L&N Martins Fork, KY track plan N

  • Size: 11′ x 13′
  • Scale: N
  • Minimum Radius: 18″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 27″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

L&N Logo PlainThe Martins Fork Branch, despite its name, was actually a mainline on the L&N’s Cumberland Valley Division.  The line extends from Loyall, KY to Smiley, VA where it goes through the Hagans Switchback to meet up with the old CV main.  As a mainline, it handled most of the coal traffic from Loyall bound for the Southern, Clinchfield, and N&W.  In addition to being a mainline, it was also home to several loaders and other, smaller coal branches, including the Crummies Creek Branch with its Lick Branch Spur which came off the mainline at Popeville, KY.

The Layout

L&N RS3 at Loyall, KY, Jun 1965 -Ron Flanary

L&N RS3 at Loyall, KY, Jun 1965 -Ron Flanary

This layout is designed for the modeler with a small space who loves L&N mine run action but doesn’t want to give up the mainline.  It captures all the major loaders on the mainline between Loyall and Hagans Switchback as well as loaders on a couple of branches (Merna and Three Point).  Modeling the loader and branch to Three Point also allows the neat scene where the main crosses over the branch between tunnels to be modeled.  The siding at Glidden is too short for mainline meets, but it could be extended to connect with the track at Popeville to have meets during operating sessions.  Staging is adequate (not ample) and various arrangements would allow for continuous running and recycling of through trains.  In the arrangement shown, the double-ended yard is for through trains, and the stub-ended yard is for mine runs and unit trains which work on the layout and then return to Loyall staging.

Track plan L&N Martins Fork, KY N scale


Operations on this layout would consist of a mine run or two, a unit train and several mainline through freights daily. The Martins Fork mine run would leave Loyall (staging) to work the loaders on the main and perhaps Three Point. If desired, a “roustabout” mine run could be run later to work any loaders missed by the first mine run. Merna would be served by a unit train. Like the prototype, the tracks are too short for the entire train to be backed up the branch, so half the train would be left on the siding at Glidden while the other half loads, and then the cars would be swapped to load the second half before returning to Loyall staging. If more operators are present or more operations desired, several through trains (mostly coal) would be run daily in both directions. Most trains would be coal drags heading south (away from Loyall) or empties returning north, but prior to the mid ’70s, at least one train in each direction (55/56 or their subsequent counterparts) would have a fair share of non-coal traffic.

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Good mix of mainline and switching operations
  • Lots of loaders for a small layout
  • Lots of operation in a small space

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Low clearance between staging and scenery
  • Somewhat complex staging arrangement

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