Rail yard

A rail yard, railway yard or railroad yard is a complex series of railroad tracks for storing, sorting, or loading and unloading, railroad cars and locomotives. Railroad yards have many tracks in parallel for keeping rolling stock stored off the mainline, so that they do not obstruct the flow of traffic. Railroad cars are moved around by specially designed yard switchers, a type of locomotive. Cars in a railroad yard may be sorted by numerous categories, including railroad company, loaded or unloaded, destination, car type, or whether they need repairs. Railroad yards are normally built where there is a need to store cars while they are not being loaded or unloaded, or are waiting to be assembled into trains. Large yards may have a tower to control operations.[1]:46

Many railway yards are located at strategic points on a main line. Main-line yards are often composed of an up yard and a down yard, linked to the associated railroad direction. There are different types of yards, and different parts within a yard, depending on how they are built.

Chicago (3)
A large Amtrak and Metra coach yard in Chicago, IL. About 25 percent of all rail traffic in the United States travels through the Chicago area.
Railyard LA river
Yard for Amtrak equipment, located next to the Los Angeles River. The two tracks on the left are the mainline.

Freight yards

For freight cars, the overall yard layout is typically designed around a principal switching (US term) or shunting (UK) technique:

  • A hump yard has a constructed hill, over which freight cars are shoved by yard locomotives, and then gravity is used to propel the cars to various sorting tracks;
  • A gravity yard is built on a natural slope and relies less on locomotives; generally locomotives will control a consist being sorted from uphill of the cars about to be sorted. They are decoupled and let to accelerate into the classification equipment lower down.
  • A flat yard has no hump, and relies on locomotives for all car movements.

Sorting yard basics

In the case of all classification or sorting yards, human intelligence plays a primary role in setting a strategy for the 'switching operations'; the fewer times coupling operations need to be made and the less distance traveled, the faster the operation, the better the strategy and the sooner the newly configured consist can be joined to its outbound train.  

  • Switching yards, staging yards or Shunting yards are typically graded to be flat yards, where switch engines manually shuffle and maneuver cars from: a) train arrival tracks, to a b) consist breakdown track, c) to an consist assembly track, thence to d) departure tracks of the yard.
    • A large sub-group of such yards are known as Staging yards, which are yards serving an end destination that is also a collection yard starting car groups for departure. These seemingly incompatible tasks are because the operating or road company and its locomotive drops off empties and picks up full cars waiting departure which have been spotted and assembled by local switch engines. The long haul carrier makes the round trip with a minimal turn around time, and the local switch engine transfers empties to the loading yard when the industries output is ready to be shipped.
    • This activity is duplicated in a Transfer yard, the difference being in the latter many or several businesses and industries are serviced by the local switcher, which is part of the yard equipment, and the industry pays a cargo transfer fee to the railroad or yard operating company. In the staging yard, the locomotive is most likely operated by industry (refinery, chemical company or coal mine personnel); and ownership of the yard in both cases is a matter of business, and could be any imaginable combination. Ownership and operation are quite often a matter of leases and interests[2]
  • Hump yard and gravity yard tracks are usually highly automated and designed for the efficient break-down, sorting, and recombining of freight into consists, so they are equipped with mechanical retarders (external brakes) and scales that a computer or operator uses along with knowledge of the gradient of the hump to calculate and control the speed of the cars as they roll downhill to their destination tracks. These modern sorting and classification systems are sophisticated enough to allow a first car to roll to a stop near the end of its classification track, and, by slowing the speed of subsequent cars down the hump, shorten the distance for the following series of cars so they can bump and couple gently, without damaging one another. Since overall throughput speed matters, many have small pneumatic, hydraulic or spring-driven braking retarders (below, right) to adjust and slow speed both before and after yard switch points. Along with car tracking and load tracking to destination technologies such as RFID, long trains can be broken down and reconfigured in transfer yards or operations in remarkable time.
Vaganyfek Ferencvaros
A hump classification type of yard. The photographer is positioned near where cars are decoupled and begin to accelerate downhill past a scale. The speed regulation (retarder brakes and speed sensors) devices shown in the foreground adjust the car speed for the calculated soft-coupling on arrival along the sorting track for the consist it is being routed to join.
Smaller local hydraulic "Dowty retarders" finesse the speed of a car being sorted as it approaches a switch or the new consists to which it is being joined.

