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  • The Passenger Train Oriented Layout - Part 3

    by Robert A. Clark

    Amtrak's use of the former Pennsylvania coach yards at Chicago Union Station is shown in this September 1973 photo. Note the servicing platforms between the tracks. On the left is a repair track area. Much equipment is in evidence that probably never was seen on Penn Central trackage before Amtrak. Generally, trains were made up on these tracks and held with motive power attached until being backed into the station just before departure time.
    Model Railroading - March 2002 - Page 26

    COACH YARDS are the most commonly recognized component of passenger facilities. Coach yard has at least two meanings in the literature. First, it may indicate a facility to which the passenger-carrying equipment was taken for cleaning and restocking, including diners and sleepers. This usage may reflect the streamliner era in which consists were relatively fixed. Cars were changed only if repairs could not be made in time to go out on the next train. Once the train was pulled from the station and turned (a loop or wye capable of handling a full-length train would be needed), the train was not broken up except possibly for removal of head-end cars or replacement of "bad order" cars or cars scheduled for maintenance.

    The second meaning probably stems from the heavyweight era. Then, trains were turned and coaches pulled from the train and taken to a yard for coaches. The rest of the cars were switched to facilities serving the various car types as explained previously. The classic coach yard was probably used by a single railroad only (each line probably having its own in a large city). The coaches were cleaned here and stored until required for their next use.

    There are several photographs showing coach yards in the first and more general meaning of the term (see Vanishing Vistas collection). The photos illustrate the variety of small details that can be added easily in wood, styrene, cardboard and wire to give your passenger yards an authentic appearance.

    The following specifications for the physical design of such facilities are derived from the manual of the American Railway Engineering Association. The manual notes that coach yards may be either through (turnouts and yard leads at both ends of tracks) or stub. However, through yards were considered to be more efficient on the prototype, although as in the case of freight yards on model railroads, model railroaders tend to favor stub yards for our layouts. The tracks were recommended to have their length equal to the longest train to be serviced, and it was suggested that tracks of equal length give the greatest operating efficiency. This suggests the "diamond" shaped yard.

    Large yards should group leads to facilitate switching with auxiliary leads and tail tracks of ample length. Curvature in yard leads and tracks should be gentle. The length of passenger cars was as much a problem to the industry as it is to modelers. A wide radius, such as a 48" curve in HO, will help appearances and operation. The yard should be level. Special tracks for making up or breaking up trains may also be needed.

    An open air shed covers repair tracks with pits for underbody and truck work at the Amtrak (ex-Pennsylvania) Chicago coach yard. There are a number of small details - ladders, wheel sets, bins - and the brick yard buildings which could make a railroady scene on your layout after "kit bashing". This yard and structures have been rebuilt by Amtrak.
    Model Railroading - March 2002 - Page 27

    Servicing Platforms

    Tracks should have a minimum, uniform spacing of 20' between track centers. However, as you can see in several photos, some prototype yards alternated wide with narrow platforms and track spacings. Service platforms should be placed between all tracks on which cars are to be serviced. The edge of the platform should be approximately 5' 6" from track center. Concrete was preferred for the platform surface, with the top of the platform level with the top of the rails. Facilities such as light posts, brake-shoe racks and service outlets located on the platform should be off center in order to provide wider passageways on one side for service vehicles.

    Supply lines and service outlets provided the water, low- and high-pressure air, DC and AC electricity and steam needed for servicing the cars. These facilities should be modeled. In large yards, the supply lines were placed underground in tunnels or conduits with outlet boxes placed to service each track. The location of each is described here briefly.

    Water - Cold water hydrants were placed at car length intervals on the platform for drinking water and cleaning purposes. Hot water was also supplied at less frequent intervals. Low-pressure air connections (for cleaning) should be spaced at the same intervals as the cold water hydrants, and located on the platform.

