Trains.com

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Prototype Yards

4490 views
12 replies
1 rating 2 rating 3 rating 4 rating 5 rating
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Prototype Yards
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, August 28, 2003 11:21 AM
[8D] In prototype yards, are the tracks ballasted like the mainline and sideings are, or are the ties just laid on the ground?
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Prototype Yards
Posted by Anonymous on Thursday, August 28, 2003 11:21 AM
[8D] In prototype yards, are the tracks ballasted like the mainline and sideings are, or are the ties just laid on the ground?
  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: US
  • 1,300 posts
Posted by Sperandeo on Friday, August 29, 2003 10:42 AM
This is one of those questions where the short answer is "yes." Yard tracks are mostly ballasted, but they may not be ballasted as deeply as mainline tracks, and may be at a level a foot or so below mainline tracks. However, that's not always the case. There can be a lot of variation in the way yards are graded, because of the local topography and the need for drainage. In some cases yards can even be slightly higher than an adjacent main line. Look for protoype examples in the part of the country you want to model, and try to follow their lead.

So long,

Andy

Andy Sperandeo MODEL RAILROADER Magazine

  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: US
  • 1,300 posts
Posted by Sperandeo on Friday, August 29, 2003 10:42 AM
This is one of those questions where the short answer is "yes." Yard tracks are mostly ballasted, but they may not be ballasted as deeply as mainline tracks, and may be at a level a foot or so below mainline tracks. However, that's not always the case. There can be a lot of variation in the way yards are graded, because of the local topography and the need for drainage. In some cases yards can even be slightly higher than an adjacent main line. Look for protoype examples in the part of the country you want to model, and try to follow their lead.

