Friday, June 29, 2012

Track Plan for the Chesapeake, Wheeling and Erie

The track plan for the layout is shown in the stone age drawing below. When I drew the plan back in the early 1990's, I used HB lead because it was easy to erase. That made the drawing too light to scan, so I eventually went back and re-traced it with darker lead. It's still pretty rough, but it depicts the basic layout and features of the railroad. I've made several attempts to draw it with some of the layout design software that's available now, but it always ends up being a lot of time and effort for something that's already complete.

The Chesapeake,Wheeling and Erie is a small class 1 railroad that runs from Erie, PA to coal docks on the Chesapeake Bay. The railroad was constructed primarily as a coal hauler to take coal from the mines in West Virginia and Pennsylvania to Great Lakes and Tidewater ports (think Virginian). The line runs south from Erie, PA, has a branch that goes to Wheeling, WV and one that runs east to Pittsburgh, PA, and then heads into West Virginia. The layout represents a portion of the line from approximately Thomas, WV to New Market, Virginia. The main line then runs through Virginia to the Chesapeake Bay. The "Central Belt" moniker comes from the geographic location of the railroad.

The layout is point-to-point with two 6-track staging yards (one above the other) located in an adjacent room. The main line enters the layout from New Market (staging) and the first stop is Nelsonville, VA. There is a small yard here along with an engine servicing facility. Two branch lines leave the main here: the Dry Creek Branch and the Wilson Bridge Branch. The Wilson Bridge Branch Branch serves as the yard lead for Nelsonville and proceeds into staging. The Dry Creek Branch actually connects to the other side of the layout by running through hidden track around the perimeter of the room (more on this design flaw later). There is a connection between the main and the Dry Creek Branch that serves as a wye to turn equipment. The photo below shows the yard at Nelsonville with the main line at Summit Springs running up above the yard.

After leaving Nelsonville, the main line continues to Summit Springs where a large coal preparation plant is located along with a smaller tipple. You can see photos of the prep plant on this post: Many of the locations on the layout can be seen on previous posts. The main line then crosses the Dry Creek Branch and punches through the summit (backdrop) to the other side of the mountain.

At Sand Fork Junction, the Sand Fork Branch leaves the main and heads up the holler to serve three separate mines and a team track. The main line continues from the junction down the 2.5% grade to Big Chimney, WV. There are several industries and two coal load-outs located here. The Elkwater Branch also leaves the main and enters a two-track staging yard that connects back to the main at Petersburg Junction. After leaving Big Chimney, the main line crosses under the Sand Fork Branch and continues to Petersburg Junction, where the Purgettsville Branch comes in from staging. The main line then continues to Hollister Yard at North Pierce, WV.

Hollister Yard serves as the coal marshalling yard for all of the mines and load-outs west of Sand Fork Junction. The yard includes an engine service facility at one end and a car repair facility, including two RIP tracks, at the other end. Numerous mine and branch runs are dispatched from Hollister Yard, and way freights make set-outs and pick-up here. There is also a local yard job that services the industries in and around North Pierce.

After leaving  North Pierce, the main line enters staging and runs around the perimeter of the room to connect with the Dry Creek Branch. There is a 6-track staging yard along the wall beneath the main line and Sand Fork Branch that is all but inaccessable now. Hidden staging is great, as long as it is easily accessable. Cars will derail, track will move and things will need to be cleaned/checked regardless of the care taken during construction.

The 6-track staging yard that is now unusable will be replaced with a 12-track staging yard that will be located in the other room and will represents locations and connections to the west. The main line will leave North Pierce on a single track and will punch through the wall to staging. The two bridges will be removed and the scenery will be re-done in this area. This will fix another problem with the layout- I absolutely cannot reach the scenery at the back of this area, even with a creeper. I have no idea what I was thinking when I built the scenery so deep here.

The other two 6-track staging yards will now be used for connections to the east and the Wilson Bridge Branch. My friend Stuart Thayer has been scheming to have a run-through freight from some foreign road connection come on the line from this branch along with some foreign road power to jointly switch the tipple at Nelsonville. A lot of new ideas for operating the layout have come out of the recent operation sessions, and I'm excited about the possibilities for expanding operations.


  1. I just discovered this track plan and was wondeing about statistics. What is the room size? I'm guessing from the scale (hard to read) that it's 12 by 13 feet. Several tracks diappear and I wondered where they went. Thanks! Neat layout. I've enjoyed the video.

  2. Hi John,

    The room measures roughly 26' x 16' with a 9' x 10' bump out in the lower left hand side of the plan above. I'd be happy to clear up any confusion regarding the plan- just let me know which tracks you have questions about.

    Tom Patterson