I always enjoyed switching Inland Container in Biglerville, Pennsylvania.  I  decided early on to make such a facility the main industry on my industrial switching layout.  Thus my entire railroad is based upon this design element.  

Inland manufactures raw paper into various types of cardboard packaging material.  The manufacturing process is quite interesting.  Read more about Corrugated Cardboard Manufacturing and have a look at the video below.

Paper rolls arrive at Inland via a steady stream of boxcars.  Corn starch, an ingredient in the adhesive used in the manufacturing process, arrives in covered hoppers.  Finally, Inland reloads several empty boxcars per week with scrap paper to be recycled by the paper mills.

There's always a virtual kaleidoscope of boxcars at Inland.  Switching the plant is complex, despite the simple track arrangement.

Here is an AERIAL VIEW of the plant.

Track consists of a mainline, two storage sidings and two spurs serving the plant.  The storage tracks hold loaded cars off-spot until needed by the plant.  (Often one siding is used to store Inland cars and the other used to store corn syrup tank cars for another industry).

Here is a simplified schematic of the plant:

Looking south down the mainline.  Two storage tracks are at left.  The Upper Dock spur curves off the main and continues upgrade into the warehouse. 

A closer view of the upper dock (warehouse).  Note the boxcar spotted outside the door for scrap paper loading.

Looking northwest at the lower dock.


Up to four cars may be spotted at the lower dock and four more at the upper dock (inside the warehouse).  The plant typically unloads four to eight boxcars of paper per day. Often, one or more boxcars are only partially unloaded and need to be respotted.

The plant unloads one or two hoppers of starch each week.  Due to the location of the starch silo, the hoppers must be placed as the next-to-last car on the upper dock spur. These starch cars usually take two days to unload.

Finally, the plant reloads previously emptied boxcars with scrap paper.  These reloads are spotted on the upper dock spur, outside of the warehouse.  Inland will specify which empty car(s) are to be respotted for scrap loading.

Here are a couple video clips from our locomotive:

Inland is usually switched daily, and sometimes twice per day.  The plant often requests cars from the day's inbound interchange as well as off the storage tracks.  Crews will drill cars into spot-order using the storage tracks and main.  Once the spots are in order, crews will pull empties from the plant.  Lastly, the crew will spot the inbounds.  Switching can get complicated respotting partial loads back into the plant, respotting empties for scrap paper loading and digging specific cars off the storage tracks (classifying them for either the upper or lower dock).  

On some days Inland requests only cars from the inbound interchange.  Other days, all requested cars come off the storage tracks.  Most days it is a mix of both.  I suspect that Inland is really unloading the cars in date order based on when they were initially loaded and released from the paper mills.  With different mills across the country supplying Inland, boxcars show up on the interchange in very random order.  I believe that the seemingly random car spotting requests is Inland sorting the inbound loads by mill and date shipped.

My 1/48 scale Packaging Corporation of America plant captures most of the operational elements of Inland Container.  I'm having a ball operating the layout!  No two days are ever the same, just as on the 1:1.  You'll notice my layout has only one storage track to hold cars off-spot, instead of the two tracks on the prototype.  However, as mentioned previously, the second track at Biglerville is often used to store cars for other industries along the railroad.

For more information, see my OPERATIONS and VIRTUAL SWITCHING pages.


  1. Wow Jack, truly amazing and a wonderful industry to model! Love the box making video -- very informative! Glad I've discovered your site! :) Dave O

  2. Is that other industry (the corn syrup tank cars) the siding just south of the lower siding? I originally thought that siding was part of the paper plant.

  3. Thanks Dave!

    Krakowian: The corn syrup cars go to an industry located a few miles north at Aspers, PA.



  4. Does this mean another change of track plan?,
    because as you`ve said it would make an ideal industry. And from looking at your video`s and reading your text,there would seem to be enough traffic to justify building this as a small switching layout in it`s own right!.

  5. Hi Brian,

    No, I actually designed my layout around Inland Container from the beginning. The only real change I made recently was to include two separate spurs instead of the one long spur as originally designed. Best,


  6. Another great piece of info! If you keep this up most of the industries on my layout will be from you. I started on my version of Inland Container on my layout,

  7. Jack,
    Great stuff, very infomative. We are lucky that you are willing to take the time to do this!
    Can you get yourself assigned to the paper mill switcher one day? LoL
    What type of engine is that in the top pic? It looks like an old F unit.
    Thanks again!

  8. Nice blog Elbert, I like those building mock-ups. Looking forward to seeing more pictures of your layout!

    Thanks td. Yes, that's an ex Algoma Central F9:-)

  9. Hi Jack,

    Thank you for such a great site and inspiring some of us newbies... I was wondering about Inland and if they receive tank cars with caustic soda for the adhesive, or where I got that from I have no idea...been looking for info on the type of tank car needed for that opperation... I have a thread on Big Blue if you would like to see

  10. Thanks for the information! I am looking for cheap industrial containers in Seattle WA and you seem very informed. Is this the best place to get them?

  11. So sorry to hear you are moving on - but also appreciative of your time and commitment in even beginning this blog - wish you well with your future endeavors.

  12. Thanks for taking the time to discuss this,would you mind updating your blog with more information? It is extremely helpful for me.

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