Chapter: Civil : Railway Airport Harbour Engineering : Railway Engineering : Railway Stations and Yards

Types of Railway Yards

Types of Railway Yards
A yard is a system of tracks laid out to deal with the passenger as well as goods traffic being handled by the railways. This includes receipt and dispatch of trains apart from stabling, sorting, marshalling, and other such functions. Yards are normally classified into the following categories.

Types of Yards


A yard is a system of tracks laid out to deal with the passenger as well as goods traffic being handled by the railways. This includes receipt and dispatch of trains apart from stabling, sorting, marshalling, and other such functions. Yards are normally classified into the following categories.


Coaching yard


The main function of a coaching yard is to deal with the reception and dispatch of passenger trains. Depending upon the volume of traffic, this yard provides facilities such as watering and fuelling of engines, washing of rakes, examination of coaches, charging of batteries, and trans-shipment of passengers.


Goods yard


A goods yard provides facilities for the reception, stabling, loading, unloading, and dispatch of goods wagons. Most goods yards deal with a full train load of wagons. No sorting, marshalling, and reforming is done at goods yards except in the case of 'sick' wagons or a few wagons booked for that particular station. Separate goods sidings are provided with the platforms for the loading and unloading of the goods being handled at that station.


Marshalling yard


A goods yard which deals with the sorting of goods wagons to form new goods trains is called a marshalling yard. This is discussed in detail in Section 26.8.1.


Locomotive yard


This is the yard which houses the locomotive. Facilities for watering, fuelling, examining locomotives, repairing, etc., are provided in this yard. The yard layout is designed depending upon the number of locomotives required to be housed in the locomotive shed. The facilities are so arranged that a requisite number of locomotives are serviced simultaneously and are readily available for hauling the trains. Such yards should have adequate space for storing fuel. The water supply should be adequate for washing the locomotives and servicing them.


Sick line yard


Whenever a wagon or coach becomes defective, it is marked 'sick' and taken to sick lines. This yard deals with such sick wagons. Adequate facilities are provided for the repair of coaches and wagons, which include examination pits, crane arrangements, train examiner's office and workshop, etc. A good stock of spare parts should also be available with the TXR (train examiner) for repairing defective rolling stock.


1 Marshalling Yard

The marshalling yard (Fig. 26.14) is a yard where goods trains are received and sorted out, and new trains are formed and finally dispatched to various destinations.

This yard receives loaded as well as empty goods wagons from different stations for further booking to different destinations. These wagons are separated, sorted out, properly marshalled, and finally dispatched bearing full trainloads to various destinations. The marshalling of trains is so done that the wagons can be conveniently detached without much shunting en route at wayside stations.




A marshalling yard serves the following functions at the specified locations within the yard itself.


Reception of trains Trains are received in the reception yards with the help of various lines.


Sorting of trains Trains are normally sorted with the help of a hump with a shunting neck and sorting sidings.


Departure of trains Trains depart from departure yards where various lines are provided for this very purpose. Separate yards may be provided to deal with up and down traffic as well as through trains, which need not be sorted out.


Principles of design


A marshalling yard should be so designed that there is minimum detention of wagons in the yard and as such sorting can be done as quickly as possible. These yards should be provided with the necessary facilities such as a long shunting neck, properly designed hump, braking arrangement in the shape of mechanical retarders, etc., depending upon the volume of traffic. The following points should be kept in mind when designing a marshalling yard.


(a)  Through traffic should be received and dispatched as expeditiously as possible. Any idle time should be avoided.


(b) There should be a unidirectional movement of the wagons as far as possible.


(c)  There should be no conflicting movement of wagons and engines in the various parts of the yard.


(d) The leads that permit the movement of wagons and train engines should be kept as short as possible.


(e)  The marshalling yard should be well lighted.


(f)  There should be adequate scope for the further expansion of the marshalling yard.




Marshalling yards can be classified into three main categories, namely, flat yards, gravitation yards, and hump yards. This classification is based on the method of shunting used in the marshalling yard.


Flat yard In this type of yard, all the tracks are laid almost level and the wagons are relocated for sorting, etc., with the help of an engine. This method is costly, as it involves frequent shunting, which requires the constant use of locomotive power. The time required is also more as the engine has to traverse the same distance twice, first to carry the wagons to the place where they are to be sorted and then to return idle to the yard. This arrangement, therefore, is adopted when


(a)  there is limitation of space,


(b) there is a severe limitation of funds, or


(c)  the number of wagons dealt with by the marshalling yard is very low.


