The Vinson Lead – small and simple V 1.0


A while back I wrote a complete overview of the Vinson (Bergstrom) Lead in South Austin, Texas and you can read all about the lead here. Being a small layout lover I wondered if there were any areas on the lead that might provide a layout for someone with a small space yet retain great operating potential. Below is the idea I sketched up.


Location details

Near Drossett Drive in South Austin, a sub-branch comes off the Vinson (Bergstrom) Industrial lead.  A trailing switch it is just before the next grade crossing where Promontory Point Drive butts onto Burleson Road. This sub-branch swings away from the Bergstrom Lead on a tight curve and heads due west. There are several larger customers on this sub-branch.

In the small space that I had envisioned two particular industries popped out at me as worthwhile for modelling in a small space. You could use any two industries that you want. I like the two industries chosen because of the openness and balance they provide to the visual style of the layout. It is Texas after all and things are spread out here, not all bunched together. Also all of the traffic is boxcars in and out; have I mentioned that I love boxcars.

The Industries

1 – Budweiser Distributor

Shown at the bottom of the drawing above as a building flat the industry comes off the sub-branch about 50 metres in from the switch to the Lead on the southern side. The sub-branch itself continues along the edge of the local Budweiser Distributor before disappearing off stage and onto other areas of the sub-branch.

The industry is basically very simple with a concrete ramp with a loading dock. Used for unloading palletised loads of kegs and reloading empties for return to the nearest brewery, I never did see this industry’s rail siding in use during my time working in South Austin (1998 – 2000).

2 – Unknown Industry (make one up – I would!)

A further 10 metres along on the north side of the track another switch serves a tilt-up concrete building with 6 external doors. As of 2015 there is no one in the building but the front of the building has truck docks so this could have been a distribution centre of some form or another. There used to be what looked like paper boxcars spotted there during the late 1990s and early 2000s. I think that this may have been a school book distribution building during that time. In addition the track into this site drops below the grade of the sub-branch which I always think is a nice touch.

The design idea

The layout is designed to fit in a very small space. I wanted plenty of operations potential while ensuring that the layout would be small and unobtrusive when not in use. That suggests making this layout as a furniture finish piece to sit on top of something else. Living on bookshelves with a detachable fiddle yard might be one idea that could fit for you.

The line was worked to this point as a single track with the loco leading in from the main. Further along the line a simple run around was used to put the loco back in front for operations back to New Braunfels yard. So for the section modelled in this idea we are working the layout in prototype form.

You’ll note that the track layout is in effect a straightforward Inglenook design. There are some additional ‘bits’ that make this design quite useful for those ‘starved’ of space and who really want to switch trains. There are two (2) tail tracks providing scope to complete whatever work you might need to do while switching. The first is the Lead itself (the straight up and down track above the switch). The second is in the track between the Lead switch and the first industry switch which allows some minor work to be done ordering cars should the centre track between the two industries already be occupied.



A train has arrived on the lead to switch the two industries. On arrival the centre track is empty. Both industry spurs have cars needing be pulled, with others spotted from the incoming train. Let’s have a look at how I would switch the layout.

Suggested operating session

This might run as follows depending on era and your car forwarding system:

  1. The loco cuts off the incoming cars,
  2. Moving past the switch, the brakeman throws the switch over to allow a run down the sub-branch to the industries,
  3. The loco reverses up to the industries, pulling cars as required,
  4. Any cars to be left at an industry must be cut out from the other cars at this time and set back into their spurs until the incoming cars are ready for switching,
  5. With the outbound cars assembled on the centre track, the brakeman applies the handbrakes, bleeds off the air brakes and cuts off the loco,
  6. The loco then moves back through the switch to the Lead,
  7. The brakeman throws over the switch and the loco reverses onto the incoming cars,
  8. The brakeman makes the train pipe connections, walks back toward the loco while the air is pumped into the brake system,
  9. The crew now have a choice to make on how to proceed:
    1. They can use the lead into the sub-branch and the tail track on the lead to block cars for the industries, or
    2. They can switch (cherry pick) cars from the incoming cut if they are not blocked in customer order (readers should note that either way would work) ,
  10. The loco now has to rearrange the industry spurs with new cars to their spots and any currently unloading cars back to their original spot(s),
  11. With all switching completed, and all incoming cars spotted the loco moves back onto the sub-branch clear of the switches while the brakeman aligns all the switches to allow access to the centre road,
  12. The brakeman jumps on the loco and rides as it backs onto the outbound cars, before coupling up on the centre track, making the train pipe connections between cars, and walking back toward the loco while the air is pumped into the brake system
  13. The train crew now moves their train forward and onto the lead, the brakeman clearing the loco at the switch,
  14. The brakeman throws the switch points over from the sub-branch to the lead and the train readies itself for any other switching activities along the Vinson Lead

This ends the operating session.


I hope that you can see the flexibility in the operating scheme here. You do not have to completely follow the Inglenook operating scheme, that is make a 5 car train from those cars already on the layout. Depending on the car forwarding scheme in use (car cards, car forwarding system, or other random chance contraption) you can use fewer, or far fewer inbound and outbound cars to simulate the everyday switching operations on a layout based on this scheme. I hope you enjoy this layout idea. I hope you build this layout idea. If you do let me know. It would be great to see how you’ve used this idea and added your own spin to it.

Regards – Andrew Martin – Owner


Designing Small Operating layouts you can build since 2003

%d bloggers like this: