A Small Logging and Switching Layout on the Greenbrier Sub

Cutter Feb 5, 2021

  1. Cutter

    Cutter New Member

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    So begins my official dive back into tiny toy trains with this: a design for a compact N scale layout that incorporates both local freight switching and a rugged Appalachian logging line.

    I was inspired to start modeling the Greenbrier River valley by a D&D podcast of all things (don't ask), and only discovered upon diving into the history of the region that the C&O had a branchline running right down the middle of the area I was interested in. One could be forgiven for thinking the Greenbrier Subdivision was a bit of a one-trick pony built to serve the lumber industry, but there's a lot of points of interest if you look closely enough. At its peak the line was dotted with a a quarry, small factories, oil/coal bulk facilities, tanneries (the Marlinton tannery alone is a ready-made switching puzzle!) and even an interchange with WM at the far end of the line.

    There's operational interest to model too: at its busiest in the late 1920s, the line was served by at least 3 through freights, 2 local freights, additional extras, and 2 passenger trains almost daily. When I found out this was an excuse to display massive C&O Class H-4s as through freights, I knew this was a winner.

    The layout went through 15(!) iterations as I tried to figure out what to do with the limited space I have available. I originally had grand plans of continuous mainline running and multiple unfoldable modules, but I eventually figured out that by the time I was even halfway done with such an ambitious project, I would be ready to move into a bigger space! So I tempered my expectations and finally developed this unneccesarily rendered track plan:

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    If the sizing seems oddly specific, that's because it is: it's tailored to sit on top of an Ikea Besta TV unit serving as a console and display cabinet in my living room. The layout will be built inside a shadow box that ties in with the cabinets and makes a nice display diorama when not in use. It's a few inches deeper than the cabinet for a couple of reasons: The furniture is set back from the wall to make room for plugs, giving it a little more depth room while still being flush with the front. But by pulling the entire shelf forward during operation, there's just enough room to plug a staging cassette into either end of the mainline. Theres a bookshelf on each end of the cabinet that will make for convenient support points.

    Buildings will most likely be scratchbuilt/3D printed to match the space and the theme. I have a resin 3D printer and work as an architectural designer, so this is well within my skillset.

    Operation and rolling stock will be inspired by the Greenbrier Sub timetable in 1927, with a local freight passing through once per cycle, in alternating directions. Ops will likely be a modified car card system. The industrial arrangement shown above is a freelanced amalgamation and severe compression of several types of industries spread along the line at various times during its history, to allow for both mainline shipment and some local switching opportunities on both the mainline and the logging line:

    -Sawmill: Obligatory: Inputs fuel and logs, outputs lumber.
    -Logging Railroad Engine House: Set out point for supply cars to be carried up to the logging camp.
    -Coal Mine: The low-quality coal here is too poor to sell abroad, but is a convenient fuel source for the logging industry and the extract plant. Also serves double-duty as a switchback.
    -Logging Camp: Connection point to off-layout camps further affield. Outputs both logs and tanbark.
    -Depot: For wildcard setouts.
    -Extract Plant: because I didn't have enough room to do a tannery justice. Inputs fuel and tanbark and outputs tannic acid for shipment.
    -Crate Factory: Takes one of the lumber cars from the sawmill and outputs crates for shipment.

    Work probably won't begin until after tax refund season (and until my grandparents get both of their vaccines so I can safely borrow their workshop to build the shadowbox) so in the meantime let me know what you think!
     
  2. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Supporter

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  3. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Looks interesting.
     
  4. Kurt Moose

    Kurt Moose TrainBoard Member

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    Ooooh, love logging railroads and layouts! :love:
     
  5. BigJake

    BigJake TrainBoard Member

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    Good looking and very functional layout!

    I'm not that familiar with tannin production, but isn't debarking usually done at the sawmill, right after the logs are pulled from the pond? Unless it is done by hand (1927?), moving the necessary debarking equipment every time a logging camp needs to move would be expensive. If the tanin is only extracted from a small percentage of the total logs (those of certain species), perhaps the debarking of only those logs was done by hand in the logging camps.

    Also in that era, small sawmills would have a sawdust/scrap burner, and perhaps a small charcoal plant onsite or nearby (that burned sawdust for for heat). Maybe not so much in coal country though? But if not, there would be a large pile of sawdust at the mill, and it has to go somewhere if not consumed on site. Small sawmills were often self-powered with wood-fired boilers, but maybe more so outside of coal country.
     
  6. Cutter

    Cutter New Member

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    I'm taking a few creative licenses to add operational and visual interest, that's for sure. I'm not a rivet counter by any stretch but hopefully my offenses to history are relatively minor!

