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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)
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.
railman28 Posted - 01/20/2020 : 1:54:33 PM
Thank you for sharing the 3D printing resin trails. It looks like you're going to have a beautiful railroad. what size of a crew will you operate with?

jbvb Posted - 01/20/2020 : 12:55:26 PM
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.
Coaltrain Posted - 01/20/2020 : 09:34:08 AM
here are a few images from the 3D model I am creating. this is the switch back area. the entire design of this layout depends on this switch back working out. the lower level is area 4 on the plan, the upper is area 9. you can see the platform for area 9 extends under the layout a little ways to allow toes not to slip off the platform, a plywood panel along the stairs keeps feet safely on the steps as well. high facias and light valances will create the shadow box look, a curtains along the bottom will block out legs. as on the previous layout I will also hide the view of upper deck bench work from view with plywood panels, the goal is to create a very clean look. I have a plan make the panels under the upper decks removable to service the upper deck.

Coaltrain Posted - 01/20/2020 : 09:19:37 AM
a quick update on the structure progress....not much is happening with it, too many distractions at the moment. I am slowly working on the office structure, I am adding the new windows but I seem to break more than I finish, I only have one more to build and then I will install them and finish this thing up.

The shay project took a big step forward, I finally go my gearbox design worked out and after four revisions I believe I have the one I am going to use, I will do a final print and start my mock up locomotive for testing. I heard there is a 42 ton shay (in pieces) at Steamtown that I am going to see if I can get to this spring to photograph and measure for my final model.

the big news is my new layout plan. as much as I liked the last plan a few things bothered me with it. What bothered me the most about it was that I did not feel it was making the best use of the space and that it not check the boxes that I originally set out to check. I felt that I just gave up on trying to design a creative plan and just designed an easy plan. I know that I said I wanted something simple but that was a little too simple. I have always been a John Armstrong fan and as John says the first thing you have to do is make a list of your givens and druthers, which I sort of ignored with the previous plan.

If you go way back to the start of this thread you will see that one of my original goals was a lot of coal loading locations, which even in that small room I was able to get 5 locations to load coal. When it comes to modeling a coal railroad the more places you can load coal the more varied your operations can be. a few pages back from this spot you will see that even though my layout space is much bigger than the old house space I had only two places to load coal at!

Another key feature that I eliminated on the last plan was the switch back. the switch back is a space eater, and on my very first layout (at the beginning of this thread) the single switch back caused the trains to back in and out of the large mining area. when I revised that plan and converted it into a double deck Manns Creek plan I included a run around at the switch back so trains could always run locomotive forward, which is how the MC operated. If I could include a switch back (which is a key feature of the prototype) AND make sure to include the run around, then I get the bonus of adding what I call "non-switching" operation.

I decided with this plan to think a little farther outside the box. I decided to reconsider my desire to focus back on coal hauling and providing as many places to load coal as possible. I also really wanted to go back to the idea of creating isolated layout spaces. I wanted to have switching areas that seemed away from everyone else, not visible unless you enter them and having the rest of the layout and operators not visible while in them. My previous HO scale layout had a space like this and it proved to be one of my favorite places to be, an opinion shared by those that operated on it. When I meet David Stewart he also was designing a new layout that had the same idea of providing isolated areas.

I also decided not to give up on the mushroom design. I have always wanted to build a mushroom plan. earlier in this thread I did try and design a mushroom plan but it was not working out because there was too many deck height issues, I just did not provide enough deck clearances to be able to actually be able to build the layout. Also, I have a nice high ceiling and it just seems a shame not to take advantage of it. the nice thing about a high ceiling is that I can create walk under areas to access parts of the layout.

so here is a plan I came up with that pretty much ticks all the boxes. most of the layout is about 50-55" elevation from either the floor or a raised platform. there are two areas that will require lift bridges, one will have to be used by most trains, and one that can remain in place most (if not all) the time. there are two walk under areas, both are 75" off the floor and will be built on 3/4" plywood so no bracing will be under them. for me 75" is a walk under, from some it may be a nod under.

