- Size: 12′ x 18′
- Scale: HO
- Minimum Mainline Radius: 27″
- Minimum Aisle Width: 28″
- Designed by Dan Bourque
The Nora Spur was one of the Clinchfield’s coal-loading branches in Virginia which left the mainline between Dante, VA and Elkhorn City, KY. The six-mile long branch hosted no fewer than six loaders between the mainline and the Blue Diamond tipple at the end of the line and featured grades in excess of 3%.
This layout is designed to capture the feel of the branch and its operations in the early ’80s after the addition of the loader at Kilgore Creek and before the addition of the Neece Creek Branch. It consists of four separate segments which include all of the branch’s loaders and the important passing track near Nora Jct. The track plan uses the branch’s steep grades to climb between scenes and reach the upper deck without an extended helix (only one loop at a time). A radius of 27″ was chosen as a reasonable compromise to fit the layout into the space. The track arrangements are close to the prototype albeit significantly compressed in length. Because of the steep grades, some sort of brake system under the tracks would be needed to keep cars in place at the tipples.
Staging consists of a two track reversing loop under the passing track, but a length of around 30 feet would easily allow four trains to be staged (though only one or two would be needed in an ops session). An entry- or mid-level DCC with walkaround control would work well on this layout.
This layout is perfect to keep one or two operators busy for a couple of hours. The branch was served by the Nora Turn which left the yard at Dante, VA around sunrise and often used the Clinchfield’s four-axle power like F7s and GP7s in the ’70s. There was no wye at Nora Jct. where the branch left the main, so the Nora Turn would back onto the branch as far as the passing track. At the passing track, the crew would run around most of its train but keep the cars destined for Blue Diamond (and likely Kilgore Creek after 1979) ahead of the engines. The four axles would struggle up the grade, dropping empties at Lamberts and Wohlford before moving to Open Fork. After dropping empties at both Open Fork No 1 and No 2, the crew would push the remaining empties up to Kilgore and Blue Diamond. One quirk at Kilgore Creek was Clinchfield Coal’s remote control F-unit #14 which needed to be moved to drop empties and pick up loads.
After shoving the empties into both loaders, the Nora Turn would collect the loads and wait 20 minutes at Blue Diamond to charge the air lines before heading down the 3.37% grade. The turn would collect all the loads along the way, a simple process with the track arrangements, before heading back to Dante, VA.
One additional job on the layout could be working Kilgore Creek with the F-unit to move the empties from the empty tracks to under the tipple for loading.
Things I Like About this Plan:
- Captures all the major features of the branch in a small space
- Lots of loaders
- Long run for trains
- Prototypical operations
- Prototypical grades
- No duck-unders
Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:
- Lots of hidden tracks along the walls
- Tipple track lengths considerably compressed