    As far as I can tell from my research, bark was pulled right off the trees and hauled to the loading area. The hemlock used for tanbark was considered useless for lumber and left behind to rot in the woods. Now technically an extract plant, unlike a tannery, could use whole woodchips, but honestly I'm using this as an excuse add some variety to the rolling stock going up and down the mountain.

    And you're right, most sawmills would just burn sawdust and wood scrap for fuel. I just wanted to add another operations option for to the sawmill area. My headcanon is that the coal is used both for fueling the logging locomotives and to supplement the sawmill power house, and they just share a set out point.
     
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  7. Mr. Trainiac

    Mr. Trainiac TrainBoard Member

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    That trestle/tunnel combination in the back to get up to the second level looks really cool. The depth and interlaced layers add some complexity and operational interest for sure. I think this layout has as much potential as a switching layout as it does a display piece. Usually those module-style layouts are relatively bland with minimal scenery. You could really go all-out on some of those structures, and I bet you could find a craftsman-style kit for that log mill and depot at least.

    The little colorized trackplan looks really nice too. If this isn't kicking off your Trainboard career in a big way, I don't know what is.
     
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  8. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Supporter

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    NMAH-AHB2009q58846.jpg
    Bark peeling to called a barking spud.

    Lumber operations in Pa and WV had some similarities albeit I believe Pa started and finished major RR lumber operations sooner than WV.
    Steam donkeys and over head skidding were rare in Pa.

    In all that I've read over the years, in Pa hemlock bark was peeled by hand in the woods, right where the tree was felled, usually by a contractor. It was cut to the size specified by the tannery, around 2'x3'. The bark was transloaled and stacked several times before finally being ground up for the tanning process.

    After being peeled bark was often then wagoned to a short siding off of the logging railroad were it was loaded into bark racks. Basically a crude wooden frame to make a log buggy or flat car into sort of a bulkhead car.

    At the tannery it would be stored in piles with the bark pieces overlapped like shingles to form a peaked top to shed water so rain wouldn't
    leach out the tannin. The piles often looking like a long warehouse with no windows or doors.

    Cutter is correct in that early on hemlock trees were left to rot once the bark was removed. It just wasn't economical to saw into lumber.

    At some point, IIRC, possibly around 1890 - 1900 it became economically feasible to manufacture and market hemlock lumber. At this point in time large lumber operations would often have a hemlock mill and a separate hardwood mill at the same location.

    Hope that helped!
     
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  9. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Supporter

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    Cutter,
    51GuZeHaIVL._AC_SY780_.jpg

    This book has a ton if info about the tanning and wood chemical industry.
    If you are interested reprints may be available at the Sullivan County Review or the Lycoming County Historical Society or Lycoming County Museum.
     
  10. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    Hemlock is heavy, holding a higher moisture content. It tends to rot much faster than fir, spruce, pine. It can on occasion have a twisty grain and back then simply did not make good lumber. These days it is often used such as in plywood, pallets (which weigh a ton to pick up!) and pulp.
     
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  11. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    I remember seeing one of those debarking tools as a child and thinking it was some kind of garden hoe.
    Most don't know that the night when Chicago had the big fire "started by a cow", Upper Michigan and Northeast Wisconsin had a California style forest fire. Almost down to Green Bay. So that destroyed the lumber mill logs and everything went into paper making. They don't debark before chewing them up.
    That is mostly what I'm trying to get set-up as it brings back old memories. :)
     
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  12. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Supporter

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    I had been told by several old timers that hemlock wouldn't hold a square nail so there was no market until the round wire nail was common place. I don't believe I've ever read that in any historical text.
    I've also been told that hemlock was used alot for rough cut siding, basically as a wear surface much like old lime render/plaster on stone buildings.

    Once again going solely from memory and specific to Pa;

    Prior to the United States Leather Company's formation from independent tanneries, tanneries only interest in timber holdings was for tanbark, that being hemlock.

    The USLC was paying large contracts to have USLC timber holdings cut and peeled. USLC decided to bring everything somewhat in house and created Central Penna Lumber Company and it's several railroads.
    USLC also decided that leaving hemlock logs to rot was like throwing away money so they began to manufacture hemlock lumber. CPL eventually built some very large hemlock mills across the Keystone State.

    That's my simplified pre alzhiemers version of it! That being said,

    Cutter you track plan is great. I look forward to seeing updates!
     
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  13. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 HOn30 & N Scales Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    From my time in logging and sawmilling.

    I can remember one mill where some genius decided to haul in old growth hemlock that had been down for fifty, sixty years. It looked semi-solid on the outside.... Anyhow, what did not sink straight to the bottom of the pond, was floated over to the chains. It was a side loading setup, not a straight in chute type. Well, needless to say it was so heavy, the first log tried broke the chains. Shut the place down for the day, until divers could come in and repairs were made. (A costly log!) When it was finally inside, skipped through the barker and went straight through the double cut head rig. If I recall, they were slabbing it off in 6" cants. They would fall down onto the rolls and simply crumble. What made it to the edger crumbled even further. The whole place was shut down again, while we cleaned up the mess. The mill super was absolutely fuming. Yelling and screaming at us, when it was HIS fault for deciding to even try working it. (He was a complete stinking idiot, whom everyone simply loathed.) Anyhow, when old growth fir was dragged in, by comparison it usually still had a good amount of usable wood inside.
     
