Links to Model Railroads with Zigzags (Switchbacks) , Bo Justusson

  Small layouts   -   Large layouts   -   Virtual reality



Zigzags (or switchbacks) have been used in some small layouts to connect a lower main station to an upper station with a mine, logging site or industrial plant. The first three examples below are presented in Carl Arendt's website for Micro layouts ( Together with over 150(!) other micro layouts.
Gum Stump & Snowshoe An early example is Gum Stump & Snowshoe RR by Chuck Yungkurth described in the September 1963 issue of Model Railroader. This layout has often been imitated, especially in exhibition layouts. (Drawing by Carl Arendt).
Magic Fingers Mine Magic Fingers Mine is an ore-mining railway that uses a switchback to climb the hill to a mine. The layout is intended for 16.5 mm gauge (HO, On30 or Gn15) in 1x4 feet (30x120 cm).
Matson's Landing Matson's Landing is two 48"x9" micro layouts placed back to back. It uses a switchback to bring the logs down from the landing up in the woods to the spot where they are dumped in the river to float down to the sawmill. It is designed for HO scale. Total size 48"x18" (120x45 cm).
Vandalia Short Line Vandalia Short Line a switching layout inspired by Gum Stump & Snowshoe but considerably larger 1.5x10 feet (45x300 cm).

Large layouts

In large layouts switchbacks are sometimes used for a branchline up a steep mountain side to a mine or logging site. Several railroad clubs have a section or module for a switchback line, especially in USA. Here some examples I have found by searching the Internet.
Avalon Road Avalon Road. A large club layout built with N-scale modules. Their Cerro Azul RR module has a branch line with several switchbacks up to a mine. It runs a Shay type locomotive. Size 2x4 feet (60x120 cm). You find it under their "System Map" and "Design Notes". This module is described in the book "101 Trackplans" by Linn H. Wescott (plan 47).
Jewel River Jewel River Railroad by Laurencs Wyman. The link is to his interesting description of the evolution of his trackplan, which contains a long branch line with switchbacks.
Trinity NTrak Mike McCasland's module at TNT (Trinity N-Trak). Photos of an 8 feet (240 cm) NTRAK module with switchback up a very high mountain.

Virtual reality

Train simulators and 3D CAD software has started a new trend for railway fans. One can run trains in computer generated scenery or build very accurate 3D computer models and run virtual trains in them.
Train Simulator Microsoft's Train Simulator contains sceneries from several real railway lines. One of them with switchback system and loops; The mountaineous Hisatsu (or Hisatu) line on Japan's southern island of Kyushu.  Microsofts press release 2001.
  - Photos from Hisatu line (the real one). The website is in Japanese and shows a set of beautiful pictures with cherry-blossom.
  - Image #hi-05 shows a switchback.
CAD Railways Willamette Junction Railroad by George Smith. Plans for a large layout with switchback up to "Silverton Iron Mine". Made with Cadrail 7.1 from Sandia Software. George spent 150 hours to create his 3D model!
  - Description and images

Zigzag Railways - Start Page

Last updated 21 January 2003