C&I Colver, PA track plan HO

  • Size: 12′ x 18′
  • Scale: HO
  • Minimum Mainline Radius: 30″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 48″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

C&I Logo PlainThe heart of the Cambria & Indiana Railroad was Colver, PA. Even though it was located on the end of a short branch line, Colver was home to the C&I’s engine house, car shops, a prep plant and tipple, and a small yard where C&I mine runs originated. In addition to serving the C&I’s own massive fleet of coal hoppers, the C&I shops regularly performed maintenance and repairs for other railroads as well, so this adds even more variety to the area. The compact arrangements of these elements make this a great subject for a bedroom-sized model railroad.

The Layout

C&I engine facilities at Colver, PA - David Wilson

C&I engine facilities at Colver, PA – David Wilson

This layout attempts to capture the key elements of Colver and its operations in a relatively compact space. It is designed to be a switching layout with plenty of work to do to switch the shops and tipple, service engines and build mine runs to work the rest of the unmodeled C&I.

The track plan was built from photos, topos and track charts, so most tracks are modeled, though a few in the shop area have been cut back to fit in a reasonable space. The layout captures the feel of the engine facilities, car shops, prep plant/tipple and the yard including a wye. Any entry-level DCC system could power this layout, but walkaround throttles are a must.

The layout is designed with the middle open and can easily be built high to allow the room to be used for other purposes, though the closet is sacrificed to allow trains to turn back under the layout for staging. Staging is not drawn, but there is plenty of room under Colver for staging. The staging tracks could be double-ended and long or shorter with a return loop under the car shops.

Track plan C&I Colver, PA HO scale


I would be lying if I said I was an expert on C&I operations, but here is a plausible scheme for this layout. 1-3 operators could work at a time with jobs being shop switcher/hostler, yard crew and road crew. The yard crew would work the yard and tipple, and the shop switcher would work the engine facilities and car shops and help with the tipple as needed. The road crew would shuttle in cuts of cars from staging and take newly assembled mine runs and turns to staging.

Because many of the C&I’s tipples served single customers, some mine runs would probably depart Colver light to pick up their hoppers at the interchange point (e.g. a train of empties from the NYC at Manver) and take them to the mine (e.g. Bethlehem Steels mine at Beth, PA), but some mine runs would likely start with empties at Colver and bring back loads later for classification (basically NYC or PRR). At a minimum, the prep plant tipple at Colver would provide a steady stream of loads which would be classified in the yard and dispatched to the NYC at Manver, PA or the PRR at Rexis or Nanty Glo, PA. Due to multiple interchange points for the PRR, coal could be classified as NYC, PRR east (Nanty Glo) or PRR west (Rexis) and a turn run to staging for each destination. Likewise, empties could arrive via three or more turns returing from these interchange points. Also mixed into the strings of empties would be miscellaneous foreign-road cars bound for the Colver car shops.

While the yard crew is busy classifying cars and working the tipple, the shop switcher would be busy moving cars around the shop tracks, handing off “fixed cars” to the yard crew and servicing incoming power and cabs (a run to the fuel and sanding track) to ready them for the next mine run or turn. The sheer number of shop tracks (I have no idea what they’re all for, so be creative), stub sidings and combination of trailing and facing point switches would make for a lot of switching moves. Finally, the road crew would run a fairly steady stream of cars back-and-forth to staging.

Despite this being a “one town” layout, there is plenty of work to be done and a lot of scenes to recreate to make this a fun and challenging layout for its size.

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Focused on modeling one area well
  • Relatively uncompressed
  • Plenty of open space for operators
  • Shops give plausible excuse to run just about any type of car

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Long reach required for some tracks
  • Tipple empty tracks significantly abbreviated
  • Buildings crammed up against wall

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