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Model Train Resource: Online Videos of Model Railroad Timesaver Layouts

Updated on June 3, 2018
John Allen's Original Timesaver Layout. Numbers represent the number of cars, including an engine, that a siding can hold. For example, a "3" siding can hold two cars and one locomotive.
John Allen's Original Timesaver Layout. Numbers represent the number of cars, including an engine, that a siding can hold. For example, a "3" siding can hold two cars and one locomotive. | Source

© 2011 by Aurelio Locsin

Railroad great John Allen created the Timesaver layout as an easy-to-build puzzle. The objective was to randomly assign cars to different sidings and then to complete the switching in either the fewest moves or the shortest time possible. John planned the original puzzle to hold five 40-foot freight cars and one switcher. Countless others since, such as those in the videos below, have ranged from bare track to highly-scenicked dioramas. Check the Model Railways Shunting Puzzles Website for more basics on timesaver layouts.

Dennis Pearson's G-Scale Timesaver

Proving that timesaver layouts work in any scale, this enormous G-scale example was built by Dennis Pearson, president of the San Louis Obispo Model Railroad Association. The pike contains the requisite five cars and switcher. Watch as Dennis solves the 15-minute long puzzle in just under nine minutes. The pike appears frequently in local shows, allowing visitors to try their hand at switching.

Claverton Engineering

I'm not sure what 0-16.5mm is, but that is the scale used by Claverton Engineering, a British narrow-gauge industrial railway serving electrical and engineering industries. Paul Burkitt Gray hand-laid all the track using strips of limewood and Peco Code 81 rail. He bent track for the curves and points using the KBscale rail bender, with some bending by hand. (KBscale is a UK producer of equipment for O14 scale.) The buildings are planned with Virtual Sketchup and scratch-built from foamcore clad with vacuum-formed brick plastic sheets.

Sweetwater Club NTRAK Timesaver

This beautifully detailed N-scale urban timesaver sits behind the mainline rails of an N-TRAK module. The small scale allows easy, slow runs across long lines of track. I know nothing about the Sweetwater Club that created the module, other than that they also have a video of the expensive N-Scale Brawa operating container crane. So if anyone has any information, such as their website, please add it to the Comments below.

MGB Model Railroad Club HO Timesaver

The MGB Model Railroad Club use Digitrax DCC controls on their main layout in Pratville, Alabama. But I don't know if they use that system on their HO scale timesaver shown here. The club also indulges in train-watching. They detail all their activities, complete with pictures and videos, on their website.

Riverside Yard: Skowhegan and Athens

This last example isn't a video. But by now, you may be wondering how difficult is it to actually solve a timesaver puzzle. The Skowhegan and Athens is an online Flash timesaver that lets you answer that question by performing the moves yourself! You can operate it as follows.

  1. Using Internet Explorer (it won't work with Firefox), browse the Operating Instructions Page so you know how to play the game.
  2. Click S&ARR on the left menu to get to the layout. Alternatively, you can also click this S&ARR link.
  3. Try the puzzle out.

You can also browse the rest of the website to see information on four layouts, one of which is the model version of the S&ARR timesaver.



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    • profile image

      Brett Scott 

      9 years ago

      The MGB Model Railroad Club does indeed use Digitrax DCC on their Timesaver Layout.

    • profile image


      9 years ago

      O-16.5 is the British equivalent to On30.. 7mm-ft on HO (16.5mm) track..

      Hope this helps!

    • Slave2No1 profile image


      9 years ago from Oneida, NY

      Actually, any plan re-done in a scale half the size of the original, packs nearly 4 times the model railroading into the same space. (A good 3X+ usually) Of course, this can depend on the scale you end up with and the necessity to keep the minimum aisle-ways the same size, if there are any. Mathematically, an 6 x 12 in HO is (approx.) 3 x 6 in N, which is 1/4 the area. Note: It's a lot easier to scale-down an HO plan to N-scale than it is your own girth. LOL!

    • profile image

      Casey J. Winters 

      9 years ago

      Thanks for sharing your hub! For some reason it's easy to be passionate about miniscule things (as in model trains). They are just so cool and detail oriented. So many possibilities as well! Well done.

    • alocsin profile imageAUTHOR

      Aurelio Locsin 

      9 years ago from Orange County, CA

      Thanks for pointing that out, Andy. I did not know of that worthwhile distinction.

    • profile image

      Andy Jackson 

      9 years ago

      There is only one true "siding" in John Allen's Time Saver plan (in the middle). The places where cars are spotted are all "spurs". Most Model RRers use the terms interchangeably. But after working around the real RRs learned the difference real FAST! LOL

    • b. Malin profile image

      b. Malin 

      9 years ago

      Alocsin, You always write such Interesting and Informative Hubs. I so enjoyed this one, along with the Wonderful Videos that you provided. As a child, even though I was a girl, my father brought me a small set of Model trains.


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