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 Slater Creek Railway

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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 - 04/07/2020 : 09:42:06 AM
i started painting the stone work under the railroad office. i getting happier with it but i am not sure I am where I want to be yet. I am looking for a dirty sandstone color. The sandstone in the Sewell area is a yellowish tan color, but it gets dirty and i want that look.

i started out here with the color

then I tweaked it a little to make it lighter, here is where I am at now.

i also installed the lighting, for now there is a battery in the vault area and i attached a reed switch to the roof.

Coaltrain Posted - 04/06/2020 : 2:09:14 PM
Originally posted by artvdw

re you a Mechanical Engineer by any chance?


no, close, I am a mechanical designer. I work all day trying to make the engineers desires come true. I have been in design and fabrication for over 30 years.

thanks for checking out my post, i am glad you like it, i keep trying to post new stuff as often as I can
artvdw Posted - 04/04/2020 : 11:11:49 AM
Having seen some of the other ingenious devices you have dreamed up and added tp your layout, I should have known that you would have something up your sleeve. Are you a Mechanical Engineer by any chance?

I have seen some guys who are fast when it comes to putting a layout/details/ideas together, but you are way at the top of the list.

I very much enjoy this thread, and since I live so close, I hope that I can visit your layout sometime after all this virus stuff settles down.

Coaltrain Posted - 04/03/2020 : 12:33:37 PM
Originally posted by artvdw


If you are going to have working coal tipples, how do you plan on unloading the cars?


Thanks for the information, but I have been working in the unloading part of the equation already. Here you can see my unloading trestle in operation on my previous layout, which I saved and will be reusing”

artvdw Posted - 04/03/2020 : 10:30:49 AM

If you are going to have working coal tipples, how do you plan on unloading the cars?

I once visited a HO Layout where there was a working coal tipple. I am not sure how close to the prototype it was, but the owner had rigged it so that the 'right' amount of coal would be loaded into each car via a chute. Then, the consist would head out and back each coal car into the unloading structure, which again may not have been prototypical. The coal unloading was done by a vacuum with the hose above the top of the car. The hose was hidden by the walls. When the cars were unloaded, the vacuum was turned on and the coal was sucked up into the canister and distributed back to the coal tipple. You could not see the individual coal chunks rising up into the hose - all you saw was a conical pile of coal in the car slowly getting smaller. It was very impressive to say the least.

In looking at your coal unloading structure, I am not sure you would be able to hide the hose from the vacuum, but it might be something to think about.

Coaltrain Posted - 04/02/2020 : 3:50:59 PM
i did a mock up of what the layout will be like at the dump trestle. in this image the pink foam is the bottom of the upper level and the white foam represents the back of the upper deck backdrop, as you can see it pretty much is centered on my forehead.
Coaltrain Posted - 04/02/2020 : 08:55:05 AM
i finished the layout model, and now it is time to move on to real models.

here is the upper level all in place. it is not exactly sitting at the right height because i glued the upper level to a piece of card stock to make it strong, the resin is pretty fragile. I also had to cut away the "concrete" to get the upper level to sit in place.

i printed a few more trains to fill some of the new areas. here is the "junction" (area 5).

this is area 9, which I decided will be more like tipple #7 on the Manns Creek. I decided to not have any houses here and keep it more remote, Tom's comments reminded me that I really want to enforce the feeling of being isolated. this area will be high (about chin level), but the tracks are all very close to the front edge of the layout and there are only two turnouts. Also, having the small creek running along the front edge of the layout was there to help lower the front edge of the layout and eliminate the need for bushes or trees, which will help it feel lower that it really is.

i made a few standard gauge cars, i made a box car and flat car that has a lumber load on it. I also made some other narrow gauge cars, a few flat cars and some box cars. the standard gauge cars are 40' and the narrow gauge cars are 20'. i also changed the road here at the interchange. I wanted to include what would be Old State Road, which crossed the tracks just ahead of the interchange yard, and I also added a little bit of the road along the front edge by the depot. I am thinking that when I build the layout I will move the standard gauge line a little closer to the backdrop by the houses to have a little more space for two story houses to help block the standard gauge line as it runs into the backdrop. The taller houses will do a better job at blocking the weird termination of the standard gauge line. I also will change the scenery where Old State Road crossed the standard gauge tracks

that's it for the layout model, it sure was fun to build. i am going to do an updated video tour of the layout soon and I will post the link here.
Coaltrain Posted - 04/02/2020 : 08:04:21 AM
Originally posted by us-okrim


I have been looking at your mini 3D model and prints over the last few weeks as well. Referring to your post from 3/28 on 10:35pm - 1st picture. I am concerned about spacing between levels, taking away a good view of your greatly modeled coal unloading area. Maybe it will be fine, not sure - a mini sized person to gauge viewing height/level would be awesome to judge scene visibility for us followers.

