Fiddle or Staging Yards

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Summary: A Fiddle Yard (aka 'Staging Yard') is a collection of model railway tracks that are usually invisible to a viewer and allow trains to be stored and manipulated. This allows trains to be "staged" for operations at a later point, entering and exiting the yard during the course of an operating session.


Fiddle Yards allows trains to be "staged" for operations at a later point, entering and exiting the yard during the course of an operating session. These tracks are required to allow most model railways to be operated in a realistic manner. Whilst it is possible to have a realistic shunting yard in view, its operation is generally unreliable with models.

Trains can be rearranged by lifting them off the track and replacing them.

There are many variants of fiddle yards, which being hidden from view may involve swinging tracks to minimise the use of crossings or may be a series of loop lines. Other variants may be designed for 'end to end' running layouts.

Fiddle Yards

From Wikipedia, see link at bottom of page.

Fiddle yards were first built by British modellers so that they could build small layouts and operate them in a realistic manner. The first well-known model railway to use them was 'Maybank', which was exhibited at the 1939 Model Railway Club exhibition in London. This was an urban passenger terminus that led directly into a fiddle yard, hidden beneath a locomotive depot above it. It had an influence on C. J. Freezer, who as editor of Railway Modeller, would later go on to popularise them. In the 1950s he described the "Fiddle Yard to Terminus" layout, and used it for his influential 'Minories' design.

Layout Ideas

Types of Yards

Single-ended (stub) yards

Similar to the Double Ended yard, except each track has only one entrance/exit. Trains have to reverse to leave the track.

Double-ended (through) yards

  • Pyramid-shaped: Main-line continues straight through. Storage tracks are connected via ladders at both ends. The sidings are of different lengths; the further a track is from the main, the shorter it is. The main advantage to this shape is that trains can pass through the base track without fouling a significant portion of a ladder. Trains can also exit the yard without having to reverse and foul the main.
  • Diamond-(parallelogram)-shaped: Two ladders are parallel; all storage tracks are equal length. Main line travels along one of the ladders and exits on the track furthest from (speaking in parallel lines) the entrance track. The main advantage to this shape is that all tracks in the yard are the same length between ladders.

Although parallelogram-shaped yards are unlikely to be found in full-scale railways, they are advantageous for modelling purposes because the sidings are all approximately the same length.

Track Alignments

In addition to using normal turnouts, it is also possible to use:

  • Transfer tables
  • Sector Plates
  • Cassettes
  • Elevators
  • Turntables

It is also possible to use a ballon track to turn the entire train. This will result in a reverse loop, requiring an auto reverser to invert the phase of the loop.

Digital Command Control in Fiddle Yards

In a conventional DC layout, the turnouts, if power routing, provide isolation so that only one siding is live at any one time. The other sidings are disconnected electrically and therefore all locos remain stationary.

In DCC, this restriction is not necessary. It is possible to feed power to all the sidings all of the time (with the important proviso that insulating joints are used wherever the points require them, e.g. with Peco Electrofrog turnouts). Because all the sidings are live, shunting can take place using any loco(s) in the yard.

  • This has the important advantage that poor connections through points are not such a serious problem.
  • It also means that it may be possible to drive a loco through a point that is set "wrong road", as on full scale railways. Operators must take the proper care to avoid accidents. Actually, with insulated fishplates and live-frog points, this is less of a problem for modellers because there is always a short section that is effectively dead.

Sound Locomotives

Some modellers object to the sound of idling locomotives, where many can result in quite a din. One option, other than using the Mute function, is to employ DPDT toggle switches to disconnect the siding from the power bus.

Wiring a Yard

Wiring a fiddle yard is no more difficult than mainline track.

One option when wiring a yard: Instead of running the power bus parallel to the track and splitting feeders off of various lengths, running the power bus diagonally across the tracks in a V or W pattern also works. That way the feeders can be kept to similar lengths.

As always, there is no one correct way to do this. Use your imagination.

External links

There are a number of books on track planning available as well. John Armstrong wrote Track Planning for Realistic Operation, available from Kalmbach and your local hobby shop.