The trackplan is deceptively simple, consisting of only two points and three sidings.

  As with most shunting puzzles, the length of the sidings is determined by the operating rules.

In the case of Inglenook Sidings, the longest siding holds 5 wagons, while the two others have a capacity of 3 wagons each.

The headshunt allows for the engine plus 3 wagons (when operating, a total of 8 wagons plus one engine will be used).



The resulting overall size of the layout is small by any standards, but can vary considerably as the actual length of the sidings is determined by the common length of the rolling stock to be used on the layout - the longer the rolling stock used, the longer the sidings will need to be.
The reduced space requirements of Alan Wright's original layout (1' x 4' / 30cm x 120cm) was achieved by using standard goods wagons of the British steam/diesel transition era which are comparatively short, the standard wheelbase measuring only 10'-0" (3m), giving a total length over buffers of 20'-6" (6,15m).

In 00 scale, this translates into goods wagons about 3,2" (8cm) long, meaning that a siding with a length of 20" (50cm) will easily hold the 5 pieces of rolling stock required to fit onto the longest of the three sidings on an Inglenook layout.


Modelling more modern freight operations (or a completely different prototype) as a general rule means longer rolling stock. In the UK, for instance, the ubiquitous VDA van of the 1980s and 1990s had the "modern standard" wheelbase of 20'-9", which scales down to a total model length over buffers of approx. 6" / 15cm in 00. Similarly, a 40ft North American boxcar translates into 6" (15 cm) in HO and 3" (7,5 cm) in N, whereas 50ft boxcars scale out at 7" (17,5 cm) in HO and 3,75" (9,25 cm) in N. Tank wagons and special purpose stock will also be of differing lengths.

Class 08 diesel shunter on the freight-only British prototype layout
Little Bazeley

  Obviously, and this will have to be reflected in the length of the tracks, and the longest type of rolling stock to be used will have to serve as the standard rolling stock length in order to define the length of the sidings, i.e. multiples of 5 and 3 thereof.

In the case of rolling stock of various length being used, an additional rule needs to be introduced in order to prevent chance constellations where it would in fact be possible to squeeze e.g. 6 wagons onto the 5 wagon siding

The choice of locomotive used will, of course, depend on the prototype being modelled, but small to medium sized shunters are a logical choice if you want to keep the layout short in overall length.

Most British layouts fitting the classic Inglenook dimensions seem to feature 0-6-0 tank steam engines or 0-6-0 diesel shunters, while the General Electric 44-ton four-axles switcher is a common favourite for US layouts.
However, neither the essence nor the functionality of the Inglenook Sidings concept calls for as small a layout as possible.

If space is available, North American prototype modellers might prefer to opt for more common motive power such as the GP7/9.

With longer locomotives and rolling stock the required length of the sidings can start to expand quite rapidly.

For example, an Inglenook layout depicting switching moves of the mechanical reefers used on Tropicana's "(orange) juice train" out of Florida would require a longer than 4' layout even in N scale as these reefers have a real life length of at least 57'.


In the early morning rain, N Scale Bangor & Aroostook GP7 #60 switches a yard somewhere in Northern Maine

On the other end, 40' (modernized) boxcars can look good on a North American switching puzzle that won't require an excessive amount of lateral space.
Another space-hungry but potentially very interesting Inglenook variation would be to shunt passenger coaching stock.



  An Inglenook Sidings layout will always be small in comparison to other types of layouts modelled in the same scale. But is it possible to go even smaller than the original concept and still maintain operating interest and have some challenging shunting moves to do? The answer is yes, but certain points need to be observed.

Carl Arendt, the late master of micro layout design, subjected the Inglenook formula to some practical testing and found that it can be cut down to one siding holding 3 cars and two sidings holding 2 cars each, which together with a 2 cars plus loco length headshunt will still provide operating interest when forming a three car train from a total of five cars randomly placed in the sidings.

This also illustrates just how flexible the Inglenook formula is: you can fiddle around with the track capacities, and you can alter the total number of freight cars on the layout, together with the number of cars to be assembled in order to set up the departing train.

Bob Hughes' N Scale San Vince de Rey (a tongue - in - cheek reference to the fact that this layout is actually built on a sandwich tray) works on such a 3-2-2 "minimal" Inglenook Sidings formula. Set in California, it portrays a small yard in Union Pacific territory. A micro layout by any standards, it can be kept virtually anywhere.

Even a "reduced" Inglenook layout offers an operational challenge and is fun to operate, even though the reduction in complexity of the shunting puzzle which results from such alterations is far more significant than most people would suspect:

  number of cars number of different
arrangements of cars
number of cars in
train to be made up
number of possible different
trains to be made up
Classic Inglenook 8 40,320 5 6,720
"Minimal Inglenook" 5 120 3 60

The reasons for this drop in complexity are explained in further detail on the shunting puzzles page, but the conclusion to be drawn from this is, perhaps, that from an operational challenge perspective it is better to stick with the original formula if at all possible. Opting for shorter rolling stock (e.g. 40' boxcars instead of 50' freight stock) usually helps - but then again, even a "minimal Inglenook" is better than no Inglenook...

One thing, however, which needs to be observed very strictly, is the capacity of the headshunt, i.e. the track leading up to the points. This needs to hold at least the loco plus the number of cars equivalent to the capacity of the two shorter sidings (i.e. 3 in the classic formula, 2 in the reduced formula). If this rule is ignored and the capacity of the headshunt reduced, there are a number of car arrangements which will actually prevent the loco from pulling out the last car from the long siding, turning it into a sitting duck.



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