MTR Library Branch, PA track plan HO

  • Size: 12′ x 16′
  • Scale: HO
  • Minimum Radius: 24″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 24″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

Montour RR LogoThe Montour Railroad’s Library Branch ran between Library Jct. and Snowden, PA. The nearly 6-mile branch connected the Montour with the B&O and a PRR branch and served the large Montour #10 tipple at Library, PA.

The Layout

This track plan represents the Library Branch and a portion of the Montour’s mainline during the ’60s and ’70s. In addition to the Montour #10 tipple, the Montour #4 tipple on the mainline at Hills is represented along with the nearby interchange tracks for the PRR. These were two of the last three remaining tipples on the Montour.

The double-deck layout is designed to fit into a good-sized bedroom and uses tight radius curves (24″) to do so–this works perfectly with the Montour’s small switchers and hoppers and keeps the branch line character of the road. It’s designed as a down-up-down layout which runs through four distinct scenes. The layout starts in staging representing the Montour’s yard at Coraopolis and takes a two-loop helix up to Hills, PA with the Montour #4, PRR interchange and neat scene with Greer tunnel and an underpass of the PRR. From Hills, the line climbs up the helix to Library Jct., PA (about 4 miles away on the prototype) where it splits to either take the main to connections with the P&WV/N&W and Union RR or the Library Branch. The tracks here are mostly on a fill. From Library Jct, the tracks pass behind the helix, around the wall, and out to Library, PA and the Montour #10 tipple (about 2 miles from Library Jct.) before heading down the helix. At the bottom of the helix, the line ends at Snowden (about 3 miles from Library) and the connection with the B&O.

The helixes and hidden track add time and space between scenes to make operations more realistic, and the layout is designed with no switches on the hidden track to minimize derailments. Still, low backdrops and access panels would be a good idea. Staging is only really needed on the Hills end of the layout, but connecting the B&O to the staging would turn the entire layout into a continuous loop–useful for breaking in locomotives, showing off for guests, or just running trains! Because of the small number of engines running simultaneously, an entry-level DCC system with walk-around throttles would work well for this layout.

Track plan Montour Library Branch - HO scale



Operations would keep 1-2 operators busy for a couple of hours. Each day, the Montour called several crews, 3-5 of which would work this part of the railroad. The two loaders, both Montour #4 and Montour #10 belonged to the Pittsburgh Coal Co. which also owned the Montour. These tipples produced raw coal or “green coal” that was shipped to the large prep plant at Champion, PA between Hills and Coraopolis. Mine runs, led by sets of 3-4 Montour switchers, would work these two loaders 1-3 times a day in the early ’70s dropping off empty “shuttle cars” (old 50-ton Montour hoppers) and picking up loads bound for Champion.

Additional crews would bring loads of “clean coal” from Champion to the various interchanges along the line. In the early ’70s, much of the coal appeared to go to the PRR, but to add variety on the layout, the B&O interchange at Snowden and N&W and URR interchanges could be made more active. These crews would also handle a handful of daily non-coal traffic including boxcars bound for Brookside lumber (Salida staging), tank cars bound for the Muse Branch (between Hills and Coraopolis), flat cars carrying equipment for mining operations, etc. Of course, B&O and PRR trains could be staged on their dummy tracks to show off more of your non-hopper fleet as well.

Things I Like About This Plan:

  • Lots of operations in a small space
  • Lots of running room between scenes
  • Generous aisle for most of layout

Things I Don’t Like About This Plan:

  • Narrow “pinch point” in aisle near door
  • Steep grade in helix
  • Lots of hidden track
  • Limited operational variety

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One Response to MTR Library Branch, PA track plan HO

  1. Dan Bourque says:

    The original track plan contained a mistake near the Hills, PA portion of the layout. It had the PRR going over top of the Montour at Greer Tunnel when in reality it was the Montour crossing over the Pennsy. The new plan above corrects this mistake.

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