With Cincinnati on the N&W planned, I turned my attention to planning structures for the HOn3 upper deck of my layout plans on the ‘Birch Creek Railroad’. This line, based on the prototype of the Mann’s Creek Railroad in West Virginia, along with some ideas of my own, will add the coal operations to my plans without that appearing on the N&W right now other than in the form of deliveries in Cincinnati.
Unlike the Cincinnati layout, this layout is intended to represent almost a whole railroad in 2’x11’. To do that, we’re going to have to deal with tracks running through scenes more than once, and focus attention on what we’re intending to be seen at any given moment as opposed to the whole railroad. The general plan is:
Town A – Lower right hand corner of the layout.
Town B – Located on the sector plate / hidden trackage and not modeled,
Town C – Located on the far left hand side of the layout with a sawmill, coke ovens, and town buildings.
Mines / Logging – Located as high up as possible with two mines and a spot for picking up logs.
Trains will operate A-B-C-Mines and back down.
With that general layout in mind, we’ll start looking at what will go where in Town A.
On the right hand side of Town A is a small 3 track ‘yard’. Two of these tracks will likely be used for an engine house, while the third track is an equipment storage track. From the yard, then, we move over to a run around track. The rear track here will have a location to unload hoppers that will conveyor coal and coke off the front of the layout and to the suggested connection to a standard gauge railroad (the N&W, likely in my case), Moving further to the left, there are 3 tracks a this end of Town A. The track nearest the front of the layout will have a transfer point for freight and a small station for people coming off the narrow gauge line to transfer to the implied standard gauge railroad. The middle track is the tail track for locomotives or equipment to use when unloading at the dump house. The third and most rearward track will reach over to an unloading spot for coal where that coal will then be loaded onto river barges. I have a beautiful river tug from Train Troll to build and this is the perfect location for that. Trains that are done working at Town A follow the mainline to the right side of the layout and disappear off the modeled portion to what I call Town B.
Town B is intended to be slightly larger than Town A, and will house the unmodeled car shops for the railroad, a yard presumably for sorting out cars, and some company houses. Trains will come to Town B, which is intended to be located on a sector plate, and then return to the modeled portion of the layout on the middle track in the drawing.
The ‘mainline’ of this layout entered from hidden Town B, and I had originally drawn in a truck dump not long after the track returned. As you can see from the attached photo, I’ve moved this and drawn in the track grade just straight. After some careful thought, I decided that switching on this grade was not necessarily a good idea. The mainline will climb, a 2 or 3% depending on locomotive testing outcomes) the whole length of that track section, arriving at a wye track and then crossing a small bridge over Birch Creek and entering Town C.
Town C will be up on top of some rather rugged cliffs that look down on the river below and Town A. At Town C we’ll have a station and freight unloading track, a sawmill, and a set of coke ovens fed by Mine 1 (unmodeled). Cars of coke can be then hauled from here to Town A for transport by the standard gauge railroad. At the moment the tracks are drawn in sort of like a paw, but remember, I’ve drawn this plan on a piece of 18” x 11’ paper and I have 6” of space to play with as things are laid out in their final positions, so some of the tracks may be longer in the final plan.
Town C will also have a small store, a handful of company houses, and if there’s room, a small church.
Leaving Town C, we head back to the right, and after crossing Birch Creek again, we take the rear fork of the wye and head up a little to the mines and logging area. Here we have a truck-dump for Mines 3 & 4 that are intended to be implied as being located further up the mountains. A track will also lead off to implied logging, so loaded log cars will be picked up and empties spotted on this line that disappears. The very end of the line at the far right, will have a set of bings for coal taken from Mine 1 & 5, again further up the hills but close enough that the unmodeled mine cars can reach the bins.
The railroad will use small locomotive power, likely a Class A Shay and eventually an 18 ton Climax. There will probably be a pair of boxcars, maybe a refrigerator car, one coach, and a couple of cabooses, two or three flat cars, a group of 6-8 log cars, and likely 10-15 hoppers to run this layout. Everything is intended to be small.
I plan to use magnets uncoupling, employing the Rapido Rail crew uncouplers, servo’s for turnout control, and touch-toggles along the fascia for operator input. With everything being small, and condensed, I want to try and limit reach-in for operators, especially since this is the upper deck and bumping into structures of scenery may happen.
I should point out a couple of small operational notes here. Nowhere on the plan have I indicated a coaling facility for the locomotives, nor have I indicated a water tank, or a sanding tower. Sand will be brought in bagged and can be loaded into locomotives by hand. That’ll be hauled to Town B where the shops are. Water will come via hose attached to the locomotive and dropped into Birch Creek. This was a common practice on some logging and other specialized railroads with Shay’s and other geared locomotives, I’ve seen it in prototype photos, and plan to make it part of the operations on this layout. I most likely will try and find wood-burner locomotives, allowing me to fuel the motive power from wood piles brought out of the woods. Any kind of coaling would be done at Town B if a coal-burner is procured.
With plans now made, and crystalizing, it’s time to move to the construction portion of this project to really get some trains running this year.