Heritage Model Trains Article

Hidden Staging for a Model Train


Staging provides a place for trains to originate or terminate off the modeled layout; it represents “the rest of the world”. Staging may represent other divisions of the railroad, or connecting railroads. You may have multiple staging yards – staging provides a pool of complete trains, ready to run onto or across your layout.


As a realism artist, we never paint the road or creek coming to an abrupt end… rather we make the road disappear around a group of trees, or behind a large building. The creek will narrow as it passes out of view, finally disappearing behind a mountain or bushy knoll.


Wouldn’t it be just as exciting to have your train come out of seemingly nowhere, run across the bridge and around the curve towards you? And just as exciting, what if it disappeared behind a mountain but a different train came into view from somewhere else? Yeah, that’s what I’m talking about.


Hidden Staging Yard


A generous staging should be designed into the layout from the get-go, as you will always wish you had more or longer staging. You need at least one more staging track than the number of trains you plan to run, and staging tracks should be longer than your longest train. Continuous staging is better than stub-end staging since you don’t have to turn the trains. Or worse case, back them over the entire layout to their original staging location.


Because staging tracks are frequently semi-hidden, or at least somewhat out-of-the-way, design them to operate as reliably as possible. Use #6 or larger turnouts, avoid any reverse curves, and install a rerailer at the end of each track. Make sure you can easily see and reach staging tracks.


Should your staging yard have any loops so that trains can be turned easily? This would be ideal for passenger trains that don’t have to appear loaded or unloaded when they reappear on the layout.  However, freight trains, when they go into staging usually are changed from loaded to unloaded or vice versa.


It doesn’t make sense for your loaded coal car to go out of the layout from the coal mine, and then return to the coal mine later – still fully loaded… right? So you will have to do some switching while the train is in the staging yard before the next session.


The whole idea of a model railroad is to have your operating sessions interesting, socially inviting and friendly – never boring, and always fun. This goes doubly so for any invited guests who are watching you, as the dispatcher.


All Aboard……



Esther Smith, author

Heritage Model Trains