  14. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Supporter

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    Boxcab, that's a neat story.
     
  15. traingeekboy

    traingeekboy TrainBoard Member

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    Funny you mention a game podcast. most of us on here have several hobbies we dabble between. I know a lot of Model train types who do role playing or War gaming as well as trains.
     
  16. TigerDude

    TigerDude TrainBoard Member

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    High quality pulp mills will remove the bark and burn it. I assume no one cares making brown kraft paper. I also ran a facility that burned wood bark from sawmills along with peanut hulls. Dirt and sand are really tough on equipment.
     
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  17. RailMix

    RailMix TrainBoard Member

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    Cutter,
    This is a really nice track plan. It packs a lot of operation into a small space, but still leaves room for good scenic possibilties and structures. This layout could also be incorporated into almost any type of larger layout as an intermediate station.
    John,
    Excellent lumbering information. Thank you for posting.
     
  18. Shortround

    Shortround TrainBoard Member

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    Scott Paper made diapers (child and adult) and industrial paper towels. Shipped by trucks. The logs, brought in on rail cars, were unloaded and stacked in hugh piles by a steam crane. Then the residue was picked up and brought to the furnaces along with coal. The rest of the power came from the dam on top of Oconto Falls water falls. So I don't think the color was important.
     
  19. Cutter

    Cutter New Member

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    Still waiting on getting benchwork together, but in the meantime I've started the first part of the layout:the crate factory. I've since rebranded it as a desk factory. There was one on the real greenbrier sub for a short while, and it should be more fun to make details for. I modeled the building in SketchUp, as its pretty good at making angular objects like buildings as long as you're careful with keeping solids closed, and I have the Pro version at work I can use to export the model to .stl. More on that in a bit...


    [​IMG] [​IMG]

    Since there are only a few buildings on the layout, I'm going to try my best to give each one a bit of character and a story. This building started off in the mid 1800s as a small cottage industry, acting as both home and carpentry shop before the railroad ever came through town. Once the tracks were laid, business boomed and the owner was able to both build a new house and expand this one into a dedicated business, adding a loading dock, storage shed and, most recently, an entirely new addition (still a WIP, obviously). The original house now serves as a warehouse while the woodworking is done in the annex. The roofs are modeled flat, as I plan on going back over them with scale shingles and metal roofing rather than trusting the printer to get the detail right. Did I mention I have a 3D printer?

    With the building done, it was time to save it as an stl and print it with my Anycubic Photon. The main building is just barely small enough to fit on the build plate, so I started with that, with the intention of using what I learned from its printing in the modeling of the addition.

    Thus began a weekend of P A I N.

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    The first 3 prints were nothing but either empty supports or a warped mess of something that vaguely resembled the beginnings of a building. After hours of googling tips and fine-tuning the sliced file, on try #4 I finally got a result worth using.

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    Now that I finally have something, I'm surprised on how well it turned out, given I made very few concessions with regards to printing detail. You can see that there's still a few areas that arent perfect. The entire back loading dock was warped pretty badly, so I ended up cutting it off. The printer seems to struggle with any extended surface that is too thin, even when printed at an angle and with plenty of support. I'll either try printing it seperately and adjust my methods or just scratchbuild it out of styrene or wood, given its simplicity. There's also some warping at the front right corner that luckily resolved itself pretty quickly, but its small enough that I can easily cover it up with some well-placed scenery and assorted refuse. Other than that, besides some slightly warped beams and some absolutely miniscule broken window grids, I'm pretty happy with it. It should look great once its painted and weathered.

    Next up is designing the addition and water tank and prepping them for print, which I have some ideas for. You can see on the current model the layers created by the printing process, which are a little distracting when cutting across the battens and trim. However, if I print the builting vertically with the battens parallel to the build plate, I think I can use them to my advantage and make the layers look like wood grain. it also means I don't have to deal with any pesky overhangs, as the roof eaves will be perpenducilar to the plate and wont require support. I may even be able to get away with no supports at all if I print the front as a seperate piece.

    Up next comes yet another print followed by painting, but I want to get an airbrush before I tackle that particular step. I've used solely brush painting before on 40k minis to good effect, but I want a nice smooth finish on these flat walls without smothering the fine detail with a rattle can. Stay tuned!
     
  20. logging loco

    logging loco TrainBoard Supporter

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    I'm not seeing any images.
     

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