Yard nomenclature and components

A large freight yard complex may include the following components:

  • Receiving yard, also called an arrival yard, where locomotives are detached from freight cars, cars are inspected for mechanical problems, and sent to a classification yard;
  • oft-called Switching yards or Switchyards or sorting yards—yards where cars are sorted for various destinations and assembled into blocks have different formal names in different cultural traditions:
  • Departure yard where car blocks are assembled into trains;
  • Car repair yard or Maintenance yard for freight cars;
  • Engine house (in some yards, a roundhouse) to fuel and service locomotives.[1]:58
  • Transfer yard is a yard where consists are dropped off or picked up as a group by through service such as a Unit Train, but managed locally by local switching service locomotives.
  • Unit tracks may be reserved for Unit trains, which carry a block of cars all of the same origin and destination, and so as through traffic do not get sorted in a classification yard. Such consists often stop in a freight yard for other purposes: inspection, engine servicing, being switched into a longer consist and/or crew changes.[1]:52

Freight yards may have multiple industries adjacent to them where railroad cars are loaded or unloaded and then stored before they move on to their new destination.

Major freight yards in the U.S. include the Bailey Yard in North Platte, Nebraska, operated by Union Pacific Railroad; Conway Yard near Pittsburgh, operated by Norfolk Southern Railway; and the Corwith Yards (Corwith Intermodal Facility) in Chicago, operated by BNSF Railway.

Major U.K. goods yards (freight) include those in Crewe, Reading and Bescot, near Walsall; which are operated by DB Schenker and Freightliner.

Coach yards

Shanghai North Railway Station
A coach yard in Shanghai, China

Coach yards are used for sorting, storing and repairing passenger cars. These yards are located in metropolitan areas near large stations or terminals. An example of a major US coach yard is Sunnyside Yard in New York City, operated by Amtrak. Those that are principally used for storage, such as the West Side Yard in New York, are called "layup yards"[3] or "stabling yards."

Major UK coach stabling yards include those in Crewe and Longsight, Manchester, which are operated by various regional train companies.

See also


  1. ^ a b c Kraft, Edwin (June 2002). "The Yard: Railroading's Hidden Half". Trains. Vol. 62 no. 6.
  2. ^ The Lehigh and Susquehanna Railroad was builder and operator of Mountain Top Yard, whereas both were leased to the CNJ, rents and ownership being retained by the Lehigh Coal & Navigation Company.
  3. ^ Chicago-L.org. "42nd Place Terminal." Accessed 2013-08-30.

Further reading

  • Armstrong, John H. (1998). The Railroad: What It Is, What It Does (4th ed.). Omaha, NE: Simmons-Boardman. ISBN 978-0-911382-04-4.
  • Farrington, Jr., S. Kip (1958). Railroads of the Hour. New York: Coward-McCann.
61st Yard

The 61st yard is a CTA rail yard located in the Washington Park neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago. It opened on January 22, 1893 as part of South Side Rapid Transit's expansion into Jackson Park.

98th Yard

The 98th Yard is a CTA rail yard for the Red Line in the Roseland neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. It is located at 9800 S. State Street, at the intersection of 98th Street with the Dan Ryan Expressway. Currently, 5000-series railcars are stored here.

Alberta Highway 69

Alberta Provincial Highway No. 69 was a 14 km (8.7 mi) east–west provincial highway in northern Alberta, Canada that existed for approximately 38 years between 1975/76 and 2014/15. It is now a municipal roadway under the jurisdiction of the Regional Municipality (RM) of Wood Buffalo and is named Airport Road.In the west, Highway 69 began at its intersection with Highway 63 at the south end of Fort McMurray, passing the Fort McMurray Airport and ending at a Canadian National's Lynton rail yard south of Saprae Creek and the Clearwater River.

Ashland Yard

The Ashland Yard is a CTA rail yard for the Green Line in the Englewood neighborhood on the South Side of Chicago, Illinois. Currently, 5000-series railcars are stored here.

