K&T Diesel Era track plan N

  • Size: 10′ x 10′
  • Scale: N
  • Minimum Mainline Radius: 13.5″ (18″ for Southern)
  • Minimum Aisle Width: N/A
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

K&T Logo PlainThe Kentucky & Tennessee in the diesel era was a simple operation. A handful of used Alco S2 switchers moved coal hoppers between the connection with the Southern at Stearns, KY to the lone tipple at Justus, about 3 miles from Stearns. Justus loaded about 30 Southern 100T hoppers per day via a small flood loader directly over the main. The hoppers were picked up and dropped off in the ample interchange yard in Stearns where the K&T interchanged with the Southern’s busy CNO&TP mainline. Despite the simplicity, the extreme grades and shop operations at Stearns add enough interest to make this a subject worth modeling.

The Layout

K&T S2 101 at Stearns, KY, May 1975 -Jay Thompson

K&T S2 101 at Stearns, KY, May 1975 -Jay Thompson

This layout focuses on the diesel-era operations of the K&T (1964-1987) when all of the classic tipples had closed and the new mine at Justus had just opened. The upper deck focuses on Stearns while the lower focuses on Justus. The Southern Railway trackage is fully functional with its own staging yard providing a continuous running loop.The upper level includes most of the modern-day tracks including the shops (in the corner) and station area (now used by the Big South Fork Scenic Railway). I don’t know if the station was around prior to the BSFSR, but it can be easily omitted if evidence shows it was not.

The layout of Stearns is not terribly compressed, but only the northern interchange yard and not the longer southern yard is included in the plan (it’s got plenty of room). The helix down to Justus uses the prototype’s grade of 3+ percent, and the railroad’s only tunnel near Justus and the highway overpass in Stearns (as well as other overpasses for the Southern) provide convenient view blocks for transitioning track between the visible and non-visible areas. The Southern staging yard is accessible by using a low backdrop to hide the trains (trees go against low backdrop in front of the yard, sky is painted on the high backdrop behind the yard).

Track plan K&T diesel era N scale


This layout could keep 2 operators occupied for a couple of hours. A typical K&T coal train utilized 3 Also S2 switchers. The road had four, so one could be routinely rotated through the shop or handle shop-switching chores in Stearns if necessary. The crew would pick up a string of empties, about 15 Southern “Big Red” 100T hoppers, at Stearns. The crew would then head down to Justus where the train would be flood loaded in about 1/2 an hour. When all the cars were loaded, the crew would take the loads to the siding at nearby Barthell where they could run around them. Each S2 was only rated at 300 tons up the big grade, so that meant a 9-car string of loads was the norm for a trio of S2s. They would have to make two trips to gather all the loads. Upon arrival at Stearns, the crew would block and interchange the hoppers to the Southern (K&T loads went both North and South) and pick up a fresh string of 15 empties to repeat the process.

A second operator could run the Southern and K&T shop switcher at Stearns. Stearns had a siding, so this could be used for meets between Southern trains as well as the drop-off point for K&T cars. The continuous running nature of the Southern tracks would allow a busy mainline to be simulated with just a handful of trains. Although I haven’t found direct evidence, it was likely that the K&T performed work on non-K&T equipment in its shops. This could be an excuse to give the K&T shop switcher some work to do to spot and pick up cars on the handful of shop tracks, and perhaps a load of pulpwood or the occasional load of Christmas trees (true story) would be loaded on the K&T to spice things up.

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Captures key elements of the prototype
  • Little compression
  • Continuous running loop
  • Lots of variety with the Southern

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Hidden trackage on the Southern
  • One really tight curve on the K&T

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Big South Fork Railway in Sterns Kentucky Souvenir Spoon

Big South Fork Railway in Sterns Kentucky Souvenir Spoon
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