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I’d appreciate any suggestions as to what buildings, structures, etc. to put in or near the yard. Photos of actual yards show mostly empty space. Of course there’s not much room between the tracks, but a lot of room nearby. I do already have a freight station as seen in the background. Thanks.

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So many rail yards are collectors of rail junk...old ties...
rusted rails...maybe a wheel or so....telephone poles...
A derelict freight car ...and weeds.

Use a caboose or passenger car shell for a yard office...
Set up a diesel refueling station for your locos, that would
include a raised tank and a sand pit with associated
piping and a small shack. It's a good place to put
any 'spare' parts and what have you...all rusty,
of course.


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You could use an oil tank on a platform that holds lubes for axles or for steamers' mechanical lubricators. Drums of grease. Piles of ties, piles of rails, a small shanty for the mudchickens, Yards are not normally cluttered, though, because the crews need to be driven down them to get to locomotives, or RIP gangs need to get cranes down there to lift the end of a boxcar to replace an axle...that kind of thing (RIP = 'repair in place').

You could make one of those ladder tracks a team track (where teams of horses and wagon would run up onto a ramp and load or unload a boxcar alongside the ramp. This would be prior to 1935-ish).

Often there's a yard office, or a switching tower at least two stories tall with stairs leading to the top entrance. Top floor looks a lot like an ATC tower at an airport. The yardmaster is nearby, the foremen might have a shared office inside.

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It depends on the type of yard.
An ancillary/storage yard might have just a tool shed, or nothing.
At the other end if the spectrum is a classification yard with engine terminal.

Seeing that you are steam era changes things a little bit. There are certain mist haves, and maybes. An example of a "maybe" is New York Central using water troughs instead of towers in most places.

Must haves generally for steam are Water towers. Steam locos need to take on water more frequently than taking on coal. Virtually every yard had a water tower. Then some along the mainline too, even near the yard (for through trains).
Sand towers.
Coaling tower, large or small.
Possibly as ashpit where locomotives can empty their firebox.
Diesel fuel rack if it is transition years.
Tool shed(s) for track maintenance.
Tool shed(s) for locomotive maintenance (like oiling rods).
Supply shed(s) for cabeese (tools, rags, lanterns, toilet paper, eggs, bacon, coffee, etc).
Yard lighting.

Larger yards will have:
Engine houses/round houses.
Turntable obviously.
A ready track where steam locomotives are prepped for duty (which can take hours).
Machine shop or shops (loco repair, car repair, etc departments).
Interlocking type tower.
Dedicated caboose track with supply shed.
Freight car clean out track (especially for livestock cars).
Depending on the year and specific location, either a dirt/gravel parking lot or company housing within walking distance.
MOW building with both rail & street access.
Possibly a Union Office?

Passenger areas are a facet I know nothing about, but others do I'm sure.

There are lots of choices. Some are must haves, others are not.

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Engine facilities eat up a huge amount of space and unless he is doing a lot of prototype modeling, end up being mostly a place to park engines. Some people like that. With as few tracks as he can fit with that track system I would suggest saving all his tracks for cars/trains and just add a few small shanties or other general yard buildings.

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If you can swing a couple more turnouts, you could add a run-around across the two longest legs. That would give you more freedom to reassemble trains using switchers rather than just doing it by hand.

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Basically something like this. You want the shortest leg at the end to be at least a little longer than your loco. The idea is that the loco can pull a few cars into this siding, drop them, then "run around" to the other end of the string or pick up cars from another siding. This extra bit of track gives you the flexibility to completely reverse the order of a string of cars or reorganize them by moving the string in and out of the other sidings.

In practical terms, say you have several cars you want to drop at industries along your route. The easiest solution is to organize those cars they are in the order of those industries. Say you want to drop a flat at the first industry and a couple boxcars at the next industry... You order those so you can drop your caboose, pull the flat into the siding and drop it, then pick up your caboose and go to the next industry where you repeat this for the boxcars. You can spend all day organizing cars in your yard but when you're out on the mainline you want to get in and out as fast as possible.

Of course I can't see enough of your layout here to know if you actually have any other sidings to drop cars at (or if you have plans to add some in the future), so this may all be a moot point, but the idea is that the run-around gives you more opportunities for mimicking what the prototypes do.

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