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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)
Coaltrain Posted - 07/11/2020 : 09:36:46 AM
Originally posted by quarryman

This tipple would be the feature facility of any layout, Jeff. Are you planning any more tipples that are this large and complex?

Once the roof is built over the loading area, will it still be easy to tell when to shut off the flow of coal from the chute into the car?

Mark Chase
Richmond VA

I don’t think the other tipples will operate. I may have two of the other ripples have live rock loading so I can simulate the rock train that ran on the Manns Creek, but they would just be a small bin under the tipple with enough rock to load 2-3 Bachmann side dump cars.

The tipple will be 51” off the operating platform so I am pretty sure it will be fine for viewing into it. I am considering dropping the platform 2” which will make it be at 53”. I do have one of those tiny video cameras that I have tossed around the idea of mounting it in the roof of the train shed, which might be a cool view for the operator.
Craig H Posted - 07/11/2020 : 09:32:21 AM
Pennman Posted - 07/11/2020 : 08:21:24 AM
You have an excellent model here with the work you have accomplished on this coal tipple. Forget the wiring, I'm looking at the use of your ground goop and real soil ground cover !

quarryman Posted - 07/11/2020 : 08:05:59 AM
This tipple would be the feature facility of any layout, Jeff. Are you planning any more tipples that are this large and complex?

Once the roof is built over the loading area, will it still be easy to tell when to shut off the flow of coal from the chute into the car?

Mark Chase
Richmond VA
Coaltrain Posted - 07/11/2020 : 07:54:23 AM
more progress, the control panel (version 4) is final. this panel has safety latches for chute 3 and 6 so they will not be able to be accidentally opened. The other panels I made I finished them all in nice paint and lettering, then threw them in the trash, so in an effort not to jinx this one I did not finish it until i decided it was the final one. I also thinned this panel by 0.10" because instead of paint I may face this panel with etched metal to represent a cast plate. I also redesigned the knobs so it would apply the pressure to the slides more directly down and not cause them to bind. I will build a temporary wood frame to mount the springs in it until the layout is built.

the tipple has some progress, I am working more on the operator platform. it is a tight fit for the hopper cars, good thing they are all the same size. The wood color you see is just the base stain, what I have found easier to do on this build is to do a base stain on the wood, when assemble it and do an overall wash to tone and tie all the colors together. I have been using three different base colors, all Hunterline stains, then wash the entire model with a final wash of acrylic paint.

you may notice the roof is all disassembled, once again i did not think it resembled the prototype accurately so I took it apart and i am in the process of modifying it. I had too much of a slope on the roof and the open space on the back half looked too big.

here is the safety slider knobs. they are two piece, a piece of phosphor bronze acts as a spring. there is a notch in the top of the slider slot to receive the safety latch. to pull down these sliders just pinch the slider and pull down.

here is the assembled panel, without the springs installed yet.

here is the tipple progress

the hopper car is almost hidden in the tipple
TRAINS1941 Posted - 07/09/2020 : 09:05:23 AM
Beautiful work!!
Coaltrain Posted - 07/09/2020 : 07:43:10 AM
thanks everyone. it turns out that i had just enough tie materials to make the 18" long piece of track inside the tipple. the first and last tie will be my standard tie so I can match the height of the ties on the rest of the layout. I made a jig to hold two rails upside down and glued the ties to the bottom of the rails, then I will glue it all down on the structure base and then drill spike holes and spike the rails in place with micro spikes. I had to do it this way because I cut each tie by hand and they were all different thickness. I could have glued them in place and then leveled them with sandpaper but I would have been sanding across the grain and I did not want to disturb the look of the tops of the ties.

here is the rail holding jig I 3D printed in PLA.

here is the track next to the tipple. it might be hard to tell but the track is closer to the coal bin than the previous track, as you can see by the splash boards under the chutes. with the track at this location the coal will not overflow off the side between the car and the coal bin. when the platform is built across the track it will also have a small splash board, however coal is more likely to go off the bin side as the pile builds height.

you can see in this image I also started construction of the operator platform. there are sockets in the base for the platform legs that I will bring the scenery up to and will be hidden by the soil. Again, I am using small magnets in the bottom of each platform brace to hold the legs tight to the base.

the last time a train ran over this tie was the fan trip 65 years ago.
railman28 Posted - 07/08/2020 : 8:49:16 PM
Excellent build! And it's going to be funn to load a train.

Guff Posted - 07/08/2020 : 8:36:03 PM
What a wonderful structure...Well Done!
BigLars Posted - 07/08/2020 : 6:18:16 PM
I'm super impressed. I need to come back and read more latter. I built a working tipple, it was manual powered and I'm sure not impressive when a giant set of tweezers entered the scene to operate it. Keep the updates coming.
jbvb Posted - 07/08/2020 : 10:42:21 AM
I'm impressed by your progress on the working coal dock.
Philip Posted - 07/08/2020 : 09:50:24 AM
Great Work! love your layout!

Michael Hohn Posted - 07/07/2020 : 9:21:51 PM
Truly impressive. You’ve done some fine modeling there. Thanks for the video.

