Team Tracks – A Model Train Scene You Can Build

Team Tracks – A Model Train Scene You Can Build

Team tracks are small spur track used by one or more businesses to load and unload cargo from railroad cars. The businesses that are served by a team track may be very diverse in nature, but the one thing they all share in common is that none of them have direct service via railroads.

Two team tracks located at the train station of Amstetten, Lower Austria. Photo by Priwo. Photo released by author into public domain.

The term “team track” goes back to the earliest days of railroading. Freight from cars that were parked, or spotted, on these tracks was transferred to a wagon pulled by a team of horses or mules. The wagon team then pulled the loaded wagon to whatever business was the final destination for the freight.

In the modern world, team tracks are no longer served by wagon teams. And despite not being as common as they once were, you can still find team tracks in use all across North America, South America, Europe, Asia, Africa, and Australia. Basically, where there are railroads, there will be team tracks.

A map showing team tracks used by both BNSF and Union Pacific at the South East Missouri Regional Port Authority.

Team tracks are not hard to model at all. All you need is a short spur off of a mainline or branchline. The spur only needs to be long enough for one or two train cars at most. A ramp made of concrete, wood, or packed dirt is almost always present. This ramp facilitates loading and unloading. Workers don’t have to climb up and down, trucks can back up to it, and forklifts can drive up it. The top of the ramp should be even with the frame of the train cars it serves, so employees and forklifts can move from ramp to car with ease.

Unloading Single Door Freight Car 1707 at a team track, Texas & Pacific Railway Company. Photo by Robert Yarnall Richie. Low resolution image used courtesy DeGolyer Library, Southern Methodist University.

Team tracks are almost exclusively served by boxcars and flatcars. It is very uncommon to see a team track served by hoppers (covered or open) or tank cars. The types of industries or businesses served by team tracks can cover a wide range – furniture stores, hardware stores, farmers or farm implement dealerships lumber yards, scrap metal facilities, breweries, city governments, automobile dealerships, and so on.

If you want to model a team track, it’s very easy to do. You can scratch build or kitbash your own ramp if you have the inclination. If you aren’t up to the doing either, and you model in HO scale, Walther’s offers a Team Track Scene kit you can build. The kit includes “a Concrete End-of-Track Ramp, a Medium-Duty Overhead Gantry Crane, a Trackside Wooden Loading/Unloading Ramp, Hopper Unloader & Conveyor, plus a Clerk’s Office.”

Walther’s Team Track scene kit.

Whether scratch building or using a kit, adding a team track to your model train layout will add color, variety, and operational fun, no matter what time period or location you model.

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Robert Thomson

Robert W. Thomson is a life-long railfan, the son of a former L&N Railroad B&B gang foreman, and an amateur photographer. He was born and raised in southeast Tennessee but now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife, Connie and cat, Charlie. Robert has worked as a park ranger, underground mine tour guide, freelance roleplaying game writer, and ran his own roleplaying game publishing company until selling it in 2012.

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About The Author

Robert Thomson

Robert W. Thomson is a life-long railfan, the son of a former L&N Railroad B&B gang foreman, and an amateur photographer. He was born and raised in southeast Tennessee but now lives in Butte, Montana with his wife, Connie and cat, Charlie. Robert has worked as a park ranger, underground mine tour guide, freelance roleplaying game writer, and ran his own roleplaying game publishing company until selling it in 2012.