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for switching 'OLD OPHIR'

or any other layout

I needed a easy switching system for my On3 switching layout, Old Ophir , which is based on a fictitious branch of the Rio Grande Southern. The system I developed is outlined below. It has proved to be a very reliable and easy to use system.

To set the system up, each piece of rolling stock on the layout has it's own card with the following details on it. The colour code, in this case RED, the railroad company’s name i.e. RGS, the type of car i.e. CABOOSE, its railroad number i.e. 0400, and its switching location code i.e. C.

I the various types of cars use the following colour code system:




At the start of an operating session, 3 trains, each consisting of a locomotive, three cars and a caboose (or a passenger car) are set up on the three track storage turntable situated on the right hand end of the layout. The car cards for each of these trains are collated in train order and clipped into the locomotive binder clip, seen at right. These are then stored in the three card pockets on the operating board (right side of the switching  card holder opposite). This board is located at the right hand end on the layout fascia. Four other pieces of rolling stock are positioned in the yard at their switching locations and their cards placed in the ‘YARD’ pocket. Three of these cars are to be switched into the first departing train in the operating session.

To start the operating session, a train is driven off the storage turntable and rolls over the bridge and into town, stopping in front of the depot. The  binder clip and cards for that  train are then retrieved from the STORAGE pocket and laid out, in train order, onto the INCOMING TRAIN area on the operating board. It is the job of the operator to then switch the cars to their correct locations in the  yard, referring to the switching diagram opposite, which is located above switching card board. 

At the same time he has to select three of the four car cards from the YARD pocket, lay these cards out on the board in the OUTGOING TRAIN area, and make them up into a departing train. It’s a good idea to move the incoming caboose card over to the rear of the departing train which is to be made up. Once switching is complete, the arriving car cards are then placed into the YARD pocket and the out-going car cards are sorted into train order, clipped together with the binder clip, and placed into the vacant pocket in the STORAGE area.

The train then departs back down the mainline, over the bridge, and onto the storage turntable. The next train is then selected and the switching operation continues. Once the three trains have been switched, and the locomotives are at the other end of the storage turntable, it can be turned 180 degrees and the switching session can continue.


                                                   LOAD CARDS

To add difficulty to the switching, there are five different removable loads for the flat cars. They are: crates, a load of ties, two boilers, two concrete pipes and a bull dozer, and their loading location is marked by a red circle on the switching diagram. These loads have there own cards and are attached to the flat car card with a paper clip. If a flat car arrives in a train, the load has to be delivered to its stated destination. If a flat car is included in a departing train, one of the load cards is selected, and that load must be picked up before the car can be added to the train. The addition of these flat car loads has added another level of interest and complexity to the operating session and seems to give the switching a real visible purpose.


To add further difficulty to the switching of ‘Old Ophir’, there are ‘Situation Cards’ located on the far left of the ‘Switching Board’. When the operator brings a train into town he must select the rear ‘Situation Card’, and action whatever is on that card. For example, the sample card opposite requires the operator not to use the spur beside the garage (see layout plan) during this switching maneuver. These cards are made up to suit the particular yard layout and industries around the yard. This is where you can get real mean and nasty to your poor operators. About half of the cards are blank and require no action by the operator. These are shuffled at random amongst the ‘Situation Cards’.

             A NASTY OPTION

If you want to get really nasty and make the switching even more difficult, you can add an isolating section like I have done at the end of the front spur where the loading ramp for the bull-dozer is. I can site on of my ‘Geese’ or a locomotive there. So when the operator has to use this spur to load or unload the bull-dozer he has to move the Goose or locomotive somewhere else while he does this maneuver. I haven’t been totally uncaring here - the operator can still fit a locomotive and one car in the spur to switch the stock yard without having to move the locomotive from the end of the spur. Maybe I could shorten the spur to stop this, but no, I do have some heart!


This option came about by accident. One of my locomotives is much wider than all the rest and thus requires a wider clearance. When I placed the platform to hold the load of ties on the new stock siding I did not allow for this wider locomotive which I found cannot pass it. I thought about moving the platform back a bit, but then my nasty streak came out - why not leave it there and make the operator have to use a second car to push a stock car to its correct position at the stock-chute. This is slightly awkward as the head-shunt to the stock spur will only hold one locomotive and one car at a time .


To check this `switching system' before the layout is built, the proposed track plan can be drawn on a large sheet of paper in say 1/10th scale. In the same scale I then cut out rectangles of card board to represent the various pieces of rolling stock. These were coloured and labelled  Small versions of the switching and situation cards were also cut out and labelled. I was then able to simulate the switching maneuvers to be done on the proposed layout by moving the cars on this scale drawing according to the switching system. I was thus able to easily modify the switching system

If you are lucky enough and have a large layout with two or more yards plus spurs and industries along the line, this switching system will operate just as well as it does on a small stand alone switching module. All you need is a switching board at each switching location, a method or rule to how many cars have to be switched at that location. You just then carry the cards held together with the locomotive clip.