HO scale coal mine

John’s been in touch again with his HO scale coal mine.

Have a look at what he’s done now.

And if his narrative doesn’t bring a smile to your face, I don’t know what will.

“Below is the narrative for the WV Energy operations pictured herein.

The first wall of the “great layout move” side is nearly completed, and trains can run 1/3 of the way around the layout – 2/3 is still in boxes and crates.

The time is 1987 and Conrail, the mega-railroad formed in 1976 from numerous failing USA railroads east of the Mississippi river, was just split and sold to CSX and Norfolk-Southern.

Lots of diesel power was on the market and some was sold. West Virginia Energy picked up several aging but serviceable engines for their coal, oil and ore transportation.

Coal is still king in the Appalachian, and the Craig Mountain mines, and coal processing plant wedged between “Lost” and “Tygart” river works to make the coal ready for the folks needing clean energy.

The old Hudson 4-8-4 that was saved from the scrap-yard torches is now in front of the logistic warehouse for the crusher and shipping operation.

Remember that the owners kid, acting as a fireman let the water in the boiler get low and warped the back-head of the firebox. Plans are to restore the ex-New York Central workhorse when funds are available.

On the plateau just below THE Craig Mountain Coal plant is “The Shin’in Rock” a silver ore mine, the silver ore deposit just on the top of the 30’ coal seam that runs under West Craig Mountain, and East to the Virginia line.

WV Energy tolerates the silver mine, the owner/operator of which is the first cousin of the original owner of WV Energy, at least that’s the reason given for allowing the other mine to share some of the WV Energy property.

The little mine also serves as a receiving location for mining supplies, relayed up the hill to the coal facility.

The silver ore was processed just outside the mine buildings, but a fire destroyed the reducing plant, so now it’s shipped out to Roanoke. The direction of the wind that December night blowing the flames away and across the valley, the trestle serving the little mine was not so lucky and burned beyond repair, as did the mainline trestle, which was rebuilt.

Still, even with bouts of bad luck and wavering silver value and demand a small profit is realized, and the silver miners have a job…for awhile anyway. The first cousin still comes to work each day, watching the old mine-head winch drop the workers and ore hopper 210 feet to the ¼ mile of tunnels.

Overlooking the junction of Lost River and the larger Buckhannon River is the Undercliff Café, where miners can get a beer or a shot, and on Wednesday evenings learn line dancing from “Big Bell Raven, the Stompin’ Craig Mountain Mamma” with Bluegrass music by the “Mine dust 4” – a local band.

This coal operation modeled here is typical of a hundred such across the Appalachian “Blue Ridge” mountains of Kentucky, West Virginia, Pennsylvania, and Virginia. All now struggling or abandoned with the war on coal in full swing.

When they are all finally gone and for most forgotten, I’ll look at my railroad and remember the thousands of miners, their little towns, bluegrass bands, beer bars, and the energy that built America… when coal was King.

John from Baltimore”

coal mine ho scale

ho scale bridge to coal mine

overhead view of burned model train building

ho scale coal mine conveyer

HO scale figures swimming

HO scale model train cafe

HO scale coal mine trestle bridge

A huge big thanks to John.

His last post, on his model train bridge really does show how this layout has come together.

Also, I absolutely love his narrative, putting a story to a layout is great fun, and also brings it to life.

Please do leave a comment below, I’d love to hear your thoughts on this one.

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.



PS Latest ebay cheat sheet is here.

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

30 Responses to HO scale coal mine

  1. Brian Olson says:

    Wow, spectacular attention to detail both in building and of course the “story” or the railroad.

  2. David J. Neral says:

    Great work, John.

  3. Tony, Kitty Hawk NC says:

    John- excellent narrative, great modelling! Thanks for sharing- looking forward to more.

  4. Bob Sandrus says:

    Great story!

  5. Allan says:

    John’s scenery is unbelieveable. By far the best I’ve ever seen.

  6. Stephen Hill says:

    Really remarkable craftsmanship, a true skill . Simply amazing modeling and attention to detail. Easy to view a display and not see all the small stuff that impacts the realism of the layout . You have created a wonderful display sir , most impressive.

