Autoracks in four square feet?

In planning our model railways, we’re often faced with trying to represent the size of real railroading into the smaller spaces within our homes. Often we are selectively compressing buildings to force fit them into scenes, or deconstructing industries in a way that allows us to fit in the segments that will work best with our anticipated operating schemes. It’s always a little thrilling when you can discover a prototype location that actually works in a typical model railway area:

I had Bing’s aerial views open and was happily tracing along the route of the Essex Terminal Railroad when I discovered this small four track yard in Windsor, Ontario. It’s designed for loading automobiles into railcars. Just look at it’s small area and imagine how easily it could be adapted, without compression, into a typical home layout:
ETR autorack loading

A quick estimate using Bing’s ruler shows this yard is about four hundred feet long. It’s four tracks wide and the actual ramps to load automobiles onto rail cars are equally tailored into a tight corner. It would be terrifically easy to fit this into a FREMO module or even somewhere on the home layout. Over the past few years, we’ve been blessed with some great models of the railcars used to transport cars and trucks. I’m not sure if this is a type of railroading that I could actually model here, but it sure is neat to see an example that fits so well into a limited area.

Categories: How I think

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10 replies

  1. Great idea! I modeled the autoport in Dartmouth a couple of layouts ago and it is fairly compact too. You just have to have a “suggestion” of the huge parking lot.

    • I couldn’t agree more, Steve. What a terrific idea for a first FREMO module, etc.

      In N scale you need about 7-1/2″ for an autorack. This yard’s sidings hold four so that thirty inches of sidings needed plus the requisite turnouts. All of this first very realistically within a four foot module. Band the perimeter with asphalt and a selection of the cars and done.

      The scene is a study in minimalist design and presents the modeller with the challenge of truly subtle modelling.

      Taking a queue from Dartmouth, it could be thought of as a general auto distribution point and keeps the modeller from tying himself to a particular prototype.

  2. Chris.. Jim Lincoln (on ModelRailRadio) had a long talk about such a thing. Its really a long drawn out operation. Each one of those cars have to be opened to see which way cars are loaded.. Cars are 3 tier, trucks are 2 tier and they all don’t face the same way… SO each car has to be dealt with individually…They may look like they are nice and cozy but you’d have to spread them out to open each one and unload.. An all day affair. Sorry I can’t tell you which show…

  3. My guess is Dodge products from the Windsor van plant?

    Special CN instructions for the Paddington auto unloading facility in Winnipeg specified that autoracks be marshalled in the correct order for ramp access/unloading before spotting.

    Excellent issues of TRAINS magazine recently dealt with the ins-and-outs of auto traffic.

    Interesting photo and idea, Chris! I have two open Bachmann (CP and PC) and one Walthers enclosed (BN) for my HO layout.

    • Hi, Eric

      I’ll have to go look for that issue of Trains.

      It never occurred to me that autoracks would need to be turned before unloading and also that some are two level and others have three. For the modeller it means marshalling cars into those that can be unloaded right now and then also those that will need to be sent out to be turned.

      I had one of the Bachmann N scale cars and that was about as close as I’ve ever come to these. I see that Kato have a terrific pack of four aluminum cars in N scale as well as those beautiful cars from Red Caboose and Intermountain.

      I used to think that autoracks were just long strings of cars with little “work” and now I realise the potential that they could offer the modeller.

  4. It’s the TRAINS November 2013 issue, Chris.

  5. Chris,
    I don’t know if you realize, but there is a similar operation in East Brookfield, Massachusetts. From the air on Google Maps it would appear quite the same. Regards,
    Ben Brown

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