I've been working on a layout design for a few years while wrapping up some other projects and clearing space to start building, which is probably a good thing because as I do more research and see other layouts I see design ideas that inspire me. To give a general overview, this is essentially a dual-mainline point-to-point operation with reverse loops at each end, twisted into the shape of a large Z. There is a mountain range stretching from the lower left to upper right dividing the two towns, and I'm trying to configure it so I can perform both continuous-loop runs and full operations. It will be a walk-around island, and while I understand reach will be a bit of an issue, I'm working with what I have.
The scenario is the end of the 1800's where narrow-gauge (brown) is being modernized with standard gauge (black), and a productive coal vein has brought a lot of new activity to the area. Passenger and cattle lines still run on narrow gauge while coal and grain are hauled on standard gauge. There is also a small lumber operation where the logs are brought to the sawmill via narrow gauge but then transported to the 'big city' (which has electricity available) on standard gauge for final processing and use.
I've had the general design pretty well fixed for awhile now, but I keep going back to the yard areas, especially at the bottom of the layout. Earlier this year I completely gutted the entire yard area and laid out a new idea. Much more useful for loading and unloading, but still not quite right (the left side was very similar to the right side you still see here). A couple days ago it dawned on me that I could wipe out that left side and lay down a proper ladder yard. It's a bit cramped, but because I have grades up to 3% I'm only going to be running trains of six or seven 40' cars. The middle ladder rungs will comfortably fit 6, 4, and 2 hoppers. I *think* this arrangement at least gives me the chance to move the cars around for their next destination?
The yard to the right is set up with several loading docks of both gauges. The NG trains will only see very minor shuffling of their cars so I don't need much yard space for them. Below that I'm trying to model a loco service facility plus a building for car maintenance. It seems like these three areas should all provide a good variety of options between them?
So my concerns are providing enough track to move the loads around without totally crowding out every last square inch of space, but also having a variety of services to give me some fun modeling opportunities. I want to be able to always leave one of the mainlines open for through-trains so timetables will be important to the yard operations. And I'm still not entirely sure what to do with that siding at the very bottom -- use it for passing on the mainline, staging a new train, a little of both? Are there any suggestions on a better way to arrange that track? And do my yards look functional enough to keep the loads moving?
Thanks for your time and feedback.