VGN Pemberton, WV track plan HO

  • Size: 19′ x 33′
  • Scale: HO
  • Minimum Radius: 30″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 26″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

VGN Logo (plain)Pemberton, WV was an important junction for both the Virginian (later the N&W) and the C&O. Pemberton lay in the middle of the Winding Gulf trackage for both railroads and was one of two interchange points in the area where both railroads crammed into the valleys (the other was Stone COal Jct. further south). Coal loaders surrounded both railroad’s lines in all directions.

The Layout

C&O Logo PlainThis track plan is a single-deck plan to fit in my former basement. Pemberton occupies one end of the layout, and the branch to Willabet, WV and its associated loaders occupies the other end. I couldn’t find many photographs of this area, so this trackplan is based largely on NS track charts and topo maps.  Consequently, the tipples are really guesswork, although several of them appeared to be small and load on one or two tracks only.  Although there are tunnel portals on both the VGN and C&O within a mile or two of Pemberton, these are moved a little closer to provide a convenient exit for the trains.  Also, the towns and tipples on the other end of the layout are considerably compressed to fit a lot of branchline operations into a small space.

Staging is generous for branch line operations, and C&O staging provides a continuous running loop. Because very few trains would be running at any given time, even an entry DCC system with walk-around throttles would probably work, though a mid-sized system would provide more capability.

Track plan VGN Pemberton, WV HO scale


This layout is designed to keep 1-2 operators busy for a few hours. Every train is basically a mine run. Although both railroads had extensive trackage rights over each other’s track in this area, it was more typical to see the railroads interchange hoppers to be loaded on the other’s track.  At Pemberton, both the VGN and C&O interchanged cars.  The C&O entered the yard to interchange empty hoppers for loading at Affinity, while the VGN interchanged hoppers to the C&O to be loaded at Crab Orchard, a little ways up the line toward Beckley.  In the Virginian era and into the early ’70s on the N&W, mine runs came from Elmore to work the interchange at Pemberton and the northeast (RR west) end of the Winding Gulf Branch.  In the mid ’70s, however, traffic became so dense that the N&W operated four trains daily out of Pemberton.   My guess is that two trains went north to work the mines and the ammonium nitrate facility at McVey, and two trains went south to deliver loads to Elmore (continued below).

The C&O served several large mines south of Pemberton and interchanged more hoppers to the VGN at Stone Coal Junction, so C&O operations on the layout would consist of one or two interchange trains daily and two or three through coal drags in each direction. Because the C&O staging provides a continuous loop, a single train in each direction could simulate multiple coal drags (always a plus when short on cash).   Also, if a single operator was working the layout, a C&O train could be set in motion to help “set the mood” while the operator worked the Virginian.  On the flip side, the focus of the layout could easily be reversed to make the C&O the center-of-attention.  Instead of the VGN branchline, the bottom half of the layout could be used to model the C&O line toward Beckley while the Virginian conveniently dives into the tunnel just east of Pemberton enroute to staging.

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Simple construction
  • Modest but interesting operations
  • Two railroads modeled
  • Lots of coal loaders
  • Generous aisles
  • Generous staging

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Not as many trains as other similar-sized plans

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