Bay Head station

Bay Head is a railway station in Bay Head, in Ocean County, New Jersey, United States. The station is served by trains on NJ Transit's North Jersey Coast Line, and it is the southern terminus for the line. The rail yard contains 33 acres (13 ha) of wetland inside the loop formed by the tracks used to turn around the trains. The rail yard borders Twilight Lake. Parking is free at the Bay Head station although the lot is only about a fourth of the size of the lot at the next station, Point Pleasant Beach, which requires payment.This station is not listed as disabled accessible by NJ Transit. Passengers must use the train stairs to climb up to the cars or descend to street level. There is no ramp or platform to aid the handicapped in boarding. Weekend ridership to the Bay Head station rises during the summer as beachgoing vacationers take the train to the beach. In May 2011, ticket vending machines were installed next to the station building at Bay Head.

Berglund Center

Berglund Center (originally called the Roanoke Civic Center) is a 10,500-seat multi-purpose arena located in the Williamson Road neighborhood of Roanoke, Virginia. It was built in 1971. It was the former home to the Roanoke Dazzle basketball team, as well as the Roanoke Express and Roanoke Valley Vipers ice hockey teams. Currently, it is the home of the Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs of the Southern Professional Hockey League, Virginia Tech, Radford University and Roanoke College men's ice hockey teams. The arena is also the home of the annual boys basketball games between Roanoke's two city high schools, Patrick Henry High School and William Fleming High School.

Howard Yard

The Howard Yard is a CTA rail yard in the Rogers Park neighborhood on the North Side of Chicago, Illinois. Rail cars from the Yellow, Red, and Purple Lines of the Chicago Transit Authority (CTA) are stored here. Currently, 5000-series railcars are stored here.

Hudson Yards (neighborhood), Manhattan

Hudson Yards is a neighborhood on the West Side of Midtown Manhattan, bounded roughly by 30th Street in the south, 43rd Street in the north, the West Side Highway in the west, and Eighth Avenue in the east. The area is the site of a large-scale redevelopment program that is being planned, funded, and constructed under a set of agreements among the State of New York, City of New York, and Metropolitan Transportation Authority (MTA), with the aim of expanding the Midtown Manhattan business district westward to the Hudson River. The program includes a major rezoning of the Far West Side, an extension of the New York City Subway's 7 and <7>​ trains to a new subway station at 34th Street and 11th Avenue, a renovation and expansion of the Javits Center, and a financing plan to fund the various components. The various components are being planned by New York City Department of City Planning and New York City Economic Development Corporation.

The largest of the projects made possible by the rezoning is the 28-acre (11 ha) multiuse Hudson Yards real estate development by Related Companies and Oxford Properties, which is being built over the West Side Rail Yard. Construction began in 2012 with the groundbreaking for 10 Hudson Yards, and is projected to be completed by 2024. According to its master plan, created by Kohn Pedersen Fox Associates, the Hudson Yards development would include 16 skyscrapers to be constructed in two phases. Architects including Skidmore, Owings, and Merrill, Thomas Heatherwick, Roche-Dinkeloo, and Diller Scofidio + Renfro contributed designs for individual structures. Major office tenants include or will include fashion company Tapestry, gym chain Equinox Fitness, and financial company BlackRock.

The area also includes other redevelopment projects. One such project is Manhattan West, developed by Brookfield Property Partners over the rail yard west of Ninth Avenue between 31st and 33rd streets. Other structures being developed in the Hudson Yards Zoning District include 3 Hudson Boulevard, and The Spiral. The special district also includes Pennsylvania Station, the subject of a major overhaul.

Hudson Yards is part of Manhattan Community District 4 and its primary ZIP Codes are 10001 and 10018. It is patrolled by the 10th Precinct of the New York City Police Department.

Industrial, Philadelphia

Industrial, Philadelphia is a section in that covers southern portion of the South Philadelphia section of Philadelphia, Pennsylvania, United States. This section contains the ports, industrial buildings and major corporations, including Philadelphia Gas Works, Sunoco, CSX Rail Yard and the Philadelphia Naval Shipyard.

Industrial surrounds South Philadelphia West, South Philadelphia East and the eastern border of Queen Village. The north is bordered by Center City, Grays Ferry and University City. To its west is Kingsessing, Southwest Philadelphia and Eastwick. The Delaware Expressway and Penrose Ave are located in Industrial.

Kimball Yard

The Kimball Yard is a CTA rail yard for the Brown Line in the Albany Park neighborhood on the Northwest side of Chicago, Illinois. Currently, 2600-series and 3200-series railcars are stored here.

