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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 Rayís 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 - 05/27/2020 : 11:25:14 AM
i keep chipping away at the tipple construction. I just finished the mess off bracing under the tipple and the bridge. I also 3D printed the gates and the rails for the chutes. The rods to open the gates are steel music wire in the visible areas and brass in the areas unseen. I soldered a small loop on the side of the actuating rods to accept a pin that will be in the end of the boards that form the actuating levels on the prototype, that way when the servo moves opens the gate it will also lower the level as if someone is pulling down on the level rope. I will wait to build the roof over the tracks until the tipple is all working and tested. I hope there will be a way to make the roof over the tracks removable for service without too much trouble. next will I am going to add the ground cover around all the trestle and bin bents.

as you can see I also started construction on the chutes. I was having a hard time deciding how to build the chutes. I had intentions of putting the side boards of the chutes on the inside of the vertical post that flank the chute gates but from looking at the only photo I have that comes close to showing the chutes I believe the side boards were on the outside of the post. it is really hard to tell because the photo is very shadowed. the reason I had a hard time excepting the boards were on the outside is that it would seem to make the chutes 48" wide on the prototype. in the photo the chutes do look wide, but 48"! If those vertical post are 10"-12" wide and the gate is about 30" wide (just guessing) you get a chutes that is at least 48" wide or wider. In the end I decided to go with what I see in the photo and we will see how it all works out.
Michael Hohn Posted - 05/18/2020 : 09:08:06 AM
Terrific job!
TRAINS1941 Posted - 05/18/2020 : 08:34:18 AM
That looks great!!
Coaltrain Posted - 05/18/2020 : 08:06:04 AM
that colorize programs is pretty interesting, thanks for sending that.

made more progress on the tipple, wood, wood, wood, and more wood. this thing just eats stained strip wood. I built the truck bridge that leads to the tipple. the bents are in place now and I am starting to tie-in all the cross bracing. The truck bridge and the coal bin are not glued in place and won't be, they will be pinned in place after the bents are finished. when all the bracing is done I will cover the ground with up to 1/2" of ground goop in some places, then I will add some of the more fragile details and build the roof over the tracks.

Chris333 Posted - 05/12/2020 : 8:51:30 PM
As for color. This program uses AI to colorize B&W photos:

It isn't perfect and I wouldn't take the result as hard proof, but perhaps it could give you ideas.

It turned this photo:
into this:
But it has also screwed up a few known colors.
Michael Hohn Posted - 05/12/2020 : 10:22:57 AM
Your bin is going to be a very impressive structure.

Iíve rarely been able to bring myself to secure structures to the ground on my layouts. I often modify scenes and move things around. Also, I donít want harm to come to them when I tear down a layout. Consequently the coal shed I built last year and coal trestle I built a couple years before that are sort of setting on the scenery. I added piles of coal under the trestle but very carefully so as not to glue the trestle in place. I like the solution you came up with.


Coaltrain Posted - 05/12/2020 : 08:48:35 AM
I have been working on the tipple but my materials are running low so I find myself waiting more than working. I seem to never be able to estimate the amount off wood a structure like this consumes. One of the difficult parts of the construction is that after the prototype was constructed it seems there was some "fill" dumped around the tipple and the lower parts of the diagonal bracing is actually under ground. to recreate the buried bracing I am leaving the bents separate from the structure for a while, in the image below the bin is just resting on the bents. I plan to use Ground Goop to add a thick coating over the pink foam and work in around the tipple bents, then sprinkle a layer of sifted sand. after the goop dries I will have to add weeds and grasses around the bents, then I can attach the bin to the bents.

