The B&O Wheeling, WV freight house and docks as seen from across Wheeling Creek. This is one of the HABS/HAER images taken before the facility was leveled.
As outlined in the previous post, I am contemplating a new HO scale model railroad in a spare bedroom of 9′ 10″ by 16′. I want to keep this layout simple to ease building, operating, and eventually tearing down and moving. I’m also lucky to have prototype details in hand to assist with two different projects. A portion of the Wheeling & Lake Erie was detailed in the last blog post, so now it is time to share details and thought processes for a second prototype.
The Baltimore & Ohio Railroad operated a pocket-sized freight terminal shoe-horned into an odd plot of land next to the downtown business district and just railroad east of the Wheeling, W. Va. passenger terminal. As far as I can determine, this freight terminal was a part of the original infrastructure of the railroad when it began laying rails in Wheeling about 1850. Here’s an idea of some of the track the B&O operated along the banks of the Ohio River. This is an edit of a B&O a valuation map from 1920. Most of the images here can be seen in a larger size by clicking on the image.
It’s a linear operation. I assume freight cars were set off on some of the yard tracks to the right of the creek that would be spotted at the freight terminal and team track yard on the left side of the creek. It seems there is another team track yard just above the yard tracks and to the right of the creek, but I don’t think that will fit into the layout space so it will be ignored at this time. The valuation map offers this more detailed drawing of the freight house and team track yard area in a larger scale on an empty part of the map.
The valuation map gives me the basics to move forward in designing a layout based upon a small slice of the prototype. As the map has lots of detail, I created a simple schematic to cut through the noise and gain a better understanding where the tracks were. This only takes a few minutes to create and can show operating segments that can be pulled away to fit easier into an available space.
With the schematic in hand, I work on a very rough sketch to see how basic track elements can be placed into the layout space. I thought an angled design would be a better fit for a smaller room.
But when I attempted to create a scale drawing to follow the sketch, the team track yard would not fit. This was a bit frustrating as I didn’t think there was much track here to be complicated. I took a few days off from drawing and set up my hobby bench, then two light bulbs went off in my head. I had forgotten that the hobby bench was integrated into the support of the benchwork on the last layout, so I ended up with additional benchwork that I had not anticipated.
After this realization, I went back to reviewing the schematic and I noticed this terminal has three distinct operating sections. There was the yard where freight cars came in from the mainline and there is the freight house area. Note the team track yard access track has a separate track coming out of the yard and crossing the creek. I decided to separate the freight house and team track areas more on the layout design than in the prototype to offer two different operating areas and ease the fit into the available space. After a few minutes with pen and paper, I came up with this rough sketch of another possibility.
This latest sketch inspired me to create a rough scale drawing. I spent a few hours over a couple of days, first drawing the staging yard area then fitting in the freight house and team track yards. Due to the room size, I was unable to draw everything on one sheet of graph paper so this image is a composite of the two drawings.
The drawing scale is 3/4″ equal to one foot, and each block on the graph paper is four inches square. Not all of the benchwork boundaries are drawn. I’m used to making real size adjustments as track is installed so I don’t bother adding corner boundaries on a rough drawing. The track height will be 52 inches. Number 6 track switches are used in all but the team track yard, where number 5 track switches fit better. This is all a slow speed switching district with shorter freight cars of the 1926 era, so the sharper angled track switches should work fine. There are no grades and curves are a mix of 24 and 26 inch radii. The switchback tail of the team track yard follows the length of the prototype. There is hardly clearance for one loco and four 40 foot freight cars. The prototype team track yard had a 24 car capacity so this fits well in a small model railroad application.
A bonus for this freight terminal is easy access to prototype documentation. The Historic American Building Survey and Historic American Engineering Record (HABS/HAER) measured and photographed the freight house just before it was razed in the mid-1970s. Here’s another view of the original building. The wall of buildings in the background also catches my interest.
Now it is time to choose between two prototypes and two layout designs. There are pros and cons to both of the possibilities, and each follows my “keep it simple” mantra. I won’t be dithering on this decision as I am also following another mantra; “keep moving forward”. I’ve begun cutting lumber for benchwork and should have some sections standing in the hobby room soon. An upcoming blog post should reveal progress on my next model railroad.
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