Over the years, I’ve begun thinking “railroad” over “trackplan” whenever I’m designing any aspect of a layout. When researching the branchline that inspired the I&W, I obtained permission to explore the yard at Brookville. This gave me the chance to actually measure the turnouts used there. The bulk of them were No. 10s and knowing this made my planning process easier.#10 crossover Brookville IN, early 2000s

Brookville yard

The I&W also uses No. 10 turnouts and, in quarter-inch scale no less, which defies every design admonition written over the last forty years. Here are a few thoughts on using long turnouts in small spaces.

1. Use them where they are needed the most.
For most of us space really is an issue. The prototype doesn’t use the same number turnout everywhere and I’m not advocating that either. Using long turnouts indiscriminately is a certain pathway to frustration. Follow the example of the prototype and use them where they are needed the most. Examples include situations where long equipment is routinely routed or where track speeds need to be maintained as much as possible.

When deciding what number is best in a situation, the thing to consider is what has to happen here? If you’re modeling an auto plant or area where 89 foot long tri-levels or container flats are handled, this isn’t the place to use a bunch of No. 4 or 5 turnouts, no matter how much space they supposedly save. The equipment will look ridiculous and operation is likely to suffer.

Mainline passing sidings are a logical place to bump up the numbers as much as practical. My runaround has No. 10s on both ends. Yes it is a short runaround, but then it’s also a switching layout with appropriate length trains.

No. 10 turnout on the I&W

No. 10 turnout on the I&W

2. Nest groups of turnouts together
As seen in the photos below of the trackage around Mill St., I grouped five turnouts into a compact space by nesting them together. There are four No. 10s and a rogue No. 7. I say rogue because I wish I had used a No. 8 instead. This No. 7 is the shortest turnout on the layout and I think it sticks out too much as a result. Live and learn.

Although you can’t see all of it in the first photo, the No. 10 crossover is four feet long from one switchpoint to the opposite switchpoint. You can see how I tucked in the turnout leading to the Pole Track and the short one to the Mill Track. The Junction Switch is out of the photo at the bottom.

Turnout cluster near Mill St on the I&W

Here’s a better view from the opposite direction.

Mill St. turnouts

Near the yard, I tightened up the spacing of these two No. 8s by bringing the points of the second one as close to the frog as possible. This was simple with hand laid trackage. You can do this with commercial turnouts but that entails a lot of cutting and fitting. In addition, the ties just won’t look right, unless you strip them off in the affected areas and substitute longer ties to span both tracks. In a situation like this, it’s actually easier to hand lay the trackage.

track flow_002

3. Don’t be afraid to break with convention
I deliberately chose No. 10 turnouts for a 24-foot long, 1:48 scale switching layout, with the full knowledge that certain tracks would suffer in terms of capacity. My runaround is only eight feet long, which is pretty short in this scale. It works because my staging track is also very short as is the yard trackage. Put simply, all of the various tracks are balanced in terms of car capacity, so I don’t need a long runaround track. Following the conventional wisdom that says I would gain a car length or two by using No. 6 turnouts on both ends would have conflicted with my primary objective of modeling the track as faithfully as possible. Following my objectives over convention was an easy choice.

Which one would you have chosen?