So long,

Andy

Andy Sperandeo MODEL RAILROADER Magazine

  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 10,908 posts
Posted by dknelson on Monday, September 8, 2003 8:34 AM
I have photos that I took of the huge yard in Galesburg Illinois when it was newly built in the 1980s (replacing a very old steam era yard) --- crisp white ballast, maybe gravel?, not a single weed or brush or scrap of paper, all new track and ties and it looked like a moonscape. Definitely ballasted and to a high standard. They have tinkered with the yard since then, moving some crossovers and such, so now it is much less uniform looking and dirtier (lost of rust stains) but it still looks fairly new.. They also experimented with steel ties in some spots, by the way.
On the other hand Mitchell Yard on Milwaukee's south side (UP, ex-C&NW, and featured years ago in a Model Railroader article called "Down By Mitchell Yard) was laid out in the early years of the 20th century, relatively little track has been moved in decades, and whatever ballast it once had has been largely covered by years of dust and grime. Indeed it is likely that the original ballast was actually cinders from steam locomotives, a ballast which deteriorates into dust over time -- just a few years actually. Some yards also used slag which I understand was not a good idea due to the metal content.
The tracks and ties, which are old and in rough shape, are sunken into gray "stuff." Very little ballast, mainly around some switches that have been worked on. On little used tracks some truly impressive weeds have grown. Since C&NW ballast is nearly pinkish purple it is pretty obvious where the ballast has been "patched." Where locomotives are parked there must be 6 inches of solidified oil, which is a reason why some railroads are reluctant to ever abandon and sell a former yard--the cleanup costs are killers. And since this yard services large grain elevators, in some places the spilled and leaked grain is also about a half foot thick (we won't mention the smell!). It goes to seed and there is bright green between the ties in summer. At night the crews see hoards of rats running over the rails enjoying the free meal.
I think the lesson here is railroads do a thorough job with a modern yard when it is built and then it is a long process of general neglect plus band-aid improvements. Very old steam era yards probably used cinders and ash which does not look like stone ballast. Spilled loads, sand, oil build up, and weeds add to the general appearance of age. (Don't forget the scale rats!). So in addition to Andy's advice about going to scope out the prototype, I would add, think about era too. The yard that may look decrepit now might have been pretty neat and clean at one time. Check out old photos of Norfolk & Western yards in the steam era -- neat as a pin. But go back to the steam era and I suspect ash and cinders were the preferred ballast and that does not look like the kind of ballasted track we see on the mainline (back then even some mainlines used cinders but it was constantly being renewed, of course because the supply was never ending).
Dave Nelson
  • Member since
    March 2002
  • From: Milwaukee WI (Fox Point)
  • 10,908 posts
Posted by dknelson on Monday, September 8, 2003 8:34 AM
I have photos that I took of the huge yard in Galesburg Illinois when it was newly built in the 1980s (replacing a very old steam era yard) --- crisp white ballast, maybe gravel?, not a single weed or brush or scrap of paper, all new track and ties and it looked like a moonscape. Definitely ballasted and to a high standard. They have tinkered with the yard since then, moving some crossovers and such, so now it is much less uniform looking and dirtier (lost of rust stains) but it still looks fairly new.. They also experimented with steel ties in some spots, by the way.
On the other hand Mitchell Yard on Milwaukee's south side (UP, ex-C&NW, and featured years ago in a Model Railroader article called "Down By Mitchell Yard) was laid out in the early years of the 20th century, relatively little track has been moved in decades, and whatever ballast it once had has been largely covered by years of dust and grime. Indeed it is likely that the original ballast was actually cinders from steam locomotives, a ballast which deteriorates into dust over time -- just a few years actually. Some yards also used slag which I understand was not a good idea due to the metal content.
The tracks and ties, which are old and in rough shape, are sunken into gray "stuff." Very little ballast, mainly around some switches that have been worked on. On little used tracks some truly impressive weeds have grown. Since C&NW ballast is nearly pinkish purple it is pretty obvious where the ballast has been "patched." Where locomotives are parked there must be 6 inches of solidified oil, which is a reason why some railroads are reluctant to ever abandon and sell a former yard--the cleanup costs are killers. And since this yard services large grain elevators, in some places the spilled and leaked grain is also about a half foot thick (we won't mention the smell!). It goes to seed and there is bright green between the ties in summer. At night the crews see hoards of rats running over the rails enjoying the free meal.
I think the lesson here is railroads do a thorough job with a modern yard when it is built and then it is a long process of general neglect plus band-aid improvements. Very old steam era yards probably used cinders and ash which does not look like stone ballast. Spilled loads, sand, oil build up, and weeds add to the general appearance of age. (Don't forget the scale rats!). So in addition to Andy's advice about going to scope out the prototype, I would add, think about era too. The yard that may look decrepit now might have been pretty neat and clean at one time. Check out old photos of Norfolk & Western yards in the steam era -- neat as a pin. But go back to the steam era and I suspect ash and cinders were the preferred ballast and that does not look like the kind of ballasted track we see on the mainline (back then even some mainlines used cinders but it was constantly being renewed, of course because the supply was never ending).
Dave Nelson
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 8, 2003 4:48 PM
If you build a yard you can probally find prototype for it. I have seen yards where the ties were not visible, only the tops of the track with a rut on the inside edge where the flanges has squished out the mud after the last rain had filled it back up. Then I have seen yards that were hard to tell from the mains. And everything in between. The only thing I notice is that most modelers use too much junk and not enough green.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Monday, September 8, 2003 4:48 PM
If you build a yard you can probally find prototype for it. I have seen yards where the ties were not visible, only the tops of the track with a rut on the inside edge where the flanges has squished out the mud after the last rain had filled it back up. Then I have seen yards that were hard to tell from the mains. And everything in between. The only thing I notice is that most modelers use too much junk and not enough green.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,522 posts
Posted by AltonFan on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 10:46 AM
There was an article on the Rock Island's Chicago commuter operations in Trains back in the 1970s, maybe early 1980s. The author, who was an official on the Rock Island, told how a yard had been rebuilt with deep ballast, high-speed turnouts and other state of the art features. He observed that it might seem to be a lot of expense and bother to put into a yard, but that the yard would probably go about fifty years before is was renovated again.

