- Size: 12′ x 18′
- Scale: HO
- Minimum Radius: 27″
- Minimum Aisle Width: 27″
- Designed by Dan Bourque
The Kanawha & West Virginia was built beginning in 1903 to connect Charleston, WV with the rich timber and coal resources of the Blue Creek Valley. The K&WV was 34 miles long, and after a brief spell hauling oil after a boom in the early 1900s, the K&WV settled down to hauling coal for its parent, the New York Central. Though the mainline from West Charleston to Blue Creek was cut in 1967, the Penn Central and Conrail still operated this branch until 1990 (when the last tipple at Sanderson, WV closed) via trackage rights on the B&O to Blue Creek.
This track plan is designed for a large bedroom or small garage and represents the key portions of the K&WV in the 1960s when most mines has closed down but the NYC’s own line from Charleston to Blue Creek was used. It represents all 34 miles of the original K&WV in a fairly compact space by eliminating all but four key scenes which were somewhat evenly spaced along the line. The lowest level represents West Charleston, WV and the NYC’s small Spring Street Yard where cars were interchanged with the “big NYC.” In addition to the yard, West Charleston was home to several rail-served industries including a junkyard and gravel plant. The NYC main to Columbus, Ohio is represented by a two-track staging loop under Blue Creek. At the other end, the track then climbs along the wall and makes one turn in a helix to reach Blue Creek where the line crossed the Elk River via a large truss bridge and crossed the B&O at grade. Included are the siding for the industries (Haliburton and Clendenin Lumber), the K&WV’s first crossing of Blue Creek (of the ~30 total crossings), and the entrance to Tunnel No 1, not far from Blue Creek.
From there, the track climbs steeply along the wall to reach the second deck above West Charleston. It pops out of Tunnel No 2, crosses Blue Creek twice, and then reaches the small town of Sanderson and the nearby Union Carbide loader at Morris Fork. This tipple loaded over one track, but the main ran under as well. The track then climbs around the wall again to reach the end of the line at Hitop, home to another large Union Carbide loader. Interestingly, this was the only part of the line from West Charleston that is downgrade, so loads roll downgrade to the end of the track. The trickiest part of construction would be leaving sufficient access to reach all the hidden trackage. I’ve left at least one foot of space between the backdrop and the walls in most places to facilitate reaching trains if needed–there are no hidden switches in these areas, so derailments should be minimal. An intermediate DCC system with walk-around throttles is recommended to power the layout.
This layout is designed for 1-2 operators and would take 2-3 hours to fully operate. Trains would start in West Charleston with a pair of first-generation geeps (GP7s, GP9s). Empty hoppers and cars bound for local industries would be visibly staged in Spring Street Yard. The mine run would assemble its train of cars for the industries at Blue Creek and the coal tipples and head toward Blue Creek. Upon arriving, the crew would work the siding for Haliburton and Clendenin Lumber. Due to the stub siding, the crew would switch in the inbound cars but probably hang onto the outbounds and just work around them for the rest of the session. The next stop would be the large loader at Morris Fork where empties would be dropped above the tipple before heading to Hitop. At Hitop, more empties would be placed, but not until pulling all the loads from the tracks and end-of-the-line below the tipple. A pair of crossovers just above the tipple would facilitate any run-around moves required. After arranging the empties and coupling to the loads, the mine run would head back to Morris Folk to pick up the rest of the loads. After a brake check, the mine run would head back down the hill to West Charleston where the loaded hoppers and outbound cars would be left for another NYC crew to pick up.
For a single operator session, the mine run would then need to work all the local industries adjacent to Spring Street Yard which would take a bit to do because they’re all stub tracks with some facing and some trailing point switches. For a multiple operator session, a second operator could simulate a crew out of Charleston (staging) to work the industries and swap out cars at West Charleston. Even if the mine run works the industries, another transfer run could be added to bring cars from staging and swap them out for cars at Spring Street Yard. For additional operations, there is evidence that the Morris Fork tipple needed to be worked twice a day, so two mine runs (or the same mine run making two trips) would be needed.
Things I Like About this Plan:
- Great mix of coal and non-coal industries
- Models an interesting branch from start to finish
- Includes a nice small yard
- Allows prototypical operation
- Includes all key scenes and industries
- No awkward transitions through backdrops (tunnels prototypically placed)
Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:
- Lots of hidden track
- One tight pinch point in the aisle
- Not much staging (but not much is needed)
- West Charleston is very low (36″)