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How Model Train Classification Yards Work

Most model railroaders have far more cars (rolling stock) and locomotives than they can possibly operate at once. One option is to simply store excess rolling stock and locomotives in boxes or on display shelves or cabinets. It is possible, however, to store all of your extra equipment and trains on tracks in a yard that may or may not be part of the visible operating portion of your model train layout.

However, design mistakes are a common feature of model railroad yard layouts. Yards don't always work out as well as they should. A major cause is the lack of available information on how to design a good model railroad yard layout. Without the resources, model railroaders are forced into a lot of guesswork.

Model Train Yard Layout Compression

Apart from the lack of available information on model railroad yards, another cause for less than satisfactory model railroad yard designs, is the need to compress a model railroad layout into the space available. 'Compression' is the model railroaders enemy, but in most cases, necessary.

Let's start by looking at the make up of real classification yards. Generally, they are huge. They often consist of many smaller special-purpose rail yards, that collectively, add up to a complex array of train track.

It is commonplace for there to be three separate double-ended rail yards strung one after the other. These are designed to move train traffic efficiently and usually comprise: an arrival yard, a classification yard, and a departure yard.

The Arrival Yard On Model Train Layouts

The arrival yard is where arriving trains drop off the cars of their train. The cars are then moved to the classification yard, being switched back and forth as necessary to get the right cars onto the right trains. The trains are then built out and moved to the departure yard. After getting a new caboose and locomotive, they then proceed to their next destination.