    Compressed Air - High-pressure air connections (for brake charging and testing) should be provided by either a double connection at the middle of each track or a single connection at each end of each track. These connections were located between the rails.

    Steam - Steam connections (for heating and cooling cars) should be provided in the same way as high-pressure air connections.

    Electrical Outlets - Electrical outlets may be located either at the center of the platform (thereby serving two tracks and therefore needing two receptacles), or at platform edge (serving one track with single receptacles), and spaced at car length intervals. Outlets for battery charging (usually 32V DC) and 220V AC for air conditioning are needed. Therefore, the number of receptacles needed at each location is doubled (one DC, one AC).

    Pullman Company

    In a multi-railroad terminal, the Pullmans were cleaned and linen exchanged at a Pullman Company facility serving all railroads, or at separate facilities for each railroad if traffic was voluminous. At its peak (about 1940) Pullman had ten laundries and used 23 commercial laundries, had 39 commissaries, 80 storerooms, 113 sub-storerooms, six repair and maintenance shops, one factory, and 5,300 cars on regular lines plus 1,600 reserve cars. The Pullman facility should include a building for storing linens and other supplies, and perhaps a laundry.

    The Burlington Northern (ex-CB&Q) coach yard at Chicago's Union Station appears here in September 1973. The near tracks are being used for short term storage of commuter gallery coaches and in the background is Amtrak equipment.
    Model Railroading - March 2002 - Page 28


    Each railroad had its own commissary to restock diners in a city like Chicago. Each railroad had its own central kitchens, bakeries, grocery warehousing, laundries and meat coolers. Ice was also a needed major supply. You will need another building for your passenger terminal complex to service diners. It is not clear from the literature whether car types having auxiliary eating facilities - such as buffets in lounge or observation cars - were also switched to the commissary for restocking at the end of a run or if they were treated as coaches and serviced in the coach yard (if railroad owned and operated instead of Pullman operated). Pullman did own and operate diners and combination cars with food service for some railroads. In these cases, Pullman diners were probably switched to the same facility that serviced the sleepers.

    Express and Baggage

    Baggage and express facilities were often located in the station or very close to the station platforms. A typical pattern appears to have been a set of baggage and express tracks to one side of the station platform tracks. A long shed or warehouseappearing building paralleled the platforms. A n unresolved question is how individ ual baggage cars for outgoing or incoming trains were placed without disturbing the ones already alongside the building. Perhaps a large number of crossovers from a parallel lead track were used (as is common with wharf trackage). At some terminals, the express facility consisted of numerous short spurs at a diagonal to a switching lead serving several express companies in separate quarters (prior to formation of Railway Express, companies such as Adams, American, Southern, and Wells Fargo express served various parts of the country and in competition).


    A facility for mail was often combined with the baggage and express facility. However, many major terminals had a separate post office facility within the complex (sometimes the main city post office was built right over the tracks as at Chicagos Union Station). Assuming the mail was handled in sacks in mail storage cars (indistinguishable in appearance from baggage cars) which were switched to the mail facility and that full-length RPOs without mail storage space were used, where did one store the RPOs? Combination RPO-baggage cars with 15' or 30' post office compartments probably had to be docked at the mail facility if significant amounts of sacked mail were kept in the combination car.

    Mail handling at terminals where the cars did not get switched directly into the post office facilities (which was a common arrangement in several cities) was accomplished by transfer of the mail sacks from post office trucks to carts of the four-wheel baggage wagon type. The carts/wagons were towed to the platforms, and the mail was loaded in the cars at trackside. In some terminals, there were tracks at the station that were used largely for mail loading and unloading (at least at certain times of the day). Access from the street to the platform was either by paved crossings at rail height (when the mail facilities were at the side of the terminal), from the station concourse (when mail facilities were in the head house [station]), or by tunnel under the tracks with elevator or ramp access to each track. Moving baggage wagons on platforms was done at the risk of causing interference with either passengers or train movements. The railfan going to the end of the platforms for a picture of the motive power became adept at avoiding the activity around the head-end cars.

