Queens Wharf Sector Plate

In my last couple of posts I’ve mentioned that the fiddle yard arrangements on my earlier layout Queens Wharf consisted of a “sector plate”. I figured it was probably time to post a little detail on this arrangement and perhaps discuss in detail why I went for the turntable I’ve been writing about over the last few weeks on Morpeth.

The first iteration of the fiddleyard on QW was a simple fan of points, what modellers in the US would call a stub yard. This was essentially two points or switches connected in line which provided 3 tracks for train storage: a long one, a medium length one and a useless short one. This was the arrangement that required me to lift my loco and place it at the front of the train every time I wanted to run a train back onto the layout.

The next step in development over this unsatisfactory arrangement was the sector plate with a separate loco release sector plate at one end. The roadbed I used on QW was 12mm mdf so in building the sector plate you can see in the photos I used two pieces of 6mm mdf: the bottom layer formed the stationary base and top layer was the part that moved left and right, allowing the various tracks to line up with the entry road. Using two thicknesses of mdf allowed me to incorporate a small lip in the swinging end helping to keep the roadbed flat.

The principle behind the design was that a train exits the scenic portion of the layout, the loco uncouples and enters the loco release plate, the loco runs around the train, the brake van is swapped to the back-end by hand, the loco couples up to its train again and then re-enters the scenic portion of the layout.


The sector plate works (technically) perfectly well. The system removed the need to lift and carry the loco from one end of the train to the other. The layout modules it was built on was no heavier than the earlier fan of points and it was robust and simple under demanding exhibition conditions.


It takes about 4 to 5 minutes to change the loco from one of the train to the other and this is just too long for the punters to wait for another train to enter the scene. I only had one loco at the time and thus couldn’t have one train onstage while the other was getting ready in the wings. Another problem was the plate only had three roads and if you’re going to run around your train you always need one to be free to release the loco. It needs a minimum of 4 tracks to be practical.

A failed experiment? No, I don’t think so. It was certainly a cheap, simple and effective way of designing a fiddle yard and more practical than the fan of points. With a little bit of planning and a modicum of organisation in terms of train movements it is a perfectly practical design for a small layout like QW.

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