Inglenooks – An overview


This is a quick and dirty overview of the Inglenook track layout and how I apply it to layout designs. For a complete, unadulterated, in-depth, and mind-blowingly deep dive into the subject of switching puzzles, I urge you to visit

The inglenook track layout

Shown below is the track design for the Inglenook shunting (switching) puzzle. In reality, however, there are many locations around the world that use this exact track layout to serve passenger and freight facilities large and small.

Image 1: Inglenook Sidings Track Layout


From the plan above, you’ll note that there are two short sidings, of the same length (A), one longer siding (B) and the switching lead (C). Keep in mind that the Inglenook was designed as a game. And as such there are constraints as in all games should you wish to use it as such. However, you can use the track layout as you want during your regular operating sessions. Yet, when you just want to shunt (or switch) use it in the game manner too, changing nothing but the number of cars on the layout.

How it works

In the game version of the Inglenook, there is a maximum of 8 cars on the layout at any one time. This fills one of the A sidings and the B siding to capacity. You have to switch cars according to the order requested (usually represented by a set of cards with either pictures or car types printed on them) by using the remaining A siding and the C switching lead.

You’ll often see Inglenooks referred to as 3-2-2, 5-3-3 Inglenooks. The numbers simply mean the number of car lengths that can fit on sidings B-A-A. The classic Inglenook uses a 5-3-3 pattern.

To work through an example we’ll make siding A = 3 cars.

Siding ‘B’ becomes 2 times the number of cars on siding A, minus 1. In math terms: B = 2(A)-1.

The lead track length ‘L’ is equal to A plus the length of your longest locomotive. In math terms: L = A + L

The length of the layout

Here’s how I figure out how long a layout needs to be to fit the types of cars and locomotives I want to run. You’ll need four measurements:

  1. Measure the longest car on your layout. I use a 50′ 6″ boxcar as my standard car. Make sure to measure over the coupler faces. (We’ll call this length ‘X’)
  2. Measure the length (over coupler faces) of your longest locomotive (we’ll call this length ‘L’)
  3. Measure the overall length of your switch, use only the straight route (we’ll call this length ‘S’)
  4. Finally, you’ll need to divide the length ‘X’ (from step 1 above) in half to allow for clearance at converging tracks. We’ll add this to each siding as a 0.5 multiplier for the car length (the switching lead with three cars would then be 3.5 for example).

Next, there’s some simple multiplication and addition using the formula below:

Lead  (C) + Switch (S) + Siding B = minimum baseboard length

To determine each of the lengths for the formula above plug your length values into the formulas below:

  1. Lead Length (C) = 3.5(X) + L
  2. Switch Length = S
  3. Siding B length = 5.5(X)

The calculation now looks like this:

(3.5(X) + L) + S + (5.5(X)) = minimum baseboard length

Simply replace X, S and L lengths and use a calculator or your mobile phone to assist with the math.

Catering for clearance

  • I add a 1/2 car length (of my longest car) for clearance on each siding to ensure that 3 cars can fit without interfering with switching moves.
  • If you were using a double-ended (instead of the single-ended version above) you’d include a whole car length for clearance, since there’d be two switches on the track.


To find out everything you ever wanted to know about the Inglenook, other shunting/switching puzzles head over to the website.


Designing Small Operating layouts you can build since 2003

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