Author Topic: East Tennessee & Western North Carolina RR ("The Tweetsie") branchline in On30  (Read 13994 times)

0 Members and 1 Guest are viewing this topic.

p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30
I'm modeling the East Tennessee & Western North Carolina in On30 (yes, using Bachmann locomotives). My parents grew up in the area the RR ran in, and we'd go to the area at least once a year to visit family.
 Here I am with ET&WNC # 12, in 2005:

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.

I went with a track plan drawn by a friend of mine at the start of 2014, 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 does fit the room much better now.
I had the benchwork complete by the end of July the same year and it was installed at the start of August. Track laying and wiring started right away, and in a few days, the track laid all the way around.


 The layout is point to point and relatively small, but it is designed for operation in mind.
 I have four ten-wheelers, representing the locomotives the real ET&WNC had during WW2, #s 9, 11, 12 and 14. They all are sound-equipped. Anyone really familiar with the ET&WNC will recognize that 14 was in Alaska by 1943. In my alternate universe, the Army was running this fictional branch line and diverted 14 away from going to Alaska after all and it was never repainted in black like the other locos were.

 As for the Army influence, the layout originally was intended to be a joint operation between the ET&WNC and the US Army, but I have since scaled back the Army influence greatly. There is a RR operating unit HQ on the layout and some of their unit vehicles, from the equally fictional 796th Railway Operating Battalion...
« Last Edit: March 23, 2017, 03:32:16 PM by p51 »

p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30

A few random shots and observations:
I love this shot...

 I had to re-shoot this in RAW format for the On30 Annual article coming out next month, but at a slightly different angle (so you can see the freight cars behind the locomotive) but using the same real-time techniques to show steam and exhaust in action. No Photoshop was used for the steam effects. The exhaust and steam were done with added up paper towels and a cardboard tube covered in cotton and painted. They were each moved around in a 30-second exposure, then removed halfway through.
After the article shots were done, I put down some static grass mats. They're pre-made by Heiki in Germany and look like real high grass with very easy application.



I made a big order to Scenic Express, so I now have three rabbits running free on the layout, and finally a scarecrow for my cornfield.





p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30
Layout concept
Like many modelers, I'm taking an alternate reality stance to the planned layout as there wasn't really a railroad along the creek after 1932. 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 Hunter, Winner, Sadie and Buladeen. The line was chartered to go as far as Shady Valley, but never got that far. From the bridge crossing and interchange to the end of the line, the railroad was just a little bit over 12 miles in length. Turntables were put in at each end of the line to turn around the 4-4-0s and logging engines seen on the line after a bad grade crossing accident when a locomotive was facing the opposite direction of travel.

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 third storm of the 1940 hurricane season (they weren't 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 line, 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 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 a 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). 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. ET&WNC locomotive # 14, originally designated to go to the White Pass and Yukon RR in Alaska along with # 10, was instead headed into the Valley near its home rails instead for Army use. 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. The turntables were still being used but were no longer as useful as the shorter locomotives they were made for were no longer around. Turning a 4-6-0 on either of them was a balancing act with only an inch or two to spare on each end that none of the crews enjoyed doing.

By the spring of 1943, 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 used the Stoney Creek branch to 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. The line hauls mixed freight, cord wood, military traffic and passenger trains for the mills almost round-the-clock. The Army is also using the line for defense purposes. Soldiers are often seen coming in and out of the valley, further contributing to the local wartime economy. It is the high-water-mark for the three-footers along Stoney Creek.

So, why model this railroad?


Yes, why model a fictional branch line of a long-extinct railroad that even most train fans don't know today, and from more than 2700 miles from the nearest section of that railroad's right-of-way?

The short answer is simple; my parents grew up in the area the ET&WNC ran. While neither recall seeing the 3-footer trains running (Mom and Dad were both 14 when that portion of the line folded), they both recall the standard gauge trains running into the 1960s. Almost everyone I was ever related to lived in the area; most still do.

