Improving Catawba
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Refining the Design of Catawba, Va.

Design Discussion
Original Design Drawing
New Design Drawing


Design Discussion:
On the original version of the Shenandoah Division, I used the technique of "iterative design" to refine various areas of the layout as they are constructed. Since I had great success with this methodology on the original layout, I'm using it on the new layout as well. The design focus on Catawba, Va. came about as a result of getting the physical benchwork in place and realizing that there would be room for extensions of industrial spurs behind the backdrop at the back entrance to the room.

Marcus and Tommy had already suggested a similar extension of the Appalachian Power Co. Laurel Plant spurs on the upper level in this area behind the backdrop, but it had never occurred to me to do the same thing on the lower level until we installed the benchwork for this area. The other impetus for doing this redesign is that as I was preparing the cut the subroadbed templates for the south end of Catawba, I noticed that things didn't quite extend as far to the wall as they should have, so I wanted to generate the Catawba town side templates to see where the error was (which I found to be in a measurement elsewhere in the room, so the error actually was 2" to the positive). However, before printing all of that 1:1 scale templates from 3rd Planit, I decided to refine the design so that I'd only have to print and assemble the templates once. :-) (See the 01/06/2003 Progress Report for an example of these templates.)

The biggest change for this town is the expansion of the "forest products" industry in Catawba. The original plan had 2 short spurs (about 13 cars between them) terminating at the backdrop representing a Georgia Pacific OSB plant. The new plan has 3 spurs representing a James River Corporation paper mill. All 3 of these spurs go through the backdrop now to a shelf which will be on the lower level below a similar upper level shelf for the Laurel, VA power plant. The inbound Chip Track will have room for about 21 cars, the outbound Paper Track will have a capacity of approximately 16 cars, and the Coal & Chemical Track will hold about 8 cars; so total industry capacity at James River is now about 45 cars.

While adding this large industry to the design in 3rd PlanIt, I decided to check the capacities of the two yard tracks in Catawba. The 2 tracks in the original plan (at the bottom of this page) only have the capacity to store about 20 cars between them (not each!). This lack of yard capacity would likely have been a problem even with only having the Georgia Pacific OSB plant that was formerly in Catawba, as I had planned to have through trains set-off Catawba, Abbott, and New Castle cars in the yard so that the Catawba Roadswitcher could work the local industries in those towns.

Clearly, moving a dominating industry such as James River to Catawba would have overwhelmed the small yard there, and I was never fully satisfied with the appearance of the yard in the original design. I didn't like the short engine spur at the south end or the curve at the north end because they both looked too contrived to me. In fact, the curve at the north end was one of the factors limiting my options in placing the yard tracks. As a result, I decided to redesign the yard, and I tried several arrangements before settling on the one shown on the bottom of this page.

The new plan introduces a gentle S-curve at the south end of the yard area (left side of the plan just above Valley Feed). The mainline, passing siding, 2 yard tracks, and the James River Lead then proceed straight until the north end of the passing siding, where they curve back together. This arrangement contrasts to the angled straight-line route connecting the two curves in the original design (between the curves at the Valley Feed area and the curves just south of the north end of the passing siding).

With this straightening of the mainline, I was able to create enough room for two longer yard tracks and a lead track for the James River plant which can be used as overflow for the yard or for the through trains to set-off and pick-up James River cars. This plan also allows me to curve the tracks into the plant, which I think will yield a more interesting plant complex rather than having tracks running at an angle to the backdrop. The paper mill buildings all will be "partial" buildings built an angle to the
backdrop rather than purely flats; I got the inspiration for this arrangement from Jan's NTRAK modules representing York, PA. The rearrangement of these spurs will give me the opportunity to model a truly dominating plant, and the layout will now have 3 truly large industries: Virginia Eastman in Carpenter, Salem Stamping & Fabricating in Salem, and James River in Catawba.

The Catawba design change also allowed me to push towards the backdrop the curve between the north end of the passing siding and the south portal of Catawba tunnel. This change gives a much more pronounced S-curve leaving town which further emphasizes the location of the railroad in the Appalachians. Also, this change allows additional room at the north end of town to model part of the "downtown" area of Catawba.

I was able to keep the spur for Alleghany Building Supply, which was important to me as well. I've always liked the fact that this spur curves around the aisle before getting to its destination; I think this will be a neat area once it has scenery. Catawba Propane will continue to be located on this spur just south of the yard as well.

I eliminated the spur at the south end of the yard tracks (just below Catawba Propane in the original design) as I never particularly liked its location, and it was in the way as far as trying to increase yard capacity. This spur would have been used as a place for the Catawba Roadswitcher motive power to tie up when finished working the industries. In the new design, motive power will tie up just south of the south switch to the James River Lead on the Valley Feed spur. There's room on this spur for the 2 units that will power the Catawba Roadswitcher in addition to capacity for up to 8 covered hoppers at Valley Feed. Through trains will be able to set-off and pick-up from the James River Lead off the mainline or the yard tracks off the passing siding.

After finishing the design improvements, I used features in 3rd PlanIt to provide me with the capacities of various tracks. The James River Lead in front of the plant will hold about 12 cars between the switches connecting it to the mainline. The first yard track (closest to the passing siding) will hold about 15 cars, and the second yard track about 13 cars. These three tracks will have a combined capacity of about 40 cars now. However, the first track can hold up to as many as 25 cars if the lead at the south end is used, which would increase the combined capacity to about 50 cars. With the new design, the capacity at Catawba should provide Shenandoah Division crews with a better ability to serve the "Valley" industries in Catawba, Abbott, and New Castle.

The refinements of the Catawba design were done over parts of four days (sometimes the process is faster and sometimes it takes longer). Once I was satisfied with the design, I printed full-scale templates from 3rd PlanIt, knowing that I could accurately place subroadbed, roadbed, and track in their final locations. Using the iterative design process allows you to complete enough of your design to get an early start on construction while letting you refine the final design before committing to building it.

Original Design:
New Design:

This page last updated on 01/01/11.

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