Christopher Brimley updated October 4, 2011


Christopher Brimley's Tags


Browse Articles » Layout Tours Text View Magazine View

  • Bridge Line Operations on the Virginia Southern

    by Larry Puckett

    photos by the author

    Moccasin Gap is the site of a small industrial area served by locals from the large yard there.
    Model Railroading - January 2002 - Page 36 Model Railroading - January 2002 - Page 37

    How many times have you heard the story - boy gets American Flyer train set for Christmas and falls in love with trains; teenager discovers girls, cars or sports and falls in love with one or more of them; finally man rediscovers his trains and gets his priorities straight? Well now you can add Jerry Shepardson to the list as well. In addition to his drift in focus over the years Jerry also went through a shift in scale, first from American Flyer equipment to N scale during the late 1960s, then about five years ago when he moved into HO scale. Although Jerry attributes a general lack of acceptable N-scale steam locos to this last shift in scale, the move from a house with the layout in the dining room to one where he had access to a 33' x 29' basement probably didn't hurt.

    Why the focus on steam? Well, Jerry lived in Ohio prior to moving to North Carolina, and an uncle in Columbus shared his interest in the N&W steam era. Once he moved south of the Mason-Dixon Line, Jerry developed an interest in the Southern Railway as well, especially the passenger diesels in their fancy post-war livery. Although pushing the boundaries of the time period during which those fancy paint schemes were used (pre-1950) Jerry chose to model the 1950-'53 era, though now he may shift this back a couple years to be prototypically correct. This time period justifies the mixture of Southern diesels a long with N&W steam. Although Jerry attempts to maintain accuracy with his locos, rolling stock and buildings, he hasn't carried that over to modeling a prototypical geographic area.


    In looking for a location where the Southern and the N&W could operate together, Jerry decided on a generic, freelanced line, the Virginia Southern, in the Bristol-Norton Virginia area. The Virginia Southern, is jointly owned by the Southern and the N&W and functions as a bridge route between the coal fields in southwestern Virginia and Southerns mainline connection at Bristol. This type of arrangement was not uncommon in the Southeast during that time period. His current thinking is to have Southern passenger (including The Tennessean) and through freights along side N&W passenger, coal and local freight operations. To increase operating and modeling potential Jerry also has included an interchange with the Clinchfield and is developing trackage rights for the L&N and the Interstate. To fill out the operations there will be a logging branch as well after all, what model railroader can resist that Bachmann Shay?

    The large twin span bridge over the Clinch River is a great place to watch N&W streamlined K2 4-8-2 locos pulling matched sets of Tuscan passenger cars. Water under the bridge consists of Envirotex resin while the bridge itself is from Central Valley.
    Model Railroading - January 2002 - Page 38

    The Layout

    Overall, the layout room appears fairly large at 33' x 29'. However, that also includes a workshop, staircase, computer work area, bathroom and a crew lounge. Presently, all of the benchwork for the layout has been built and consists of substantial open-frame around-the-wall construction. By substantial I mean that it looks like you could have a party up there without any danger of collapse. Basically, most of the framing is attached to wall joists, and the horizontal framing provides a bench top about 30" wide everywhere except by the C linch River Crossing, where it pinches down to about 18" wide. This 30" depth was chosen to allow operators to reach the manually operated Caboose Industries ground throws used to activate turnouts. Basically the layout follows the tried-and-true water-wings design with dual mainlines running the length of the layout with reverse loops at each end. This design provides a fast and convenient way to turn trains at each end of a run and allows continuous running for open houses and train watching.

    The area from the yard at Moccasin Gap to Big Stone Gap has been scenicked and industries developed. Currently, work is progressing on completing a coal mine near Norton to provide products for all those N&W coal drags Jerry dreams of. Scenery consists of plaster over chicken wire supported by cardboard strip frames. Woodland Scenics foam products are used for the final scenic details. With the emphasis on smooth, reliable operations for the passenger trains, Jerry has selected Atlas code 83 flextrack and turnouts, relying on no. 6 turnouts on the mainline and no. 4s for industries and yards. Jerry does just about all the construction himself, including the buildings, plus he does all his own locomotive paint jobs when necessary. Although the benchwork and most of the track is complete, regular operating sessions are still being developed as more industries are added.

    Bailey Electric receives enough large components such as transformers and the like to justify a siding.
    Model Railroading - January 2002 - Page 39

    The Personal Side

    There always seems to be a personal side to every model railroaders story, and Jerry's is no exception. I've already told you how his uncle infected him with a love of the N&W, but theres more to it than that. In the Charlotte area Jerry got involved with a group of model railroaders participating in a round-robin group. It was through this group that he met MRG Contributing Editor Jim Teese. Jim had a major influence on Jerry's concept of operations, even convincing him to use manual turnout controls. Jim also built the AMB laser-kit station at Chilhowee, and Jerry named Teese Junction in honor of that contribution. Over at Big Stone Gap theres a small industry named Bailey Electric in honor of Jerry's late father-in-law who wired the basement. One of Jerry's more recent involvements has been with the internet email list of the South eastern Model Railroaders Forum, commonly known by its initials as SMuRF ( In September 2001, Jerry and fellow modeler John Ryan hosted the annual SMuRF convention in Charlotte. My wife would psychoanalyze these personal connections built a round the hobby as a need for humans to gather in small groups and engage in social interchange, but to me, and Id guess to Jerry, its just plain fun.

    Article Album (1 photo)

    Share - Report