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Discussion Starter #1
Just getting started again into this hobby, haven't even purchased a train or any track yet. I'm looking around at train shops online and nearby in town. I'm very much looking forward to having a large and complicated DCC system running multiple trains eventually, but I realize I should start small.

My question has to do with something I see on a LOT of layouts. Often there are 5-10 dead end tracks in one area of a layout which apparently for unused cars to sit on.... but is that all they're for? Many of the layouts I've seen have so many of these I'm wondering if there's another reason because the number of them seem excessive.

If anyone can shed some light on these I'd appreciate it.
 

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Dead end tracks are normally used for industrial sidings, car storage or staging. Years ago, I had four or five dead end sidings on my main layout, but it was a pain backing on to them when I wanted to change the train that the loco was pulling. I changed those sidings on my main loops to passing sidings. I still have a few dead end sidings on my main layout which I use for loco and train storage.

I recently built a staging area. It has four main sidings with another three sidings off the main sidings for additional car storage or to stage more cars for longer trains.

Some folks have switching layouts or point to point layouts that are nothing but dead ends.
 

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"Often there are 5-10 dead end tracks in one area of a layout which apparently for unused cars to sit on.... but is that all they're for?"

On the big trains, those are called "yards", for the purpose of making up/storing trains.

Loads/empties come in/out, get switched into trains, which can be through trains, or perhaps local freights that deliver the cars to industrial customers.

You WANT a yard (or more than one, depending on how large the layout is).
If you don't have one, that means all your cars end up on the main tracks, and you haven't anywhere to re-arrange your trains.
 

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I agree that you definitely want a yard, especially since you say you want to some day run multiple trains. I prefer a yard that is a "pull-through" design, meaning it doesn't have dead ends. It fans out to multiple tracks at the entrance and condenses down to one track at the exit. This also means you can run/store trains in either direction. The more space you have the longer you can make your yard so you can store longer trains. Some people with large layouts may have hidden storage yards on their layout. You may also have a few dead ends in your yard that lead to an engine house or other service area. I don't have a lot of space, so my yard can only store trains that are 7 to 8 cars long. I've found that backing up long trains is problematic, so its something I avoid doing and my layout reflects that. I do have 6 short dead end industrial spurs. These are meant to leave 1 or 2 cars at to simulate moving materials to and from these industries. If you're only modeling passenger trains, you probably have little or no need for any freight industry on your layout. If you primarily want to see trains running continuously with little of your input, you may not want or need to have any industrial dead end spur tracks. If you want to model more realistic train operations, you'll certainly want to have some, if not quite a few, industrial spur tracks.
 

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As our guys have said, a group of connected dead end tracks are known as a yard. There are also
single dead end tracks. These are known as spurs. They usually serve one or more businesses
that use rail freight. A large layout such as you suggest is very enjoyable...you can have long
trains chugging over bridges or heading into a tunnel...however, after an hour or so you start
to realize there is something missing...that's when you begin to think about switching...purposeful
moving cars about...picking up a gondola with full load of sand and dropping a tanker at
the local fuel distributor. Switching can easily be challenging...how do you pick up that cattle
car that is on the same track as a cut of hoppers? You can get so envolved with
switching that soon a whole afternoon has passed. Oh, and by the way, while all this
is happening your crack passenger train has been happily chugging around the mountain.

don
 

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Discussion Starter #6
THANKS to all the replies!!! All of that makes sense. I confess that even though I'm 52 years old I'll definitely want to play with the trains and not just watch them move around, so having a pull-through yard and a few short spurs will be part of my long term plan.

I also love the idea of moving specific cars/hoppers from place to another with a purpose. It gives someone a puzzle to work on if you've got enough destinations and have to get everything delivered.
 

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In my case, I ran out of room for a pull-through type yard with my layout design for continuous running passenger service.

I made do however with a five track dead-end yard and two short tracks to an electric engine service facility. Truth be told, it's actually only a four track yard as the last track is the lead for the service facility. I can still park a train there temporarily, but it cuts off access to the service facility.

 

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If you want a diamond-ladder, with pull-through capability, in HO and larger, you'll need at least 11 feet. Even then, some of your trains won't fit on the smaller tracks if they are also pull-through. But, as stated several times above, you MUST have a yard of some design and capacity, even if the ladder tracks are all stubs. You can always pull out from a stub if the lead is clear. And remember, MANY passenger terminals are/were stub tracks. What gave them flexibility was a chain of double slip and single slip turnouts.

