C&O Prince and Quinnimont, WV track plan HO

  • Size: 17′ x 41′
  • Scale: HO
  • Minimum Mainline Radius: 34″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 30″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

C&O Logo PlainThe C&O’s New River District ran along its namesake river through many small hamlets with coal branches twisting off it in all directions from small coal marshalling yards along the double-track mainline. The small towns of Prince and Quinnimont are representive of this district. Prince was home to a passenger station and the junction with the Piney Creek Sub with tangled with the Virginian Railway to the west. Quinnimont was home to a small coal yard, engine terminal and wye which led to the short Laurel Creek Sub ending at Layland, WV.

The Layout

GP9 leads a coal train through Prince, WV, 1968 -Donald Haskel

GP9 leads a coal train through Prince, WV, 1968 -Donald Haskel

This layout attempts to capture the appearance and feel of the New River Sub by modeling the small portion of mainline from Stretchers Neck Tunnel at Prince to the end of the double yard at Quinnimont. Portions of the Piney Creek Sub and Laurel Creek Subs are also modeled to allow some mine run activity, but the focus is clearly on the main. The track plan uses very little compression along the main and takes advantage of the basement shape to add reasonably prototypical curves so several distinctive scenes can be modeled with a high degree of accuracy. From left-to-right, the major scenes include the multi-span bridge across the New River (along with its highway counterpart) where the Piney Creek Sub begins, the tunnel and station at Prince, and the wye and large QN tower at Quinnimont.

The layout is mostly single deck, but a small portion of double deck allows the end of the Laurel Creek Branch to be modeled, if desired. The prototypically steep grade of the branch allows the upper deck to be reached without a helix, but two shorter helixes (one double-track and the other triple) at the ends of the mainline are used to connect to the two staging yards representing Thurmond to the west (along with Raleigh, the main yard on the Piney Creek Sub) and Hinton to the east. The yards are double-ended and connected to form a continous running loop. Because this layout was designed for the steam era when enormous C&O articulates running the lines, a minimum mainline radius of 34″ was used (30″ min on the branches).

Track plan C&O Prince to Quinnimont, WV HO scale


Like the track plan itself, operations would focus on the New River main and would keep 3-5 operators busy for a few hours. This main was THE East-West main for the C&O, so both coal and non-coal traffic was heavy in both directions. Due to the continuous-running-loop nature of the layout, a handful of trains could represent 100 trains in an ops session. Based on a staging track length of about 15′, trains would consist of about 25-30 cars. At a minimum, “looping” trains should include 1-2 loaded coal trains, 2-3 merchandise freights and 1-2 passenger trains in each direction. Additionally, another 1-2 loaded coal trains would represent traffic off the Piney Creek Sub. This leaves only a couple of trains needed to bring empty hoppers from Hinton to Quinnimont and enough power at Quinnimont to make up a pair of “shifers” (mine runs).

Most of the operations would consist of running a train from staging, across the layout, and back to staging. Slow trains were the norm (especially running upgrade to the east), so the long mainline run would take several minutes. Passenger trains would stop at Prince to add some variety, and meets could be scheduled at Quinnimont, especially for merchandise freights to pass coal drags heading east. At least a pair of mainline trains would bring empties up to Quinnimont, drop them in the yard and pick up loads for the return trip after a trip around the wye for the locomotive(s).

Island Creek coal facility near Prince, WV, 1969 -Donald Haskel

Island Creek coal facility near Prince, WV, 1969 -Donald Haskel

The Piney Creek Sub was a large coal producer, but the layout provides a “loads-out, empties-in” style of operation that can represent dozens of trains and lots of switching moves using only one set of motive power, one string of empty hoppers, and one string of loaded hoppers. At the beginning of the session, a loaded coal train would be staged at Raleigh and a string of empty hoppers at Quinnimont. The Piney Creek Loads would be run up from staging, across the New River Bridge and into Quinnimont. The crew would leave the loads in the yard, turn their engine(s) on the wye and couple up to the string of empties before returning back to Raleigh staging via the Piney Creek Sub. Instead of stopping in Raleigh, the crew would probably take the train to Hinton staging using the continuous running loop connection. Later in the session, a crew would take the train of empties from Hinton to Quinnimont, drop the empties in the yard, turn the engine(s), couple to the loads and take them back to Hinton. Of course, the crew would park the train in Raleigh staging, and everything is reset to be run as another loaded coal train from the Piney Creek Sub. Lots of operation with very little equipment or work to stage it. Slick!

Two more traditional mine runs would work out of Quinnimont. The first would gather up empties at Quinnimont and take them up the Laurel Creek Branch to work Layland. There were a handful of tipples on this branch, but only the large tipple and one smaller tipple at the end of the branch are modeled. Layland was worked via a switchback. The tail track for the switchback is impossibly short (prototypical), so working the two tipples would require a lot of moves and time. Crews would probably be better off making two trips up the branch to keep trains short enough to fit into the siding adjacent to the tail track. The second mine run would work the first group of loaders on the Piney Creek Sub (it wouldn’t make sense to work them from Raleigh) including Royal and Terry along the New River. While it’s only two loaders, both are stub ended, one facing point and one trailing point, necessitating several moves and use of the short siding modeled on the branch.

Even though the odd shape of this basement and those silly things like furnaces and pipes that get in the way make it challenging to model much, I am extremely happy with this track plan. It allows the builder to really concentrate on modeling a few key scenes well, and the continuous running loop design allows for endless operation without breaking the bank on locomotives and hoppers. In fact, even one operator could set 4 trains in motion (2 in each direction) and work the local jobs while the mainline runs itself for hours.

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Relatively uncompressed
  • Neat scenes can be modeled well
  • Continuous running for the double-track main
  • Loads-out, empties-in loop for Piney Creek Sub
  • No helix to get to upper level
  • Large radius curves

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Lots of unusable space near furnace
  • Tighter curves on branches

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