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Old Vintage Estate Find THRALL DOOR CAR Model Train Box Car TCAX 30000
Old Vintage Estate Find THRALL DOOR CAR Model Train Box Car TCAX 30000
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JV Models 2026 Two 2 Old 36 BoxCar Utility Shed Building Model Kit HO Scale
JV Models 2026 Two 2 Old 36 BoxCar Utility Shed Building Model Kit HO Scale
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Roundhouse HO 50 FMC Plug Door Boxcar Santa Fe Model 152069
Roundhouse HO 50 FMC Plug Door Boxcar Santa Fe Model 152069
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HO Scale Roundhouse BM Boston Maine 40 Box Car 75595 Custom Model Train
HO Scale Roundhouse BM Boston Maine 40 Box Car 75595 Custom Model Train
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Bachmann Trains Scout 40 Santa Fe Map Box Car HO Scale Model Railroads 16502
Bachmann Trains Scout 40 Santa Fe Map Box Car HO Scale Model Railroads 16502
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Bachmann Model Trains Grand Canyon 40 Santa Fe Map Box Car HO Scale 16503
Bachmann Model Trains Grand Canyon 40 Santa Fe Map Box Car HO Scale 16503
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Bachmann Model Trains El Capitan 40 Santa Fe Map Box Car HO Scale 16504
Bachmann Model Trains El Capitan 40 Santa Fe Map Box Car HO Scale 16504
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Bachmann Model Trains Chief 40 Santa Fe Map Box Car HO Scale Freight Cars 16505
Bachmann Model Trains Chief 40 Santa Fe Map Box Car HO Scale Freight Cars 16505
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Athearn HO Scale Model Kit 40 Box Car Santa Fe Built Up
Athearn HO Scale Model Kit 40 Box Car Santa Fe Built Up
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Model Power Ontario Northland ONR 40 Canadian Box Car 90234 HO Scale
Model Power Ontario Northland ONR 40 Canadian Box Car 90234 HO Scale
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Vintage Lionel HO Model Railroad Box Car Grand Trunk Western 88401 Blue 6820
Vintage Lionel HO Model Railroad Box Car Grand Trunk Western 88401 Blue 6820
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H0 Accurail 4119 40 Wood Boxcar w Wood Doors Ft DD MS Model Kit
H0 Accurail 4119 40 Wood Boxcar w Wood Doors Ft DD MS Model Kit
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H0 Accurail 7020 40 6 Panel Outside Braced Boxcars NC  St Louis Model Kit
H0 Accurail 7020 40 6 Panel Outside Braced Boxcars NC St Louis Model Kit
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Roundhouse HO Model Train Gondola Boxcar Caboose Kit LOT Pickens UP Frisco NIB
Roundhouse HO Model Train Gondola Boxcar Caboose Kit LOT Pickens UP Frisco NIB
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DISNEY TOY STORY HO MODEL ELECTRIC TRAIN HOOK  HORN BOX CAR COUPLERS 6 PACK NEW
DISNEY TOY STORY HO MODEL ELECTRIC TRAIN HOOK HORN BOX CAR COUPLERS 6 PACK NEW
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MODEL POWER HO BABY RUTH 40 BOX CAR W SLIDING DOORS
MODEL POWER HO BABY RUTH 40 BOX CAR W SLIDING DOORS
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HO SCALE 1 87 CUSTOM LAYOUT MODEL BOX CAR TRUCK SIGN DECAL SET HONOLEVI
HO SCALE 1 87 CUSTOM LAYOUT MODEL BOX CAR TRUCK SIGN DECAL SET HONOLEVI
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HO Scale Model Power Timken 40 Box Car NIB 97973
HO Scale Model Power Timken 40 Box Car NIB 97973
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HO Scale Fox Valley Models 30239 Soo Line Built 7 Post Boxcar BN 319051
HO Scale Fox Valley Models 30239 Soo Line Built 7 Post Boxcar BN 319051
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WALTHERS 60 EXPRESS BOX CAR HO GAUGE AMTRAK SILVER PLASTIC MODEL NIB
WALTHERS 60 EXPRESS BOX CAR HO GAUGE AMTRAK SILVER PLASTIC MODEL NIB
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Vintage 50s Varney Ho Scale Model Trains Gerbers Products Ho Scale Boxcar 2040
Vintage 50s Varney Ho Scale Model Trains Gerbers Products Ho Scale Boxcar 2040
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Model HO Train Swift Refrigerator Line SRLX 4226 Box Car Railroad Wooden Reefer
Model HO Train Swift Refrigerator Line SRLX 4226 Box Car Railroad Wooden Reefer
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HO Scale Model Railroad Trains Layout MRC Mantua Railbox Boxcar Rolling Stock
HO Scale Model Railroad Trains Layout MRC Mantua Railbox Boxcar Rolling Stock
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Vintage Balto  Ohio 57440 Wood and Metal Scale Model Train Boxcar 5 Long
Vintage Balto Ohio 57440 Wood and Metal Scale Model Train Boxcar 5 Long
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ATHEARN 1200 40 AAR UNDECORATED Box Car RR Train Car Model Kit HO SCALE
ATHEARN 1200 40 AAR UNDECORATED Box Car RR Train Car Model Kit HO SCALE
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ATHEARN 5026 IL CENTRAL 40 Reefer Box Car RR Train Car Model Kit HO SCALE
ATHEARN 5026 IL CENTRAL 40 Reefer Box Car RR Train Car Model Kit HO SCALE
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HO Scale Model Railroad Trains Layout Walthers Illinois Central Boxcar 931 1678
HO Scale Model Railroad Trains Layout Walthers Illinois Central Boxcar 931 1678
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Life Like Wood Braced Box Car Virginian 08518 HO Scale Train Car Model MIB
Life Like Wood Braced Box Car Virginian 08518 HO Scale Train Car Model MIB
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HO Scale Kadee 5102 SLSF Frisco Fast Freight 40 Box Car 17549 RTR SEALED Model
HO Scale Kadee 5102 SLSF Frisco Fast Freight 40 Box Car 17549 RTR SEALED Model
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HO SWICH ENGINE FOR LAYOUT MODEL PARTS W MORE PIECES BOXCAR CABOOSE
HO SWICH ENGINE FOR LAYOUT MODEL PARTS W MORE PIECES BOXCAR CABOOSE
$6.25
NIB HO RTR Trains Canada 40 STEEL BOX CAR 1 2003 CANADIAN NATIONAL Model Train
NIB HO RTR Trains Canada 40 STEEL BOX CAR 1 2003 CANADIAN NATIONAL Model Train
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HO Scale Kadee 5235 SLSF Frisco Ship it 40 Box Car 18194 RTR SEALED Model
HO Scale Kadee 5235 SLSF Frisco Ship it 40 Box Car 18194 RTR SEALED Model
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HO SCALE CUSTOM SIGN MODEL BOX CAR TRUCK DECAL HODEN1
HO SCALE CUSTOM SIGN MODEL BOX CAR TRUCK DECAL HODEN1
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HO Scale Kadee 6348 AWP Atlanta West Point 50 Box Car 51009 RTR SEALED Model
HO Scale Kadee 6348 AWP Atlanta West Point 50 Box Car 51009 RTR SEALED Model
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HO Scale Kadee 5127 AWP Atlanta West Point 40 Box Car 37951 RTR SEALED Model
HO Scale Kadee 5127 AWP Atlanta West Point 40 Box Car 37951 RTR SEALED Model
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MODEL POWER 8003 40 Boxcar MAINE CENTRAL Pine Tree Route HO MEC 14785
MODEL POWER 8003 40 Boxcar MAINE CENTRAL Pine Tree Route HO MEC 14785
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HO Scale Kadee 5262 NW Norfolk Western 40 PS 1 Box Car 42797 RTR Model Train
HO Scale Kadee 5262 NW Norfolk Western 40 PS 1 Box Car 42797 RTR Model Train
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Accurail HO Scale CS  W Lincoln Area Model Railroad Club 40 Steel Boxcar New
Accurail HO Scale CS W Lincoln Area Model Railroad Club 40 Steel Boxcar New
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1940s VTG HO IDEAL Models 42 BOX CAR KIT FB 13 Bessemer  Lake Erie BLE 90171
1940s VTG HO IDEAL Models 42 BOX CAR KIT FB 13 Bessemer Lake Erie BLE 90171
$16.49
2 Bachmann HO models SP 51187 Boxcar and Great Northern 42764 Flat Car
2 Bachmann HO models SP 51187 Boxcar and Great Northern 42764 Flat Car
$10.00


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