Dan

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • From: US
  • 1,522 posts
Posted by AltonFan on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 10:46 AM
There was an article on the Rock Island's Chicago commuter operations in Trains back in the 1970s, maybe early 1980s. The author, who was an official on the Rock Island, told how a yard had been rebuilt with deep ballast, high-speed turnouts and other state of the art features. He observed that it might seem to be a lot of expense and bother to put into a yard, but that the yard would probably go about fifty years before is was renovated again.

Dan

  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: WV
  • 1,249 posts
Posted by coalminer3 on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 3:39 PM
Previous posts are on target. In our area (C&O country) for example, there's deep rock ballast on the main and cinder ballast on some of the yard leads along with ratty looking ties, and, of course, lighter rail (many modelers neglect the rail weights). It's most interesting to see big GEs and loaded coal cars on that light stuff; but it's done every day.

Now for some mroe details. In addition to the weeds, there's pools of oil, grease, mounds of sand, etc. For an interesting touch, add some scale pigeons where somebody's grain car leaked a little. Also, all yards around here have at least one or two scroungy-looking dogs. Almost forgot the snakes and wild turkeys, too.

One other thing I have noticed is that fresh ballast will get thrown down in a yard when some track work is done. IOW something needed repair before a big problem happened. This owuld be an interesting touch for modeling as well.

work safe
  • Member since
    January 2001
  • From: WV
  • 1,249 posts
Posted by coalminer3 on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 3:39 PM
Previous posts are on target. In our area (C&O country) for example, there's deep rock ballast on the main and cinder ballast on some of the yard leads along with ratty looking ties, and, of course, lighter rail (many modelers neglect the rail weights). It's most interesting to see big GEs and loaded coal cars on that light stuff; but it's done every day.

Now for some mroe details. In addition to the weeds, there's pools of oil, grease, mounds of sand, etc. For an interesting touch, add some scale pigeons where somebody's grain car leaked a little. Also, all yards around here have at least one or two scroungy-looking dogs. Almost forgot the snakes and wild turkeys, too.

One other thing I have noticed is that fresh ballast will get thrown down in a yard when some track work is done. IOW something needed repair before a big problem happened. This owuld be an interesting touch for modeling as well.

work safe
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 11:18 PM
One thing I would like to add is the idea that switchmen are walking around in the yards! In a busy yard, the areas between each track is well trodden, with small rocks. especially in a steam era layout, where there is more "crew" on the ground.

David Wallace
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, September 9, 2003 11:18 PM
One thing I would like to add is the idea that switchmen are walking around in the yards! In a busy yard, the areas between each track is well trodden, with small rocks. especially in a steam era layout, where there is more "crew" on the ground.

