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T O P I C    R E V I E W
Coaltrain Posted - 10/13/2010 : 09:14:03 AM
This is the first official post for my new layout I am building in On3, the Slater Creek Railway. I became a fan of the Manns Creek Railway while researching information on coke ovens for a project on my HO railroad, the Roanoke and Southern. Shortly after discovering the MC an article on building MC hoppers in On30 by Sam Swanson was published in the Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette. For fun I built one hopper with the intent of it being a static display. One thing led to another and I built the car to have operating unloading doors controlled by a DCC decoder. Wanting to see the car in action I started to consider building a layout in On30, but since I had only one small space to model railroad in would mean that my HO layout would have to be torn out. My HO layout met all my goals, was published in Model Railroader, and was complete, so I decided I missed layout building and decided that I would tear out the HO layout and try a new modeling adventure.

While I really enjoy modeling prototype railroads and their equipment, and swore that the next time I would model a prototype RR, I decided to once again do a fictional railroad. My reason is I like to have a little freedom to take pieces that I like of other railroads and put them together to form my own railroad that I believe will give the viewer a good idea what form of railroading I am modeling would be like, which I do by carefully picking features of railroads that do what my railroad does. I would do not pick "one of everything" to be on my layout, rather I pick features that would have been typical of railroads that are in my area and do the same work.

I liked many of the features of the Manns Creek railroad, I liked the area where the MC was located, but I wanted to be able to do a few things differently. I wanted to have a couple Rod locomotives, I know the MC did have some at one time but I want something a little bigger than they had, and I wanted to have a few different pieces of rolling stock and do a little more than haul logs, lumber, and coal. So using Google maps I searched around the area of the MC to find a location that I could place my railroad. I found another creek a little further up the New River called Slater Creek, located along the New River at a town called Thayer on the C&O.

From what Google showed Slater Creek looked a lot like Manns Creek and was close enough to each other that I could say that coal was discovered in Slater Creek canyon as well. Actually there was a coal mine there at one time and my story is that as that coal was mined out a narrow gauge RR was built up Slater Creek to reach new seams of coal. I am using many pieces of the Manns Creek on my railroad, one of which is the car shops which I plan on building to scale.

Now I know that some of you expected me to build this layout in On30, so did I, but just recently I decided to switch to On3. I switched to On3 after having a conversation with a fellow HO modeler, who after listening to me describe what I was going to do, what scale I was going to use, and how I was going to scratchbuild almost everything and he asked me why I was going to build it in the wrong gauge. I told him all the reasons why modelers choose On30 to represent three foot gauge railroads but he said that if I was going to hand lay all my track, scratchbuild all my rolling stock, and maybe even scratchbuild a locomotive or two why would I not just build it in scale three foot gauge. I decided that he was right, all the reasons to model in On30 did not really apply to my situation, so I switched to On3.

Here is the final track plan of the Slater Creek Railway. My room is very small so I had to pick a few key scenes that I wanted to model. the first scene along the top wall (by the room door) is the coal dump trestle. I struggled for a long time with this section because I wanted to have a place to dump the coal that could justify the need for lots of coal. The MC first dumped coal into a bin that was used to feed their coke ovens, later as demand for coal increased they built a sizing plant just above the coke ovens. In the later years the coke production decreased and most of the coal went to the sizing plant. I decided that I only had room for one place to receive coal and figured that the sizing plant would be the better choice. I had a hard time fitting in the sizing plant because in O scale the structure would be huge. I condensed the sizing tipple as much as I felt it could but it was still a huge model that took a lot of layout width, pushing the narrow gauge track way to the back of the layout. I decided to try flipping the sizing plant so that the standard gauge loading tipple would be at the back drop and the narrow gauge coal dump house would be at the front edge of the layout, which puts the operating track close to the front where it is easy to reach and watch the hoppers unload coal. Flipping the tipple around also allowed me to use trees to hide the fact that the entire tipple is not modeled, cutting down on the layout width required.

