Author Topic: Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch (N scale)  (Read 527 times)

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signalmaintainer

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Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch (N scale)
« on: January 06, 2024, 01:26:02 PM »
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Welcome to Slate Fork Country!

It's late winter 1978. The nation is Star Wars crazy and disco drunk, and a California band calling itself "Van Halen" has just released its debut album.

Things are a little less frenzied and somewhat more traditional in the hollers of Appalachia though. Take the Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch, a former short line founded in the early 1920s by a Midwest steel consortium. It's been moving coal to the steel mills of Alabama much as it has for the past 50 years. The only significant changes were a pair of new EMD SD-9s that replaced aging second-hand steam locomotives in the mid 1950s, followed by the loss of independence when the Slate Fork Railway came under the Southern's flag in the early 1960s (about the same time, but with considerably less public attention, as Southern's acquisition of the nearby Interstate Railroad).

Located like the Interstate in the extreme southwest corner of Virginia, near the borders of Kentucky and Tennessee, the former Slate Fork Railway interchanged cars not only with the Southern, but also with the Louisville & Nashville, providing the L&N and Southern with a steady, if not large, stream of coal and miscellaneous traffic.



Another interchange partner, the ambitiously named Cumberland & Appalachia shortline, all 3 miles of it, still interchanges outbound loads of finished hardwood and softwoods with the former Slate Fork at C&A Junction.

(Just as an aside, the hamlet of Slaty Fork, WV, was neither a conscious nor subconscious namesake of the Slate Fork Branch. Neither was Slate Falls on Tony Koester's Allegheny Midland. Although I did borrow a bit from Tony's Coal Fork Extension of his famed Midland Road.)
​​
As part of the merger terms, the L&N wrangled trackage rights from the Interstate Commerce Commission, accessing the Slate Fork Branch via its former interchange site at Creek Junction. A Southern mine run serves the Birmingham Steel No. 2 tipple exclusively at Slate Fork, while the L&N serves the C&A interchange and Ajax Powder at Koester. The Southern's Slate Fork Switcher serves the truck-dump tipple in Flanary and a pulpwood siding at Slate Fork, plus extra mine runs as needed.

Operations
A train register box is located at Creek Junction, where trains are required to leave a card indicating time of arrival (or departure), as well as the number of empties and loads in and out of the branch. East of the junction, the L&N and Southern operate under Timetable & Train Orders. Inbound Southern crews arrive at Slate Fork Junction (staging) with a train order already instructing them to meet their third-class counterpart (the very train they're on) at Slate Fork Junction on the outbound trip. The Southern's L&N counterpart runs as an extra to and from Loyall, KY.

Car management is simple, using switch lists randomly generated on an Excel spreadsheet. All tipples are served daily, while Ajax Powder (which operates a ammonium nitrate bulk facility​) and C&A interchange traffic is more random. I am considering going to a car card and waybill system.

Cumberland & Appalachia motive power is seldom seen at C&A junction. The junction is located at the extreme southern end of the C&A, with end of track just a few hundred feet south. Moreover, the C&A is the senior railroad, coming up the valley six months ahead of the Slate Fork Railway!



Before granting an easement, C&A ownership insisted on a lighted smashboard swing gate signal, and the junction is currently replete with lighted fixed-aspect distant signals on SFRy's approaches to the junction, an addition from the 1950s after an inattentive SFRy crew failed to stop before the gate, damaging it and a C&A train! Thus the somewhat elaborate (and extravagant, to the frugal Southern Railway's thinking) use of SA signals as fixed-aspect distant signals. But really, it gives me a plausible reason to have some low-tech signalling on the layout, which also adds operational interest.

Trackplan


Some modifications have been made not shown on the trackplan above. The siding at Koester serves the ammonium nitrate loader, not another coal tipple. The spur at Slate Fork now handles pulpwood, not ammonium nitrate.

Timetable

« Last Edit: January 07, 2024, 01:13:37 PM by signalmaintainer »
NSMR #1975, RMR #4

Ed Kapuscinski

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Re: Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch
« Reply #1 on: January 06, 2024, 01:41:28 PM »
+1
Can we fill the first page of this forum with dead season layouts?

