Build small, play big
BRIAN ROLLEY discusses how an inglenook-inspired track plan can maximise operation on the tiniest of layouts, and delves into the famed shunting puzzle’s history.
Brian Rolley explains how an inglenook can maximise operation on the smallest layouts, and delves into its history.
At face value, an ‘inglenook’ is little more than a small layout. But, delve into its construction and you’ll find a cleverly conceived track plan that packs almost limitless operational potential onto a baseboard the size of a bookshelf. In fact, inglenook layouts are so compact, a 4mm:1ft scale modeller can get by with eight wagons, two first radius points and a single shunting locomotive. The inglenook shunting puzzle can be traced back to an article by A.R. Walkley, published in the June 1926 edition of Model Railway News, in which he described his folding portable ‘HO’ scale model railway, which measured 6ft by 11in. The layout incorporated a goods yard comprising three sidings - a headshunt and short siding serving an engine shed. For almost 40 years, Walkley’s concept was forgotten. But, in the mid-1960s, a layout with a similar track plan appeared at a Manchester Model Railway Society Christmas dinner, where it sparked interest among the guests as a shunting puzzle. The now commonly used term ‘inglenook’ first featured in the December 1982 edition of Model Railways, where Alan Wright described his small three-siding shunting layout as ‘Inglenook Sidings’.
An inglenook track plan comprises just two points, three sidings, and a headshunt. The layout can be measured in regards to SLU, a railway term meaning Standard Length Unit - the length over buffers of a standard 12 ton van, or 21ft. The headshunt should be long enough to accommodate the shunting locomotive and three SLUS. Two of the sidings are long enough to hold three SLUS. Finally, the longest siding should hold five SLUS. This provides 11 possible places for wagons to stand and the puzzle should be operated using eight wagons and a single shunting locomotive.
Alan Wright enhanced the operating potential of ‘Inglenook Sidings’ in the form of a game. He assigned each wagon a tiddlywink. To begin, five tiddlywinks were drawn at random from a pot and laid out. The order in which the tiddlywinks were drawn dictated the order in which the corresponding five wagons were to be made up into a train on the longest siding. Once the train of five wagons had been shunted into the correct order, the game was completed; the tiddlywinks could be returned to the pot and the game restarted.