Thursday, 16 January 2020

Inglenook Issues

There are good reasons why the inglenook is considered a classic layout plan, but that does not mean it is without flaws. This is particularly true if you use it as the basis of a British layout. The good news is there are ways around some of the problems.

So what are the issues?

The most basic one is the lack of British prototypes for the track plan and mode of operation.

Yes, there are lots of reasonably compact three road goods yards. But most inglenooks don't have room for any actual goods facilities and most small goods yards didn't have to handle the traffic density that an inglenook does. In any case, when being used as a shunting puzzle operation bears no resemblance to how goods yards are really worked.  In a goods yard the location of wagons is driven by the loading and unloading of goods of different types. An inglenook yard is more akin to a small marshalling yard, with wagon position determined by where they have arrived from and their eventual destination.

So we can use an inglenook to model a marshalling yard, but they tended to be much larger facilities and located near a mainline. That brings up another possible issue for the inglenook, which is that the train never leaves view. That has a plus side as well, of course, in that no fiddle yard is needed and you get maximum scenic value out of the space, but still, it is nice to think our trains are going to and coming from somewhere else.

Mention of the scenic aspect also brings to mind what, for me, is the biggest issue. The visual imbalance between the two halves of the plan, and how to make use of the space on the half of the board that accommodates the headshunt.

But it is still a great plan.

So can we resolve some of the issues? Well, people have done. To be honest the easiest solution is to build it as an American layout, with two of the three sidings serving lineside loading docks modelled in low relief. After all, who knows what a boxcar contains and it seems reasonable that a raw product could be needed at factory 1 and then a finished product is delivered from factory 2. American boxcars can also be made individually identifiable to a casual observer without hinting at what they are carrying, which is less easy for UK wagons. In the last year I've come across some interesting prototypical US  track plans using interlaced trackwork that could also make the plan more interesting. Put it into an urban setting and you can make the headshunt area more interesting, and I've also considered using a car float as one of the tracks to explain the need for some of the stock movements.

But I still want to build a British version.

So the most obvious solution is to build it as a marshalling yard where a colliery or quarry is feeding traffic into one end of a line for onward travel. But that means all the wagons will be of the same type, so you need to set it in a period when PO wagons were around if you want casual visitors to take part in the shunting game.An alternative might be an internal manufacturing site with wagons going between workshops as part of the production process. that would require the game to be slightly altered so that rather than assembling a single train you would be redistributing the wagons across the sidings. I quite like that idea.

We could also make the yard seem bigger, by, for instance, having an overbridge across the ends of the sidings. That could work well in an urban setting.

Add a high level "mainline" and you connect the yard to the wider railway, the headshunt could even disappear under the mainline.

So what am I actually going to do with Rhwbiwch Planc? Well probably none of the above!


  1. I like to pretend that the Inglenook is a small part of a much larger railway system - something like a factory or dockyard. As you say, it's not ideal, but I'm a Bad Person who doesn't let arguments over prototype fidelity get in the way of the fun part of model making. Ultimately, the great thing about our hobby is that there is an aspect to keep everyone happy.

    1. In this case I have to convince myself it is part of a larger system. That is a lot easier in an urban setting. I must admit I like the concept of using a removable car float on an American layout as, effectively, a sceniced fiddle stick.

      What I think I'm going to do on Rhhwbiwch Planc is put in some forground scenery to interrupt the view of the headshunt, and, keeping to the TVR, have the yard as quarry sidings.