Great Article and Site!



I have been impressed with the A&O since I saw it in the May 2006 Model Railroader. The 2009 MRP article is fantastic! I love the concept of the people tunnels to divide the layout into separate scenes. The photos of the Big Coal River Gorge are very impressive. I certainly want o include a scene such as this on my new layout.

Concerning my new layout, I had been planning to build in HO, already having enough rolling stock to operate in HO in my 11’ x 13’ room. Unfortunatly, I have been having trouble with both my eyes and hands as I grow older. I am seriously considering switching to O scale. In fact, I just bought a couple of kits to try it out. I like your advice on the site that you constructed a diarama first to try it out. I have been impressed with O scale for a long time, but thought my space and budget wouldn’t allow me to do what I want.

Since my spoace is small, and my interests lie in West Virginia logging and mining in the earlier part of the last century, I am seriously considering O scale narrow gauge as the main layout, with a connection to the Western Maryland Rwy in standard gauge. I am hopeful I can pull off the effect of a mountain hollow in this space. I have a friend who has given me some really neat out-of-the-box ideas. He shared his concepts with me several years ago when he was designing his 1930’s HO layout.

Any advice or observations would be more than welcome from you, David, or anyone else.

I will certainly continue checking in to see the progress and read what others are saying.

Joel, excellent site! It certainly compliments the former and future layouts well.

Happy Model Railroading,
Mark Boyce
Butler, PA


Hi Mark,
Glad you liked the article. Hopefully another one is down the road for 2.0 in more than a conceptual state. And without my son’s help, this site wouldn’t exist at all. I’m blessed by his goodness to his dear old dad.

I can relate to the eye issues having had detached retina, cataract, etc. surgeries in the last two years. It’s the pits getting old. I probably would have left the hobby if I hadn’t encountered O scale, especially when the vision issues hit.

You have plenty of room for a neat O scale layout. It’s the visual appeal, sound, engulfing setting, etc. that make for fun railroading- a generous space is just a bouus. Think vertical in the scenery; create detail-laden vignettes that are discreet unto themselves; and build operation into the plan from the start (ie. plan your trains, switching, etc in some detail- see “Test Ops” General Discussion topic)- and you’ll be amazed how big the RR will seem and how fast the time disappears when you’re in the cab on the job. In this kind of environment it’s a different kind of model railroading.

I like your scheme idea. That would/will be fun to create. There’s probably some prototype setting(s) that could be the genesis for your plans. Send along progress notes/shots if you don’t mind.

Stay in touch-



Thanks for the reply. Yes, testing operations as you build is a wise choice. Plus, it whets the appitite for more, adding to the excitement and enthusiasm. Sounds like you aren’t afraid to revise the plan as you go.

Speaking of the plan, I see the track plan is drawn with paper and pencil. While I use CAD a bit at work, there would be too much of a learning curve to draw my plan in CAD. I have tried, and will go back to the old faithful.

You are correct, there are many locations along the Western Maryland Railway in West Virginia where logging railroads, both narrow guage and standard gauge interchanged. The most famous of course is Spruce, WV, where the Cass Scenic RR still has a connection. Webster Springs, and Laurel Bank (Slaty Fork) are two others. I don’t know how closely I will follow the prototype in this regaurd. Photos and info are hard to find as these locations didn’t last long, and weren’t well documented. I may just go for the feel of the prototype.

Also, just an hour ago, I purchased a brand new On30 Shay on ebay at an excellent price!! I can’t wait for it to arrive. It can pull my one car on my HO track so I can get the idea, before I invest much more. I think that will help me get an idea of how much I can do in the space I have.

I will surely stay in touch.


Hi Mark-

Okay, you’re HOOKED!! :laughing: I hadn’t thought through that shay’s would be the motive power for you. That immediately makes your space several times its actual size! You may have seen a shot of the A&O’s Hysterical Society standard gauge 3-truck shay (belongs to Bob Sobol). We used it on 1.0 on ocassion to pull loads up the Kayford from King Coal to Willow Creek- about 25-30’ of track- and it took forever. But with sound it was very cool and will be used again on 2.0 in some capacity- possibly moving hoppers under the chutes at a yet to be built loader on the new Kayford Branch. Sooo- send a picture.

I prefer paper and pencil for trackplanning since handlaid trackwork doesn’t fit with CAD parameters. Not to mention that I’d not know how to do it. (The drawing on the Layout page will soon be replaced by an incredible rendering of the 2.0 plan done by Jose Alvira. You’ll be amazed.)

Looking forward to what you come up with.


Yes, I saw the Shay. It looks great! Viewing the drive mechanism working is just one of the things I like about the steam era. That was the first thing I noticed about my vision in HO. I can focus on a stationary object on the layout or workbench, but when something is in motion, I can’t keep focus on the movement. New specs didn’t help, either. From visiting O-scale layouts, this seems to be much less of a problem in the larger scale. You talk about O-scale being in your face. All the movement of drive rods or gears, in the case of a shay, are really impressive in larger scales. I wonder how many days until my Shay arrives.

Happy Model Railroading,
Mark Boyce
Butler, PA


Yes you have a great web-site and the articles are great Bruce Morrill


Hi Bruce-
Glad you’ve enjoyed the articles and website. It’s been fun. I hope to get more put up on the site in the near future.

The Shay is indeed fun to watch. Now to build a new home for it to roam!


Mark and David,

I too work with Cad in my profession and it’s the only way I will ever design my railroads. After taking as many dimensions of the space you have and drawing them in Cad, you now have a precise picture of your space in which to fit your railroad. I have found that ever since I started designing this why, I have never encountered a problem when construction began. I know it’s not for everybody but it is a great tool.
Mark, there shouldn’t be any new learning curve if you use the same program to design you railroad that you use at work. I do all my work in AutoCad. I’ve never tried any of those Cad systems that are offered in the model railroad mags as they seam too restrictive to me.

New Railroad