We are all kind of eager for you to get started with your new layout in real basement scale size. When is your room becoming available, what timeline are you looking at?

Thanks, Mirko

thanks, the model is hard to get a size perspective on, that is why I made the little trains. I tried to make a person but all the files i have found to down load a person is not printable. in the area of the dump trestle the tracks at the trestle are 52" from the floor, the bottom of the benchwork of the level above the dump trestle is 70" off the floor, which puts the bottom of the upper level right at my forehead, the separation is 18" between levels.

i am not going to try and hide the fact that the trains will be high, most of the time upper chest level to nose level, which is what i wanted. on my previous layout I had many of these same elevations and I like them, however I do know that I will get some people come see the layout that won't like how high it is. I am going to provide some flip down steps in switching areas that will provide about 4" of height for shorter operators. on the flip side of that will be anyone that is 6'-6" will be a little uncomfortable. It would be impossible to build a layout to satisfy everyone so i decided to build it to satisfy me.

as far as when will i start building, with this COVID thing I don't know. my son is living in my train layout room and I am not sure how this will effect him buying a home, it may help and it may hurt. I have plenty of things to build for the layout so I am in no hurry. what is nice about building this model of the layout is that now I have a better idea of what will fit and I can start building some of the structures. One structure I really want done and functional right away will be the working strip coal tipple.
us-okrim Posted - 04/01/2020 : 12:20:58 PM

I have been looking at your mini 3D model and prints over the last few weeks as well. Referring to your post from 3/28 on 10:35pm - 1st picture. I am concerned about spacing between levels, taking away a good view of your greatly modeled coal unloading area. Maybe it will be fine, not sure - a mini sized person to gauge viewing height/level would be awesome to judge scene visibility for us followers.

We are all kind of eager for you to get started with your new layout in real basement scale size. When is your room becoming available, what timeline are you looking at?

Thanks, Mirko
Sully Posted - 04/01/2020 : 10:23:24 AM
When I explored this area years ago, I was struck by the "loneliness" of these coal towns. Most towns grow larger each year, but these coal towns are practically gone........imagine walking to school near "Shades of Death creek" just below Landisburg in the early 1900's.......

I really like what your doing here Jeff........so much "story" to tell in addition to building a model rwy. and "running trains".......

Download Attachment: Shades-of-Death-Creek.jpg
147.3 KB
Coaltrain Posted - 04/01/2020 : 09:42:21 AM
I like the idea of having the Sawmill area being all lumber related, but I have a few reasons why I am still moving forward with keeping the coal ripples. First, and main reason, my interest is mostly in the coal side of the manns creek ry. My desire to to have as much coal operation as possible, which means having as many coal focused switching opportunities as possible. Second reason would be that the depth of the bench work along the mainline coming into the mill area is about 8-10”, any structures along that area would most likely have to be flats, and personally I wanted to avoid flats as much as possible because they are hard to blend into a backdrop and have it look right from all angles. The nice thing about coal tipples is that they can go over the tracks and give them more depth than the 8”.

If I were to be doing an exact model of the MC I would have a good argument for having that tipple, just off Glade Creek, along Butler creek according to the map of Landisburg was what looked like a large 2-3 track coal tipple
quarryman Posted - 03/31/2020 : 2:33:06 PM

The mock up displays the layout way beyond what any 2D rendering could. It is very fun to study.

I am going to have to agree with Brian Bond ... I think the Landisburg scene should be strictly lumber oriented. Modeling more of the sawmill campus and town would provide some interesting variety.

Tyson Rayles Posted - 03/30/2020 : 08:51:44 AM
Nice model!
danpickard Posted - 03/29/2020 : 8:09:14 PM
This is one of the most fun and creative layout builds I’ve followed for a long time, and it’s not even up to the actual layout yet!
Awesome planning processes being demonstrated for all to observe.

Dan Pickard
jbvb Posted - 03/29/2020 : 11:03:52 AM
You're making a nice model of a model there.

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