David Wallace
  • Member since
    March 2002
  • 170 posts
Posted by DTomajko on Thursday, September 11, 2003 1:41 PM
I don't know about other intermodal yards but the two tracks in the Pittsburgh Intermodal Terminal are mainline quality continuous-welded rail.I believe this is due to the fact that both tracks are in nearly constant use and would be nearly impossible to take out of service for more than a couple of hours at a time.The general flow of cars is to drop-off cars from Chicago(daily via 22W & 24M)on the eastend and pickup cars to Chicago or Kansas City on the westend(via 21Z,21E,& 21T;daily,Mon-Sat, & as needed respectively).The only eastend pickup is usually by 22W for eastern destinations,ie;Harrisburg,Rutherford,Morrisville,Croxton,or Dockside.During the Christmas rush,UPS loads for Croxton will be handled on saturdays only for 22W.By the way,during the President's day 2003 snowstorm,Pittsburgh loaded approximately 30 UPS loads for Croxton for pickup by an afternoon train,due to the highways being impassable and at UPS's request.I hope this helped.good luck and good modeling.
  • Member since
    March 2002
  • 170 posts
Posted by DTomajko on Thursday, September 11, 2003 1:41 PM
I don't know about other intermodal yards but the two tracks in the Pittsburgh Intermodal Terminal are mainline quality continuous-welded rail.I believe this is due to the fact that both tracks are in nearly constant use and would be nearly impossible to take out of service for more than a couple of hours at a time.The general flow of cars is to drop-off cars from Chicago(daily via 22W & 24M)on the eastend and pickup cars to Chicago or Kansas City on the westend(via 21Z,21E,& 21T;daily,Mon-Sat, & as needed respectively).The only eastend pickup is usually by 22W for eastern destinations,ie;Harrisburg,Rutherford,Morrisville,Croxton,or Dockside.During the Christmas rush,UPS loads for Croxton will be handled on saturdays only for 22W.By the way,during the President's day 2003 snowstorm,Pittsburgh loaded approximately 30 UPS loads for Croxton for pickup by an afternoon train,due to the highways being impassable and at UPS's request.I hope this helped.good luck and good modeling.
  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,986 posts
Posted by dehusman on Saturday, September 20, 2003 12:51 PM
Mainlines are ballasted with large rock that have good drainage and holding power. Yards are ballasted with small rock that is easier to walk on. A yard will have the ballast fairly level between the tracks for better walking conditions, the main will have sloping shoulders for better water drainage.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    September 2003
  • From: Omaha, NE
  • 9,986 posts
Posted by dehusman on Saturday, September 20, 2003 12:51 PM
Mainlines are ballasted with large rock that have good drainage and holding power. Yards are ballasted with small rock that is easier to walk on. A yard will have the ballast fairly level between the tracks for better walking conditions, the main will have sloping shoulders for better water drainage.

Dave H. Painted side goes up. My website : wnbranch.com

  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 8, 2003 10:33 PM
In addition to the posts above, you may consider modeling a yard in a darker color than the mainline.

Possibly the run thru track, arrival/departure track can be mainline stuff and the pocket, and yard storage tracks may be grey.

If you wonder about number of tracks in a ladder, one of two choices. The first is to call a track for industries for that town. The second choice is to dedicate a ladder for a large industry and bridge traffic.

I remember seeing the yards on the east side of the st. louis arch and boy they are sunk into the mud. Obviously it was a powerhouse in steam days but are so left to ruin over the decades. I dont know how much land area it is but it would be very expensive to remove the metal and the pollution.

But cheer up. There are many yards in business that are kept fairly well. Not showroom condition but as long the work gets done it should be ok.

Good Luck, Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Wednesday, October 8, 2003 10:33 PM
In addition to the posts above, you may consider modeling a yard in a darker color than the mainline.

Possibly the run thru track, arrival/departure track can be mainline stuff and the pocket, and yard storage tracks may be grey.

If you wonder about number of tracks in a ladder, one of two choices. The first is to call a track for industries for that town. The second choice is to dedicate a ladder for a large industry and bridge traffic.

I remember seeing the yards on the east side of the st. louis arch and boy they are sunk into the mud. Obviously it was a powerhouse in steam days but are so left to ruin over the decades. I dont know how much land area it is but it would be very expensive to remove the metal and the pollution.

But cheer up. There are many yards in business that are kept fairly well. Not showroom condition but as long the work gets done it should be ok.

Good Luck, Lee
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, October 24, 2003 5:39 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by dehusman

Mainlines are ballasted with large rock that have good drainage and holding power. Yards are ballasted with small rock that is easier to walk on. A yard will have the ballast fairly level between the tracks for better walking conditions, the main will have sloping shoulders for better water drainage.
....[8D][:)] .Darn Dehu , you've got it ! Say are you a fellow iron pounder or what ? By the way , those who are ballasting yards - The ballast type depended on the density / volume of traffic & what could be had at a good price . A lot of Bedford stone was used around here & also , limestone ( from Material Service's quarry ) As for the Bedford , we could get it cheap as a discard from some of the quarries . It happened to look good - nice & white : was cheap , cheap , cheap ( R.R.'s never want to spend money ) . Over the years the stuff would discolor as traffic passed over it : generally it wasn't replaced unless there was rework being done . Hence you get a lot of color differences . The color as also influenced by the product that was handled by the yard ; darker for coal - browns / rust for steel / iron , & black when we spilled oil or had a leaker . Please , "DONOT" use slag or related products ! ! This material continues to break down in size as the traffic over it increases. Lived thru mistakenly doing this just once at the Atlantic-Richfield refinery product "On-Load" facilty . Us rookies will a job [B)] ! . . . . . Good Luck - Hope this helps someone . . . . . .-Phil [8D][8D][8D][:D][:D][:D]
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Friday, October 24, 2003 5:39 PM
QUOTE: Originally posted by dehusman

