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Build an Automated Switching Layout

Circles or ovals are fine for a while, but would you like a little more “action”? Here is a simple point-to-point switching layout that will shuttle two or three cars off of and onto a siding. With the addition of an automatic reversing unit (LGB #10340), it becomes fully automated. No need for decoders, loco addresses, or remotes.

If you’re tight on space for a layout, this is a solution that just might fit. The layout as shown here fits in a space approximately 10 feet long by 1.5 feet wide and is suitable for a shelf layout or window display.

With the use of 2 manual switches, two curved sections, and 8 straight sections of track, you can put this layout together in minutes.

You will also need two manual uncouplers (LGB #10520).
Take a quick look at the track diagram and follow along.

Instructions and special track sections are included with the reversing unit, and it is relatively simple to set up. Once the layout is assembled, the reversing unit requires a bit of tweaking of the adjustments.

Once everything is set properly, it will run unattended. This layout can be operated without the automatic reversing unit, but would require constant manning of the controller, but still is lots of fun nonetheless.

The track plan here is simple, but not limited to what is shown. Track sections can be added to change the shape of the layout. As long as the existing pieces are added on to, it will work in the same way.

* Not too fast, the uncouplers operate more reliably on a train that’s moving slowly.

* Check the clearance - some loco couplers are positioned too close to the motor block for the uncoupler to be effective.

* Check compatibility of the cars couplers, be sure the uncoupler acts as intended.

* Only 1 coupler per car or loco, be sure all couplers are oriented (hooks pointing) in the same direction (to the right in this example).

* Be sure the track is level, otherwise the loose cars will roll away or fail to uncouple.

* Be sure to leave enough empty track on the end of the switch where the train will stop, this allows for cars of different lengths.

* Use manual switches that spring back to the preset position after the train travels through from the other direction.

* To make things more interesting, a third car can be added. It should be placed right behind the loco (to the right in this case) in step 1.

1. From the starting point the loco moves towards the yellow car, causing them to couple, and pushes it straight through the switch.
  2. It then reverses direction and moves onto the siding, pulling the coupled car behind. (The manual switch is set to turn out. After the loco pushes the car straight through, the switch springs back to the set position. This works with spring-loaded manual switches only.)

As it moves through the siding, it couples to the blue car, and simultaneously uncouples the yellow car, leaving it on the siding. 

As the loco continues on, it pushes the blue car through the switch and stops. (The manual switch is set to straight. After the loco pushes the car through, the switch springs back to the set position.)

3. It then reverses direction, heading towards the other switch with the blue car in tow. As it travels over the uncoupler, it leaves the blue car between the two switches and travels through the other switch. At this point the two cars are on the opposite track from which they started.

4. The loco reverses again and travels through the siding, couples the yellow car and pushes it through the switch.

5. The loco reverses again, pulling the yellow car. As it travels on the straight track between the two switches, it couples to the blue car, uncouples the yellow, and stops after going through the switch.

6. The loco reverses and pulls the blue car onto the siding and uncouples it as it traverses the uncoupler. Both cars are back to where they started after 6 moves.

The light at the end of the tunnel is just the light of an oncoming train. - Robert Lowell


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