Shunting Puzzles on Line

The virtual Dawson Station was a fun way for me to show you how my layout operates. I've taken it a bit farther so that you can try out other puzzles and layouts, right from the comfort of your own computer. Here is an evolving collection of the "classics", and those that have caught my interest enough to try out:

General Instructions:
Uncoupling: If black boxes appear on the track, those are magnet uncoupling locations, and you must stop the train with the coupler over them to unhook (couplers turn red). If there are no magnets visible, just click on the coupler to unhook a car. 
Turnouts: Click on the gray circle to move the turnout. They will not operate if blocked. They may also be linked with other turnouts.
Locations: A green dot appears on a car when it is in the correct place (or spot). Click on a car to see where it needs to be spotted.

    'h' - toggles stat display if you don't want the pressure.
    'n' - toggles car names.
    's' - shows spot locations (where to park the cars).
    'd' - shows debug information (for me!).
    '+/-' - scales in or out (only some layouts).
    Arrow keys will move the display layout (only some layouts).

Specific Puzzle Instructions:
Inglenook: My favorite, and the one Dawson Station is based on. Originally built by Alan Wright in 1978 on a 1' x 4' board. "5:3:3" refers to the capacities of the sidings. To complete the puzzle, build a train on the main (top) siding in the correct order shown by the colors. The cut-down versions require smaller consists, but also reduce the siding capacities. Dawson Station is more like the 3:2:2 "micro" version because the rolling stock is so long (60 ft for the gondolas and centerbeams).

Timesaver: This is the frustrating intriguing classic by John Allen. It will teach you about facing spurs, trailing spurs, and run-arounds. This one also uses magnets. Two inbound cars must be spotted, and two outbounds picked up. Click on a car to see where it goes. Add more cars for difficulty. Allen said, "eight are actually more interesting and more difficult". I've yet to complete the setup with more than seven. He also used two layouts together as a "team" exercise where cars were passed back and forth (future addition?).

Passing with a Spur: Straight from the pages of Carl Arendt's website is the classic passing puzzle, which is a lot harder than it looks: Can you get the blue train car past the one? The siding only holds one car. It is possible! Once you master that, add some cars. The same technique works for longer trains.

New Castle Industrial Railroad: This is a layout and setup designed by Jack Hill that I wanted to try out. He uses a waybill system, but you can do it by just clicking on the cars to see where they go. See his website for the instructions and background (there are some interesting considerations about loading and unloading cars). Designed by a real railroader for realistic operations. You can't beat that.


  1. Remarkably gripping to do once begun....

    I think these are 'set' in America, but Canada's the closest I've been to there - and even then, only for a few days in a lifetime.

    Scots by birth & so on, but often out in the Far East; Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Vietnam, Hong Kong & Singapore.

    Now, must build a real shunting layout. Scots, of course....

  2. Thank You.

    Finally I understand the Timesaver layout.

    Great Programming too.

    (An Englishman in Singapore)

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  4. I just completed the Timesaver with 8 cars after a couple of 7-car practice runs. Took me 13 minutes, I'm sure many people will be able to make better time. It's not that difficult, just takes a bit of forethought.

    One thing that would make the game extra challenging would be to add a (random?) blue flag to the tank car at the spot, requiring the player to be extra careful when pulling the in/outbound track.

    This is fun, now I want to build a physical Timesaver...

    Just a little bit of feedback regarding the applet: it would be really, really nice to have keyboard controls for the engine movement as well! Any three adjacent letters would do.

  5. 9 cars seems to be doable as well on the Timesaver. I feel 10 cars would either block the tracks outright or turn the running into an endless shuffle, but it might be interesting to give it a try, if it were possible...?

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  7. If you have an iPad, you could try "Andy's Trains". It's a shunting puzzle game which also have Timesaver like track layout (among lot of others)..