HO scale coal mine layout

John’s been back in touch with his HO scale coal mine layout:

“Hi Al,

My modeling of a fading West Virginia coal town led me to do research, a few overnight field trips, and you-tube grazing of these forgotten places time has passed by.

Probably the most interesting I found is Thurmond West Virginia.

The first picture is the real Thurmond. It is now a ghost town with the latest census having 8 people, but it seems no one can find them, and no houses are occupied – do ghosts count in a census?

Anyway, since I have a cantilevered signal like the one in the picture, I decided to model the main “street” which is actually a gravel road right next to the tracks!

This whole area of southern West Virginia, Parts of Virginia, Tennessee, and Kentucky combine to make a wide swath of the Blue Ridge mountains known as Appalachia.

Hardworking people, some doing okay, many in incredible poverty. It is a fact of history in some places in the United States that a town can explode on the scene in a decade, with a single factory, mine, or railroad junction, and when the bromide “Don’t put all your eggs in one basket” comes true and the factory or mine egg basket drops or dies, and so does the town.

Since the last article I sent in with the town of “Craig” under construction, it’s been fully installed and most scenery is now in place, maybe some more trees? Thinking about it.

I’m working from the back of the layout to the front this time, filling in scenery and buildings as I go.

I also made progress on my rock quarry. The pit is done and integrating it into the rock processing structure is moving along.

It’s a challenge as the concept of the module for my model of the rock crusher was done for a more western desert area which never quite happened, so colors – browns, tans and such VS greens and greys of the West Virginia mountains present something of a problem. Still working that out.

As many who have read what I’ve sent to Al on this outstanding (I really mean it!) website, I tend to be more of a model building/scenery model railroad person. I like to run trains, but still the building of a cool model is where it’s at for me.

With this in mind, I’ve resisted going to DCC for the layout, and am staying with DC block systems for operation.

Thus, at this point I decided on a few operational design things for two areas of the layout. I will operate these areas as “separate layouts” electrically isolated from the main loops.

First is the upper-level coal mines, shuttling cars into and out of the loader, bringing them across the bridge to build trains on the main level.

Second is the whole roundhouse-yard and quarry area, again building trains to be taken for loops on the mainline.

There are several stub tracks which service businesses in the area of the roundhouse, which will also allow for switching challenges and car ordering for businesses.

As the layout continues the finishing process, there will be a refinery added, and the existing silver mine will also have small power-packs for their operations.

I have found over the years that the vision and drive to make a miniature slice of the world (HO size for me) has taken me to some un-planned areas.

The aging and struggling plight of the coal country was a turn I didn’t see coming, but I have to say, there are lots of really interesting things to see, learn about and model there.

I hope you enjoy my trips to the time and place where towns and living happened while, for a few decades time stood still, when coal was king.



HO scale coal mine layout sidings

HO scale coal mine layout quarry

HO scale coal mine layout quarry

model railroad quarry pit

HO scale coal mine layout overhead view

model railroad town

HO scale coal mine layout town

A huge big thanks to John for sharing his HO scale coal mine layout.

I often say picking a theme for your layout is the way to go. From my point of view, I have noticed over the years the layouts with a clear theme always look the best.

The overhead view of the layout really shows John’s layot has come together.

You can see his last post here: Model railroad quarry.

Or if want to see a whole load of his post, he’s in the Hall of fame too.

Here’s some pics of his previous posts with links.

John’s U shaped layout

model railroad trestle bridge

HO scale coal mine

HO scale coal mine

John adds a substation to his layout

model railroad wooden bridge

More of John’s stunning layout

HO scale town scenery

That’s all for today folks.

Please do keep ’em coming.

And if today is the day you stop dreaming and start doing, the Beginner’s Guide is here.

Remember, it’s the start that stops most folk.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

PPS More HO scale train layouts here if that’s your thing.

16 Responses to HO scale coal mine layout

  1. peter Briggs says:

    That is a serious landscape my friend, many hours of hopefully enjoyment in creating it. i can tell theres hundreds of hours in there. Well done.

  2. Steve says:

    Excellent – compares very well with the picture of the actual location. Odd co-incidence that our book club has just been reading “Demon Copperhead”, which is all about a boy growing up in a poor part of that area.

  3. Stephen Hill says:

    John , your work never ceases to amaze me , dry inspiring as well . Superb craftmanship and detail . You appear to make it seem so easy , we all know it’s not . Just magnificent display . And what a subject , rural West Virginia is still a lot like the old western towns , I l ow as I grew up in northern area. You have certainly captured the feeling and texture of that world . Thank you for sharing , wonderful wonderful display

  4. Denny McKernan says:

    I feel like i’m looking down a real street in hometown USA. Truly appreciate the expertise and time
    you put into this.

  5. Mike S says:

    The photo of the deserted Thurmond is spot on. Seen it several times via Jawtooths videos on YouTube.
    Overall looks great. 👌 Mike S

  6. Don says:

    outstanding work & creation, love the coal train & the entire setup

  7. george zaky says:

    I am always excited to see a new message from you on this site. You’re in the Hall because you have a piece of history in your head and you mystifyingly translate it to an incredible piece of artwork on the layout. As others in the Hall you have this spacial gift to plan it, visualize it, and then expertly construct it. I do not have your talents and so marvel & appreciate that you contribute your works of brilliance for others to see, absorb and appreciate. Much thanks.
    Your story has such meaning to it because it depicts a part of our true heritage. Some of it is not so pretty but it is true.
    Big Al
    You da man. Cheers!

  8. Philip J Steinbach says:

    jay Tooth has a great video about Thurmond on youtube. His video is about railroading through Thurmond but he gives a lot of info about the town’s past and present.

  9. Rob McCrain says:

    All the different elevations make this layout so interesting to study and also I am sure to watch when running. The fine detail is wonderful.
    Great layout, Rob McCrain

  10. robert dale tiemann says:

    very nice. i like it a lot.

  11. TJK says:

    Great workmanship John!
    I love the depth of the mine with the heavy equipment .

  12. Marklin ed. says:

    THANKS John i like the different levels of the layout, gives it a realistic look. Your work is wonderful and inspiring. Look forward to more of your pictures. Poor people in the country it’s sin.

  13. John Bullock says:

    Wow… that’s a mining town! Beautifully done!

  14. Gary M from Long Island says:

    John……great layout……..the weathering throughout the layout is superb. Love the way you finished off the roofing on the buildings; I never good at that. The mine scene, the structures and the hole…..fantastic.

  15. Kevin McArdle says:

    Beautiful layout. Reminds me of the pioneer of realistic craftsman model railroading John Allen and his Gorre & Daphetid railroad at a time when there weren’t tha availability of craftsman kits and were all scratch built, something that leaves me in awe. Thank you for sharing

  16. Dr. Jon says:

    Outstanding Work John! What an imagination! You start with nothing and produce this…. Beautiful!

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