L&N KD Sub track plan HO

  • Size: 32′ x 32′
  • Scale: HO
  • Minimum Radius: 27″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 27″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

L&N LogoThe L&N’s KD sub connected the coalfields of Kentucky to its connections and power plants in the south. Originally the Knoxville & Atlanta or K&A, the line ran south from Corbin, KY to Knoxville and on to Nashville, TN. In addition to the flow of coal from the L&N’s Eastern Kentucky (EK) and Cumberland Valley (CV) Divisions/Subs, the KD Sub had a modest number of loaders along its main along with several small branches including the Clear Fork Branch (Clairfield Branch) which it shared with the Southern. During the coal boom, the KD Sub received a lot of improvements to improve the crush of coal bound for markets in the South, and a permanent set of pushers was stationed at Chaska, TN to help southbound coal trains over Duff Mountain.

The Layout

L&N SD40 1253, Morley, TN

L&N SD40 leading TOFC train at Morley, TN, Jan 1979 -Jay Thompson

This layout represents the KD Sub as it appeared in the 1980s with many small loaders, lots of double track, and the helper station at Chaska. It represents the line from Corbin, KY to LaFolette, TN along with a portion of the Clear Fork/Clairfield Branch. It’s designed as a down-up-down double-decker where trains begin and end on the lower level. This serves to minimize the run to staging and “eats” less interesting portions of the mainline as the trains travel twice between decks.

The lower deck begins with a portion of the giant yard and facilities at Corbin modeled. Though missing one of the major yards and the US Steel facilities, the track arrangement for the west yard is fairly prototypical and is plenty of yard for this layout. It can also serve as visible staging to minimize the trains running down to staging. Staging is not shown on the plan, but it’s envisioned to form a loop around the entire basement which would make the mainline a very long (three-levels) continuous running loop and allow the recycling of coal trains during a session.

CSX Trestle, Davis Creek, TN

CSX coal drag at Davis Creek, Oct 1987 -Stuart Thayer

From Corbin, the double-track mainline heads south to the end of double track at Faber before transiting the first helix to the upper deck. This portion of the main includes the short Nancy Branch and brick plant at Woodbine and a couple of small truck-dump loaders. The trains reappear on the upper deck directly above where they disappeared, and the upper deck represents the main from Savoy, KY to Morley, TN including all passing sidings and 5 small loaders off the main. Also represented are the Pine Mountain West Branch from Savoy to Gatliff and the end of the Clairfield Branch from Clairfield, TN to Fonde, KY. The Southern connection at Lot is connected to a small staging yard so Southern mine runs can work the branch as well.

The remainder of the lower deck represents the helper district from Chaska to Kilsyth, TN and on to the small yard at LaFolette, TN. The grade is prototypical, and the major scenic feature of the Davis Creek Trestle has enough room to be modeled to scale.

A dispatcher’s desk is included in the room, and a high-end DCC system would help simplify the signaling, consisting and running of trains. Throttles with two-way radio would also simplify operation and wiring and make things less dicey for helper crews.

Lower Deck

Track plan L&N KD Sub HO scale - LowerUpper Deck

Track plan L&N KD Sub HO scale - UpperOperations

Operations on this layout could easily keep 7-9 operators busy for many hours. Generally speaking, the operational scheme is moving coal south and empties north with a few merchandise freights and mine runs sprinkled in-between. Mine runs originated at Corbin and LaFolette. The Corbin Mine Run would work the mainline south to Highcliff, and the LaFolette mine run would work the loaders at Morley, Kilsyth and the Clairfield Branch using the yard at Morley to drop off coal and pick up empties. Both mine runs would originate on the lower deck and work their way to the upper before returning. An additional mine run (albeit with less work to do) would be needed from Corbin to the large loader at Gatliff, TN on the Pine Mountain West Branch, and at least one Southern mine run would exit staging on the upper deck to work a few loaders on the Clairfield Branch.

In addition to these mine run crews, a dispatcher would be needed to keep trains straight along the mostly single-track main. A yardmaster and perhaps a hostler would be needed to assemble and break-down trains at Corbin. A dedicated operator to run the Duff Mountain helpers would also be needed due to the volume of coal trains, and remaining crews would run the mainline trains.

O&W Green Train at Etowah, TN

Green Train moves through Etowah, TN, Nov 84 -Stuart Thayer

Most mainline trains would be coal trains (both unit trains and strings of ragtag L&N hoppers) coming off the EK and CV Subs north of Corbin including the O&W “Green Train”–these would originate in staging (or in Corbin) and run the length of the layout stopping to take on helpers from Chaska to Kilsyth. A similar number of empties would head north but not require helpers. A few non-coal trains including a daily “TOTE” train with auto racks and piggybacks would run each direction.

Between the mine runs, helpers, and numerous trains along the main, the dispatcher and crews will certainly stay busy on this layout!

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Really captures the area’s operations
  • Entire layout forms a continuous running loop
  • Lots of loaders and long runs for mine runs
  • Long helper district
  • Great scenery (particularly Morley, TN and the Davis Creek Trestle)
  • Reasonably compressed

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Tight aisles in spots
  • Three helices (ugh for construction)
  • Long stretches of hidden track
  • Orientation of track and hillside is reversed between of Davis Creek Trestle and Kilsyth

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