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Stockton Staging Interlocking

Train Handling Machine

I like to think of staging as a kind of train handling machine. I’m not a fan of plans that require restaging trains between sessions, but if trains do need to be restaged, I prefer that there is an easy route to get each train to the correct location in the correct orientation.

As such, I try to design the entrance to staging yards with the following key attributes:

  • Any of the staging tracks can be routed directly to the main(s)
  • Tracks to allow power sets to be easily moved between staging and locomotive storage tracks
  • Plenty of tracks for storing units and lashups
  • Ability to turn locomotives and trains without interfering with the main, or needing dispatcher permission

Stockton Staging Interlocking

Here’s the plan around Stockton Staging Interlocking; including the main coming out of the helix and the staging yard, and all the other tracks made invisible. The connections between Stockton staging, the reversing loop, locomotive storage and the main support the above desirable characteristics for staging entry.

Click image to enlargeAccess to the Main

Westbound trains in any of the Stockton staging tracks can head directly out of the staging yard onto the main via the right side of the reversing loop. Arriving eastbounds from the helix have easy access to staging and the continuous run connector.

[Looking to the distant future, if/when the upper deck gets built, the main from the helix will not connect like the blue track on the picture above. The helix will be rebuilt as a mirror image. When that happens, the main will connect into staging interlocking at the points end of the switch directly above the words “Stockton Staging Interlocking” in the picture above. When that change occurs, the interlocking will still function just as well, and wont need to be changed.]

Stockton staging has 11 tracks. This should be enough capacity for trains that will run in a session, and for a few that are stored in staging. Besides, that is also all I have room for in this staging yard!

Here’s a closer view of the interlocking itself.

Click image for larger viewMinimum radius for all curves is 18”. Minimum turnout angle is #7.

I like the way the various route flow smoothly. No nasty sharp curves to worry about causing derailments.

Engine Storage

The plan has 8 shorter stub-ended locomotive tracks in two locomotive storage areas. This should be plenty of space to hold power.  The engine yards have a direct connection to each other and the 5-track yard has direct access to any of the staging tracks. This should make it easy to remove or add power in staging, and to move between staging and engine storage.


Classification is not required at Stockton, so there is no classification yard. There’s no room for one anyway. If classification of cars is needed for restaging, that will be done at Richmond.

Continuous Running

A separate continuous running connector lies along the outside edge of staging. This track connects around to the main at Richmond Terminal.  If continuous running is in effect, trains just continue along the connector to Richmond, where they appear on the main track headed east again - a bit like Groundhog Day!

Turning Trains

The reversing loop allows trains to be turned during operating sessions and as part of any restaging that may be needed. A train in any of the staging tracks can be run around the loop and re-enter it’s staging track again if it needs to be turned.

During operations, some arriving trains at Stockton will not head straight into staging. Instead, they will swing clockwise around the reversing loop from the helix and stop once on the continuous running connector. (The continuous running connector is the longest track in staging and it will serve as a kind of switching lead for this move.) The Stockton operator would then take over the train, and back the train clockwise around the loop into a staging track for storage.

More on this in the next section.

Richmond Terminal is 70 miles west of Stockton

Richmond Terminal is the western end of the Stockton Sub. I want to emphasize this aspect of the track schematic in layout operations. The best way to do this is to ensure that trains only arrive in Richmond at it’s east end. 

So far so good, but Stockton and Richmond are the respective ends of the main staging yard. When trains enter Stockton staging, they could appear on the Richmond end as if the train has somehow magically materialized on the west terminus of the line.

The operational way around this, as mentioned above, is to back an arriving train into the staging track when arriving at Stockton staging. On the Richmond end of the same staging track, the tail end of the train may appear, but this is better than having the head end appear with lights and sound, surprising the Richmond operator and spoiling the end of the line effect.

Same, but different yards

To further emphasize the operational separation between Stockton and Richmond, I have deliberately not included an aisle along staging between Richmond and Stockton, even though they are physically connected on the layout.

There wasn’t room anyway. But as I thought about it, this provides an opportunity for the staging modules to be against the walls and possibly attached to them. I like this idea for a free-standing layout.

The intention is for each operator is to focus on their respective ends of the Stockton Sub.

With no aisle connecting them, operators at Stockon and Richmond will not able to walk around the corner to the other end of the staging yard to chat with each other directly. This will effectively limit communications between Stockton and Richmond operators to radio calls, just like the prototype.

However, if the need does arise for one operator to help the other, say, to watch the lead end of a train that is approaching the far end of a staging track, the Richmond yard operator would temporarily become the East Stockton yard assistant for the Stockton operator, and vice versa. In general though, the less they each need to help each other to complete their local operations, the better.

Swapping Power

There are a couple of additional benefits from backing a train into a staging.  Backing in keeps the train’s power at the Stockton staging yard throat.  With the power at the Stockton end of staging, the Stockton operator can easily take care of power rearrangements. Otherwise, the Richmond Yard operator would have to get involved to help retrieve the lashup from a train that arrived at Stockton, but whose power is now parked in Richmond yard.

From Planning to Construction

That concludes the tour of the lower deck of the plan. I think the plan will be interesting to build and fun to operate.

Now it’s time to fire up the mitre saw and make some sawdust!


Next up: Starting construction