February 2011 Article

This Month's Article - February 2011
Building the N&A in HO - Warren, Virginia
Planning and Structures
As a standard gauge, shortline railroad, the Nelson & Albemarle is a great railway to model.  Because of it's 17 mile length and limited number of towns, selective compression of the railroad in HO scale could allow for a significant portion to be built and enjoyed.  Along with many of my friends, I've undertaken building a layout in a portion of my unfinished basement and while my friends seem to focus on 'larger-than-life' segments of their favorite mainline roads, I plan on using the N&A as my basis.  Spending this last year on the design, I based the plan on the actual trackwork in 5 towns; Warren (the connection point to the Chesapeake & Ohio Railway for the original Alberene Railroad that was leased/purchased by the C&O in 1898/1899), Esmont (depot and industries), Alberene (where the original line was built to serve the mill), Schuyler (location of mill, store, quarries), and Rockfish (the connection point for the original Schuyler Railway with the Southern Railway).  Compression allowed for a design that would fit in the space available and limit the overall size to 11' x 17' in somewhat of an "L" shape.  See the basic plan diagram in the sidebar item on Model Corner & Soapstone Modelers.  ^^  With the plan secure, I started building the modules that would form the basis for the layout.  Esmont required 2 modules (as Schuyler will later) and Warren was planned for 1 module.  Construction of the modules proceeded rapidly until I realized that I also wanted to have some operations on the C&O and Southern railway in the form of continuously operating trains.  Having built the two Esmont modules without consideration for running additional trackwork just underneath the main level, the framework had to be disassembled for rebuilding.  The pieces of those two modules were placed in my garage and were interrupted by my wife's decision that the basement should be a finished space for both my layout and anything else we want to enjoy there.  The Warren module sits forlorn with it's styrofoam base and trackwork unfinished while a contractor starts putting up walls/ceiling, installing electrical/plumbing, and preparing the home of my HO scale layout.  And he'll also put in an entertainment area (read that home theater) and bar along with some shelving and storage areas that will make life much more organized.  ^^  Since my construction has been superceded by this larger construction, I've started planning for the structures that will fit onto the layout without having to scratch build every single building along the rail line.  To that end, I started reviewing my collection of structure kits and also tried to do some comparisons of available kits/models of structures that are available commercially.  I also collected some structure kits that 'fit' the nature of the country setting that surrounded the rail line as well as being appropriate to the era modeled.   For this month I've concentrated on the first module, Warren.  In the library of the Virginia Polytechnic Institute's Virginia Tech 'ImageBase' there is a photograph from the Drake Railroad Station collection that I've used as the basis for the structures at Warren.  (Note: Photograph credit of the Norfolk & Western Historical Photograph Collection, Norfolk Southern Archives.  (For permission to use or copy, please send email requesting same to Jennifer McDaid, Historical Archivist via email to: Jennifer.McDaid@NSCorp.com )  ^^    You'll notice the view is looking eastward along the James River Division main line at Warren.   In the view there are several structures which can easily be set in a model layout.  For example, the house and garage at the right of the photo could be portrayed by Walthers Cornerstone Series 109 Elm Street, shown here.  While not an exact match for the structure, the orientation of the house and garage can be set to fit this building that also served as a storefront.  Beyond the station (which I'll return to in a moment) you can see another building and this looks to be aligned to the roadway that runs North-South just east of the station and crosses the tracks between the house and garage at the right in the photo.  The next structure to use is the Finley House #625 from Laser-Art Structures by Branchline Trains which possesses a rather simple view of a standard home from the era modeled.  As there are several small structures related to the railroad as well as signals, power poles, telegraph poles, and miscellaneous signage in the area, many small kits/structures will be adapted to fit the locale and best represent Warren.  Out of view of the photograph, but seen in diagrams of the area is a watertank.  Fortunately, many of the details are available by reviewing documentation such as the 1937 reprint with updates of the Side Track Record/Charts (Book of Charts), C&O Railway Co. Side Track Records/Charts; Alberene Subdivision.  (available from the Chesapeake & Ohio Historical Society at http://chessieshop.com ).  Here the track plans for the area are clearly shown at 1937 but with good representation of the existence many years before of the manner they were constructed.  This also shows where the water tank existed which would be North of the depot and could be represented by the Walthers Cornerstone Series of "Built-ups" Wood Water Tank which is available in Yellow Ochre, Cream, or Gray siding (where the Gray siding would be appropriate to the one at Warren).   There are other structures that could be included in the model, but the intent is to get the feeling of Warren and not the complete detail of every rock or brick that was present at any one time.  So this brings me to the depot itself.  While there is an excellent model of the standard C&O station of the period that notably fits the depot in Esmont, the Warren depot is quite different and uses a hip roof rather than the gable roof from standard buildings.  There are multiple kits for stations/depots, but none seem to fit this particular structure.  But, to get a close model, I thought scratchbuilding would be a good option.  Doing some searching on the internet for scratchbuilding materials, I came across, King Mill Enterprises, LLC which happens to be based in Charlottesville, Virginia.  They have a trademarked system called Kit-O-MatTM which allows you to 'build' a paper model of a structure.  So, I'm now experimenting with this and hope to construct a suitable hip-roof station with the assistance of some building materials and Grandt line parts that are in my collection of unused kits/parts.  I'm enjoying building Warren as it leads into the segment that lets me build Esmont.  On the way I'm including the little passenger shed at Boiling Springs that was also found at http://chessieshop.com and is quite inexpensive to add the detail along the tracks that make the simple road crossing there take on new character.   ^^   In the next segment I'll show you how the rebuilding of my two Esmont modules took shape to allow the track to travel underneath the low end of Esmont and curl around to rise 12 inches and be the focal point of activity with a depot, ice house, multiple houses, a gas station, and several businesses. 
As always, Please note any comments on "This Month's Article" in the comments section of either the MAIN page or the sidebar archives section.  Copyright 2011 - Nelson & Albemarle Railway Historical Society.