Winifrede Railroad, WV track plan HO

  • Size: 10′ x 15′
  • Scale: HO
  • Minimum Radius: 24″
  • Minimum Aisle Width: 40″
  • Designed by Dan Bourque

The Winifrede Railroad was a small short line that ran from the Kanawha River and a connection with the Chesapeake & Ohio to the coal mining town of Winifrede, WV along Fields Creek. While it connected to the C&O, the Winifrede was primarily a shuttle operation bringing coal from a large tipple near Winifrede down to a barge transloading facility at Winifrede Jct, near Chelyan, WV.  For much of its life, the Winifrede operated a single locomotive and a ragtag fleet of old, beat-up hoppers to run alongside cars borrowed from the C&O. During the late steam era, the locomotive was a 2-8-0 which was traded for a GE switcher and later an EMD SW1500 that made its way onto the roster of the Big Eagle Railroad, the modern-day successor of the Winifrede.

The Layout

Big Eagle Railroad SW1500 01 at Winifrede Jct, WV

Big Eagle SW1500 idles at Winifrede Jct, WV in Oct 2014 -Stuart Thayer

This layout represents the Winifrede in its entirety during the late steam and early diesel years. Included are the four main components of the railroad: the Carbon Fuel Company tipple near Winifrede, the engine house at Winifrede, the C&O interchange at Winifrede Jct., and the barge transloader at Winifrede Jct. The layout is designed in a way that puts the hillside behind the tracks in every scene. In addition to keeping the scenic orientation prototypical, it also creates a separation between the two main scenes that simulates the distance between them (a few miles). The transloader track arrangement is a compressed version of the prototype that has fewer tracks in the empty/load yards but allows for the same basic switching moves. The tipple track arrangement is guesswork based on photos, but the tipple is modeled at ~80% of full size (one track short), and the car capacity is the same for both the tipple and transloader. The connection with the C&O is implied and runs off the back of the layout under a highway bridge (which exists on the prototype). The C&O bridge over the Winifrede hides the mainline’s transition from one scene to another. A portion of the Kanawha River is modeled to show a few coal barges and give visual cues as to the purpose of the operation. This would be a neat scene, especially when coupled with piles of coal sitting just beyond the tracks near the transloader.

This is essentially a one-locomotive track plan, so an ordinary DC system would be sufficient, though DCC might improve the ease of walk-around control which would be helpful for this plan. If a DCC system is used, an entry- or mid-level system such as an MRC Prodigy or NCE PowerCab would provide plenty of power and control. Benchwork on this layout would be simple using either box or L-girder construction, and it could probably be suspended from the wall without legs making the area under the layout useful for storage. The open central area is a generous amount of space, so if the layout were high enough, this room could easily double as an office or perhaps a spare bedroom.

Winifrede Railroad track plan HO scale

Operations

Operations on this layout are simple but would keep 1-2 busy for an hour or so. A session would start off with the locomotive and caboose at the engine house in Winifrede, loaded hoppers at the tipple, and empty hoppers in the empty yard at the transloader (closest to the door). The crew would grab the locomotive and cab and head to Winifrede Jct. to collect their empties for the day and perhaps a car from the C&O interchange bound for either the house track (next to the engine track) or tipple. At least one run-around would be necessary to get the cab and C&O inbounds on the proper side of the train. With brake check complete, the train would proceed up-grade under the C&O, past Winifrede and to the end of the tracks above (past) the tipple. Several moves would be required to fill the empty tracks above the tipple due to the short tail track. The engine and cab would then duck back under the tipple and collect the loads. One more run-around would be needed at the house track to run around the cab which might be tricky if a boxcar is spotted there. With loads and cab in-tow, the train would proceed back to Winifrede Jct. where the loads would be shoved into the load yard. Any cars bound for the C&O would be dropped off, and then the locomotive and cab would head back to the engine house at Winifrede and call it a shift.

A little variety could be thrown in by switching up the cars interchanged with the C&O and occasionally having entire trains interchanged with the C&O instead of the transloader. In this case, the cars would probably be all C&O cars with the old Winifrede cars sitting idle in the yards at Winifrede Jct. (they were in no shape for interchange). Another variant of this layout would be a Big Eagle version with a modernized loader with conveyors and concrete silos replacing the old tipple. In this instance, trains could be run by either the old Winifrede SW1500 or a pair of leased GP38-2s (one in former UP colors and the other in former BN colors). In either era, this would be a pretty simple way to build and operate an entire railroad in a bedroom.

Things I Like About this Plan:

  • Models an entire railroad in a small space
  • Allows very prototypical operation
  • Generous aisle
  • Transloaders are cool

Things I Don’t Like About this Plan:

  • Fairly compressed
  • Doesn’t model the C&O interchange well
  • Repetitive operation without much variety

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7 Responses to Winifrede Railroad, WV track plan HO

  1. Jon Hultman says:

    Dan, I have been a big fan of this little operation and have been dreaming up a little free-lanced version of it for years. Thanks for the track plan. Imagine a little SW1500 interchanging a unit train to CSX AC44’s in the back country setting. Awesome.

  2. Paul Schmidt says:

    Thanks greatly, Dan, for the Winifrede plan. It’s got me thinking about something in the similar-sized space I have but in N scale, just to increase the running distance.

  3. Jonathan Spurlock says:

    Amazing! This could be a great beginning or introduction to model railroading. One engine and a couple dozen hoppers wouldn’t be too much of a financial burden, and one wouldn’t have to float a home equity loan to finance a modest operation like this!

    Plus, the variety of hopper cars in the circa-1979 era would be about limitless. I drove by this very operation in early 1979 and noticed ex-C&O, ex-N&W, and other “pre-owned” cars on the property. Hmm, perhaps it’s time to begin surveying?

    Thanks, Dan, for this great idea!

  4. Dan Bourque says:

    Thanks for the feedback, and I’m glad you guys like the plan! This is a fun one because you can model an entire railroad and all of its operations in a bedroom. Not too many railroads you can do that with, especially in HO scale! In N scale, you could model all the yard tracks at Winifrede Jct and increase the length of the trains which would be cool.

  5. Ed Sumner says:

    Nice work Dan-o. How about some narrow gauge Appy stuff? West Virginia Midland info can be found on Taplines. Of course, there’s Tweetsie and EBT (I love EBT but it gets over done.)

    • Dan Bourque says:

      I certainly don’t have a problem with narrow gauge, Ed. The trick is getting a hold of material to use for the site. To add a new railroad, at a minimum I need at least one usable prototype photo and enough research material to do one decent track plan. One narrow-gauge line I’ve already got my eye on is Mann’s Creek in WV.

      • Ed Sumner says:

        There is a book by Jim Marsh of Buckhannon WV whose grandfather was the last superintendent of the West Virginia Midland. Unfortunately there is no way to determine a track plan from the info in it.

        Tony Koester also mentions several Appalachian NG roads in his latest book (Modeler’s Guide to Narrow Gauge Railroading) and there are some pics and schematics,

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