Coaltrain Posted - 07/07/2020 : 1:20:41 PM
now that RRL is back up and running I thought I would give another update to the strip tipple project. I really thought I was done taking two steps forward and one step back but I am not. what keeps happening is that I look at a photo, build what I think I see, the take a photo of the model and compare it to the prototype photo and then see how the two match up. it seems tha almost every time I do that I see something that looked right when i was building it but looked wrong in the photo.

my latest issue is the track location is off. the track really should be closer to the tipple then I have it. the difficult part I have is that I believe the material I am using for coal goes out farther past the end of the chute then the prototype did, therefor I need to have my car a little farther away from the end of the chute (more make the chutes shorter) then the prototype. Either way I have my track in the wrong spot, it is too far away and the coal splash boards do not go over the car in the correct spot and do not function like the prototype. I have pulled the rails and removed the ties and started testing with a piece of flex track. I did find a location for the track that it operates best at, however it is about 12" farther away from the tipple than what I believe the prototype was. one more test I want to do is to test the tipple with a different coal material and see if it dispenses differently than my current material. I switched from real coal to black rock for dust control reasons but I have been questioning if I should return back to real coal again, mostly because I like that it is a more flat black color, and I love the smell of it.

since I have decided to remove the track I am going to take this time to use my real Manns Creek ties on the new track. some of you may remember that back in 2014 I visited Babcock State Park and walked the narrow gauge trail. there are still some of the original ties from the Manns Creek in the trail. I took a sliver of wood off of a tie and brought it home, then got the idea to make an On3 tie from the sliver of wood. I have decided that an appropriate place to use these ties would be at this locations on the new layout, because this is the most prototypical model I will build that will have the most prototypically located track. i will need 36-40 ties to fill this space, so far I have cut 12 ties by hand. the only issue I will have is that I think I only have enough material to make about 25 ties, so if anyone lives next to Clifftop and wants to go get me another sliver I will pay the postage and the park fee, but I need it sooner rather than later.

here is a photo of the piece of wood I picked and some soil I scooped up. you can see the small tie I made from the real tie. I have a small bag of soil that I will also apply around the track so I will have real MC soil around real MC ties.

I also have one more issue to solve with the servos. The issue I am having is that if a piece of coal gets stuck under the door the servo will continue to try and keep pushing the gate down, there is no stall on it. when the servo is not able to return to its closed position it makes a noise, and I am sure it is not good for the servo. it is easy enough to just back off the gate and the noise stops, but I plan on running spring returns and I need the gate to close all the way each time. I see two solutions, the first would be a spring in the gate rod that allows some give in the gate, the second would be to not have the gate close all the way down tight. the will not flow from the gate if it has a small gap at the bottom so the solution may just be as easy as adjusting the length of the actuator arm. However I am going to set to see how much spring force the servo can take and maybe design a sprung actuator arm.

here is a video that shows three cars being loaded with 6 of the 8 gates. in the video i almost opened one of the gates that was located between two cars, that would have been a mess for sure. it almost makes me want to design a new control panel that has safety latches on those two gates that are between the cars, that way it will take effort to make what is now an easy mistake. those two gates will only be used when the bin gets too empty to fill from the other 6, then the cut of cars will be pulled forward and those gates used until the tipple is empty.


here are some photos of where the tipple was at before I tore out the track.

Coaltrain Posted - 06/30/2020 : 12:57:11 PM
Making more progress. I got all the wiring done and the slide pots installed in the control panel. I am going to make a temporary base for the panel until I get the layout started because I am undecided how I want the panel orientated on the layout. I figure after I get the layout up I will know if I want the panel vertical and operate the slides with my thumb, or have the panel at an angle off horizontal and operate the slides with my fingers. my thoughts are to have it at or near vertical and use my thumb on my left hand. A vertical panel will not stick out in the aisle. actually, a recessed vertical panel with an overhead light above the panel sounds like a good idea. I will post photos of the panel once the base is done.

with the wiring all done I was testing all the gates. while testing one of the solder joints I had on the ends of the gate rods broke, it was then I decided on a stronger way to make that joint. I spent an entire night building new and stronger tie-rod ends for and switched all eight rods over. I am glad i found this flaw now, even though I did make the front panel that covers the servos removable for service I still don't ever want to have to service them, so taking the time to make all the parts more heavy duty will hopefully make it so I never have to get to them.

with all the wiring and test done I am pressing on to start to add the more fragile details parts. I just printed all the jigs to start to construct the faux gate arms and all the arm supports and car shed roof. I also modified the truck dock bridge to now be mounted with magnets. The magnets are working out excellent and I plan to use them to also attach the car shed structure so it is also removable for service.

I added yet another layer of soil and coal under the structure. I think maybe just one more should do the trick, then I will add coal dust to all the ground cover and the structure under the bin. I painted the coal spill slot between track and the bin black and I am happy that it really hides it well, next I will paint the outer slot and the braces under the plywood base.

I had to adjust the side the coal bin shed, the prototype sides when back farther than I had made mine. the modifications also included removing all the bracing under the rear of the roof so I could move it back as well. I hope I am done taking backward steps.

the black painted slot is hard to see now.

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