I really like that this plan still retains all the elements of the MC that I wanted, plus some of the elements I wanted from my first SCRY plan. this plan has 5 places to load coal at on three separate branch lines. each branch is completely isolated from each other and from the main layout, and none of the branch lines need to be passed through to reach the others. one area will include the reuse of the original coal mine area from my first SCRY, a section that I really liked and saved when I converted the previous layout to the MC.

the bonus of this layout is the inclusion of part of a sawmill. I did not want to model a sawmill, it is not an interest that I had, but I did want to model the drying yard of a sawmill. Modeling the drying yard portion creates a lot of switching and generates loaded lumber cars that would have to be moved down to a standard gauge interchange. by modeling the ends of tall stacks of cut lumber I can have several short spurs to pickup and set out lumber cars. loads will have to transverse the entire layout and be set out at the standard gauge interchange, which is now a modeled place. empty lumber cars will have to be moved from the standard gauge interchange all the way back to the drying yard. One of my favorite freight cars of all times is the plain old flat car, and I love seeing a string of them.

One other feature which the previous plan left out was a staging track. hidden staging is not all that necessary on a narrow gauge but I was using a hidden staging track on my previous version of the SCRY at my old house to simulate a new branch line that was being constructed. it gave me a reason to model a work train that would go out in the morning and come back at night. on this layout having a two track staging allows for the same work train a place to go, but I can also visibly stage an empty log train on the sawmill through track (by the drying stacks) and at the beginning of an operating session have it travel to staging, returning at the end of the session loaded and visibly staging at the mill, removing log loads after the session.

this plan may be a little complicated to look at, I am working on building a model of this one to make sure it will work out. aside from this color plan I have one that has all the elevations called out. I was pretty honest with this plan and the elevations because for this plan to work I have to be able to get up onto the top of one of the walls. to get up to the correct heights will require a 5% grade. the new shay drive I am designing is specifically being designed to not buck going down a 5% grade.

here are the plans that show the elevations

Coaltrain Posted - 01/03/2020 : 2:41:43 PM
happy 2020 to all. I spent the holiday weeks mostly running test with the 3D printers. one test I did was a resin quality test between the Elegoo gray resin and the Anycubic green resin. I ran the same parts, with the same settings with the two different resins, to me I did not really see much of a difference. For the record I did run a heater in the booth, and the resin tray was very warm.

I also tried a test on the FDM printer. I was looking at some photos of the Manns Creek office building and I noticed that the windows I was using from Grandt line were not exactly correct. I created a new 3D model that matched the MC windows and I sided it to fit the Grandt Line frames I had already installed . I cut out all the windows on the structure leaving only the frames and trim. While I was printing all the new windows for the structure I had an idea. Using simplify 3D slicer program I created two print files of both the upper and the lower window sections. I set the printer to stop printing the window just a little over halfway through the print, which created a pocket in the window, at which point I set a piece of .007" thick slide glass, then printed the second half of the window print file which finished printing the rest of the window on the glass, encasing the glass inside the window. of course getting print off the print bed broke the glass right away. I came up with an idea to print on a piece of glossy photo paper that I taped down on the print bed, when the print finished I just untapped the piece of paper and pealed the paper from the window, worked perfect. it has been a little tricky painting the windows but so far it has almost been worth it. I say "almost" because I was having such an abnormally hard time cutting the glass, I think my scribe got damaged and was not making clean cuts. I did however get all the windows printed and I will post photos of the windows installed when I am finished painting them.

it is hard to see that there is glass in this window, I tried turning the window to get a reflection in the glass

Chris333 Posted - 12/24/2019 : 02:21:20 AM
That is turning out great! It is very hard to find obscure details about the past.
quarryman Posted - 12/23/2019 : 12:33:07 PM

The office interior is really coming to life with the furnishings and figures.

Old mills I have visited often have a "stand up desk" near the door with a large ledger book on it where the miller kept track of who brought what to be milled. Babcock may have kept similar records in a similar fashion regarding mine output, etc.
Coaltrain Posted - 12/23/2019 : 11:59:55 AM
here are a few items placed in the structure.

Coaltrain Posted - 12/23/2019 : 08:38:44 AM
Originally posted by quarryman


That is a pretty amazing collection of office details. What exactly were they managing at that office? Was it strictly the coal and coke transfer with the C&O? Was the bathroom/tub for the benefit of the coke oven workers who probably did not have running water in their homes?

