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What Do I Need to Know About Rail Yards and Track Layouts?

Our attorneys break down rail yards and railroad track layouts.

Rail yards help with the storage, repair, classification, loading and unloading of rail cars. Railroad yards can vary from a simple rail yard that has a few tracks and can store a couple of rail cars, to massive rail yards that can service dozens of rail cars and provide storage for rail cars, locomotives, and other railroad equipment.

Rail yards are under all of the same state and federal regulations as a moving locomotive would be in transit. There are state and federal laws that mandate safety measures that must be adhered to otherwise there can be significant risk to the public and those who work for the railroad company.

In this article we'll explore rail yards and explain the moving parts that makes locomotive transportation tick.

Questions answered in this article:

  • What are the elements that compose of a rail yard?
  • What safety risks reside within a rail yard?
  • Why should I hire an attorney if I've been injured in a rail yard?

Breaking down rail yards:

A rail yard is the overall area that is used to store, load and unload, repair, and classify the different rail cars that it services. However, there are different yards within a rail yard where each of these activities take place. Most large rail yards that service the Class I Railroads will contain a freight yard, a classification yard, and receiving yard. Most large rail yards also have engine houses for refueling and car repair yards. Some rail yards may even include a coach yard if they are used to service passenger trains as well. Each yard type serves a specific purpose for the rail yard and they all work in conjunction to help the freight and cargo moving efficiently around the country.

A picture of a rail yard

The freight yard is where the freight trains are loaded and unloaded with its cargo. This part of the rail yard is managed through various switches that move the rail cars from one track to the next. A receiving yard is the area where the rail cars come in and are detached from the locomotive. In this area the rail car is inspected to see if any repairs are needed and regular maintenance may be performed in this area as well if the rail yard does not have a designated rail car repair yard. Once the rail car is inspected, it is sent further down the line to the classification yard. Classification yards are used to sort and classify the rail cars that are in the rail yard. The cars can be sorted and separated by rail company, destination or freight type.

Once sorted, the rail cars that should be connected together are connected and then prepared for the final destination.

Digging into railroad track layouts:

Rail yards can have one of two general layouts. The rail yard can be open on both ends and a train can come in at one end and exit at the other, or the rail yard can only have one opening without an exit. The open ended layout is more efficient and most rail yards utilize this layout. The rail yard will also have numbered tracks and they are accessed by utilizing a main track that only has switches leading to the different areas of the rail yard.

The car repair yards are typically at the far end of the rail yard and at a downward incline so rail cars needing repair can get to the area easier and still be out of the way of trains that are active on the main track. The other areas of the rail yard are all off the main track as well. The classification yard and other areas are accessed via the main track.

Finally, in the center of the rail yard is where the tower will usually be. The yard tower is typically where the office where the movements of the rail yard are controlled. The train master is the person tasked with maintaining the control and flow over the activity coming in and out of the rail yard, and usually works from the yard tower if the rail yard has one. Not all rail yards are laid out in this manner, and the layout is often determined by the size of the rail yard and the customers it services.

When should I hire an attorney?

Regardless of size and layout, rail yards are vital to the railroad and freight industries. Because of their importance to commerce in our country, rail yards are highly regulated areas. If the owners of the rail yards are not diligent in adhering to those regulations accidents and injuries can occur.

If you or a loved one has been injured in a rail yard, you're going need an attorney that has experience in the court room going up against big rail road companies. Rail road companies have had many, many years to perfect their legal strategy in the event of an accident caused by negligence, so you're going to need an attorney that won't back down.Give us a call: (855) 326-0000. If we don't win your case, you don't owe us a cent.

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