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All the world’s a stage


The Georgia Northeastern North Local crew switches cars in Elizabeth Yard.


All the world's a stage, and all the men and women merely players: they have their exits and their entrances; and one man in his time plays many parts” is a quote from William Shakespere. While William was not talking about model railroading, he could have been. Staging is one of the key components to designing a model railroad. Your layout can be thought of as a stage where the actors (trains) appear from backstage and perform their work. Once they are finished, they head off stage to replicate a connection to the rest of the railroad network.


There are numerous ways you can accomplish having the “actors” appear on the stage. Staging can be as simple as having a train visibly staged on a portion of the layout at the beginning of an ops session. Then assuming the crew is picking their train up from that location and going to work. Staging can also be hidden in another room or on a lower level. One disadvantage to this type of staging can be access, if it is hard to reach then Murphy’s Law states that is where your train will derail or have a problem. A yard is another way to stage trains on your layout, you simulate the interchange of cars between the ops sessions by removing the outbound cars and setting out the inbound cars by hand.


Photo by Michael Armstrong.


One of the most amazing staging yards I have ever seen is on Michael Armstrong’s Rock Island Railroad layout. His “hidden staging” is in a dedicated room with easy access to both levels. The room is well lit and he has plenty of storage drawers for cars not on his layout. Michael has certainly accomplished the goal of hidden staging for his trains while still providing easy access.


When I was designing my layout I wanted to include some type of staging. I explored numerous options, but really could not find one that did the job until I considered a removable staging cassette. Lance Mindheim had a small one on his East Rail layout, and I thought that might be the best option if I could “acquire” some room from my wife’s craft room that is adjacent to the train room. I designed a staging cassette that was 5’6” long and 8” wide, enough for two staging tracks. The staging cassette is removable and stored under the layout, and artwork covers the opening in the wall when not in use. The cassette is bolted through the wall and threaded into T-nuts on the layout side of the wall, removable legs support the “free” end. I added scenery because it is the first thing you see when you enter the room and I also planned to use it for outdoor photography. The photo on the home page of my website is an example of the type of photo I am able to take using the staging cassette outdoors. While this staging cassette worked, it was not quite large enough to hold all the trains I wanted to operate during an ops session.


Recently I decided to build another larger staging cassette to replace the original one. I made the new one slightly larger, 6’ long and 1’ wide, which allowed me to include four tracks for staging trains. In addition, I was able to include a scaled down version of the prototype GNRR yard office (more about that in a later post). Fortunately, I was able to reuse some of the track from the original staging cassette which cut down on the cost of building it.


At the prototype GNRR Elizabeth Yard they have several yard tracks and a few sidings by the office. One of the tracks is called the “bank track”, as it is next to the embankment for the main line coming into the yard. I decided to include the “bank track” on my staging cassette and lowered one siding so that there is an embankment next to the track just like on the prototype. The GNRR stores hazardous materials cars on this siding, as it is under video surveillance. Following the prototype example, I also store hazardous materials cars on this siding.

One benefit of the new staging cassette is that it allows crews to make up their train from cars scattered in the yard. Previously, crews picked up their staged and properly blocked train from the yard and headed off to switch the industries. Now, crews will build their train in the yard and then depart the yard to perform the local switching duties. Blocking the cars in their train before departure will add time to the ops session and better replicate what the GNRR North Local crew does on the prototype.


Above is a link to my new video highlighting the local crew switching cars on the new staging cassette.


In my next few blogs I’ll discuss the construction of the staging cassette, wiring, detailing the track, as well as adding the scenery. Until next time stay safe and keep model railroading.

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