Linden Yard (CTA)

The Linden Yard is a CTA rail yard for the Purple Line in Wilmette, Illinois. Currently, 5000-series railcars are stored here.

Mechanicville, New York

Mechanicville is a city in Saratoga County, New York, United States. The population is 5,196 as of the 2010 census. It is the smallest city by area in the state. The name is derived from the occupations of early residents.The city is located on the eastern border of Saratoga County and is north of Albany, the state capital. Mechanicville borders the towns of Stillwater (of which it was once a part) and Halfmoon in the county, and the town of Schaghticoke, Rensselaer County.

Midway Yard

The Midway Yard is a CTA rail yard for the Orange Line on the Southwest side of Chicago, Illinois. Currently, 2600-series railcars are stored here.

Riverside South, Manhattan

Riverside South is an urban development project in the Lincoln Square neighborhood of the Upper West Side of Manhattan, New York City. It was originated by six civic associations – The Municipal Art Society, Natural Resources Defense Council, The Parks Council, Regional Plan Association, Riverside Park Fund, and Westpride in partnership with real estate developer Donald Trump. The largely residential complex, located on the site of a former New York Central Railroad yard, includes Trump Place and Riverside Center. The $3 billion project is on 57 acres (23 ha) of land along the Hudson River between 59th Street and 72nd Street.

Development of the rail yard site generated considerable community opposition. Trump's 1970s-era proposal was widely opposed and failed to gain traction. In 1982, Lincoln West, a much smaller project, was approved with community support, but the developers failed to obtain financing. Planning for the current project began in the late 1980s. The project was originally designed to include 16 apartment buildings with a maximum of 5,700 residential units, 1,800,000 square feet (170,000 m2) of studio space, 300,000 square feet (30,000 m2) of office space, ancillary retail space, and a 25-acre (10 ha) waterfront park.

Trump sold Riverside South to investors from Hong Kong and mainland China, who began construction in 1997. In 2005, the investors sold the remaining unfinished portions to the Carlyle Group and the Extell Development Company.

Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs

The Roanoke Rail Yard Dawgs are a professional ice hockey team and a member of the Southern Professional Hockey League. Based in Roanoke, Virginia, the Rail Yard Dawgs play their home games at Berglund Center.

Shalimar rail yard

Shalimar rail yard served as a terminus for goods trains and hosted a rail yard since its inception in 1883. In recent years, it has been brought into the network of passenger train stations to reduce pressure on Howrah station. Apart from suburban trains, few long-distance trains have been introduced or moved over here (from Howrah station). It is under Kharagpur railway division.

Shalimar still serves as an important transshipment point in Kolkata. Shalimar also has port side domestic container terminals. An additional container terminal is also proposed there.

Southern Professional Hockey League

The Southern Professional Hockey League (SPHL) is a professional ice hockey league based in Huntersville, North Carolina, with teams located primarily in the southeastern United States as well as Illinois and Indiana in the midwestern United States.

The Huntsville Havoc are the most recent President's Cup champions.

Sviblovo rail yard

The Sviblovo railyard (Coded as ТЧ-10 TCh-10, ТЧ for Тяговая Часть Tyagovaya Chast, "Tractive Part"), is a railyard on a branch of the Kaluzhsko-Rizhskaya line of the Moscow metro.

West Side Yard

The West Side Yard (officially the John D. Caemmerer West Side Yard) is a rail yard owned by the Metropolitan Transportation Authority on the west side of Manhattan in New York City. Used to store commuter rail trains operated by the Long Island Rail Road, the 26.17-acre (10.59 ha) yard sits between West 30th Street, West 33rd Street, 10th Avenue and 12th Avenue.

The yard includes storage tracks, a six-track indoor shop for light maintenance, a 12-car long platform for car cleaning, and lockers and a break room for employees. The yard sits at the north end of the High Line, a former elevated rail line used for freight service that has been converted into a park, and south of the truck marshalling yard used by the Jacob K. Javits Convention Center. It also sits above the 34th Street–Hudson Yards subway station, which opened in 2015.

Before the yard opened in 1987, trains arriving at Penn Station during the morning rush hour had to deadhead back to Long Island for midday storage. The West Side Yard also increased the LIRR's peak period capacity at Penn Station.

Railway track layouts
Running lines
Rail sidings
Track geometry
and track
and safety
and structures

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