Flipping the coal sizing plant will allow me to model the Manns Creek Ray’s stone engine house close to the front of the layout where it can be viewed up close. I also located a storage track here so I can have a place to store a few freight cars or work equipment. In the later years the MC did not use the stone engine house, they had built a new wood engine house at a different location, so I am going to use the stone engine house to store a passenger car and something else, maybe a locomotive used at this location, not sure yet.

The one strange feature of the flipped sizing plant will be the scenery, which will fall as it moves toward the backdrop. The narrow gauge track at the front of the layout will be at the top of the hill and the scenery will fall 16" actual inches as it goes to the backdrop. I don't know how this is going to work out, I hope it gives the operator a feeling of being high on the side of the mountain but we'll see, this will be a bit of an experiment.

Where I did have to deviate from the MC is where I located my switch back and which direction my RR leaves town, a forced compromise caused by the constraints of my room. My SCRy travels clockwise around the room as we leave the coal dump trestle, across Slater Creek and around a tall rock cliff and out of sight. As the tracks turn to the right wall they will be running along the wall of my layout room where my work bench will be located under the layout, this is the one spot there the benchwork supporting the visible track can be thin and high to provide enough room for a workbench. In the middle of the right wall there will be a turnout, one leg will continue along the south wall without an elevation change to a three track storage yard, the other leg will turn along the south wall and start a stiff grade up to my switch back located in the far left lower corner of the room.

At the switch back I believe I will have some room to model either a mining camp or a lumber camp. I think I can get a siding in here but I am not sure yet how I want to do it so I am leaving that off until I get to that point. the track plan makes it look like the switch back continues on behind the furnace and connects back to the coal dump area, which is how I intended it to be to give me a running loop, but a furnace duct passes too low to allow this and the switch back track will stub end in the wall as far as I can go. Instead the staging tracks that are located under the switch back will come back together and travel behind the furnace to form the running loop.

From the switch back the tracks will climb a slight grade to the car shop and foundry. There will be a spur on this slight grade that goes back next to the switch back to a coal mine. I am going to have a small earth loading ramp and dirt road on the mine spur where just about anything can be loaded or unloaded from railroad cars, like mining equipment, building supplies, and whatever else I can imagine.

The car shop will be the MC car shop located at Cliftop and it will be built to scale with full interior. The tracks around it follow the prototype pretty much to scale. Just pass the car shop will be a run around and a strip coal tipple, also built to scale from the MC's tipple at Cliftop. The strip tipple will be built to actual load coal into the hoppers. I am a little concerned that the tipple will somewhat block the view of the loaded hoppers but I may be able to work the scenery around it to make it work better.

Just past the run around tracks is the new wood engine house, also built to scale to match the MC's engine house at Cliftop. The engine house can hold two geared locomotives. And just as it does on the MC, there is a company store located at the end of the engine house spur. The company store will also be built to scale and have three stories above the road level in front with the scenery falling away to form what we would call a "walk out" lower level, which has a set of doors to allow the narrow gauge track to enter the basement for freight car to be spotted inside for unloading.

I know it seems like operation may be limited, but this layout was meant to be a test to see what I think of O scale narrow gauge modeling. I wanted to have it be a place for me to have some very detailed structures get a taste of this new gauge / scale. I would like to move someday to a get a larger modeling space and if I continue in this scale I can use the structures and scenes from this layout on the next. I made some changes to the room since my HO layout was torn down, one was the enclosure built around the furnace, that somewhat reduced the size of my layout space but will provide a nicer room to model in. I got very tired of the narrow aisles of my HO layout and I decided to run the layout only around the walls of the room to give the largest open space for people in the middle. I also wanted to make sure I had a running loop to be able to test and break in equipment, something I really regretted not having on the HO layout.

Well, that got a little long. I will be starting to benchwork soon, I am still doing the room remodeling. I did install the tracks behind the furnace already because once the walls are completed around the furnace because it was easier. I will be able to reach the tracks from one side if there is an issue but there was no way to install them if I had not done it first.

15   L A T E S T    R E P L I E S    (Newest First)
quarryman Posted - 02/19/2020 : 07:58:23 AM

If I am looking at your plan correctly, it appears raising Area 9/climbing a grade from Area 5 is an option. That might gain you some more vertical separation.