Are you going to take all the company buildings on the new layout to this level of interior detail?

I am not sure exactly what they were doing there, I will ask and see if I can get an answer. I believe this is the main office for the entire operation. This is were payroll was done and all documents stored I do know that. there is a big table where they planned the mining. The bathtub seems strange to me because I would doubt they would let your average worker just come in and take a bath, but maybe I am wrong there as well. just outside the bathroom door in the main office part there was a something labeled "garment rack", on the back side of it the sketch says "storage with shelves and drawers. I don't know how many workers worked the coke ovens but it just seems that one bathtub would be used to clean up even a small shift of men. My guess is that your general worker just went home or to a shower room. maybe the guys that worked the office thought it would be nice to have their own private bathroom to clean up at before going home so they added it on to the back wall. I don't have a picture of the back of the structure but I am starting to wonder if the bathroom did not have the stone foundation under it and it was built on wood legs. I wish when I was there I would have looked at this foundation closer but at the time I did not think I would ever be building this structure. I guess I have to get back to Sewell soon.

I am planning on all structures being built like this, which is one of the reasons why I want to keep my layout scope pretty small. If it is going to take me one year to make one structure I don't want to have too many to make. The trouble is to that the more information I have been given to more I feel an obligation to do something with all this information that people have troubled with gathering, documenting, storing, saving, etc, like they had the hopes of someday someone doing something with it so it was not lost to the past. I am amazed at how much information has surfaced on such a small isolated railroad. some of the photos I have seen are of some of the strangest things, obviously the person taking these photos, at a time when photos were probably expensive, were very proud of this stuff.
quarryman Posted - 12/23/2019 : 07:29:17 AM

That is a pretty amazing collection of office details. What exactly were they managing at that office? Was it strictly the coal and coke transfer with the C&O? Was the bathroom/tub for the benefit of the coke oven workers who probably did not have running water in their homes?

Are you going to take all the company buildings on the new layout to this level of interior detail?
Coaltrain Posted - 12/23/2019 : 05:58:53 AM
I switched resin, this time I am trying the Anycubic green resin, I also got some Elegoo gray so I can compare two. I am running a small space heater in my booth to elevate the temp of the resin, I just put it on low and close the doors, the temp seems just about right, not to hot but warm enough to feel that the tray inside is warm. I am not sure the heater is a long term setup because there is no cooling for the electronics, it is just a test setup.

the structure had a slight curve to the back wall where the bathroom wall attached, to fix it I made a brace system on the FDM printer, these braces will all be hidden so strength was more important that prototype construction. this brace system will slip down inside the walls about a half inch which will create the ceiling. this space will also give me a place to run the wires for the structure lights. I plan on running the wires down inside the vault. I was going to detail the inside of the vault but because I forgot to plan for wiring I decided to sacrifice the vault for the sake of wiring.

here is the structure with the vault in place and the test fit of the roofing system. I was just sent some more information on this structure which brought to light some details about the land around it, and unfortunately I now know some things I built are not as they were. I decided that I want to build a new base for the structure, to for the reasons to "correct" it but to enhance it. the prototype structures foundation and the land had even more unique character than what I had thought and I want to capture more of those features.

here are some of the detail parts I have created and printed (not the person, he is just there for scale comparison). the sketch of the interior detail I have list of two organ stools located at two of the desk. the sketch also points out next to one of the doors a "stand up desk" and by the large main desk something called a "calculations desk". my source for information told me that the calculations desk could have been an adding machine on a rolling cart. I Googled antique adding machine on cart and come up with some images that I used to cobble up a mini adding machine and cart. the cart had some fine wire detail that I will add to it to simulate the parts that raised and lowered the wheels.

here are some parts unpainted.

here are the parts I printed with some base painting applied. the details are (front row, l-r) Divan, "Fred's Desk", coal scuttle, organ stool. (back row, l-r) wood filing cabinets, typewriter on cart, adding machine on cart, and stand up desk.

next up is to finish a few more of the remaining details and build the center fireplace chimney....and the new base. I am trying really hard to not rush this to completion, I want to get it done to clean off the bench and get back to building shays.

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