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My layout made it into the newest edition of O gauge railroading. Some of you, including myself, haven't actually seen the printed version of the article yet, but I know that it's out.

I've had my layout in a few magazines over the last couple of years, but I have to admit I was very happy with the experience working with OGR.

They did a very good job, and I'm glad at how it all turned out.20181225211207_IMG_3451-01


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  • 20181225211207_IMG_3451-01
Last edited by p51
Original Post

I've decided to make this the general thread for the layout itself here, so I'll start where many of you have not read anything from the past.

I'm modeling the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina in On30 (yes, using Bachmann locomotives). Knowing I'd never be able to do true justice to the real railroad, I 'protolanced' a fictional branch line up Stoney Creek, which in real life is just East of Elizabethton, TN. My parents grew up there.

The layout takes place in 1943 (when both my parents were about 7 years old) and pretty much fills a small (11X10) room.

This installment covers construction:

I went with a track plan drawn by a friend of mine, but I didn't explain the other things that had to fit into the room, and he was thinking in HO and not O scale NG. So, once the sections of the layout were built and assembled (I built it in sections so it could be dismantled if I ever have to move), it simply didn't work. So, I changed the center section quite a bit. I lost a lot of track like that, but it fit the room much better once I did that...


Here's after it all was placed into the room. Track laying and wiring started right away, and in a few days I track laid all the way around. The approaches for the turntables came later.


The layout is point to point and relatively small, but it is designed for operation in mind. Three major sections have enough operating potential, I think, to keep things interesting.

A few days after the track first started going down, the first train made it all the way around the main line. DCC was soon in place, with plugs in 4 spots along the layout. I have three ten-wheelers, representing the locomotives the real ET&WNC had during WW2, #s 9, 11 and 12.


So, why this RR to model, you might ask?
Our family went to Elizabethton, TN, usually once a year to visit all our relatives. Every now and then, I might see some remnants of the old railroad. We'd pass the site of the covered deck bridge near Hampton (though I never realized at the time I was always looking on the opposite side of the highway on those trips to see if I could catch a glimpse of the remains of the grade at that point) or if I was really lucky, we'd go to Tweetsie RR near Boone. In the early 80s, all the men from the family once went to see the remnants of the grade through the Doe River Gorge. I don't think any of us at the time realized that they'd only stopped running trains through there a few years before as part of the ill-fated, "Hillbilly World," the billboard for which was visible from the highway for many years. The local library up there had a copy of the book, "Tweetsie Country," which I drooled over and got a copy of my own as soon as I could afford one.

This is me, circa 1982, at the Tweetsie Diner near Newland, NC. This used to be ET&WNC coach # 23. Sadly, it burned down later.

And here I am, 23 years later with ET&WNC # 12, a locomotive I've probably seen about 4-5 times in my life. It's also the only locomotive left from the 3-footer portion of the railroad (though standard gauge engines # 207 and 208 both still exist today).

Here's what I refer to as ET&WNC #207; all other train fans refer to her as Southern RR 630. I took this shot in 2012, exactly 30 years after I was first there and got my first cab ride on this very locomotive. Sadly, she was cold at the time but had just run the weekend before. About 100 yards behind 207 is 210, one of the RS-3 diesels the Southern RR traded for the steam locomotive above and her sister engine, # 208 (later known as Southern RR 722). Sadly, the RS-3 is mostly gutted and also unlikely ever to wear her ET&WNC paint job again...

On my first trip to the restored Doe River gorge trackage, I overlaid this shot of a train (the 1949 board of director's inspection special) coming around the same curve, taken from exactly the same spot (the edge of the hillside is from the original photo, proving I was exactly at the same location for my photo).

