Jim Brewer's Norfolk and Western, Shenandoah Division
I hope you'll agree that Jim's layout is worthy of two sets of pictures.
Layout Photos by Tom Broderick Layout Photos by Marshall Abrams

Jim Brewer's Norfolk and Western- Shenandoah Division

Jim Brewer of Glenwood, Maryland, is the former Editor of the "The Arrow", the official publication of N&W Historical Society and is in the process of building an HO scale model railroad in his 3300 square foot basement. The layout depicts the Norfolk and Western Railroad (now part of Norfolk Southern Railroad) along the Shenandoah River between Hagerstown, Maryland, and Roanoke, Virginia. The period is 1956; the transition period of steam and diesel. Modeled is 80 miles of the N&W Shenandoah Valley Division between Front Royal and Waynesboro, Virginia, with Hagerstown and Roanoke represented by eleven common staging tracks, each almost 40 feet long. Interchange is with the Southern Railroad in Front Royal, the Chesapeake Western Railroad in Elkton and the Chesapeake and Ohio Railroad in Waynesboro. The layout takes up two basement rooms, the largest is 93 by 30 foot, 6 inches, while the other is 24 by 20 foot. Included in the basement is a work area with several work benches, a paint spray booth, and the staging tracks. Also in the basement are a rest room and a lounge area. Minimum aisle width is 36 inches except within the American Viscose Rayon plant. All walls are covered with drywall. Gene Lance painted thousands of trees, representing the Shenandoah Valley. Bench work is both L-girder and open grid, supporting 3/4 inch plywood, depending upon which worked best for the particular area. Track is code 100 flex track on Homabed. Turnouts are Shinohara with either hand-throws or Tortoise slow motion switch machines. The continuous main line is single track (over 400 foot) with six 15 to 23 foot passing sidings. Two other shorter passing sidings are used by passenger and short local trains. A 12 track yard is located in Shenandoah with smaller yards at Front Royal (Avtex Rayon Plant) and at Waynesboro.

A Trip on the Railroad -- As we go down the stairs into the basement, we follow a passenger train from Hagerstown as it leaves the back staging room and we meet up with it in Front Royal. It quickly crosses the Southern at grade and passes the Southern/N& W interchange track. A propane gas supplier, modeled from an existing company in Front Royal, is unloading a pressurized tank car on the interchange track. We catch a glimpse at a few cows in a trackside stock pen. The N&W picked up cattle at several locations through out the Shenandoah Valley. Next we pass the completed American Viscose (A VTEX Fibers) Rayon Plant, the largest industry on the Shenandoah Division. Two small N& W engines are switching incoming bales of wood pulp, positioning tank cars of acid, and gathering shipments of rayon fiber. On our left are Allied Chemical Paint and Dye Company and Virginia Jams and Jellies. Several sidings are noted entering all these industries and to the N&W Front Royal freight station, built by John Holt, on the right. Continuing on from Front Royal, we come to the outskirts of the town of Luray, Virginia. A Texaco Gas Station, the 211 Tavern, and Southern States Co-op lead us into town. We pass the long passing siding through the town of Luray which presently is under construction with all structures scratch build from photos of actual Luray buildings. Turning the corner into the smaller room, we come to more switching at the small town of Stanley. A white cloud rises above the Liberty Lime Company at Grove Hill. We then pass the farming community of Ingham (this room has about 75 percent of its scenery) and enter the division point of Shenandoah and the busy roundhouse (being installed). Back into the main room we slow down through the completed town of Shenandoah with its red roofed station and the extensive twelve-track freight yard. Our main line goes around the yard, passing a cemetery, and we arrive at Elkton with its interchange track with the Chesapeake Western Railroad. Our train continues on, passing small homes on US 340 between Elkton and Stonewall and passes more switching activity at Merck Pharmaceutical Company at 'Stonewall (has mockups and is under construction). Then we pass Grottoes, the structures modeled from 0. Winston Link photos. The track goes behind a fire place and restroom and we enter Waynesboro (no scenery) where the N&W has a small yard and interchanges with the Chesapeake and Ohio. From there, we leave the main railroad room and enter the back staging area and Roanoke.

Layout Construction - During our travels from Hagerstown to Roanoke, we noticed the thousands of trees, individually made from branches obtained from a type of west coast sumac bush, purchased from Alpine Arboretum. Green ground foam (mostly Woodland Scenics) was applied to the branches with Elmer's White Glue. Hills are wire screen covered with strips of newspaper dipped in soupy Hydrocal, a very hard type of industrial plaster. We are also experimenting with foam wall board insulation. The modeled mainline is rather flat as is theN& W prototype as it transverses the Shenandoah Valley but one section has a 1.3 percent grade. The scene is backed up by the thousands of painted trees on the tall ridges of the George Washington National Forest and the Shenandoah National Park. About 70 percent of the structures are scatch-built; the rest are kit-bashed. Styrene is the material of choice for most of the structures although some wood structures also appear on the layout. Several photographic trips were made to the Shenandoah Valley to collect data on recognizable structures that were present in the 1956 period to give the model railroad a strong identity. Old photos, station plans, and regional information were also collected from many sources. We noticed that the Norfolk and Western had unique line poles along the right of way.

Operation - The Digitrax Radio Chief DCC system is now operational. Tortoise slow motion switch machines have been installed and powered with Digitrax's DS54 stationary decoders. We can now operate the layout in a more prototypical manner although we will continue to be in the construction mode for some time. We are using Pro Track as a freight forwarding system. After studying various Digital Command Control systems, Jim purchased the Digitrax's Radio Chief from Springhaven Shops to operate the his Shenandoah Division. I have been using my Digitrax Radio Chief on my 26 by 14 foot, point to point, home layout in Westminster, MD, to learn how to install and use it. Jim's layout presently has five control stations/boosters, three UR-91 Radio Receivers, and several handheld controllers, both radio and tethered. Twenty three turnouts and crossover pairs are controlled with slow motion switch machines (installed) and we have installed six DS54 quad stationary switch decoders to drive them. !installation of BDL16 Occupancy Detectors is a possible future task. Train location will be displayed and turnouts will be controlled from either local push buttons (already installed with indicating LEDs) or the CTC Board on the computer screen. We expect to follow the N&W operations as close as practical. With a mainline of over 400 feet and several passing sidings with the capability of holding freight trains with over 26 forty-foot cars, many trains can be moving at the same time. There are several industries to switch, a large yard at the town of Shenandoah, and interchange with three railroads: the Southern, the Chesapeake Western, and the Chesapeake and Ohio. There is no problem in keeping several operators busy. The American Viscose Rayon Plant can keep two engineers busy by itself.

Richard Daniels
Richard Daniels email: rdaniels22@verizon.net Jim Brewer email: jfbrewer@comcast.net