Boomer Operator #4 – A West Virginia visit

FMs on high bridge

I recently visited the Mon Valley Railroad Historical Society in Morgantown, WV and participated in an operating session. This was a homecoming of sorts for me as I have been a member of this group since the start in 1988. I had not seen the layout since I moved away three years ago. I was surprised with scenery progress in several places as well as additional lighting. I took photos along the way with my iPhone. While the quality is not pristine, they documented my fun on that day. Click on any image for a larger view.

The layout was designed for operation from the very beginning. Most of the 500 foot mainline is single track and DCC control is used to run the trains using timetable and train order operating rules. A big project a few years ago rebuilt the mainline configuration on a long hill. The grade was reduced from a 3.25% maximum to 2%. The distance along the grade was lengthened from 65 to 110 feet and the entire grade was double-tracked with train movements governed using B&O style interlocking signals. Nearly all eastbound trains require a helper assist up this grade, which adds more layers of operational interest.

FMs at tower

My first train was a fast eastbound merchandise freight pulled by a pair of fine Atlas Fairbanks-Morse H-44-16 diesels in New York Central lightening stripes. This was a timetable train with no scheduled meets along the mainline. At the central town of St. George, several freight cars were dropped off and a few eastbounds were tacked on. Once the brake system was recharged, the train pulled up to the dwarf signal at East St. George tower and awaited a clear board. I had instructions to move ahead to the next signal so a helper can be added to assist the train up the grade. After a few minutes, the train started tackling the hill.

FMs at tunnel

At several points along the mainline there are junctions with other subdivisions. These often go to a stub track or a couple of stub staging tracks to store a string of cars or an entire train. At Intermountain Junction, my train passes one of these connections that serve a coal mine that is not directly modeled, but implied by a string of coal hoppers awaiting pick up.

FMs at junction

My run across the mainline with the Fairbanks-Morse units went smoothly and the train arrived in the Patterson Creek yard about 45 minutes after I first pulled out of Ravenswood yard on the far west end. I was called almost immediately to pilot a westbound general freight extra with two Baldwin roadswitchers on the lead that were produced by Stewart. I had train orders authorizing the mainline to St. George so I pulled the throttle open and began lugging out of Patterson Creek. It wasn’t long before the train was assaulting the east flank of the Appalachians.

Baldwins on the grade

Sitting a top the east grade is Dobbin, WV, where the railroad interchanges with the Western Maryland Railway. A tannery is served here and a limestone quarry is about a mile away. Here’s my westbound train passing the Dobbin depot area.

Baldwins pass Dobbin.

There was a clear train order signal at Wilson’s Mill, so we trundled along with the westbound freight passing by the Davis Coal Company tipple and company homes that line the tracks between the mine and the town. One of the big malleys was switching out coal hoppers at the mine but we didn’t have time to stop for a photo. The train was soon on the big hill and headed downgrade to St. George. I cut back the throttle and worked the brakes all the way down the mountain.

Baldwins drop downgrade.

Freight cars were again switched out and added at St. George. A passenger train passed on the mainline while I waited for the yard crews to do their work. About 20 minutes later, I notched open the throttle to pull ahead ot the west tower for train orders. The operator had them ready as we approached and I picked them up on the fly, then pulled the throttle out a little more as the train cleared the yard limit. We soon passed Ellamae where a local was working the paper mill. Junior came and went with a glance down the Elk Subdivision that runs to Charleston, WV. The lights of Ravenswood yard came into view and I cut back the throttle and worked the brakes into the yard. The train was lined up for a yard track and another crew would take this further west to Cincinnati.

I wasn’t in a real loco cab, but it seemed like it for the time I was there. I ran one more train before I ran out of time and had to meet family members for lunch. Four hours had passed by quickly. It was great to see some of my friends and operate this layout again.

If you want to see more of the Mon Valley Railroad Historical Society layout, check out a more complete layout tour on their website.

I hoped you enjoyed this diversion and a glance at a club operating session. Your comments are encouraged. Please follow the directions of the anti-spam program when you leave a comment below. Comments are reviewed and approved before they appear here.

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3 Responses to “Boomer Operator #4 – A West Virginia visit”

  1. Mike Fifer says:

    Thanks for sharing all of your thoughts and ideas with us.
    Great blog and information.
    Thanks , Mike

  2. josh says:

    Good story Eric…..I went to a club layout 2 weekends ago and enjoyed poking around…even though it was much smaller. There doesn’t seem to be as much activity around here as you would expect!

  3. admin says:

    Hey Josh! As you know, a model railroad bunch takes some time to develop. If you find one or two, concentrate on learning from each other and pushing the individual projects forward. You will probably enjoy the efforts and you may attract the attention of a few others and expand the small group.
    – Eric

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