In terms of layout railroad yards are either double-ended, which means a
train can enter the yard at one end and exit from the other or
stub-ended which means the yard has no exit. Obviously, the
double-ended yard is much more efficient and most classification yards
of any size are of this type. The tracks themselves are always numbered
or named and are laddered, meaning they are accessed from a main track
that is nothing put switches leading
into these yard tracks. At one end of the yard is the main line,
usually at least two tracks and once a train has entered the yard it is
within the "yard limit" meaning there is a restricted speed at all
times, usually no more than 5 or 10 mph.
|Green Bay & Western RS2 #304 switches the road's small yard and office in Wisconsin Rapids, Wisconsin on August 23, 1966. Also note the Alco road-switchers in the background. This location sat at the junction of the GB&W's only branch, which reached nearby Stevens Point.|
At one corner of the yard there is a diverging siding that is known as the RIP track, meaning Repair In Place for minor issues involving freight cars. There is also usually another diverging siding from the yard tracks for the wash bay to clean locomotives. The engine terminal itself can usually be found from one of the main tracks itself. In the very center of the yard you will almost always find the yard office or yard tower, depending on the size of the facility. In any event, not every yard is set up this way but historically most are in some way similar to this design. Here at the yard office the yardmaster controls all movements within the yard itself, such as the switch engine. Also found within the yard limits it the trainmaster, which controls the actual movement of the trains themselves, such as when they have clearance to leave and enter the area. These jobs can best be described as hectic and stressful and are almost never dull.
|CSX SD35 #4553 and a Family Lines unit run light through the yard in Hamlet, North Carolina on March 28, 1989.|
To explain the hump, if a yard is equipped with the device, it basically works on a gravity-fed system whereby it is the highest point in the yard and freight cars pass through a set of retarders, to slow it down a bit where it is then directed into whatever track it has been designated for. This system is very simple in nature and basically is like stacking blocks. As technologies have improved such as switching from steam to diesel locomotives and mega-mergers which have ballooned the size of Class I railroads, the number of yards has dwindled. Today, Class Is attempt to centralize as many large classification yards as possible not only to become more efficient put also reduce the transit times of freights so that they are spending less time moving through yards and more time out on the open rails delivering their goods. This is a major reason for the CREATE plan of Chicago, an attempt to build bypasses for those freights which are not heading to the city and circumvent the web of rails and yards located there.
|A westbound CSX freight exits the Class I's large yard in Willard, Ohio led by SD40-2 #8237 on September 22, 2007.|
A rail yard is managed by the yardmaster who has the responsibility in overseeing the direction of
rail cars within the yard and assisting with the re-blocking of trains. According to the U.S. Department of Labor: Yardmasters coordinate the activities of workers engaged in railroad yard operations.
These activities, which are also performed by conductors, include
making up or breaking up trains and switching inbound or outbound
traffic to a specific section of the line. Some cars are sent to unload
their cargo on special tracks, while others are moved to different
tracks to await assembly into new trains, based on their destinations.
Yardmasters tell yard engineers
or other personnel where to move the cars to fit the planned train
configuration. Switches many of them operated remotely by
computers, divert trains or railcars to the proper track for coupling
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