The Coosa Valley Railroad


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The Coosa Valley Railroad is a 4′ x 8′ N-scale model train layout. The model was designed and built by members of the Wrecking Crew, a model railroad organization located in Birmingham, AL. The layout depicts a fictitious small southern mill town along the Coosa River on a summer day in 1981. The town is built around a courthouse square with a small depot, a freight house and a city park. The buildings on the hilltop is the Riverview Boy Scout Camp. The track plan is two mainlines. The lower level is a single loop around with four industrial sidings. The upper level is a double loop around with a figure “8” and two industrial sidings.

Building started in November, 2009 at The McWane Science Center and construction was on display for public view during their two month Magic of Model Trains exhibit. Members of the Wrecking Crew worked on the layout every Saturday and Sunday at McWane and by the end of the two month exhibit, the layout was operational and about 50% complete. Construction started with the bench work building a frame using 1”x6” and 1”x4” pine. The legs are folding table legs and the top is ¼” luan plywood cut in the shape of the track plan. The hills are shaped using styrofoam insulation board and covered with plastercloth. The rockwork is plaster castings attached with a plaster material called Sculptamold. The water in the Coosa River is made from a 2 part clear epoxy. Ground cover and bushes are Woodland Scenics foam in various colors. Trees are real plant armatures with Woodland Scenics foam for foliage. Paint for the rocks is craft acrylic mixed with water and applied in layers using four colors. Dirt roads are sifted real dirt glued down with a 50-50 mix of Elmer’s glue and water.

Most of the buildings in the town are DPM kits. The corner buildings are made using two fronts, the second front is a casting we made from molds. The courthouse is made from a Victorian house kit and modified to look like a courthouse. The houses and Boy Scout Camp buildings are scratch built from solid wood blocks covered with scale siding and scratch built windows and doors. The bridges are all scratchbuilt. The two wood trestles are built from scale lumber we cut on a bandsaw. The tall trestle was entered in an NMRA Regional Convention model contest and won a 109 point merit award. The steel arch bridge is scratchbuilt with parts cut from sheet styrene.

The layout is powered using an MRC Tech 4 Power Pack for each mainline which gives 9 volt DC power for the tracks and 16 volt AC power for accessories. Accessories include street lighting, clocks with light and signal lights all wired to one of the power packs. Most buildings are lighted using a string of 100 LED Christmas tree lights, 120 vac. All 120 vac is pluged into a plug strip under the layout. There are 3 electrical buses under the layout. One bus for each mainline track and one bus for the low voltage accessory wiring.

Future construction will include more structures in the small town, a house on the mountain overlooking the Coosa River, development of the triangular area adjacent to the river, building two or three permanent industrial buildings for the sidings, more vehicles and figures, more trees and vegetation, more signage and automation for the signal lights.

Many of the Wrecking Crew members helped with the layout. The primary builders were: Malcolm Sokol, Jeff Johnson, Ken Austin, Bob Beaty, Tony McBride, Frank Smith, Gil Gilmore, Jason Parham, Frank Rawden and Mike Floyd.


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