This is one of a few ET&WNC boxcars in existence, at Elizabethton, TN. This isn’t the real 434, when they pulled this car off someone’s property they couldn’t make out the number so they picked one from a list of known sold boxcars when the railroad folded up. Unfortunately, they chose a number of another boxcar that still exists today and is nearing the end of a long restoration. More can be seen on that car here: On the point is North American Rayon locomotive #1, which was the last steam engine in America which ran in interchange with other steam engines. I saw this engine running several times while growing up and even got to sit in the cab once in the 80s while it was under steam (and have the photos to prove it).

I collect ET&WNC stuff, which isn't too difficult (as there's next to nothing out there that's available) as well. I have a few original photos from before the line was abandoned, both the 3-footer and standard gauge stuff. This is a shot in my collection of #11's front coupler, which was an interesting contraption all the ET&WNC engines had, it allowed those 3-footer engines to couple standard gauge cars!

And here is an original ticket from the RR!

Just in case anyone is curious, yes, I do like 3-footers in other parts of the country. In fact, I've personally been to almost every existing narrow-gauge railroad in the US (including Hawaii and Alaska). Here I am below at Osier, Colorado on the Cumbres and Toltec... All that said, very little attention has ever been given to 3-footers East of the Rockies, it seems (other than the East Broad Top). The D&RGW lines have been modeled to death and there's nothing I add to that.

Last edited by p51

Like many modelers, I took an alternate reality stance to the planned layout as there wasn't really a railroad along the creek after 1932. Yes, Stoney Creek is a real place, just outside Elizabethton, TN. The places named are also real spots along the way. Here's my fictional history of the Stoney Creek Southern/ET&WNC Stoney Creek branch and locations in a modern-day context:

The railroad was started in 1898 and by 1900, cut East by Northeast from Elizabethton, paralleling old state 91 on the south side of the Watauga River. It crossed the Watauga at the bend in the river just east of the modern Lynn Valley Road bridge. Paralleling the current highway 91, it ran up into the hills where logging traffic kept the railroad going into the depression era. The railroad got as far as Dry Branch where locomotives were turned around and log cars were loaded. Originally chartered as the Stoney Creek RR, the line added 'Southern' to the end of the name to avoid confusion with state tax collectors over a competing logging line which ran mostly on the south side of the creek.

There were various station stops once the railroad crossed the Watauga River, notably at stops such as Carter, Hunter, Winner, Sadie and Buladeen. The line was chartered to go as far as Shady Valley, but never got that far.

The line saw very little passenger traffic but the logging provided revenue until the 1930s. By 1936, trains were running only once a day, if that. Drowning in red ink, the Stoney Creek Southern offered a buyout of stock to the parent company of the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina RR. By the fall of that year, SCS-marked rolling stock started to vanish and ET&WNC equipment started running up the valley. Although a separate corporate entity into the WW2 years, the SCS was in effect another branch of the 'Tweetsie'.

The 1940 hurricane (storms weren't yet named at this time) caused much flooding in the region and washed out the SCS's Howe truss bridge across the Watauga. The ET&WNC filed for abandonment soon afterward, citing declining traffic and the cost of rebuilding the bridge. The ICC ruled against the ET&WNC once they reviewed the current condition of the rest of the line. The Watauga River bridge was the primary damage to the route, which saw surprisingly little damage from flooding along Stoney Creek as the line was built well above the level of the creek in most spots. Only a short section near the Speedwell was washed out and a review of revenues showed a lack of interest in running mixed trains as opposed to a lack of customers, most notably the logging and ore loadout near the end of track and the large barrel component factory midway along the line. Several sections of rail were brought out of Boone when the Linville River Railway was abandoned. The ICC strongly pushed for use of the roadbed of the recently-abandoned Virginia and Southwestern RR (later owned by the Southern Railway) where it crossed the river. However, the railroad was rebuilt where it was. This remains the only known case of a standard-gauge railroad being abandoned in favor of a narrow-gauge common carrier in American history. ET&WNC crews would often point out the remaining abandoned SRR trackage and joke with traveling soldiers and newcomers to the valley that, "we even outlasted the big railroads!" Still, the line continued to struggle from lack of operational interest by parent ET&WNC.