Gravitation yard In this yard, the level of the natural ground is such that it is possible to lay some tracks at a gradient. The tracks are so laid that the wagons move to the siding assigned for the purpose of sorting by the action of gravity. Sometimes, shunting is done with the help of gravity assisted by engine power. However, it is very seldom that natural ground levels are so well suited for gravitation yards.


Hump yard In this yard, an artificial hump is created by means of proper earthwork. The wagons are pushed up to the summit of the hump with the help of an engine from where they slide down and reach the sidings under the effect of gravity. A hump yard, therefore, can be said to be a gravitation yard as shunting is done under the effect of gravity. The gradients normally adopted in this regard are listed in Table 26.3. These are, however, only recommended gradients and the final gradient for a particular yard is decided after a test run of the trains over the humps, taking into consideration the rolling quality of different types of wagons and the spacing between successive groups of wagons. The topography of the location of the yard also plays an important role in deciding the gradient.


Table 26.3   Gradients in marshalling yards

Regulation of speeds in hump yards The speed of the wagons is regulated to ensure that they are kept in a stable condition in the siding where they are to be sorted, so that there is least damage to them. The regulation of speed is done as follows.

Mechanical method In this method, wagons are slowed down automatically with the help of 'retarders' (Fig. 26.15). Retarders' normally in the shape of bars fixed on either side of the track, operate electrically or electromechanically and offer resistance to the movement of wagons by pressing against the sides of the moving wheels. This finally stops the wagons at the appropriate place. Such mechanical retarders are used extensively in Germany and on other developed railways.

Non-mechanical yard In a non-mechanical yard, the speed of the wagon is regulated manually with the help of hand brakes or skids. A shunting porter runs alongside the wagons and applies a hand brake to the wagon at an appropriate place, making the wagon slip and stop. Skids are also used to slow down the wagons. Skids are placed on the track; they get dragged by the rolling wagon and the friction thus developed reduces the speed of the wagon and stops it at the desired location.


Design of various constituents


The design details of the various components of a marshalling yard are discussed below.


Spacing of marshalling yards This depends upon the average distance that a long-distance train can go. If the lead is 500 km and the section train can go up to 100 km, the approved spacing of a marshalling yard is 400 km.

Siting of marshalling yard A marshalling yard is normally sited at a junction point, a depot yard to a group of collieries, a feeder yard for a big terminal point, or a steel plant, etc.


Reception yard The number of lines to be included in a reception yard depends upon the number of trains to be received and on the frequency of their arrival. Normally one reception line is provided for every three to four trains. The approved length of a siding is normally 700 m for BG and 650 m for MG.


Shunting neck The length of the shunting neck should be longer than the longest train.


Hump  The hump should be designed to meet the following objectives.


(a)  It should be such that even the wagon whose movements are affected the worst by the most adverse weather conditions can clear the fouling mark, when sent to the outermost siding.


(b) It should be such that a successive group of wagons are separated from each other to the extent that it enables the point between them to be operated upon so that the wagons can be sent to various sidings.


(c)  The hump should be such that the speed of the wagons is so regulated that there is no damage to the wagons when they bump against each other in the sorting lines. The figures given in Table 26.4 can be taken as a rough guide for choosing the design of the humps.


Table 26.4   Design of humps

Sorting yard The number of lines to be included in the sorting yard depends upon the number of destinations for which the trains are to be assembled. The length of each sorting line is about 15 to 20% more than that of a normal train so that there is provision of some space behind the wagons. The layout of the sorting yard may be of the ladder or the balloon type. The speed of the wagons is controlled by hand brakes while the skids and the mechanical retarders are controlled by manual and mechanical means, respectively.


Departure yard The number of lines to be included in a departure yard depends upon the number of trains proposed to be dispatched from the yard and on the frequency of their departure. Some engineers feel that there is no need for a separate dispatching yard because it unnecessarily increases the length of the marshalling yard. According to them, trains should be dispatched straight from the sorting lines. This arrangement, however, runs into problems if the departure of the trains is delayed on account of operational reasons.

The pattern of transportation of goods traffic has changed drastically in the recent past. Now, most goods traffic is carried as trainloads from point to point. The loading of piecemeal wagons has also been drastically reduced. Consequently, the need and importance of goods marshalling yards has reduced considerably.

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