i decided to stain the bin a dark brown after looking at photos of similar structures. I noticed in photos of the prototype that the bin seems to be a very dark shade and the shed over the bin seems to have a mix of light and medium shaded boards. i have also noticed that it seems that the truck bridge leading up to the tipple is also a lighter shade than the bin, and that at some time they added new bents between the existing bents and they are lighter in shade than the original bents. There is a photo of the structure in "the book" that shows the structure when it was first constructed and there are only half as many bents under the trestle, then in later photos there are double the amount and a lot of diagonal bracing that has a very random pattern, which I am sure they were all added over time to shore up the structure as it started to age.
Chris333 Posted - 05/02/2020 : 1:01:26 PM
That tiny servo gives a sense of scale!
brownbr Posted - 05/01/2020 : 08:09:12 AM
Love the house
vamodeler Posted - 05/01/2020 : 07:53:18 AM
Great work on the tipple, you are moving fast! Can't wait to see the results. Thanks for posting your "how to" as your ideas will inspire others (me as one).


Tyson Rayles Posted - 05/01/2020 : 07:31:38 AM
Great work on the house, very realistic scene1
Coaltrain Posted - 04/30/2020 : 10:23:48 AM
a few months ago I had full intentions of traveling to the railroad museum in Green Bay to photograph and measure the 37 ton shay they have, then I would be producing parts to build my new shays that I started to design. Obviously things have changed and I have had to put that project on hold for a short time (i hope).

I have moved on to building the Clifftop strip coal loading tipple, testing is done and I have settled on my basic design. I have laid out the main parts in a 3D model so I could visualize it and have some basic dimensions to work with. I have used the photos I have to make my best guess how the prototype was constructed, using images of similar ore and coal bins to fill in the missing information.

the construction of the bin will be a styrene liner for the coal bin with basswood laminated to it. I have eight mini servos that will operate all gates independently. I have decided to use eight individual controls. the gates will be controlled with a servo driver which I am replacing the controls with eight spring return linear sliding potentiometers. Tipple operators will pull down on the slider as if they were pulling down on the rope that operators on the prototype had to pull to open the coal gates, the spring return will ensure that the gates cannot be bumped and left open.

So far i am staining wood and constructing the styrene bin. The bin is made from .040 black styrene. the ends of the bin are 3D printed in black PLA to ensure accuracy. inside the bin I 3D printed three bin braces out of PLA. I also 3D printed the eight servo mounts from black resin on my Epax printer, along with some triangle shaped diverters used to eliminate the dead space between each gate. I am sure the prototype did not have any "diverters", but i also do not have mine-people to climb down and shovel out coal, so I would say we are even.

here is the progress so far

3D design of basic tipple

here are a few tools I 3D printed to help be cut accurate pieces for some of the more difficult items. the large block item allows me to cut and sand some wood shapes I can't buy. The complicated tool is used to create all the angled bin braces with all the notches. The tool with the holes allow me to drill holes in the long horizontal beams and the hole that in in the square socket allows me to center drill the ends of the vertical beams, this will allow me to use toothpick pins to reinforce all the joints since this tipple has to hold a lot of weight. the shortest tool is used to accurately cut angles on the ends or four of the front post.

here are images of the bin construction.

danpickard Posted - 04/22/2020 : 5:35:19 PM
Once again, nicely conceived and planned with the mock up process (for less headache with the nice version). I would personally be making the doors operate as 8 individual units, and include the deadmanís switch. The idea of making it at least a two button operation sounds like there would be far less cursing involved if one was to accidentally hit a button and open the doors when not ready. Cleaning up 48 cars worth of coal from across the track might make for an interesting article in the ďSlater Creek TimesĒ, but maybe not as interesting for the guy that has to clean up the work place incident.

Dan Pickard
Sully Posted - 04/22/2020 : 3:36:10 PM
Jeff, looking at the photo......is there a possibility that the loading track was graded a bit higher on the outside rail, allowing a better chance of "hitting the center" of the hopper?
It might give a more specific prototype look at what is going on at a tipple vs. the rest of the trackage.
railman28 Posted - 04/22/2020 : 12:40:26 PM
Nice indeed. I like the realistic spillage of coal you get too.


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