Norfolk and Western Fuel Satisfaction by Christopher Smith

February 10th, 2018

Layout Tour:  Chris Smith's Norfolk & Western Fuel Satisfaction

Submitted by Ken Nesper (O Scale Modeler)

On Saturday, February 10, the members of the Potomac Division, in conjunction with the Capitol Area O Scalers, were treated to an encore tour of Chris Smith's N&W Fuel Satisfaction model railroad in Silver Spring, MD.  The division members last saw the railroad in March 2014.  In the intervening four years, Chris has completed the “vertical” scenery around the outside walls of the 24' x 26' basement and ballasted nearly 90% of the 200 foot mainline.

To recap, the railroad was inspired by the N&W east/west two-track mainline west of Welch WV, between Ieager and Bluefield.  Ieager and Bluefield are represented with staging yards.  Most of the action consists of very long coal trains, either loads or empties, running from the mine area to the off-stage destinations.  A holding yard, called the farm, occupies a prominent position from where the incoming and outgoing mine trains are dispatched.  This is also the spot where helper engines are added or trains are broken in two  in order to make it up Elkhorn Grade. 

For passenger railfans, the highlight of the day may be the passing of the Pocahontas and Powhatan Arrow trains running behind streamlined J-class locomotives, as they traverse the railroad.  Both trains feature a mix of named and generic baggage, mail, sleepers, coaches, diner, and lounge cars.  Like the coal trains, the length of these trains is breath-taking.  There is also a limited amount of local mixed freight activity.

His large assortment of prototypical N&W steam power, no diesels here, is controlled by either NCE digital command control or conventional DC.  Turnouts are controlled by Circuitron Tortoise switch machines.  Chris used Homabed from California Roadbed and track from AtlasO.

Using ubiquitous pink foam, Chris has started building the “hill” that will form a view block down the central peninsula.  This will visually separate the mine area from the farm.  He's mocked up a coal tipple to provide a sense of place.  Chris has also created coal loads for many of the outbound loaded hoppers, adding to the realism.  He carved Styrofoam blocks to which various scales sizes of coal were glued.

Even as Chris continues to add to the scenery, he is planning the steps necessary to move the railroad to Florida when he retires in the next few years.  Having purchased a retirement property, he is having a train building of proportions similar to his basement constructed.  The scenery was formed on foam panels that can be removed and packed into shipping containers.  Chris envisions moving the track sections by removing the “scabs” that tie the plywood sections together; cutting the rail at the plywood seam; and wrapping the entire piece in foam and tape to protect the track.  Conveniently, there is a side door out of the basement that will facilitate the removal of even the largest sections of track.  The bench work consists of a series of L-girder like tables that will be disassembled after the components are clearly labeled.  All table parts will be packed as one unit.  Chris noted that he will have to fashion a duck-under when the railroad is reassembled in Florida.  On the other hand, he won't have to accommodate access to washer, dryer, hot water tank, and furnace. 

Chris is an excellent craftsman and fine modeler and it was a pleasure to see his railroad in operation once again.  He and it will be missed when he relocates to Florida.