Our family went to Elizabethton, TN, usually once a year. 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. Even though it was gone from the ET&WNC by the WW2 era, I had to include a model representing this coach on my layout.

p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30
When I can get one together, I have had a few operating sessions on the layout, with one last week and it went well. One of the guys was the one who wired my layout for DCC and he’d not seen the scenery before. His first comment was, “Wow, it’s really green,” to which I replied, “Yep, so is the Blue Ridge in summertime”. We ran one entire train and I re-set the layout by changing some cars and waybills on the car cards. While I did that, they watched my DVD of the ET&WNC color film from the 40s. They actually wanted to watch it to the end and they had plenty of questions about where things were and how operations worked for the real railroad. Thankfully, I was able to answer most of them, having done so much research in the ET over the years.

By the time they returned to the second train, the same guy said, “Yep, I get why it’s so green, now.” I heard later that they all had a good time.
I want to run another session soon, and hopefully get someone people who’ve never seen the layout before.
The funny part was Charlie (my 15-year-old dachshund) kept walking into the room, looking up. I really think he wanted to see what the focus of attention was on, and when I picked him up, he was watching the trains. All these years, I’ve had a train fan pup, it seems!

MVW

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 1225
  • Respect: +180
An interesting read and some beautiful shots. Thanks for sharing!

Jim

Dave V

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 9186
  • Gender: Male
  • The Route of the Galloping Goose
  • Respect: +4543
    • Dave Vollmer's N Scale Pennsy
Seriously, we may need a narrow-gauge breakout forum!   :D
Silver San Juan Scenic Line

Member SlimRail Modular Colorado Narrow Gauge
http://www.slimrail.net/

jpec

  • The Pitt
  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 730
  • Gender: Male
  • Perception and reality engage in a daily civil war
  • Respect: +122
I saw your beautiful work over on the MRH blogs...I posted a link on Dave Foxx's thread.

Dr. Vollmer, this narrow gauge fever is taking root like kudzu. Perhaps it's the heft of a larger scale within the area of a smaller one with the side benefit of unleashing some serious creativity.

Jeff
"It's sad that you have to die to see how many people loved you..." - Rodney Bingenheimer

p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30
I saw your beautiful work over on the MRH blogs...I posted a link on Dave Foxx's thread.
Yeah, I knew I’d posted a lot of stuff there and on the freerails site, but given there’s another On30 ET&WNC layout here, I thought it’d make sense to show people there’s more than one person into that.
When it comes to narrow gauge, people often start and stop within the borders of Colorado and New Mexico. There was (and still is) some very impressive stuff to be seen far from D&RGW/RGS/C&S territory. The Doe River gorge on the ET&WNC rivals most of what you’d find on any of the stuff out West. And track still exist there!
I have included some links, such as my Flickr album and a couple of videos I shot once the scenery was looking halfway decent. I really need to work toward a good-quality video overall. But I have other things to do first (such as finished a Quonset hut, interior rooms to a few buildings and lighting for the same).
https://www.flickr.com/photos/53587910@N05/sets/72157668176638961
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=eEyGruZ-fXE
https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tBt3DHPuD_k

p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30
I recently got the number plate to the left off eBay. It looks great hung on the wall, but it’s actually made from a plastic-covered foam is some type. It weighs about as much as a piece of like-sized cardboard, so hanging it up as a breeze (other than reaching up that high, over the layout). To the right of it is a reprint excursion flyer I got from the Avery (NC) county museum gift shop. The stock certificate is a real one from the Linville River RR and the plate to the right was an aluminum-cast repro I got off eBay and painted to look the part.


p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30
I got the digital proof for my layout article in the On30 Annual the other day. Editor Chris Lane did a GREAT job with it and I’m very happy with how it turned out. It’s 6 pages in length, which surprised me (even though I provided over a dozen photos, the overall concept I used to create the layout with, and enough text to explain what I was doing).
I think people will be happy with it when the Annual comes out in a couple of weeks (or so)!

davefoxx

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 8661
  • Gender: Male
  • "I like trains!"
  • Respect: +2078
I met Jim Hobbs, who was the son of ET&WNC Master Mechanic Clarence Hobbs, when I was in college in Richmond, Virginia in the early 1990s.  I couldn't believe my luck meeting him and how small a world it was!  At that time, Jim Hobbs was a VP on the RF&P, and he told me that he had the original number plate from No. 11 after it was torched off the locomotive at its scrapping.  I begged him for it numerous times.  ;)  Coincidentally, I came across a picture taken at Tweetsie Railroad within the last ten years, where several people came together with the number plates for some of the ET locomotives.  Mr. Hobbs was holding No. 11's plate in that picture.