I have a medium sized layout, and in it's configuration all I can afford space-wise are six stub-ended ladders, but with 'run around' turnouts so that engines can escape and get to servicing in the lead the consist to the passenger station. There's just no room to have a diamond ladder or the other kind with the tiny pull-through tracks.

"Staging" is a whole nuther thing. Staging is where you hide, temporarily, or store for longer periods, entire consists....you park them there, maybe behind a partition, or a wall, or under a long mountain. It can look like, and function like, a diamond ladder yard...a pull through. All you have to do is to line the route for any of the trains compiled and parked there, and then run the train of your choice out into the open to enjoy some variety. In my case, I also have a six ladder stub with access to it via a tunnel portal into a 'mountain', with a 'no-lix' running around the room, right at the walls, to get to the staging on the wall opposite where the yard is. This has the bonus, not just of storage capacity, but a lazy grade up to the main level where it exits that portal. It's about 1.5%, so any train capable of mounting my ruling grade above ground will have no trouble climbing back out of staging.
 

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There are a few other ideas that make a switching layout more challenging and more fun.
Arrange to have dead end spurs to serve businesses that meet the main differently...one requiring the
loco to push a car in forward...others that the loco could back a car in...this requires a 'passing siding'
or 'run around'...it gives the operator the ability to run
a loco that is 'behind' a car, around and be 'ahead' of a car. These are common
manuevers in real railroading. Another related idea can be used to squeeze two dead end sidings into
a limited space....the diverts face each other...One sidiing runs to a business set away from the main on the left.. Another siding diverts
from the right and actually 'crosses' the other to get to it's business. A nice little place for interesting action.

Don
 

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Siding (aka "passing siding") - a double ended track that trains use to meet or pass each other on single track

Spur - a track (usually single ended) used by an industry to load/unload cargo.

Yard - any collection of tracks used for car sorting or storage. A yard can have two tracks, a yard can have two hundred. Yards may be referred to by their purpose: storage yard, classification yard (aka switching yard, marshalling yard), interchange yard (set of tracks where one RR exchanges cars to another at a junction). Most large real life yards function as classification yards, where cars are sorted by destination to be picked up by various trains. A lot of towns have at least a few "yard" tracks where trains can drop off cars for local delivery, where cars may be temporarily stored until needed, or sorted and delivered by a local switching assignment. Pure car-storage yards are more common around extremely large industries generating massive volumes of traffic, where the RR and industry both want to keep a healthy supply of cars on hand so the industry never finds itself short of empties to load.

On many small model railroads, especially "beginner" type 4x8s etc. the "yard" often ends up being no more than a few single ended tracks to park trains and cars on, and in many photos these tracks are 100% crammed to the gills. On a real railroad, this sort of "parking lot" is not common. Real railroads exist to move cargo from point A to point B. Car-storage yards are less common, as mentioned, and would only be used to store cars for local industry. Car-sorting yards need room to move cars around and actually sort them, and a rule of thumb is a yard that's 50% full is at capacity for being able to effectively sort cars. Train-storage yards (for entire made-up trains) are generally not a thing in real life. You may find some exceptions to this where parking tracks are provided for several trains at a major crew change point on a busy line, but this would be in the rarity. Large classification yards will have arrival and departure (aka. "A/D tracks" for short) tracks for made up trains ready to depart, but these are built out of the sorted cars from the classification tracks and tied to the function of the entire yard.
 

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Discussion Starter #11
Great additional replies! And thanks CV_ACR for the detailed explanations of some of the terms. The more I learn about this hobby the more I'm enjoying it, and I haven't purchased the first piece of track or train yet!
 

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Great additional replies! And thanks CV_ACR for the detailed explanations of some of the terms. The more I learn about this hobby the more I'm enjoying it, and I haven't purchased the first piece of track or train yet!
But think how much more knowledgeable you will be when you do! ;)
 

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Just another thought. When i had my layout , o , i used the dead ends to show off some operating accessories. So , you could park the horse car, cattle car, milk car etc and have them operate without having to line up the car and park it on the main track. Some of those needed finicky adjustments to work properly. Having them stationary looked good and alowed them to be shown off and played with.
 
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