New house, new space, new project: it’s only taken a year. This time? We’re going up to coal country. Hard Coal Country.

Many years ago I discovered Conrail’s operations in “The Reading Cluster”, the group of former Reading and other anthracite lines branches that Conrail eventually sold off to become the Reading and Northern. I found these while looking at photos from Rich “FMNut” Frey, who’s work I luckily got permission to add to The CRHS’s Conrail Photo Archive. You can view his stuff here. I’ve since found even more to the extent that I created a whole gallery for it: Conrail in Hard Coal Country

I entertained a bunch of ideas when it came time to think about what to do in my new space. It’s not an enormous space, about the same as the one I built the Windsor St layout in, but it has some issues when it comes to normal layout planning. This planning was taking a long time and I was seriously getting the itch to build something.

I decided it was time to JFRTM and do something simple.

So I’m getting a couple of doors, standing them up on 2x4s, and building a layout. Here’s the plan.


The main yard in the upper left corner is going to be modeled after Conrail’s West Cressona Yard, loosely. Here are a couple of reference photos:

Next up is the corner in the lower left that I’m tentatively calling Zehners (zay-ners), where both A and B are. The plan is to have track A represent a former branchline that’s been truncated and now serves as a transload for fertilizer (aka, explosives). Here’s an example. Track B is going to be a truck dump for loading hoppers, similar to this one.

Moving on around the corner is Weigh Scales. Obviously I’m jumping around quite a bit geographically, and I’m making no apologies for that, but it’s because I love this scene at Clark Feeds and I have a ton of covered hoppers.

The switch facing the Weigh Scales siding is going to be International Paper that’s actually located at Mt Carmel Junction.

We round the corner and that brings us to St. Nick. The real St. Nick breaker was a massive facility just west of Mahanony City that used to be very busy. However, in the Conrail era, the breaker itself had been long shut down and the trackage there was used to load hoppers via front end loader. I plan on replicating that scene with quite a few tracks of hoppers and a derelict breaker there (likely using the N Scale Architect Lackawanna Coal Company kit).

Across the tracks from the breaker scene will be Blaschak Coal, which is basically just another truck dump for loading hoppers.

The overall operations plan is that the layout will keep 2-3 people busy for a short ops session. First, there will be a crew working West Cressona. That crew will sort out cars for locals and push cars over the track scale by H. Next out would be a crew that runs up the line working Clark Feeds before turning at St Nick and working the industries on the way back. Lastly would be a third job that runs to St Nick and works the facilities there before returning. It’s simple, quick, and by making people use TrainCrew, should be just long enough to be fun for an evening.

Progress has begun on the layout itself and I’ll be sharing updates as I have them. In the meantime you can follow the build thread on The Railwire.

Because I’ve shared these in a few places, I figured I should post them here too. These are some of the videos that initially got me interested in this subject.