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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 - 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 doesnít look right now as a test piece, itís 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.

Chris333 Posted - 01/31/2020 : 04:49:13 AM
I built a deck in the back of the house. Had the steps at an angle. I drew it all up in autoCAD to scale. I was able to list each board length I needed and also figure out the rise/run of the steps. Took a little while to draw it up, but probably saved me a few bucks in wasted lumber. And I knew it would work before I even started.
railman28 Posted - 01/30/2020 : 2:58:34 PM
The interior looks excellent. Hope fully the detailed planing of the bench work will save you time and money.
Coaltrain Posted - 01/30/2020 : 07:47:47 AM
part two of the update is about the layout. I am in the process of designing the bench work. it looks very complicated, but everything is designed in subassemblies. I will build all the subassemblies out in the shop this summer and then when the room is available I will haul them in for set up.

originally I was going to build the main platform (area 6,7, and 8) as one unit, but I decided that if I build them as two units I can actually walk under that area of the layout while standing up. my layout does not have that much complicated under layout wiring but how nice would that be to be able to stand up under it. also, I will use the space under the platforms for storage of long stuff and boxes, kind of like a very low crawl space.

here are some views of the design so far.

this is looking down the main aisle, the original SCRy dump trestle section is on the right, area 4 and 9 on the left.

this is a view looking at area 5 toward area 3. you can see how I will use a mountain to wrap around the end of the short backdrop section to hide the backdrop ending.

here is the view standing in area 3 and looking back toward area 2 (on left) and area 4 (on right). this shows the walk under created by area 5 connecting to area 9 (above and right)

here is one of the subassemblies of area 4 section 2. this is the end of area 4 where the switch back turnout will be located. you can see the drop section that will be used as the switch back tail track. a skirt will be used under the fascia in most places except where stairs are, the stairs will be plywood painted black. the plywood will be a safety feature to keep a foot from stepping off the side. platforms will extend under the layout to provide toe space if someone were to belly up to the fascia.

this is another subassembly; this is area 3 section 3. this is the transition from the lower deck to the upper deck. you can see the high fascia that will tie-in to the backdrop above. the curve on the upper deck will swing out close to the edge, there is no switching here, just running, so the operator will be looking up at their train. originally I was going to have this area a single deck with both tracks in the same scene, but there is a 21" elevation difference with only a 7" horizontal separation, which would cause the scenery here to be hard to pull off. creating a short section of double deck fixes the scenery problem because as the upper deck track curves back toward the wall there will be much more horizontal separation and by the time both tracks curve around the wall on the left side the upper track is coming down and the lower track is going up.

here is the subassembly of area 3 section 3

here is an example of the drawings that I will generate. these drawings are for me so neatness does not count, I just make them as fast as I can so they get the job done. each subassembly will have their own drawing, included a parts list. I don't go overboard on dimensions because each part has its length called out on the cut list, and if there is a dimension I find I need I will just open my laptop and get it from the file. if I were to be doing this as an actual job there would be a lot more detail shown on the drawings.

here is a close up of the isometric view of area 3 section 3. you can see that every piece has a balloon and number which correspond to the part cut list.

this is a lot of detail work, but this will make up for the time that I am losing because I have to wait for the room to become available. I also can tweak the design of the benchwork as I go without wasting time with real construction. many times after I get a subassembly done I see a way to simplify the construction, and it is easier and faster to modify in 3D than with real lumber. this summer I will buy a pile of wood, set up my saw, cut and number all pieces, then build. it should be a fun time. I can also test carry them into the basement to make sure they fit, then alter them if they don't
Coaltrain Posted - 01/30/2020 : 06:15:07 AM
update on two of the three things I am working on.

the yard office building is taken high priority, I want this thing done so I can focus on the shay and other locomotives I am working on. I have been printing, painting, and weathering details. some of the items in the photos are still in all of the above stages. everything has dust on it from sanding the resin prints, so a good cleaning will be in order. I pretty much have all the items I need for the interior, except some stuff to hang on the walls. I need to come up with some lights to hang from the ceiling, I am still figuring that out.

the windows were a big issue. I originally used Grandt Line windows and doors but after I got them all glued in I figured out how to print the sashes directly on the microscope glass, which got me thinking if I a going to go through the trouble of printing lower sashes why don't I also print new upper sashes, because the Grandt line windows are not exact matches to the prototype. so I cut out all the sashes on the Grandt Line windows that I had already glued in, leaving only the frames, then I printed all new sashes, upper and lower, plus the attic windows. then I decided that I might as well change the doors because the prototype had five panel doors. then I noticed that the front doors had five panel screen doors, so I printed those. for screens I cut out the mesh from a reusable coffee filter that I had laying around.

now I am starting to work on the outside porch. I am building the railing and the steps. the railing and post in the photos are not glued in yet as I am still weathering them.

here is the growing collection of details.

Dutchman Posted - 01/22/2020 : 08:38:33 AM
It looks like you have mastered the 3-D printer, Jeff.

Coaltrain Posted - 01/22/2020 : 06:42:45 AM
Originally posted by railman28

what size of a crew will you operate with?


I am pretty much a solo operator, but the layout could be operated by 2, maybe even three, people from time to time. I don't hold regular operating sessions at my house, I just attend them at other peoples houses.
Coaltrain Posted - 01/21/2020 : 07:07:01 AM
Originally posted by jbvb

Looking at your elevations, you could ease the switchback grade by moving the run-around to the lower track, then shifting the starting point of its grade closer to the tunnel mouth in Area 3. But if you're trying to reproduce a particular scene at the switchback, this might spoil it. The run-around could also go on the tail track, which would make the lift bridge hinge more complicated.

you're right, if I moved the run around to the other leg it would reduce the grade, and I have thought about that, but it does make the plan deviate from the prototype, looks and operation. the reason for the run around is to keep the locomotive on the head end of loaded trains. I assume this rule is because the prototype did not have air brakes and they used link and pin couplers, so there was real danger in a run away loaded car, keeping the locomotive on the head end would keep a loaded car under control. if I move the run around then I have to back a loaded coal train down the lower leg and cut off the power.

I am not afraid of going up a 5% grade, it is the bucking coming down the grade. I believe my new gear box design will eliminate this bucking.
Chris333 Posted - 01/20/2020 : 5:38:39 PM
Well that escalated quickly! Dibs on area 8.

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