    On the far right is the Amtrak service tracks (ex-Burlington Northern). There is an interesting mixture of architectural styles in the buildings on the right. From rear to front are: brick powerhouse with stack; metal building (with diesel alongside) serving as a locomotive shop in which some painting was done; and others that supply and service passenger equipment. Note the heater cars in the foreground, which were used to supplement diesel locomotive steam generators when the winter got really cold or the train was too long. Amtrak had its commissary in the Crooks Terminal Warehouse in the background, delivering food to diners by Datsun trucks. There is a profusion of hoses, bins and service carts on the wide service platforms that should be modeled.
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    Car Washers

    Mechanical car washers replaced hand washing of cars in the coach yard as streamliners came into use. Fixed-location mechanical car washers (see photos) were usually placed on an inbound lead to the yard. Track should be straight through the car washer and one car length in each direction from the washer.

    Car Inspection and Repair

    Cars were sometimes inspected from a small pit (so that the underbody could be seen), located on the yard lead or lead to the car washer. As the moving cars were inspected, any needed repairs could be noted. The car would then be diverted to repair tracks if the repairs could not be handled at trackside. Only light (running) repairs were made in the coach yard itself.

    For repairs, one or more full train length pits might be justified for inspection and repair of standing trains. This arrangement became more common in yards where streamliners with fixed consists (early trains were articulated) and short turnaround times were involved. This arrangement helped speed servicing and repairs. Such pits might include wheel drop pits with jacking pads spaced so that several cars could have wheels changed in trucks with minimum need to move ("spot") individual cars.

    Pits should be concrete, with depths of 39" to 45" below the top of running rails, and about 3' wide. Jacking pads might be continuous or spaced at car length intervals. The rails for such tracks were often set on top of the concrete walls of the pit.

    As a covered car repair area was desirable, with the degree of enclosure and heating arrangements dependent upon the climate, the modeler has the chance to build another rather unique building for his passenger yard (see photo of ex-Pennsylvania shed in Chicago). Wheel or truck change areas particularly needed protection.

    Other Facilities

    A number of other buildings and facilities were needed. Lighting for night operation was desirable with high mountings to reduce shadows and glare. Wheel and truck storage tracks were provided, adjacent to the wheel drop and repair track. Crew buildings providing offices, toilets, washrooms, lockers and lunchroom were common. Store houses and buildings providing space for each repair specialty were needed. See photos of Burlington facilities in Chicago and Santa Fe yard diagram.

    Chicagos Grand Central Station (B&O and Pere Marquette) was a cluster of facilities. In left foreground is the B&O freight house with the Chicago Great Western freight house to left rear. At right is a low building and related tracks handling mail and express.
    Model Railroading - March 2002 - Page 31

    Storage Yard

    A subyard for storage of extra or pool equipment needed for substitutions and peaks (seasonal, holiday, weekend or special movements such as conventions) might be close by. Such storage yards needed only steam for cold weather storage and possibly electricity for battery charging and air conditioning. Narrower track spacing was common, with narrow service platforms or none at all.

    Business Cars and Private Varnish

    At the station or in a small subyard might be short tracks accommodating private cars or official (business) railroad cars. These tracks would have steam hose connections for keeping cars heated (or air conditioned) and electrical and water connections, and sometimes sewage connections.

    Commuter Cars

    Finally, commuter equipment (if the terminal was used by railroads providing this service) might be kept during the day between morning and evening departure in the coach yard for through equipment or a separate yard. There might be a separate yard closer to the station because of the large number of otherwise time-consuming movements and short headways involved in a commuter operation. A storage yard at the end of commuter service territory would also be needed on your railroad for overnight storage.

    Next month well bring this series to a close with some specific ideas on how to design a layout for passenger operations depending on the era you model and the elements you want to incorporate.

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