We typically think of staging yards as massive affairs, holding enough complete trains for an entire operating session. Conventional thought says you can’t have enough capacity for them.

With the modest size of my Mill Road cameo, a conventional staging yard is unnecessary, a fact I embrace now that the bulk of the scene is complete. However, with the I&W, I discovered how important it is to have a train or locomotive leave the scene. The modest size of Mill Road makes this even more important.

I’ve completed a small module that allows me to extend both tracks offstage to the left, where I can park a locomotive and a couple of cars. It’s nothing more than a simple box that matches the dimensions of the primary framework for a consistent appearance. As you can see I painted everything, including the track, in the same dark charcoal gray as the cameo. Spillover light from the main module is the only source of illumination. More light isn’t needed or desired here.

This simple staging module allows me to ease rolling stock out of the main scene, suggesting there is more than meets the eye here.
The dark color disappears visually in that your eye simple ignores it, being drawn to the brighter primary scene instead. Even though rolling stock is plainly visible, the subdued light helps reduce the visual impact. You’ll also notice I made no attempt to screen the staging from the modeled scene with fascia panels. As I’ve noted before, such trickery tends to attract attention rather than blend in. I know there are ways to disguise the hole in the sky that people typically use but I feel this is a better way of handling it. I also stopped the scenery texture and groundcover at the end of the main module. I don’t want anything to draw the eye away and any kind of texture, no matter how subdued, will do that.
The staging area is nondescript as I know how to make it (above and below). I stopped the ground cover at the junction and will modify the scenery colors to further direct the eye away from this area.

I included the rear panel to hide the light colored wall surface that drew my eye in spite of the subdued lighting.

In these photos the room lights are off. The only illumination is from the layout. You can see how the freight cars seem to fade away as the light falls off.

The inevitable question on somebody’s mind is why didn’t I make the staging tracks longer? The simple answer is that I don’t need the extra capacity. Recall that the primary scene is only eight feet long. In quarter-inch scale I could easily overwhelm it with rolling stock and destroy any illusion of spaciousness. All I want is the ability to move a car or locomotive offstage, to convey the idea there is more to the area than one can see. I’m far less concerned with maxing out the staging capacity given the simple focus on basic switching procedures from an up close viewpoint. For now, this is adequate. If I find there is a need for more staging, I can always build a longer extension in the future. Such flexibility is, in my view, the true advantage of separating the layout from the support structure. Imagine the amount of disruption and down time in modifying a conventionally built section of layout. With this system, I can build a new section and simply plug it in place with minimal effort or loss of service to the layout.
On the opposite end of the central cameo a single track serves as a switch lead for the interchange. As the mainline, it too simply disappears into the dark, leaving the imagination to wonder about parts unknown. I did screen the far end of this module where a locomotive can be staged out of plain sight until ready to make an appearance. Again, with only a single train in operation, one track serving many functions is enough capacity and simplicity itself.
I’m trying a different way to make the transition from scenery to staging on the right end of the layout. It involves slowly reducing the color saturation and texture of the scenery across the module to nothing. I’m eager to see how the two ideas compare for effectiveness.
These two modules close out the major construction of Mill Road. All that’s left is a minor punch list of scenery items and making plenty of opportunity to enjoy the work.



  1. Shawn W Branstetter

    Perfect timing on posting this Mike. I am planning on something similar and this has provided quite a few ideas.

    Thank you very much!

  2. mike

    You’re welcome Shawn. Glad it’s useful for you.


  3. Simon

    Bloody clever!

  4. mike

    Cheers friend.