Improving the North End
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Refining the Design of the North End of the
Covington Subdivision of the
CSXT Shenandoah Division

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.

Once I had completed installation of subroadbed on the lower level, I turned my attention to final design of the upper level of the layout. The upper level represents the north end of the Covington Subdivision. In an effort to get started on construction of the layout as soon as possible after moving into our home, I had not completed all of the detailed design of the upper level--certain areas were finished while others were simply roughed in. I made sure that the benchwork configuration was accurate and that the mainline, passing sidings, and staging yards would all fit so that I could be confident that no major changes would be necessary once construction began.

However, I was never satisfied fully with the original detailed design of either of
the towns of Covington and Carpenter, but I knew that once I had established the basic layout in each town that I could use the iterative process to refine the design.

Covington has seen several major changes. Immediately apparent are the new
S-curves are both the north end and south end of town. Including these S-curves accomplishes 2 important things: it allows the run through Covington to be more scenically interesting, and it allows the mainline to be pulled closer to the aisle side of the benchwork, which allows for an additional yard track and better arrangement of other trackage. There are now 4 yard tracks in Covington, with a total capacity of about 40-45 cars.

Wampler Longacre's turkey feed elevators remain at the north end of the yard, while the Westvaco paper mill is at the south end. The Westvaco tracks have been arranged slightly differently than the old James River paper mill layout here. Blue Ridge Extruders has moved from being an aisle-side flat along the mainline to a wider spot in the S-curve at the north end, which will allow the use of some of the new Rix building kits to represent this industry.

Also at the north end of Covington, I was able to add two pocket tracks. One pocket track will be used by the helper locomotives assigned to help trains up the Ridgemont grade from Covington to the summit at High Meadow, Va. The other pocket track will be used for the power of the Covington Roadswitcher to tie up. This track will also provide a short north end yard lead at Covington, although I envision the Covington Roadswitcher using the Potts Valley connection track at the south end of Covington yard as the primary yard lead here. The Potts Valley connection has also had some curves introduced into it to make it look less contrived as it heads south down the valley to Mill Ridge. The depot at Covington will likely be on the mainline just north of Potts Creek, across from the Westvaco chemical and coal track at the south end of the yard.

Heading south out of Covington towards Carpenter, I have made some changes in the track alignment to allow for angled track that doesn't parallel the benchwork. I hope to be able to work in some "street running" at the south end of Covington with a one-way street on either side of the tracks and stores or homes on each street. This arrangement is representative of many southeastern railroad towns. I also moved the Jackson River slightly south to separate better the town of Covington from the large industrial area at Carpenter. There is a 1.34% grade up at the south end of Covington, and a 1.14% downgrade to the Jackson River bridge.

Several changes were made at Carpenter as well. Foremost among these changes is the shortening of the entire Virginia Eastman complex by 4 feet so that it will not overwhelm that wall of the layout. Virginia Eastman will still be a dominant industry on the railroad at 13' actual feet long--that's 2080 scale feet--so a dedicated plant switcher will be required to handle the traffic here. I rearranged the spurs to reflect some of the structures I've acquired to use to represent this plant, and I added a second runaround track and a lead track at the south end to help the plant switcher go about its daily chores. A CSXT train will simply pick-up and set-off cars on the interchange track closest to the main, while a Virginia Eastman switcher will handle all of the actual plant switching. This should be a fairly interesting job to operate, even though only one industry (albeit a very large one) is involved.

Train-handling for southbounds will start to get interesting at the south end of Carpenter. A 2.25% southbound upgrade begins just north of the south portal of Carpenter Tunnel, the start of the reason for the southbound helpers out of Covington. After passing through Pearson Curve, the grade briefly levels out at a new industry at the south end of Ridgemont: Old Dominion Forest Industries will load wood chips here.

Southbounds briefly descend a 0.55% grade at the big curve at the south end of Ridgemont. Coming off of that downgrade, southbound trains face a 2.31% grade to the north end of the Ridgemont passing siding. I increased the radius of the S-curve segments through Ridgemont to a minimum of 24", while some of the curves are 30", 36", and even 48". This should be a nice area to watch trains snake through the mountains while being helped up the grade.

The grade flattens briefly at the summit at High Meadow. I reworked this area so that the track was not parallel to the edge of the benchwork. Southbounds will then descend a 2.0% grade from High Meadow through Mud Run Tunnel alongside Hays Creek to the interchange with the NS CR&E Division at Shenandoah Junction, Va.

With these changes, the only design work left for the layout is to reconfigure part of the Potts Valley RR. However, I don't currently intend to build the Potts Valley portion of the layout until after we start operating sessions, so I will leave that design work until later.


Original Design:
New Design:

This page last updated on 01/01/11.

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