Monday, November 15, 2010

Layout "Re-Focus"

As I mentioned in my layout progress post earlier today, I've been refocusing the theme/prototype of my layout. I've found, as I've visited, read about, and rethought the railroading I like, that I'm drawn towards the mountains of the east. My chosen prototype road has not changed, it's still Conrail, but the "where" to model it in the mountains, while still getting the traffic flows I want, was becoming more difficult. When someone thinks of mountain railroading and Conrail, they most likely think of the former Pennsylvania Middle Division. I did not want to do this area of Conrail as it's been done so much, maybe not Conrail, but in PRR or PC, and I didn't think I could do it justice and still have it operationally interesting. So I began looking at other lines, like the Buffalo Line, as possibilities. While the Buffalo Line would give me that "through the mountains" feel, it doesn't have the type of traffic densities I'd be looking for. So then I began to look around at other lines for "what-if" moments and that led me to the West Virginia Secondary.

The West Virginia Secondary is a former New York Central line, by way of the Kanawha and Michigan, that Conrail took over when it was formed in 1976. The line runs from Columbus to Dickinson, Wv., east of Charleston. East of Dickinson, the line continues to a number of mines, as well as interchanges with the Norfolk Southern near Alloy, Wv., and CSX at Gauley's Bridge. The reality of this line, as run by the prototype, was 1 manifest and a number of coal trains. The single manifest was really large, however, as there were/are lots of chemical and metal plants along the line.

With this knowledge in hand, I began to focus on "what ifs" surrounding this line. I concentrated on scenarios that could extend this line eastward, perhaps to a harbor in the tidewater region of Virginia. The obvious choice would be that the NYC bought the Virginian. To me, that wasn't a strong enough what-if to get the traffic densities I wanted and that purchase alone wouldn't be plausible, although, in reality, the Virginian's northern section was nothing but the NYC. The other "what-if" I found came about somewhat circuitously. For a number of months, I've thought about plausible ways to get Conrail into the Shenandoah Valley. I really like the history and scenery of that area, but getting CR into that area after the PRR sold the Shenandoah Valley Line to N&W would have been very problematic. As I began reading through some of the abandoned railroad history in Virginia, two lines popped out at me. One was an abandoned section of the Chesapeake Western, the other the Washington and Old Dominion. I decided not to pursue anything with the W&OD as the line's goal was to get to Winchester, WV, and other lines built towards WV from Winchester didn't get very far because there wasn't a great valley to use to climb over the mountains.

The CW, under variations of its name, was originally chartered to be a line built into the coal fields of West Virginia to a connection with the C&O at Gordonsville, Va. In looking into its history some more, the CW was a second attempt at another line from central/northern Virginia to West Virginia. The first, the Washington, Cincinnati, and St. Louis, was to be a narrow gauge line that ran from Alexandria through the present and former CW right of way, directly across WV (bypassing Charleston) to Cincinnati. Beyond Cincinnati, it would connect with another narrow gauge line coming from St. Louis and ultimately be a part of a transcontinental narrow gauge line. Eschewing the direct line across Virginia, I began looking at how this line might have been completed to the terminus of CR's WV Secondary. The WV Secondary followed Gauley River valley to its coal mines. The rail goes as far as Cornelia, Wv., just east of Summersville. It borders WV 39 most of the way. So starting near Summersville, I began to map out routes using Google's Terrain view and it "would" have been possible to build, very similar to the route of WV 39, across the mountains using river/creek valleys with some tunnels, out to the area around where the CW ended at the base of the mountains, Stokesville, Va.

In my version of history, the K&M and CW built these lines, each starting from their own end, to meet in the late 1890s, early 1900s. Also, with NYC backing, the CW was built towards Gordonsville and Alexandria, ultimately terminating at the junction with the C&O and close to Potomac Yard. Similarly, the NYC invested in the Virginian as well, and taking them over in the 1940s, forming the Vigninia Central Lines. Subsequent merger with the Pennsylvania Railroad would give me the lines for Conrail to get into this area. As a result, the resulting CR system map would be:
As you can see, I've drawn the line to Washington and added the Virginian's lines. Of note, the CW also bought the B&O's line from Harrisonburg, Va., to Lexington, Va. I've added that into the map as well. More specifically, the portion of the line I'd be looking at is from just west of Charleston, probably starting near Nitro, Wv., through Summersville, Wv. as the map below indicates:
There were enough online industries, like the many chemical plants, small lumber industries, and few metal/manufacturing industries, to make traffic and industrial variety. I've also been thinking of traffic flow, and the types of trains. The breakdown I've gotten to (I will post the "Operations" area later tonight) was 4 manifests in each direction, 3 intermodals in each direction, 4 coal trains in each direction, 2 auto/multi-level in each direction, and 2 Amtrak trains in each direction.

Overall, I'm happy with the approach, my modeled area will be 95% of the existing Conrail WV Secondary area and I'll manage to get the traffic variety I want. The biggest draw back I have right now as far as layout design is the "Roanoke Line" junction to the former Virginian and getting the staging right for that portion of the lines.


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Welcome to the my Conrail Model Railroad site. I will document the research, design, construction and operations of my N-scale model railroad based on Conrail's Ft. Wayne Line in Ohio.

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