Tasha Oates updated December 21, 2010


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  • Chesapeake & Ohio: Circa June 1956 in HO Scale

    A Layout you can visit at the NMRA National Convention in Toronto, July 13-20, 2003

    By John Brown
    Model photos by Robert Schleicher

    John Brown is recreating the steam era on the Chesapeake and Ohio in 20 x 26 feet in HO scale. There's an index of all previous layouts based on prototype scenes on our website at www.railmodeljournal.com

    The date is June 1956. The C&O had an unexpected upswing in the movement of coal and merchandise that started in 1955 and carried on in 1956. This was the last year for steam on the C&O. Many 2-8-4 Kanawhas and 2-6-6-6 Alleghenys were taken off the dead lines and returned to service because there were not enough diesels to haul the unexpected increase in freight business. The 2-6-6-2 Mallets in mine service were in their last months of service as well. This time period allows me to run steam and first-generation diesels.

    This layout has the C&O mainline which is doubled-tracked for half the layout, with a branchline to the coal fields. The Virginian Railway joins the C&O branch line in Waynesburg, West Virginia and switches one of the coal mines alongside the C&O, which was a reality in and around the Beckley, West Virginia area.

    Also at Waynesburg, the Waubaushene Central, my freelanced railroad, connects with the C&O and the Virginian to carry on to the town of Port Alexander. At Port Alexander the car ferry is modeled after the ones that were used between Detroit, Michigan and Windsor, Ontario.

    The coal-mining town of Waynesburg was modeled after the town of DeHue, West Virginia, which until 1997 had two-story houses on one side of the street and single-story houses on the other side, with the C&O branchline from Rum Junction running between them.

    On the layout, Thurmond, West Virginia (near Beckley, West Virginia) will be as close as I can make it to the prototype with the exception of a couple of yard tracks and of course the length of the tracks in the town.

    Callow, West Virginia is a typical coal marshaling town were the empties are brought into town and sorted out for the coal mines down the branchline. Later, the loaded hoppers bring back the best of West Virginia's real estate ("black diamonds") to be marshaled into solid coal trains and sent on their way a to their destination.

    This layout was started in December 1994. I had completed the Port Alexander Ferry slip and yard as a modular layout that could be taken to shows. This portion of the layout is still modular and is still taken to shows once a year.

    The layout is all handlaid with homemade wood ties, code 100 on the mainline, and code 83 on the branch. All switches are also handlaid. The only flex track is in the hidden parts which I considered a waste of my good time handlaying. Benchwork is 1 x 2 framing with shelves beneath. The subroadbed is ½-inch plywood with ½-inch Homosote for roadbed. The trains are controlled by a Digitrax DCC system.

    The scenery is a bit of everything. Hardshell over screen and over plaster gauze. Styrofoam is used for some vertical mountain backgrounds. Woodland Scenics ground foam is used for ground cover. The tree background I s fiber fill made into little balls and glued to the hard shell or held in place with toothpicks in Styrofoam, then sprayed with contact glue. Finally, Woodland Scenics ground foam is spread on for ground cover.

    The layout is an around-the-room mainline double-tracked for approximately half the layout, with a single track section where space would not allow for the second track. At Thurmond and Meadow Creek, the tracks diverge from the mainline to form a branchline. Both of these branchlines meet at the town of Callow. A wye is formed with the branchline continuing on to the Town of Waynesburg and the end of the track at Port Alexander.

    Operation is by car card with a dispatcher who sits in the dining room away from the action. A list of trains is followed with empty coal trains running first to replenish the mines. There is a six-track staging area over the entrance door were trains start and finish their runs. This represents Hinton, West Virginia on one end and Russell, Kentucky on the opposite end. I also have two dead-end staging tracks, one under Callow that is a connection with the Clinchfield Railroad, which represents the Big Sandy Sub to Elkhorn City, Kentucky and another leaving Waynesburg that is the Virginian Railway destined for Pax and Mullens, West Virginia. Headsets are used to communicate with each other and the dispatcher.

    I am fortunate to have a good group of fellows who share my love for operation. At this time I have     yard operators at Callow, Thurmond and Port Alexander, a dispatcher, and four engineers. My crew consists of Duncan Jeens, Ron Kearsley, John Ferguson, Don Strathdee, Bill Garraway, Roger Hauka, Tom McCrea and Scott Reid. Ken Rowland and Ed Bernard are on the spare board.

    My layout will be on the Northlander tour at the 2003 NMRA Convention in Toronto, Ontario, Canada July 13-20, 2003.


    PHOTO 6: F7s 7092 and 7093 are beside the Hannan Coal tipple as a track supervisor roars past in his Fairmont speeder.

    PHOTO 14: The massive steel trestle was assembled from Micro Engineering kits.


    Article Details

    • Original Author John Brown
    • Source Railmodel Journal
    • Publication Date April 2003

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