By John Drye, Mark Franke and Bernard Kempinski
|Members of Northern Virginia NTRAK developed oNeTRAK to augment and expand NTRAK to allow prototypical modeling and operations on a single-track modular railroad. oNeTRAK has been displayed at National and Regional Conventions, including the 1998 NMRA Convention in Kansas City;|
"Magic Rails" (the 1998 N Scale East Convention at Orlando, FL); and at Southern Junction, in Raleigh, North Carolina. The1999 uNConvention in Richmond VA featured a number of NTRAK variations including: the original three track NTRAK design, oNeTRAK, Richmond Area NTRAK's (RANTRAK) TwinTRAK and the Ft. Meade Area RR Society (MARRS) SmartN two track modules.
At these get togethers, oNeTRAK can be connected to the three track NTRAK mainline using the Junction Module concept first used at Valley Forge in 1993, expanded upon at the 1996 N Scale East Convention, and often used in other large NTRAK layouts since then.
The oNeTRAK subdivision can use a pair of standard three track NTRAK Junction modules for this connection. However, one of the ideas behind the oNeTRAK concept is to allow lighter, more easily transportable modules. Gordonsville Junction was the first attempt at such a junction module. As a first effort, it has some positive features (it works!) and some things we'd do differently the next time.
The origin of the Gordonsville Junction Module is an interesting story in itself. In May of '98, a group of NVNTRAKers journeyed to Huntington, WV to do some railfanning of the old C&O (now CSX) along the New River. One of the best ways to travel to a great railfanning location is by rail; in this case via Amtrak's "Cardinal." A great time was had by all.
On the way back, the lounge car was filled with NTRAKers furiously designing layouts and modules inspired by the New River Subdivision. Talk turned to how best to incorporate oNeTRAK into the then-upcoming "Magic Rails" Convention in Orlando. We had decided that, while operations would be the focus of oNeTRAK, arranging modules in a loop configuration would allow continuous running while the operators "went to beans". After all, one of the objectives of NTRAK is to keep trains running. (maybe some prototype railroads should join the club).
So, we needed a prototype for a oNeTRAK wye; preferably on level terrain, so it would be easy to carry. A location on the C&O/CSX would be nice, maybe even with a connection to another local railroad. Interesting scenery and structures would be a plus. Right about then, the "Cardinal" slowed for a 10 mph curve.
We all looked out the window to see the locomotive pass the old C&O tower at Gordonsville, VA, about 20 miles northeast of Charlottesville. Here, C&O used to connect with the Southern. Along with the tower was an abandoned grain elevator, freight station and water tower. Our train passed within arms reach of a three story whitewashed wood dwelling, quickly labeled "Matt's House" after Matt Schaefer, our "tour guide" and former C&O civil engineer. Gordonsville would do. The following weekend we began to cut lumber, and made a quick trip back, this time by car, to take a bunch of prototype photos. A month later, (with help from NVNTRAKers Matt Schaefer, Dave Freshwater, Carl and Steve Zutter, and Bernard Kempinski) Gordonsville Junction made its public debut in Orlando.
The prototype Gordonsville has been an important rail junction since the 1850s when the Orange and Alexandria made a connection here with the Virginia Central. During the Civil War, Gordonsville was of vital importance to Robert E. Lee and his Army of Northern Virginia in the transportation of troops and supplies. Following the war, the Virginia Central became the Chesapeake and Ohio. Gordonsville flourished as a stop for some of the C&O's most famous trains and the locals became famous for their cuisine. Gordonsville's fried chicken was nationally famous until after World War I, and Dr. George Bagby, Virginia author and humorist proclaimed the Town "the chicken-leg center of the universe."
Today, Gordonsville is the junction of CSX's Piedmont and Washington Subdivisions. Much traffic uses the more direct former RF&P and Southern lines from Charlottesville and Richmond north. Still, Gordonsville daily hosts half a dozen empty westbound coal and grain trains, as well as a local from the former RF&P/C&O interchange at Doswell, plus the Cardinal three times a week.
For more information on Gordonsville and the surrounding area, see Larry Daily's excellent WebPages at www.usaor.net/users/daily/Piedmont.html
The prototype track plan at Gordonsville is relatively simple. The conventional wye has tracks heading north to Alexandria, south to Richmond and west to Charlottesville. Today, only one additional track, a siding along the north-south leg, still stands. A brick tower, no longer used, stands at the west end, and the center of the wye contains the abandoned C&O water tower and is used as storage for the city of Gordonsville. Gordonsville's main street cuts diagonally through the wye. The west leg passes over the street on a low girder bridge, allowing a view of 19th century business structures from the rails.
We had to make a few compromises to fit the track on a four-foot by 30-inch module. We relocated the west wye switch to the other side of the highway overpass, and the remaining siding to the outside of the wye. The track is isolated electrically into seven blocks which are connected together to suit the layout configuration. In most cases, no reverse loop wiring is needed.
Figure 1: GV track plan: model and prototype. (Click to enlarge)
One of the features of the track plan is that the module can function in several different configurations: Junction (the usual mode); Corner; Straight; and Branch line connection.
In the junction mode (see figure 2) two legs of the wye are used as part of the Red Line Route©, the continuous loop that connects the outermost track of NTRAK modules used in a large layout. Trains enter Gordonsville from the south, on the right-hand track. They pass through a turnout and head north on single track. The engineer loops round oNeTRAK's main and re-enters Gordonsville from the west. The train takes the right hand leg of the wye and continues off the module back to the south, this time on the second track. The straight leg of the wye (at the front of the module) is never used, so there is no reversing loop. An empty boxcar is usually parked on this leg, awaiting interchange and preventing operators from using the track. Trains that remain on the oNeTRAK loop during local operations can use the third leg of the wye.
The module also can be used as a corner or straight module in a stand-alone oNeTRAK layout. Either curved leg of the wye can serve as the main, and the straight leg adds to the operations potential of oNeTRAK by acting as an interchange track. When used as a straight through module, the curved legs of the wye are used as the interchange tracks. Finally, Gordonsville can be used to create a branch line off the oNeTRAK loop. This branch can go to staging inside the loop or to an industry such as a coal prep plant.
So far, the Gordonsville module has traveled about 2000 miles and operated in most of the possible configurations. Since the module was built, the design of oNeTRAK has matured, so we'd do a few things differently next time.
Because we forced the wye into a four-foot length, the curved legs have an effective radius of two and a half feet. oNeTRAK modules are designed in even foot increments. This means that six inches needs to be made up somewhere when the module is part of a loop. We have managed so far by making temporary six-inch modules out of Styrofoam and by building a 2.5-foot module to compensate.
To come out even, the module ought to be five feet by three feet, large for an oNeTRAK element. North Raleigh NTRAK has built some three track Junctions modules in two sections, which could work for oNeTRAK as well. If the module were this size, in one or two sections, there would be room for a couple of industries. A run-around track would also help to make operations more interesting.
Now, we just need another prototype. Time to look at the AMTRAK schedule again.