Pearl Harbor changed all that.

By late 1941, the Army had already considered placing an infantry training camp somewhere in the Shady Valley area, but the lack of good roads prevented this. By the spring of 1942, the Army placed the 796th Railway Operating Battalion into the valley with the specific mission to rebuild the aging SCS mainline (by now referred to the Stoney Creek branch of the ET&WNC) as an extended training exercise. This was for the shared purpose of training Army forces in rebuilding damaged railroads for the future liberation of Axis-held nations and also to provide a good transportation hub into the valley for a projected training camp for the Army ground forces. New 55-pound rail was laid and new ballast brought in for the main line before the Summer of 1942. Many soldier-railroaders who cut their teeth on the ET&WNCs ten-wheelers went on to run trains on the White Pass & Yukon in Alaska as well as meter-gauge rail lines in Africa, Europe and Asia.

By the Spring of 1943, the soldier-railroaders who'd rehabilitated the route were mostly gone. In their wake, the SCS had been rebuilt into a line the locals could be proud of. The tracks were still weed-covered in the summer months and the sidings weren't exactly to any Class I railroad standard, but the track was in better condition than it had ever been. Commuter trains heading for the rayon mills in Elizabethton provided hundreds of skilled workers for needed defense work. Soldiers still used the Stoney Creek branch to occasionally transport various loads of weapons, munitions, vehicles and supplies. The 3-foot line into the valley had never seen such traffic before, especially now that gas rationing had rendered civilian motor traffic all but useless without available gasoline.

It is now late summer in 1943. Locomotive #s 9, 11 and 12 haul mixed freight, acid wood, ores, military traffic and passenger trains for the mills almost round-the-clock. The Army is also using the line for defense purposes.

It is the high-water-mark for the three-footers along Stoney Creek.

Last edited by p51
mike g. posted:

Im going to see if I can find a printed one before the train show next weekend to have him sign it! 

Mike, I'd be happy to do so, but it seems like us on the Left coast haven't gotten our yet. I even called the Burien model train place and confirmed they don't have the newest one, either.

I'm sure I'll get a copy soon enough.

As for getting into print, I fully expect an article from you in OGR once your own layout is ready for it!

Thanks for the comments, guys!

Last edited by p51


I was really pleased to read and view your very nice fictional article and photos on ET&WNC in Run 302. I walked many of the ET&WNC's old roadbeds in both N.C. and Tennessee with other railfans during the 1980s.  I no longer live in the N. C. High Country but remain in contact with the ET&WNC Museum at Newland, N.C. 

The old ET&WNC Depot at Linville survived and was originally relocated within the Town and used as a home. Through donations the building was later relocated down the road to Newland, N.C , the County seat, and restored back to Depot specs as the ET&WNC Museum. I have a number of large framed prints of "Tweetsie" sites that are scheduled for delivery to the Museum once my son can drive me to the mountains. 

Four prints are quite old images from downtown rails in Johnson City by a local resident artist, Ted Laws. Including one very popular print showing the narrow gauge connection in Johnson City to the standard gauge rails with a "Tweetsie" consist located in the distant background of the Town and a Southern TS Mountain engine standing on one side and a Clinchfield Challenger on the other. Prints by Artist Don Iverson of Banner Elk, N.C. cover #12 laboring up from the gorge at Hampton, #8 with freight consist at the Roan Mountain, Tennessee and #9 at Elk park, N.C. Depots as well as standing at the Linville, N.C. water tank . Both Artists grew up along the railroad and were well known for their historical research.

Thanks to you and OGR for a very well done and enjoyable production.

Last edited by Dewey Trogdon

The digital edition is now on the site to be looked at. I still don't have the printed version but I can at least see what it looks like.

Allan did a great job and he was great to deal with! If you're ever thinking of doing an article, contact him. I've been published in a bunch of magazines over the years (just recently in model train ones), and Allan is a very good editor to work with.

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