  7. Rob McCrain says:

    Lots of incredible fine detail to study here. Beautiful craftsmanship.
    Rob McCrain

  8. Mike says:

    Great story line and excellent model builder

  9. George Zaky says:

    Wow John
    Your narrative and astonishing layout was such a thrill to see first thing this AM. The story is a powerful one and struck a nerve that entailed the painful truth, beauty in the layout, and a realization that we elect morons to herd us where we dont want to go. I know how much effort it took to send us this and we thank you big time.
    John’s missive fired me up this AM. It takes a lot of work and money to keep this blog open for your and my enjoyment. Please do everything you can to contribute and keep this going.
    Big Al- much thanks.

  10. JOHN says:

    Now that’s an interesting story – actually believable – especially if you’ve spent some time in that part of the world! Great work on the layout too!

  11. Clayton Clatur says:

    WOW. That’s fantastic.

  12. Kay Isbell says:

    The history behind the inspires the scene is fascinating.

  13. L. Zarling says:

    If the stories are true to history that will be GREAT !!!
    All though I have read some stories of layouts that were very humorous and are certainly enjoyable as well. When you have things like this Al, your site is super great.
    Thank you.

  14. ROGER TURNER says:

    Reading your story brought a big smile to my face even before I saw the pictures.
    Your a true craftsman. Keep us posted.

  15. Bob Blashe says:

    What an absolutely amazing job of model railroading! Spectacular scenery. Great attention to detail. A “Hall-of-Fame” piece of artwork. And then the story brings the layout to life. Be proud. You deserve it!

  16. Larry “Ripper” Ripplinger says:

    Holy Cow, what a layout and story to match! In my mind this is what makes for a great layout. The details are the best! Way to go! An inspiration to all of us no matter what your skills are!

  17. Bill Ellerman says:

    As someone who grew up in Pittsburgh and worked in and around the coal mines and processing plants in the 1970s I especially appreciate the detail. My company specifically supplied and build the conveyors. The rock cliffs and trees are also quite impressive.

  18. Richard H Chapple Sr says:

    Very well done. A totally believable story line and wonderful work.
    These are the type of articles I looked forward to reading in the model magazines over the years after I first laid eyes on a Model Railroader magazine in 1947.
    Of course the Gorre & Daphetid RR of John Allen’s comes to mind.
    John thank you so much for sharing this with us and I certainly continue to appreciate all of Al’s labor of love with this site.

  19. Bruce Young says:

    you were right. It brought a grin to my face after reading Nice story EXCELLENT LAYOUT

  20. jeff says:

    Most impressive!!! Love the history of the making of the layout…You are an inspiration!

  21. dick hogle says:

    Fantastic !!!

  22. Steve Dedrick says:

    A fabulous layout to remember a time long gone .Enjoy !

  23. Dave A Bellian says:

    Wow, thanks for the pics both Grandads worked the coal mines in Byseville Ohio. Little Kate mine 1 and 2.
    Have 2 custom Banjos for the family depicting the mines in 1910. In remembrance of our family history.

  24. Charles Eyster says:

    John, I commend you for creating a simply spectacular layout. The narrative only adds to it all. Lastly, as a kid born and raised in the Baltimore County area, it is heartwarming to see the hobby is still alive and thriving! I used to model back in the day when I took a bus snd s long walk to go into the city, on Gay Street under the viaduct, to shop for bargains at the original MB Klein’s store. Always trains there to fit anyones budget! Those, indeed, were the days. Stay strong and active. Do you ever offer tours of your layout? Charles in New Jersey

  25. JIMMY ROBINSON says:

    Wonderful! Your deep canyons and high bridges remind me of John Allen’s work!

  26. Alabama Mike says:

    WOW, fantastic work and layout. The bridge is beautiful.

  27. Nick Novogradac says:

    Your coal mine scene is spectacular.

  28. william janmes palmer says:

    outstanding work

  29. Steve Ruple says:

    Awesome work John, great scenery details. Love the coal mine scene really looks sharp. Great work on the trestle and the bridges that span the canyons. Also great story !!!!

  30. Linda Hoffstetter says:

    A very heart warming story, your love of coal mining shines through on your layout. Absolutely true to life. Linda H.

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