I love it!

This is beautiful man.

Mark5

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Re: Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch
« Reply #2 on: January 06, 2024, 01:52:08 PM »
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Looks like fun!  8)

signalmaintainer

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Re: Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch
« Reply #3 on: January 06, 2024, 08:15:13 PM »
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Can we fill the first page of this forum with dead season layouts?

I love it!

This is beautiful man.

Thanks, Ed. No more so than yours. Lots of inspiration here.
NSMR #1975, RMR #4

packers#1

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Re: Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch
« Reply #4 on: January 07, 2024, 01:00:27 AM »
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Sweet; how heavily influenced by the Interstate is your layout? I’m a big Interstate fan and have all three of Ed Wolfe’s books and I definitely see a lot of parallels to the Interstate and how you’ve got your backstory set up. Also, if you ever want to branch out a bit into painting up other models, the Southern owned the Interstate from 1955/56-1965 with them still running independently painted units etc before finally consolidating operations and moving the RS3’s to the South in 65. You could possibly do something similar to have a Slate Fork locomotive or two if you wanted.
Sawyer Berry
Clemson University graduate, c/o 2018
American manufacturing isn’t dead, it’s just gotten high tech

signalmaintainer

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Re: Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch
« Reply #5 on: January 07, 2024, 11:56:40 AM »
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Sweet; how heavily influenced by the Interstate is your layout? I’m a big Interstate fan and have all three of Ed Wolfe’s books and I definitely see a lot of parallels to the Interstate and how you’ve got your backstory set up. Also, if you ever want to branch out a bit into painting up other models, the Southern owned the Interstate from 1955/56-1965 with them still running independently painted units etc before finally consolidating operations and moving the RS3’s to the South in 65. You could possibly do something similar to have a Slate Fork locomotive or two if you wanted.

Thank you! I'd actually started last year on an SD-9 in Southern colors lettered "SLATE FORK," but decided to keep it Southern.

The Interstate is a big influence. Were I to model an entirely prototypical Southern coal branch in the Applalachian Division, it would be the former Interstate's Dorchester Branch. In fact, the track arrangement for truck tipple at Flanary takes its cue from the end of the Dorchester Branch.
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packers#1

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Re: Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch
« Reply #6 on: January 07, 2024, 12:57:52 PM »
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Doechester is a good branch, but my favorite is the Dixiana branch. This plan, from the Appalachian railroading website, is a favorite. I’d most likely ignore Camp Creek and only focus on Dixiana and Critical Fork with some sort of continuous run connection between the Dixie 2 tail track and the branch. Either that or come up with a fictional but prototypically inclined extension that would have staved off the inevitable takeover by the Southern into the coalfields on the other side of the mountain from the Dixiana area.

https://appalachianrailroadmodeling.com/int-dixiana-branch-va-3-track-plan-ho/
Sawyer Berry
Clemson University graduate, c/o 2018
American manufacturing isn’t dead, it’s just gotten high tech

signalmaintainer

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Re: Southern Railway's Slate Fork Branch
« Reply #7 on: January 07, 2024, 01:10:58 PM »
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Doechester is a good branch, but my favorite is the Dixiana branch. This plan, from the Appalachian railroading website, is a favorite. I’d most likely ignore Camp Creek and only focus on Dixiana and Critical Fork with some sort of continuous run connection between the Dixie 2 tail track and the branch. Either that or come up with a fictional but prototypically inclined extension that would have staved off the inevitable takeover by the Southern into the coalfields on the other side of the mountain from the Dixiana area.

https://appalachianrailroadmodeling.com/int-dixiana-branch-va-3-track-plan-ho/

The Dixiana Branch is also a favorite. I just about chose this plan several years ago when I had more space, but built in N scale for bigger scenes and to decompress the space between locations.

https://appalachianrailroadmodeling.com/int-dixiana-branch-track-plan-ho/
NSMR #1975, RMR #4