Mainlines are ballasted with large rock that have good drainage and holding power. Yards are ballasted with small rock that is easier to walk on. A yard will have the ballast fairly level between the tracks for better walking conditions, the main will have sloping shoulders for better water drainage.
....[8D][:)] .Darn Dehu , you've got it ! Say are you a fellow iron pounder or what ? By the way , those who are ballasting yards - The ballast type depended on the density / volume of traffic & what could be had at a good price . A lot of Bedford stone was used around here & also , limestone ( from Material Service's quarry ) As for the Bedford , we could get it cheap as a discard from some of the quarries . It happened to look good - nice & white : was cheap , cheap , cheap ( R.R.'s never want to spend money ) . Over the years the stuff would discolor as traffic passed over it : generally it wasn't replaced unless there was rework being done . Hence you get a lot of color differences . The color as also influenced by the product that was handled by the yard ; darker for coal - browns / rust for steel / iron , & black when we spilled oil or had a leaker . Please , "DONOT" use slag or related products ! ! This material continues to break down in size as the traffic over it increases. Lived thru mistakenly doing this just once at the Atlantic-Richfield refinery product "On-Load" facilty . Us rookies will a job [B)] ! . . . . . Good Luck - Hope this helps someone . . . . . .-Phil [8D][8D][8D][:D][:D][:D]
  • Member since
    December 2003
  • 3 posts
Posted by milwrdfan2 on Friday, December 26, 2003 2:53 PM
Here is another twist... About 8 or 10 years ago CP rail took out the hump in the old Milwaukee Road Bensenville IL, yard and re-worked most if not all of the yard using crushed concrete. I do not know if they used the crushed concrete as a base as well as balast but they sure did use alot.
  • Member since
    December 2003
  • 3 posts
Posted by milwrdfan2 on Friday, December 26, 2003 2:53 PM
Here is another twist... About 8 or 10 years ago CP rail took out the hump in the old Milwaukee Road Bensenville IL, yard and re-worked most if not all of the yard using crushed concrete. I do not know if they used the crushed concrete as a base as well as balast but they sure did use alot.
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 11:59 PM
well in my yard i modeled it after the yard here. it is all leverled the same heigth( except for the mail is slightly higher) the first 7 tracks are all ballast with Black rock. then the final 5 are all fine rock with mostly sand/dirt which you can barely see the ties so what you should do is lay your yard on yard pads available from WS, and do whatever you please but try to do the yard in a different color than the main looks very neat from uo above the yard!!
  • Member since
    April 2003
  • 305,206 posts
Posted by Anonymous on Tuesday, December 30, 2003 11:59 PM
well in my yard i modeled it after the yard here. it is all leverled the same heigth( except for the mail is slightly higher) the first 7 tracks are all ballast with Black rock. then the final 5 are all fine rock with mostly sand/dirt which you can barely see the ties so what you should do is lay your yard on yard pads available from WS, and do whatever you please but try to do the yard in a different color than the main looks very neat from uo above the yard!!

Subscriber & Member Login

Login, or register today to interact in our online community, comment on articles, receive our newsletter, manage your account online and more!

Search the Community

ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
ADVERTISEMENT
Model Railroader Newsletter See all
Sign up for our FREE e-newsletter and get model railroad news in your inbox!