Operational challenges….

Reading another blog post about the difficulties and challenges facing a local crew on a particular layout made me think of some on my own layout.

Per the previous post above about challenges on my branch concerning working my mines with different size hoppers, I’ve had to change out one operating procedure. Since to switch out my Hitop mine I would normally have to pull my train of 70 and 100 ton hoppers up the hill to the end of branch, then run around my train, I’ve changed this procedure.

As these larger hoppers don’t do well on the tight curves on the branch between Hitop and Morris Fork, they are in fact banned from the upper part, also on account of lighter rail and deferred maintenance. Headed into Hitop the mine lead and switches are facing point switches.

To accommodate this arrangement, a train of empty hoppers for Hitop is made up in Dickinson yard, the power is tied on the east end, and as there is a caboose on the west end, the train is shoved all the way to Hitop. This of course eliminates the move up past Hitop and running around the train.

Even working the end of branch at Morris Fork, care has to be exercised going around the tight curves on the branch, especially between Hitop and Morris Fork. The curve in particular starting at MP 33 has to be taken at 5 mph account the degree of curvature and the fact a passing siding starts right at the west end of the curve.

Speaking of the end of branch, as the Morris Fork hardware and farm supply is at the end of the same siding as the Morris Fork mine, cars for the hardware and farm supply have to be blocked in the right position in Dickinson yard, since at the end of branch the power must run around its train and shove any cars into the siding, as again, the siding and passing track both have facing point switches.

The same must be done for the day turn out of Dickinson going up the valley to switch, especially the Kanawha County feed and seed. In other words, these cars must be blocked in the correct position before leaving the yard. Just more operational challenges to add to the fun and realism of running the Hitop branch.


  1. Thanks Ron and Ralph for the compliments, they’re much appreciated! Ron, my main mine will accommodate 10 70 and 100 ton hoppers, so I shove these all the way to the mine. I know from other friends in Appalachia that railroads did the same there when necessary. Would like to learn more about your layout as well. I did a stint as a brakeman/ conductor in SW Ohio on the Indiana & Ohio railroad….


  2. Hello Steve,

    Enjoying your posts. I also model the PC in Ohio. On the branch line that I worked and also model, we had to shove the hoppers 4 1/2 miles from the main track to the tipple, ascending grade of 1.6 percent, since there was no runaround. Did this every day. Mostly around 60 car trains. On my ho branch, I shove roughly 12 hoppers up grade to the tipple. So it is prototype.


  3. I’ve recently subscribed to your blog and enjoy it very much. I especially like reading about other modelers’ thoughts about operations and how they adapting them to their particular layout challenges. Careful blocking of cars, awareness of speed limits all add to the realism and the fun. Nicely done!



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