B&O and MGA Paw Paw Branch, WV track plan HO

  • Size: 12′ x 18′
  • Scale: HO
  • Minimum Radius: 27″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 30″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

B&O Logo (plain)The Paw Paw Branch, a 13 mile coal branch, was situated near the West Virginia/Pennsylvania border. It was jointly operated by the B&O and Monongahela railroads and their successors. The branch left the Monongahela river at Rivesville, WV where the B&O’s Paw Paw Branch joined with the end of the Monongahela’s trackage along the river at Catawba Jct.  The B&O entered the area via its large yard at Fairmont, WV, just a few miles south of Rivesville. The Monongahela’s trackage extended along the river to the main yard at West Brownsville, PA. This area was home to both large and small loader operations into the 1950s, but operations began shutting down one-by-one until only the large Loveridge complex at the end of the branch was left.

The Layout

MGA Logo PlainThis track plan represents the line as it appeared in the late 1950s. In addition to the branch, the trackplan also models a small but busy portion of the MGA’s line along the river including a power plant and three loaders. From what I can tell, two of these loaders (Brock No. 3 and Continental No. 5) were probably shut down by the 1950s, but a little modeler’s license would net quite a bit of extra operation. The lower deck represents Catawba Jct. and Rivesville where the two lines met at a wye to serve the Paw Paw Branch. The upper deck represents the rest of the Paw Paw Branch including the two large loaders, Federal No. 1 and Loveridge, and the smaller Consolidation Mine No. 96. There is one double-ended staging yard for both the B&O and Monongahela–this arrangement provides the most flexibility for staging, and as a bonus, creates a continuous running loop. I didn’t add elevation markings to the track plan, but there’s no tricky benchwork to get in the way, so the height of all levels could be easily adjusted to match the owner’s desires without compromising the other levels. The layout is small enough that it could be run with an entry-level DCC system like a Digitrax Zephyr, but walkaround throttles are a must with all the switching.

Track plan B&O MGA Paw Paw Branch, WV HO scale


Before I discuss operations, I freely admit I am NOT an expert on operations in this area. Operations on this layout could keep 1-2 operators busy for an hour or two. Both the B&O and MGA could have at least one mine run per day, though the MGH might require two to work all the tipples. The era of this layout (’50s/’60s) is really pre-unit train, so to keep things interesting, cars at some of the larger loaders could be destined for both the B&O and MGA. This would add extra switching because crews would have to sift through the loads and only grab their own. Cars destined for the B&O on the MGA tracks on the lower level might have to be interchanged at Rivesville as well, and the power plant could receive its coal from the B&O for some more interchange and switching. The layout’s focus could be easily shifted to favor either the B&O or Monongahela by simply changing the destinations of cars.

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Two railroads
  • Track arrangements reasonably prototypical
  • Generous center aisle
  • Plenty of switching variety
  • Continuous running loop

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Distances somewhat compressed
  • Scenic elements (e.g. Monongahela river) had to be traded for more accurate trackwork and ease of operation

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Digitrax - ZEPX Zephyr Xtra 3 Amp Starter Set - NIB

Digitrax - ZEPX Zephyr Xtra 3 Amp Starter Set - NIB
Current price:
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