fiddle yards, traversers, sector plates and cassettes

Most modellers have far more rolling stock than they can fit on their layout. It is therefore necessary to devise ways of storing stock out of sight. It is also usual to operate trains that subsequently 'disappear' while new trains arrive. The most common solution is the fiddle yard. This is situated 'off scene' and is usually at the end of a layout or behind it, such as in the example below.

A fiddle yard may be no more than a series of loops or sidings, allowing the operator to select where to park and dispatch trains. As a general rule, this is the solution I prefer although there are additional costs associated with the pointwork, motors and wiring. Another downside is that for any given train length, much more space is needed to accommodate the point fan.

Other methods dispense with pointwork altogether.


The traverser solves the question of point costs and space but raises a whole bunch of new issues. It should be constructed in a rigid plywood box to minimise any chance of movement. The arrangement must slide easily so it is worth considering installing high performance drawer slides. It is essential to prevent the unit going slightly out of alignment and wedging solid.

The next thing you will have to do is to develop a method of locking the traverser in the correct positions. This becomes more and more critical as your track gauge become smaller. Below are two methods which may be useful.


You must also bring power to the traverser. I favour bringing wires to the tracks from under the table. This prevents any contact problems. If you are DCC, you can do this with just two wires. If you are still DC, you will have to bring separate leads to one rail of each track (the other rail can be common) and select which track you wish to energise with a selector switch.

Some have even built vertical traversers.   see here

sector tables

In many ways, an easier solution is the sector table. Here, one end is firmly attached so alignment issues are minimised. Below is a workmanlike arrangement although a heavy one, being built using MDF.

If a sector plate is pivoted at the centre, one then has effectively a long turntable which may be an excellent solution if you wish to turn your trains.



By leaving a shallow depression in your baseboard, you can run your trains into cassettes, pick them up and turn them around. Some even store their rolling stock in such devices. These can be built using plastic wire trunking for instance.

this is one way of transferring track power

and another

the cassette system of David Taylor

the cassette system of David Taylor

the cassette system of David Taylor


track joints

One of the problems with the first fiddle yard were the oblique angled track joints between the layout and the yard. The smallest variance would result in derailments and constant attention was needed to preserve alignment during running. When we built our new fiddle yard. the connecting tracks were removable lengths of track with right angled joints. The ends of the fixed track both on the layout and on the yard are soldered on to PCB board, (insulated by a saw cut).

The rails have 'mini bolts' soldered to them in 1.5mm brass tube and 1mm brass rod.