ICG and Calumet RR - HO - Steve Johnson

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Image:icgsm.gifLooking for help in designing the main yard on my ICG

Layout Background

I am modeling the ICG from Chicago to Champaign in the late '70's. I am taking some modeling license of course due to space restrictions and my desire to include steel mill operations on the layout. On the lower level, there will be trains coming north from the helix (at the bottom right of the picture) into or passing Markham yard onto north staging or other destinations. There will be staging below the yard that will represent points north. (How that will be done and how trains will get there is a whole other discussion.) So the yard will see lots of foreign road traffic, basically serving as a terminal. I plan on it being a busy place. You can learn more about my layout at http://www.icgrr.com.

Overview of Current Challenge

When I first designed my layout, I did lots of research, asked lots of questions, and visited lots of other layouts to try and get as educated as possible. (Part of this effort was joining the LDSIG as well as the OPSIG so I could understand how best to design for ops.) I decided to use 3rd PlanIt to come up with the the layout plan. I had no CAD experience, and there is a learning curve with 3rd PlanIt, and I am far from an expert with the program. I really have no idea how to do any sort of 3D work in the program.

Anyway, I designed my layout and came up with a design that I was pretty happy with. I proceeded to start to build benchwork, and as of today I have all of the base benchwork in and track laid and running on the upper level. Now I am starting to work towards my main yard on the lower level. This yard will be a major focal point and operations center on the layout. When I first designed the yard in 3PI, I really didn't understand how to get the geometries right in the program, and knew that I may have designed some track work that would not work with off the shelf switches. Now that I am at the point where I am actually ready to start building the yard, I have revisited my plan to ensure my track work is going to work, and I think I have a problem.

I am basically looking for some advice on how best to design the yard on the lower level and the related track approaching it. You can see my original design via 3PI here and how the yard generally fits into the lower level scheme.

Full Sized Version



Here are some of the things creating my challenge; you may consider these my "druthers":

  • The space on the lower right area of the layout is meant to be the home for a blast furnace and coke oven facility. I do not want the access track for this facility to come from the yard. Thus, the solution I developed was that the lead to this facility came from the main then went down and under the main (at a steep 4% grade - it's industrial trackage!).
  • This "druther" has dictated the general radius and location of the mainline curve at the upper right area, allowing a place for the switch off of the main to get to the blast furnace area.
  • The main on the lower level is double track. I wanted to have crossovers at appropriate places to allow for trains to get from one side to the other, and to facilitate movement in and out of the yard. I also wanted these crossovers spaced out so that my maximum train length (11') would fit between them. (I could theoretically have 6 full trains on the main parked between cross overs in this plan.)
  • I really want a double ended yard. I am trying to follow some of the yard design commandments that have dictated some constraints:
    • Drill tracks that are as long as the longest yard track.
    • I want my longest yard track to be able to hold a full train (11')
    • I want trains to be able to get from the main to the A/D tracks without fouling the drill tracks (switch leads).
    • I would really like to have a nice sized diesel facility, and if I can squeeze it in, a 90' turntable (the prototype had a turntable for flipping diesels- no roundhouse).
  • I would prefer for the mainline to run behind the yard if at all possible. I am starting to think that by putting the main in front on the aisle, that may open up some other possibilities.
  • As can be seen in the original design, there is a "blob" in the room that is bascially a return loop. For operational purposes, this blob is a dead-end with industry switching on it. The main line will proceed under the lower level to a even lower level staging. What this means is that if at all possible, I want to provide for conitinous running by maintaining the return loop. This will require a turnout in an appropriate location somewhere in the lower left area.
  • I really want to use the area at the bottom right for the stell mill. The size lends itself well to this industry.
  • This steel mill area really needs a small yard of its own for shuffling cars in and out. That is what the three track yard leading up to it is for.


Here are the "givens" at the moment:

  • The basic size and footprint of the benchwork has been built and cannot be changed significantly. I can maybe cut in some corners, or add an inch to the width here or there, but that is about it.
  • The two double crossovers on the lower level (seen in the blank room below) are basically set. The one in the lower right leads to the helix so it is fixed. The one in the middle center area is where the main line starts decending to lower staging so it is effectively fixed as well. Most everything else is up for grabs.

"Blank Slate"

Below is a "blank slate" of the area in question with the benchwork drawn in as well as the two double crossovers mentioned above. I did not put in the rest of the "blob" and the lower level as I do not forsee any issues there. I have provided a JPEG version, as well as my 3PI file is anyone out there has 3rd Plan It and cares to tinker with it.

Full Sized Version

3rd PlanIt File



I just wanted to say thanks beforehand for any suggestions / advice anyone might be interested in sharing. I hope that I have presented enough information and clearly enough. This is my first time posting on a Wiki site, so there was some learning involved.

If there is other information that would be helpful, or if you'd like pictures of the benchwork as it stands today, let me know.


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