L&N Loyall-Varilla, KY track plan N

  • Size: 12′ x 12′
  • Scale: N
  • Minimum Mainline Radius: 15″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 27″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

L&N Logo PlainLoyall, Kentucky was the heart of the L&N’s Cumberland Valley (CV) Division. The CV was a spider of coal branches, many of which were worked by mine runs out of Loyall. The vast majority of these mine runs went South and East (also railroad South) from Loyall, but one, the Loyall-Varilla Mine Run, served a handful of loaders and short branches west (railroad North) of Loyall along the mainline between Loyall and the large yard and division terminus at Corbin, KY.

The Layout

This layout captures most of the branches and loaders that were active in the 1970s between Loyall and Varilla, the Northernmost point worked by this mine run (everything futher North was worked from Corbin). It includes the short Toms Creek Branch to the loader at Balkan and a compressed version of the Pucketts Creek Branch to Fee and Alva. While the yards at Loyall and Varilla are not included, the small yard at Blackmont provides a few tracks for sorting and storing cars.

Loyall and Corbin are represented by staging yards (accessible behind a low backdrop). The yards are connected to allow for continuous running and “recycling” of trains. The linear design of the layout begs for walkaround DCC control. Due to the number of staging tracks and potential trains, an intermediate DCC system would probably be more suitable than an entry system.

Track plan L&N Loyall-Varilla, KY N scale

Operations

This layout is designed for 2-3 operators but could easily be handled by one. Trains would include an Alva unit train, the Loyall-Varilla Mine Run, and numerous through freights. To avoid loading a train during an ops session, the Alva unit train could be visibly staged under the flood loader and depart first thing in the morning bound for either Corbin or Loyall. A Corbin-bound unit train would require a run-around at Blackmont.

L&N RS3s on Loyall-Varilla mine run, Loyall, KY, Mar 1965 -Ron Flanary

L&N RS3s on Loyall-Varilla mine run, Loyall, KY, Mar 1965 -Ron Flanary

The “star of the show” would be the Loyall-Varilla Mine Run which would depart Loyall with a couple of mine-run locomotives (e.g. RS3s or C420s) and a string of empty hoppers. The L&N stored empties at Felder, so some of the train’s empties could be waiting there. On the way to Blackmont, the mine run would work the loaders at Molus and Sanborn along the main, swapping empties for loads. At Blackmont, the mine run would leave the loads and pick up any needed empties from the Felder storage track. A little blocking might be necessary to separate the empties for Fee and Alva. After leaving the empties not destined for the Pucketts Creek Branch, the mine run would head up the branch and work Fee and Alva bringing more loads into Blackmont. Here, the loads would be sorted into Southbounds (Loyall) or Northbounds (Corbin). In reality, loads bound for Corbin would be taken further to Varilla (Corbin staging), but for this plan, it makes more sense to leave them in Blackmont. The mine run would head toward Corbin with the remaining empties and work Balkan and Whipple before returning to Blackmont with more loads. After the final sorting, any Corbin-bound loads could be left at Blackmont while the remaining loads would be taken back to Loyall and the mine run tied up.

While the mine run is working, freights would be shuttling back-and-forth between Corbin and Loyall. The vast majority of this would be coal loads and empties, but at least 2-4 fast freights would be run daily. In the early 1970s, these freights were split between coal and non-coal freight interchanged with the N&W and Clinchfield (via the Interstate RR), allowing a wide variety of traffic to be run. Because of the continuous running design, a single train of empty hoppers could represent a dozen Corbin-Loyall extras and a single train of loads could do the same for Loyall-Corbin coal trains. The passing siding at Blackmont could be put to good use! A unit train or three would also be right at home crossing this line, and because many trains loaded on branches further North, coal loads and empties could run in any direction. At least one of the Loyall-bound freights should stop in Blackmont to drop off empties and at least one Corbin-bound train should stop to pick up the loads left at Blackmont near the end of the session.

While small in size, this layout really offers a lot of operation, and because the line is signaled and so many trains would operate, a dispatcher could even be thrown into the mix (though with only one passing siding, it wouldn’t be the most exciting job).

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Lots of operation in a small space
  • Compact yard at Blackmont
  • Continuous running loop

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Significant compression between scenes
  • Branches stacked on top of mainline scenes

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