Originally Posted by Lemonhawk
I would look closely at how you are going to use the yard and then see if you can use programmed routes. One push of a button and all the appropriate turnouts set to the desired position. Then you can use green LED's to highlight the route and red for everything else. much easier than having to manually scan to see it everything is right.
Don't feel "like an idiot" for asking questions. We are here to help, and an actual idiot wouldn't know enough to ask questions. The fact that you are asking for help understanding something that is unfamiliar to you, shows that you are intelligent. not idiotic.
I strongly agree with Lemonhawk's suggestion above. I use route control for the yards on my layout. It does make things very easy, and it is simple enough that any visiting operator can understand and use it easily.
There have been many articles published in Model Railroader magazine about various route control circuits. Which circuit will suit your layout will depend on what type of switch machines you are using. If your turnouts are operated by twin-coil machines, like those made by Atlas and Peco, then push-buttons and a simple diode matrix will work. Use a capacitive discharge system (CDU) to protect the coils from burnout.
From the toggle switches in the prior responses, I assume that the panels shown control DC stall motors. If you use some DC stall motor, like a Tortoise machine, then the electronics can get more complicated. Some folks have used digital electronic sequencer circuits. I prefer a much simpler system that uses one rotary switch, a bunch of diodes, and a split, uneven voltage, power supply.
(see photos.) The one rotary switch controls all the motors needed to route the train onto the selected track. I didn't use LED panel indicators, since they weren't needed. The orange stripe on the knob makes it obvious which track has been selected. You could add LEDs if you want to. I like to keep things simple.
(By the way, the white panel on the left is not part of the track selection system. It controls the four sets of motorized doors, and the lights of the engine house above, and slightly to the left of that white control panel.)
I copied my route control method from a Model Railroader article. If you are interested, and are using DC motors to operate your turnouts, I can look it up and give you more information on the system I use.
Cedar Falls control panel.JPG
Cedar Falls motors & linkages.JPG