Coaltrain Posted - 02/19/2020 : 06:23:31 AM
That map you made is really fun to look at, thanks for the link.

i did a little more work on the layout model. i have almost all the pieces for the upper level printed. I am going to glue the upper level pieces to a sheet of card stock like it did for the upper level. Originally I was thinking that I would be able to set the upper level on top of the lower level but the model will be stronger if I keep the two level separate.

the one area of main concern was going to be area 3 and 4. the biggest concern was going the be the clearance below the area 9 as the trains leave the switch back run around, here the grade is climbing and my 16" deck separation has shrunk down to only 9" at the very worst, it is about 11" at the run around. the deck separation looks really bad when I put the two models together so I built a little train (to scale) to have something to relate to in the images. Also keep in mind that the track elevation at the run around is 62", for me that is just below eye level, the bottom of the upper deck here is just at my forehead.

Chris333 Posted - 02/18/2020 : 1:54:55 PM
The Mann's Creek RR is one of my favorites. A while back I made an online map of the railroad. For anyone interested: https://www.google.com/maps/d/edit?mid=1xT4OtKUkby4kT1Won3OxxfRTOV2YRRkN&ll=37.98572293418859%2C-80.99122764899545&z=13
Coaltrain Posted - 02/18/2020 : 1:49:20 PM
Originally posted by quarryman


How long do you think it will take a train to get from the tipple scene through Area 3 to the upper level?


that's kind of a hard answer, but this is my guess. if a shay travels 10 mph then it will cover 10560" per minute. since my shays can run at prototype speeds, and I measure the distance from the dump trestle to the strip tipple (area 7) as 1248", I come up with 8.46 minutes running full speed from start to finish and with no stopping for direction change. However, since trains start out gradually (we hope), and stop gradually, throw in the speed reduction for going up the grade and the change in direction at the switch back, I am going to guess the time may be almost double, or at least 150% more.

so I guess the short answer is 14-15 minutes. and if you throw in that going down grade will take longer because you have to account for swapping the locomotive and caboose at the switch back run around. My guess is that i could take one actual hour to make a round trip and do just a little switching. When I tell the local modelers that I am designing the RR for "one good run" they don't really believe it because it does not look like much work, but the main line form area 2 to area 7 is 104' long and I am running Shays, that is a long run.

just imagine going like this for 104', this video was only 8'!

I was just thinking about possible operating scenarios this morning, one idea I had was to run longer coal trains from Area 2 to Area 7 when I have more than one guest over. the switch back is sized for trains of 10 hoppers, a loco and a cab. if I run 12-14 car trains then I can use two people to move the coal train from area 2 to area 4, then reassemble it at the switch back for the run to area 7. the first crew could leave area 2 with a big Shay and push 10 empties up the lower leg of the switch back, then pull up to the run around and wait. A second crew could leave a small Shay, pushing a caboose and pulling 2-4 more empties up the lower leg of the switch back. this short train could either tack add itself to the rear of the longer train and run as a pusher, or it could at its empties to the longer train and tack on the caboose, then return light back to area 2. I could just run two short trains but I don't have enough cabooses, of course I could make more but maybe that would not be as fun, i guess we will see ;)
quarryman Posted - 02/18/2020 : 08:06:19 AM

How long do you think it will take a train to get from the tipple scene through Area 3 to the upper level?

Michael Hohn Posted - 02/17/2020 : 3:58:51 PM
You’re putting a lot into drawings and models of models, but a complex multi-level layout like what you’re planning requires such careful work. Each space is going to be a unique environment where a person could almost get lost. I wouldn’t want to get lost in the actual New River region. You’ve done a good job capturing the look of the massive sandstones of the New River Formation.