It's been twenty-five years since I was last at Tweetsie Railroad.  If memory serves me correctly, No. 12 was wearing its original plate back then.  I could be wrong.  But, I believe it's since been removed for security reasons and replaced with a reproduction.  I wonder if the reproduction includes the cracks suffered when No. 12 was involved in a collision.  The railroad welded that original plate back together when the repairs were made to the ten-wheeler.  I recall reading that the plate was in two and almost three pieces after the wreck.

DFF

General Counsel to the Laurel Valley Ry.
Member: ACL/SAL Historical Society
A Proud HOer

p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30
I met Jim Hobbs, who was the son of ET&WNC Master Mechanic Clarence Hobbs, when I was in college in Richmond, Virginia in the early 1990s.  I couldn't believe my luck meeting him and how small a world it was!  At that time, Jim Hobbs was a VP on the RF&P, and he told me that he had the original number plate from No. 11 after it was torched off the locomotive at its scrapping.  I begged him for it numerous times.  ;)  Coincidentally, I came across a picture taken at Tweetsie Railroad within the last ten years, where several people came together with the number plates for some of the ET locomotives.  Mr. Hobbs was holding No. 11's plate in that picture.

It's been twenty-five years since I was last at Tweetsie Railroad.  If memory serves me correctly, No. 12 was wearing its original plate back then.  I could be wrong.  But, I believe it's since been removed for security reasons and replaced with a reproduction.  I wonder if the reproduction includes the cracks suffered when No. 12 was involved in a collision.  The railroad welded that original plate back together when the repairs were made to the ten-wheeler.  I recall reading that the plate was in two and almost three pieces after the wreck.
Wow, I had no idea who it was who owned the 11 number plate. This is the photo you’re talking about:

There were rumors for years that the number plates for either (or both ) 10 and 14 existed, but seeing they burned in that fire on the White Pass, there’s no reason to believe they still exist now. Photos of one of the locos in the NP scrap line at Auburn WA after the war clearly show the builder plates were gone and appeared to have melted off in the fire.
As for the plate on 12, yeah that’s a repro on # 12 in that photo. The real plate was copied (cracks/brazing included) and the original is “somewhere on the property” but hasn’t been on #12 in a long time. I had the opportunity to buy what I think is the 12 plate in that shot, from the widow of the man who made it. Part of his fee was he apparently made at least two copies, and he got to keep one after it’d been on the front of #12 for a year. But his widow wanted several hundred bucks for it, more than I felt comfortable with at the time. I did, however, buy a lot of paperwork from his collection from her and several small ET-themed goodies (including a few of the original engine inspection cards, with burn marks from the fire that took many of them at the Johnson City office). Some of that stuff was photographed and placed at the bottom of my layout’s website: http://www.freewebs.com/willysmb44/modeltrains.htm

p51

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 345
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +203
    • Stoney Creek Branch of the ET&WNC, in On30
I'd been wanting something on the layout illustrating the history that it'd originally been a different railroad that was eventually bought out by the ET&WNC, and I thought a freight car as a shed would be great for that.
I took a stock Bachmann refer and did this to it, as the ET&WNC never had any refrigerated cars:

davefoxx

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 8661
  • Gender: Male
  • "I like trains!"
  • Respect: +2078
I love it, Lee!

DFF

General Counsel to the Laurel Valley Ry.
Member: ACL/SAL Historical Society
A Proud HOer

svedblen

  • Crew
  • *
  • Posts: 544
  • Gender: Male
  • Respect: +162
    • Three Yards Yard - beware - it is H0 - No, now it's O
Great idea, and implementation... 8)
Lennart