Evolution of Appalachian Railroads 1945-2005

Map of Appalachian Railroads circa 1960

The evolution of coal-hauling railroads in the Appalachians is fascinating, especially over the last 60 years. Six years ago, Appalachian Railroad Modeling published its first map of the coal fields and railroads circa 1950. While it was informative, these four maps go well beyond the original to show how Appalachian railroading changed over time, and together they tell a fascinating story of growth, downsizing, consolidating and rebirth. Based on the resources I had, it was difficult to tell when certain lines were abandoned, especially in the 1945 and 1970 maps, so many of the dashed lines in the 1945 map may have been active, and many of the dashed lines in the 1970 map may have been abandoned decades before. I learned … Read more

ABCs of Coal Loads

Coal load - truck dump

by Dan Bourque

In ABCs of Coal Loaders, we learned about the different types of loaders used to load coal cars.  Now let’s do a study of how the type of loader affects the appearance of the coal load.

When most of us think of coal loads, we think of the gently sloped and slightly humped pile of black stuff rising just barely over the top of the car. If you’re modeling a coal train far, far away from its loading point, this type of load is perfect. However, if you’re modeling the Appalachians, chances are you’re going to have a loader or two on your layout. For those of you in this category, you have to … Read more

ABCs of Coal Loaders

Tipple diagram

by Dan Bourque

Tipple diagramIn ABCs of Coal, we learned a little about how coal is formed, now we’re going to look at coal where it meets the rails–at the tipple. I’m not going to go into depth about mining techniques, but here’s the basics. Coal is usually mined in two ways. The first is the traditional mine using a series of shafts and elevators to bring the excavated coal to the surface. The second is the strip mine where the ground on top of the coal is removed to expose the coal. Bulldozers, big buckets, and dump trucks … Read more

ABCs of Coal

Eastern US Coalfields Map

by Dan Bourque

Coal, or “black diamonds,” has been an integral part of railroad operations for well over a century, and if you intend to model an Appalachian railroad, chances are you’ll be modeling a lot of coal! Learning some simple facts about coal goes a long way towards helping you model it.

In simple terms, coal is formed from dead vegetation pressurized under layers of rock and dirt over thousands of years. Coal comes in many different forms including lignite, bituminous, and anthracite. The form that coal takes is based on the length of time the coal has been forming and the amount of pressure applied during formation. The different forms have many different properties.

Types of … Read more