- Size: 22′ x 40′
- Scale: HO
- Minimum Radius: 28″
- Minimum Aisle Width: 30″
- Designed by Dan Bourque
The Clinchfield’s coal loaders were mostly located north of Dante, VA, and that’s the focus here. Three primary branches, the Freemont Branch, the Nora Spur and the Haysi, were all served by mine shifters (mine runs) and dumped hundreds of coal loads onto the mainline every day. The Haysi Railroad, operated as a Clinchfield branch line, is renowned among coal field fans for the radio controlled B-unit that worked its tracks. Dozens of loaders on the mainline and seven loaders in Elkhorn City contributed as well. In addition to coal, the CRR mainline saw a good deal of non-coal bridge traffic being interchanged with the C&O at Elkhorn City, KY. Due to some heavy grades south of Elkhorn City, the Clinchfield ran helpers on trains from Elkhorn City to Towers. All this makes for a great prototype.
This layout represents the area in the late ’70s/early ’80s and captures most of the trackage from Dante, VA to Elkhorn City including the Nora Spur and the Haysi Railroad. The yard at Dante is compressed so that only one half is train-length and the other is really just storage. The yard at Elkhorn includes all the major tracks, all the loaders and the joint C&O/CRR engine facilities. The mainline is selectively compressed to incorporate the major sidings and most of the tunnels but not all. The mainline is on a heavy grade from Elkhorn up to Sandy Ridge Tunnel, just like the prototype. To keep track elevations from getting out of control on this double-deck design, two hidden “mini-helixes” (one at Sandy Ridge Tunnel and one at Hills Mill Tunnel) bring the elevations back down. Staging is not shown here, but there is plenty of room for long CRR trains underneath Berta, Rex and Splashdam, and the C&O’s Shelby staging could stretch out under Tower siding. Unfortunately, there wasn’t room to model the Fremont Branch wtih the huge Moss prep plant, but it’s loads-in/loads-out operation can still be simulated via staging.
Operations on this layout could keep several operators busy for hours. With all the sidings, a dispatcher is a must. Other jobs would consist of mine shifters to work the branches and the tipples on the main, a yard crew for Dante, helper/local crew for Elkhorn City and extra crews to run CRR and C&O freights in both directions. Helper operations from Elkhorn City to Towers are a must, and the layout leaves most of this run accessible to mitigate pusher disasters. On the prototype, helpers were sometimes run further south, but this would get tricky with the helixes. If you had extra operators, someone could even run the company B-unit at Pittco (Haysi) and the F-unit at Blue Diamond on the Nora Spur shifting hoppers around.
Things I Like About this Plan:
- TONS of loaders and mine shifters to work them
- Captures the important parts of the prototype
- Long, long mainline runs
- Mini-helixes allow nice grades on visible portion
- Good scenic elements coming out of Elkhorn (Pool Point)
Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:
- Some tight aisles in bad places (around main helix)
- Branches share scene with mainline
- Duckunder at doorway
- Distances between sidings are compressed