. It will also provide a good buffer zone to store trains awaiting a crew change.

Wrapping up a Track Plan

Monk can be divided in three individual parts representing separate functions. When taken together, they work together to create a division point. These parts are the station, the yard and the engine facilities.

Schematic plan of Monk

The station in itself isn’t very different from any other on the line expect for its bigger capacity. The station building is larger and two storeys to house crews and railway employees. The passing track is much longer to accommodate intercity passenger trains and long fast freights. The team track is also much longer and graced by a sizable freight house.


Monk as a station

The yard is made of an arrival/departure (A/D) track were inbound and outbound trains pick up or set out their cars. Three classification tracks are used to break and build freight trains. Finally, a dedicated yard lead ensures switcher locomotives never foul the main line and can work independently from the rest of the railway. From a layout operation, this is a neat detail because you can switch the yard while a parade of trains run over the main line.


Monk as a classification yard

The engine facilities are the final part of Monk and are required to service, fuel and store locomotives between assignments. The turntable also provides a mean to reverse steam locomotives while the caboose track and auxiliary track are dedicated to store cabooses and maintenance of way equipment. Finally, a fuel track supplies coal and sand while disposing of ashes to kept locomotives going on. The design for these engine facilities is based on both Quebec Central’s Vallée-Junction shops and Canadian Pacific’s 1924 Orangeville Roundhouse. In both case, installations were small and compact, using very little tracks to perform all the moves required.

Monk as an engine facility

Full scale mock-ups will be required to determine is a ready track for outbound locomotives can be implemented. In Vallée-Jonction, one track served both purposes, but it could be a very useful addition to better stage crew changes. Once again, it’s a matter of balancing purpose and frequency. 


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