Coaltrain Posted - 02/17/2020 : 06:59:03 AM
ok, now for the model model photos.

the scenery looks a lot more rugged than it will look on the real model railroad, the trees and shrubs will help smooth it out some. you can see on the right side of the image above the horizontal separation to vertical separation is pretty bad, which is why I had to go to a second deck sooner that I originally planned, which will require a none prototypical tunnel to make the transition. here you can see where I am planning one of the rock face trestle to help with the horizontal separation issue. one thing to take note of is that the base of this model is not the floor, it is the bottom of the benchwork, the lower track is about 54" off the floor and the upper track is just under 72", so standing in the Area 3 cove the operator will be looking up at the train on the upper track, which will mean that only a sky backdrop will be needed here, which I may need to consider coping across the ceiling as well.
http://www.railroad-line.com/forum/data/coaltrain/202021765052_layout print 21.jpg

I will have some more images later this week of other areas. I am currently printing the upper deck. the scenery on the upper deck will not be much of a concern. the upper deck represents the top of the Appalachian plateau, streams will be low relief cutting through just some rolling hills and trees.
Coaltrain Posted - 02/17/2020 : 06:32:23 AM
I spent a little more time with my model model railroad. i added more scenery in Area 3 with air hardening clay, then I did a quick and dirty paint job to be able to see it better, the stark white clay is as bad as fresh plaster scenery, and even a cheap paint over is better than the glaring white.

anyways, the scenery really makes a big difference showing the areas that will be ok, and the areas that I may want to consider changing (if I can).

here are some images of the area that I will be modeling.

when standing in Clifftop looking over the Manns Creek valley, toward the New River, it looks like simple rolling hills, however those trees really do a good job at camouflaging the ruggedness underneath.

back in 2014 Brian Bond and I walked the old right of way from Clifftop to the junction (about 2 miles). you can see that under those trees lie vertical rock faces and steep sloping terrain. Having Brian in these photos give a good scale reference.

here Brian is walking along one of the many areas that the rocks on the mountain side were right up against the trains.

I like the following photo because it shows just how narrow of a ledge the prototype ran on, also I like how Brian's head and line of sight show you how steep the land falls away from the tracks.

in some areas the MC used stone retaining walls (just like a model railroader would) in areas where the slope was just too steep.

in two more areas on the prototype it almost seems like the real railroad was using a trick of a model railroad. there were two vertical rock faces that the prototype had to curve out away from, to do so they used wood trestles, one rock face trestle just crossed land below and was named "Dry wall" trestle, the other rock face had water seeping out which formed a tiny stream at its base, this trestle was named "wet wall" trestle.

here is dry wall trestle.

its hard to see where the trestle was so, I indicate it here in red.

this is the rock face of dry wall trestle.

wet wall trestle to this day still has water flowing out of the face of it. Also, the remains of the trestle can still be seen collapsed at the base of the rock face.

here are the remains of the trestle.

my goal is to recreate this area and the feeling of being "in there". I may have areas that have patches of trees between the operator and the train to show that the train is "in the woods" and not running along a park like edge of the trees. I will keep the trees thinned out so the train can be seen. in those patches I will make the section of scenery lift out to access the track and trains behind if needed.

when I look at those rock faces the detail I see is lots of vines and brush. just before I moved I was experimenting with creating rocks like this. Now, looking at the following model photos in the same thread as the above prototype photos it looks like I came pretty close, hopefully I can remember how I did it and recreate in on a larger scale.

Coaltrain Posted - 02/14/2020 : 08:06:42 AM
thanks everyone.

i finally finished all the 3D design for the benchwork as well. i was stalling on the last segment because it required me to go out in the shop and measure up the old section from the original SCRy that I saved, it figures just as I needed to go measure it we get an arctic blast of cold air and the temps were -15 deg F. i did it though and I got it in the model and figured out how to connect it. The track on the old section swings out a little farther than I was planning so I may either try and modify it when get that section installed, or if it seems fine I will just leave it and adjust the benchwork to fit.

so far I am figuring that I will install all of area 3, 4, and 5 first once I start building in the room. that way I can get the grades all set and tested. I will need to lay the track in area 4 first because it has the worst overhead clearance, its not bad to operate but it would not be that fun if area 9 was installed on top. after the track in area 4 is laid I will install area 9 over it and tie area 9 to area 5. After that, I will will move over to the other side of the room and build the two platforms at area 8 and 6/7, then I will work my way across and install area 1, then 8, then 6, then 2, and lastly area 7. working in that order will keep the center of the room open as long as possible to bring in lumber and modules.

