If you are interested to see what other modellers have made of the Inglenook Sidings concept - Google (or the web search tool you trust) is your friend and will most likely provide you with more than you will ever need or want; a search for Inglenook Sidings layout in March 2016 came up with 16,100 hits.

In browsing the web you will find that a good many modellers have actually stuck with the "classic" Inglenook formula - the geographical setting, the era, the amount of scenery and the level of detail will vary, but you will instantly recognize the three sidings setting. One of the main reasons for this is precisely that it is a proven formula - from an operational point of view there is no need to change anything. Plus: the track layout is so versatile that any individual creativity is best expressed in the setting and the surroundings.

Another really nice thing about the classic Inglenook Sidings formula is that it is so simple that you can actually set it up in no time as a temporary layout on a rainy Sunday afternoon (much the same way you would get out the Monopoly game board) using pieces of set-track (i.e. the "snap together" type that comes with any train set).

In the example shown on the right here I used Kato N gauge "Unitrack", which in this case has the advantage of offering track pieces with ready-installed Micro-Trains (Kadee for the larger scales) uncoupling magnets, which together with Micro-Trains freight cars and an Atlas GP9 with added MT couplers allows for hands-off coupling and uncoupling.

Five minutes to shake the box, set it all up and get the loco going, and presto, an instant shunting puzzle on your dining room table. No scenery, no frills, just pure shunting puzzle operation fun - and a quick and easy alternative to a fully scenicked Inglenook Sidings layout such as illustrated below.

Scenicked Little Bazeley (00 scale UK prototype) shunting puzzle based on Inglenook Sidings
(replaced in 2021 by its
Mk2 version)


click for larger images

And finally, the classic Inglenook Sidings layout is also available for virtual railroading in many incarnations - such as this early example by Terry Franks (TaF Web) who created a faithful reproduction for the railway simulation Trainz.

Click for larger images.

Screenshots are Terry Franks / Taf Web. Reproduced with kind permission.




Nevertheless, variations of the Inglenook Sidings layout do exist, and again - searching the world wide web will yield many examples of how modellers have taken the original formula and expanded on it.

Generally speaking, these layouts evolve the basic Inglenook scheme into something more complex, such as this early example taken from the June 1998 issue of Railway Modeller illustrates.

A mirror image of the original Inglenook Sidings trackplan is complemented by a single line serving a small seaside passenger terminus.

However, the increase in operating potential does not relate to the Inglenook shunting puzzle as the track leading into the platform is not connected to it.


Adding the possibility of running a passenger stock shuttle (preferably a short multiple-unit type, such as an EMU or DMU on a UK layout or an RDC on a US layout) from the left hand corner (where it disappears behind a row of low-relief buildings) to the terminus platform to the right adds visual appeal and interest and provides a dash of operational variety every now and then.
  The same set-up could be imagined when incorporating a classic Inglenook Sidings puzzle into a segmental or modular layout.

In this case shown here, the mainline again has no effect on the switching puzzle itself and only adds a certain visual interest with, possibly, the occasional freight train rumbling past (if the switching puzzle is integrated into a larger layout).

The combination of freight and passenger operations, separated in the layouts above, can however even be connected in a way which does add an additional momentum of operational interest to the shunting side of things.

This trackplan separates the shunting puzzle tracks and the passenger service shuttle track to a large extent, but not completely. The uppermost track of the shunting puzzle arrangement forms part of the main running line (a complication - and potential source for dangerous situations - usually avoided on the prototype, but not always possible to eliminate completely), which means that shunting moves may have to take into account the arrival or departure of a passenger train at the station platform and clear the line for this well in time.

There are several ways of introducing the effects of this complication. You can either limit the number of shunting moves (i.e. after 10 moves the uppermost "siding" must be cleared because a train is due for arrival or departure), or - if using a card or token system to select cars - you can introduce a special token/card which, when drawn in the process of determining the shunting order, rules that the uppermost siding must be cleared once (or even each time) the car which was drawn just before the special card/token is involved in a shunting move.

This operational complication is a bit like "chance" cards in a game of Monopoly and can at times add quite a bit of added headscratching to the process of solving an Inglenook Sidings shunting puzzle.

Another interesting variation which comes to mind is, of course, to combine the two classic shunting puzzles, i.e. Inglenook Sidings and the Timesaver.


Straightforward as this may sound, it's not that easy to come up with a really working combination. Paul Van Hove not only managed to do this with his N scale layout, he also gave the whole layout a credible industrial background: the Timesaver layout is a paper mill, and the Inglenook Sidings layout becomes a yard serving this paper mill.

Paul Van Hove, used with kind permission


This trackplan hints at the fact that an Inglenook shunting puzzle need not be small. As illustrated below, and if space permits, the addition of a marshalling (classification) yard can greatly increase the complexity and variation of the shunting and spotting orders to be generated from the layout:

The following shunting cycle illustrates the operational possibilities of such an "extended" Inglenook layout:

Obviously, the headshunt to the actual Inglenook Sidings layout could now in theory extend to the very limit at the right hand end of this layout. In order to maintain the restriction as per the original Inglenook rules, some virtual block needs to be introduced - this could be a street crossing which may not be traversed during shunting moves, or a signal set to red, or even a trackgang which will not clear the track unless the shunting moves really have been completed.

An intriguing and unusual variation of the Inglenook Sidings shunting puzzle was thought up and built by Andy Mitchell.

Intriguing, because it makes use of LEGO, the well-known hard plastic building blocks from Denmark, but doesn't actually go for the existing LEGO track and railway system. Instead, bits and pieces from the range of regular blocks are used to create a highly compact (495 x 185mm) and also very stylish "gameboard" which looks very much like a track schematic from a signal box.

The goods wagons as well as the locomotive in BR green which Andy devised and built out of more LEGO bits and pieces can then be set into the recess forming the track lines and moved in a way very much reminiscent of slot car racing.

It's also unusual because it not only combines two Inglenook Sidings back to back (which is why Andy calls it a Doublenook) but comes with a complete set of specially adapted rules and instructions - and even allows shunting crews to test their wits and planning foresight in increasingly complex situations, because although it can be played as a normal Inglenook using eight wagons on one side of the puzzle, there are two further levels for increased difficulty.

The second level is to form two trains of five wagons from all sixteen wagons on the board, one on each side of the board. This is likely to require moving wagons from one side of the board to the other one at a time by running the loco around using the loop in the centre of the board.

The third level increases the difficulty further as each wagon formed up into the two trains must first be loaded by visiting the loading tower. In this version an additional rule applies such that every wagon that visits the loading tower must be loaded, whether or not that wagon needs to be loaded or, indeed, has already been loaded. The loading tower, however, only contains ten loads.

Trains are randomised by drawing out blocks from a bag, each block having a colour scheme corresponding to the colour scheme of a wagon on the board.

This wonderful eye-catcher also shows how versatile the Inglenook Sidings puzzle is - it works just as well outside the boundaries of conventional railway modelling.


Andy Mitchell , used with kind permission



Back to the Model Railways Shunting Puzzles Website main page


Page created: 01/MAY/2001
Last revised: 29/DEC/2021