2020 Layout Design and Operations Meet

The Spaendahl Yamanee & Densum (SY&D) Railroad

Owner / Location / Website Crew Operating System Car Forwarding Layout Location
Steve Gillett
Tulsa, OK
3 Digitrax Color-coded switchlists, which require the operator to only identify the car's herald and color, but not the very small road number First floor bedroom


Construction on the SY&D began in the summer of 2015 and became operational in the summer of 2017. It is a three-level, E-shaped layout. The lower level (at 40" elevation) contains a 6-track, double ended staging yard. The yard tracks are between 16.5' and 18' long, each able to hold a 50+ foot long train and four engines. The main level is "E" shaped, with a dog boned double track main around the outer three sides and a peninsula in the center. All track is in place and scenery is 15% complete. Temporary buildings are in place (wood blocks) until the permanent structures are built.

The left side of the upper level contains a petroleum refinery next to a 6-track stub yard. The right side of the layout contains a town with three industries. The center peninsula contains an industrial park with 20 industries, all having rail service and needing switching.

There are two ramp-style helices that run around the back of the layout. Trains transition between staging and the main level using the two ramps, one rising clockwise (2.44% grade) and one rising counterclockwise (2.175% grade). Trains climb the grade 6" to the mezzanine level, then climb an additional 6" to the main level.

Operations on the SY&D

The SY&D Railroad is located in and around Mattoon, Illinois with a yard southwest of town. Trains running clockwise (CW) are moving northeast from Memphis, St. Louis or Kansas City through Mattoon and on to Chicago or Indianapolis.

There are three jobs on the layout: Yard master, who builds & blocks the local freight to Mattoon and GIP, swaps cars on two long freight trains, and switches the refinery. GIP switcher, who pulls and spots cars at the Gillett Industrial Park and runs the passenger train. Road Engineer, who brings at least two ~50 car freight trains from staging to the yard and back to staging, runs the local freight that delivers and picks up cars to/from the yard and Mattoon / GIP, and switches Mattoon.

About the railroad

The SY&D is very loosely based on Mattoon, Illinois, a central Illinois town in the period between 1955 and 1975. It operates in one of the three following scenarios:

  1. As the New York Central Railroad, running east /west through Mattoon between St. Louis and Indianapolis.
  2. As the Atchison, Topeka & Santa FeRailroad, where Mattoon becomes Galesburg, Ill and the ATSF runs through town northeast/southwest between Chicago and Kansas City.
  3. As the Illinois CentralRailroad, running north/south through Mattoon between Chicago and Memphis. In this scenario, other railroads are running on the IC tracks due to flooding of the Mississippi and Wabash rivers. Besides the IC (and the ICG), trains from other railroads are diverted to the IC tracks through Mattoon. These railroads include:
    • the Wabash (which normally runs north/south 12 miles west of Mattoon, and which also normally runs east/west 35 miles north of Mattoon).
    • the Rock Island (which normally runs west out of Chicago, then north/south).
    • the Monon (which normally runs north/south between Chicago and Louisville).
    • the Frisco (which, due to heavy drinking by the engineer and conductor, went east instead of west out of St. Louis)
    • the Nickel Plate (which normally runs northeast/southwest about 2 miles SE of Mattoon)
    • and on rare occasions, the Pennsylvania (which normally runs east/west 30 miles south of Mattoon and 15 miles north of Mattoon).

About the Town

Mattoon, Illinois is a real town, located in east-central Illinois. It was founded in 1855 as the westbound Terre Haute & Alton railroad and the southbound Illinois Central railroad were both racing to lay their tracks. The intersection of the two lines became the center of the new town.

The Terre Haute & Alton was absorbed by the Big Four railroad which was itself absorbed by the New York Central railroad. Both the Big Four/NYC and the IC had full maintenance and repair yards in Mattoon. There is no attempt to accurately model Mattoon. On the SY&D, the main line is sometimes the NYC and other times the IC. In fact, when the layout is in ATSF mode, Mattoon magically moves 175 miles northwest to the ATSF right-of-way and morphs into Galesburg, Ill.

The downtown section of Mattoon is representative of the north side of Broadway Ave. Kuehne Manufacturing and Blaw Knox were real industries in Mattoon. The Gillett Industrial Park (GIP) is fictional. In IC mode, the highway is representative of US 45, the heavily travelled, pre-interstate, main traffic artery between Chicago and New Orleans which parallels the IC tracks. In NYC mode, it is Illinois Route 16 which parallels the NYC tracks between Paris, IL and Hillsboro, IL.

Galesburg, Illinois is a town very much like Mattoon in history, size and age. It is located in northwest Illinois at the intersection of the east/west Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe and two north/south branches of the Chicago, Burlington & Quincy railroads. Both railroads had full maintenance and repairs yards in Galesburg. After a series of mergers, these two railroads became part of the present day BNSF, a railroad that still has a very large facility in Galesburg, including a 48 track hump yard.