Phoenix Yard

An empty layout, from
just above trainspotter height!Phoenix Yard was my first finished model railway. I started work on it in January 2008, and I got it to a completed state a few months later. At the time, the thing to do seemed to be to document it on an RMWeb thread. That forum has already been obsoleted, so this page is to provide a new home.


Phoenix Yard is an inglenook shunting puzzle, and my key priority was to use some of the bits and pieces I had aquired over the years. The start point was the track I had from old layout plans (code 100 Peco streamline, with some hornby settrack in straight bits), and a Class 25 locomotive bought as easy to convert to DCC. Since that loco was blue, and I was rapidly gifted an 08 in the same colours, I decided to run with it as a period. As a final constraint, I wanted to get away from the minimum-space stereotype of an 0-4-0 and a few 10' wagons shuffling around, so I chose some of the longer prototypes such as the OTA, and used that to decide the siding dimensions.


Another key decision was the baseboard material - card/plastic covered foam sold as poster board in artist supply shops. I could assemble it with just PVA, a craft knife and a straight edge. That done, I laid the track, gluing it directly to the board. I found the track stuck, but not the ballast. Next time, I'd undercoat/prime the surface to help things adhere. I wired the layout for DCC, initially the Hornby select supplied with a train set (more using up!), and eventually a Digitrax system. I also used Hornby's early DCC decoders, before I learned they were not really worth the money. Still, it got me into using JMRI, and I became a (minor) contributor to that project. For scenic decoration, I had a kit for a portacabin (the same one you see on every other layout), and similarly for a fueling point. Not the most original treatment, but I think it works.


I was pleasantly surprised how much I liked having DCC, and even more so the pointwork under DCC control. At one point I had the layout under computer control, in addition to control from the digitrax handset. I could see potential for the future there. However, in other ways I'm quite traditional, so one spring day I posed each wagon for a photograph, and printed a deck of cards I could shuffle to set up the puzzle. I added one twist. One particular tank design had two wagons on the layout - one in the siding fan, and one on the fuel line. If that comes up in the puzzle, I require that they be swapped. With no run-around, that requires two locos, which is fun.

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This page © John McAleely, March 2013