here are the last views of the 3D model.

here you can see how I am connecting the existing section (under the mine) to the sawmill drying yard and to the extension to area 5

this is the area that looks like it might be tighter than planned, its not bad but it is below my minimum that I was trying to keep.

here i added some more people to see how they are all going to fit, it looks really nice, the mushroom design is really working out well to keep each area open feeling, even that area at the sawmill looks very comfortable.

this is the sawmill drying yard and mine area at Area 8. Brian Bond (Deer Creek & Laurel) had a great idea to eliminate the mine here and make it all a sawmill town, which is a great idea, and maybe i would do that, but at the moment i want to go with the plan to reuse the mine from the original layout here, but we will see, maybe once I run it a while I may consider doing what he suggested, it is very tempting.

here is looking into the area 6/7 part of the layout. i am considering hanging a curtain across the opening into the area to close it off even more and eliminate the ability to see area 5, just to add more isolation and keep operators from knowing exactly where other trains are and what they are doing.
brownbr Posted - 02/14/2020 : 06:34:42 AM
A fascinating build. thanks for tracking the progress.
danpickard Posted - 02/13/2020 : 10:59:55 PM
Very clever design and pre-build testing process, which will no doubt provide excellent vision of what the final full size effort will look like, especially with all the terrain forming being now. Less time should be wasted now when it comes to committing to sharing scenery on the real one because all the trial end error has been well tested in miniature, and if it doesn’t look right now as a test piece, it’s easier to change a few spots of clay than a large section of scenery. Fascinating to watch and enjoy this project be developed.

Dan Pickard
Coaltrain Posted - 02/13/2020 : 9:26:09 PM
i finally finished printing all the lower level benchwork. i printed out a plan of the layout and glued it to some cardstock. I glued a second print to more cardstock and cut it out like roadbed. I am using air hardening clay to plan out some scenery ideas. you can see in Area 3 where the tracks were too close together horizontally to be able to create logical scenery so I extended the upper deck more and created a mini shadow box on the lower deck. this is the only area where the two decks are visible from the same aisle. will have to make a tunnel here to create the transistion from one deck to two.

i will build the room walls in area 3 and then add the backdrop, after that I will be able to work in the scenery in this area and see how the transistion from area 4 is going to work out with the lower overhead clearance from the deck above.

so far I like how easy it is to play with the scenery using the clay, I just can keep pushing it around until i like it, which will give me a much better idea when it comes time to do it full size.

Dutchman Posted - 02/06/2020 : 08:59:55 AM
Actually, quite amazing. A long way from a paper and pencil sketch followed by a mock-up made from a cut up cereal box.
Coaltrain Posted - 02/06/2020 : 05:47:13 AM
printed out a few more layout sections. I made risers on the first two sections but I left them off on area 3 because I am not sure exactly how high they will be, which is another reason form making this model. I am glad that my layout space is not available to build it yet, if it were I may not have wanted to take the time to plan this layout out...or I would have jumped at making one of my earlier plans.

Coaltrain Posted - 02/05/2020 : 08:08:49 AM
I've made good progress on my layout 3D model. all I have left to do is design the bench work for part of area 8. part of area 8 will be a section left over from my original SCRy layout so that area of the benchwork will have to be built to fit as I graft the original section to the new layout.

here are some images of the progress.

I also started to 3D print the layout subassemblies in 1/24th scale. the goal is to build a scale model of the layout so I can test the scenery and make sure it all works as planned. the 3D scale model will also help me know where I will have to have photo backdrop areas, which will tell me what sizes I will need to order. this layout is too big to do all areas with photo backdrops so I will have them in key areas. some areas of the backdrop will only need sky showing because they will mostly be blocked by tall scenery, an example is area 3 and 9 will have mountains above eye level so only sky will be needed, areas 1,2, and 7 for sure will be all photo backdrops.

here are the first two sections of 3D printed layout. the 1/8" Masonite did not print good, subsequent models I have thickened the Masonite just for the prints.

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