Friday, September 4, 2020

The rebuilding of Sparks Yard

In October of 2014 construction on this layout started this layout with a double staging yard.  The first part of the staging yard was for the Southern Pacific line extending west from Weso so it is referred to as Sparks.  For those who do not know the area, Sparks is just east of Reno and SP had a large yard there which UP still uses today.

A number if issues with this yard have come up after this long and I have also learned a few things with experience of running the layout that makes me want to rebuild of the Sparks yard.  I will list those issues and planed solutions below.

  • These were my first Fast Tracks turnouts which I did with code 80 rail in a jig designed for code 55.  While the code 80 rail fit into the jig, the performance of these turnouts has never matched that of later turnouts done with code 55.  The plan will be to use code 80 Peco Electrofrog turnouts in the rebuild.

  • The layout of the yard ladders was compromised to try to fit in a 5th track.  The new layout will still have 5 tracks but with the 5th one being as a siding off of the return track.

  •  The controls were designed to allow for train movement in both directions and this added complication to the control panel and wiring.  After running the layout for 6 years and always running the trains in and out in one direction I now realize that this is not necessary.
  • A railroad herald made of Masonite that had been glued to a cabinet door above the yard fell damaging 2 control switches and cracking the acrylic of the control panel.  As the yard layout and control scheme will be different, a new control panel will be built using the existing housing.

And so it has begun as seen in the photo above.   This is the entry into the yard from the helix.  Five original turnouts have been removed and the sidings will be cut back to make way for the new track and turnouts.  Once this end of the yard is done then work will begin on the other end.  This will not be a quick project and I expect it may take a couple months as least.   The layout can still be operated using the other staging yard.  Updates will be coming in future posts.


  1. Always good see how a layout works and refine where necessary.
    Brad do you have anyone come run trains and operate your layout with you.
    Have fun on the rework.

    1. Yes, it is a never ending learning process. I do have a couple of friends from the Ntrak group who come over to run but of course with all the corona virus issues we have not gotten together for some time now.