10 or so years ago, my friend Dennis and I were driving from the Sacramento area to Reno for a layout tour weekend, and we were discussing our modeling interests. I mentioned that I could “easily” be a narrow gauge modeler because I loved the small size of the trains, the narrow rails, and the scenery that many of the prototype narrow gauge lines ran through. Dennis remarked “maybe you should model the Yosemite Valley as if it had been narrow gauge and build in On30?”
No, we’re not changing scales. To spite the fact that I really enjoy watching videos of On3 and On30 layouts, and the fantastic work those folks do, there just isn’t room to go bigger in scale, and I’m comfortable in HO.
The Norfolk & Western actually purchased and operated a formerly narrow gauge line, the Cincinnati & Eastern Railway. (http://www.jjakucyk.com/transit/nw.html). I found that fascinating to find out while I was gathering resources on Cincinnati, and decided to see if there were any N&W narrow gauge lines or lines that connected to the N&W in West Virginia. I found two lines in West Virginia, the Twin Mountain & Potomac RR, and the Mann’s Creek RR.
I’ve resisted the narrow gauge “bug” for years. It’s not only the comment from Dennis that made me consider narrow gauge. I’ve ridden on several narrow gauge railroads, like the White Pass & Yukon in Alaska, and my favorite, the Roaring Camp & Big Trees in Felton, California with fond memories. I’ve researched the West Side, operated on at least one model railroad of that railroad, and enjoyed the experience. I’ve read about the Nevada County Narrow Gauge and watched segments about that on Sierra Short Lines Volume 2 DVD (https://www.amazon.com/Sierra-Shortlines-Yosemite-Valley-Railroad/dp/1909358266).
So, looking at railroads like the Twin Mountain & Potomac is a lot of fun. The TM&P was a fruit hauler, with 4-6-0’s, so that doesn’t really grab me and make me say “I need to model that”, though if you’re looking for a railroad that would be a great inspiration for an On30 railroad, it would be easy to build with some of the offerings from Bachmann. (Note: There is a great article on the TM&P in the Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine, from October, 2016. https://model-railroad-hobbyist.com/magazine/mrh2016-10-oct/lite-narrow)
On the other hand, the Mann’s Creek Railroad hauled coal and coke, along with lumber. While the prototype connected to the C&O at Sewell, West Virginia, the fact that it was hauling coal warranted more investigation. I located two books that discuss the Mann’s River Railroad, one on Sewell, WV and the other specifically on the railroad. With those in hand, I set out to find out if the home-built wood hoppers that appear to be a signature feature of the Mann’s Creek were available ever in HO scale, and was pleasantly surprised to find that they had been. After securing a copy of two in kit, I now plan to build them, and possibly scratch-build the other cars that I would need to operate a layout in styrene.
So, setting out once again with paper templates, I decided to find out if I could fit an operating HOn3 railroad, including a spot to trainload to a standard gauge line, at least 1 switch-back,, several spots to load coal, coke ovens, and logging.
Once again, using the 18” wide paper I cut another 11’ long section, knowing that if I draw to the edges, I have clearance to play with when actually building.
We’ll start on the right hand side of this plan, working at a small town that is located along a slow moving river and has a connection to the Norfolk & Western. There is, in the center, a run-around track. On the top portion of that track, a covered car-dump will be located to unload hoppers coming down the line and then conveyor the loads off the modeled portion of the layout to load standard gauge cars. To the left, there is a tail track in the center, the track closest to the front of the layout (bottom) will be used as a transload/transfer track with a small freight house most likely located here as well. The longer track toward the top will serve a small warf intended to load coal and coke onto river barges.
To the right side, a small area for an equipment storage track, and I drew in two potential tracks for an engine house. That may become one track, but we’ll see depending on locomotive procurement.
If you follow the tracks, you’ll see that the “mainline” leaves the layout to the right. This is intended to reach a sector-plate that will move the trains from the small yard/town onto the climbing mainline that runs from right to left, running through the center of the track plan.
As that mainline climbs, there is a spur that will include a truck-dump for loading one or two hoppers. The mainline will climb at a likely 3% to the left, where we reach a wye, and head across a bridge into the second small community modeled. Here there will again be a small freight station, a sawmill, and this is a likely location for some beehive coke ovens along with company houses for mine workers and their families.
Running back along the mainline and taking the wye to the top of the plan, the line will then reach a spur that is intended to have log cars spotted, with the insinuation that they are hauled further for loading. On the far right, we’ll probably locate a coal mine with room for loading as many hoppers as possible.
We still have to assign structure kits to specific locations, but that’s coming shortly. At the moment, we own 2 hoppers and that’s it, as far as rolling stock goes, and we’re on the hunt for a shay to power the line, but some HOn3 flex track has been ordered. Once we have the track, and get a locomotive, and get a few cars built, we can verify the grade to operate the layout, and then get building.
Oh…. And what space does this occupy?
The model of Cincinnati is 2×11, and the narrow gauge railroad is also 2×11, so they occupy the same space. They’ll stack. I’m considering, because there are two railroads with operators at them at the same time, building them mushroom style.
The next step is assign the structures to both layouts, and then get the benchwork adjusted and moving.