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Abingdon Branch Track Plan.

The Virginia Creeper

N&W's Abingdon Branch in O Scale

Track Plan At A Glance

Layout Theme: Rural Branch
Layout Type: Portable
Size: 8'x8' (24"x72" per section)
Scale: O Scale
Era: Late 1950s
Track: Atlas O Code 148
Turnouts: No. 5
Min. Radius: 36"

Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: October 27, 2015

This month will be Round and Round October - a series of three portable model railroads simply designed for trains to go around in circles. These plans are focused on building display layouts to go to train shows and feature highly detailed scenes.  Operations is a secondary priority.

One of my favorite railroad photographers is the legendary O. Winston Link.  He is best known for his work capturing the last days of steam operations on the Norfolk and Western Railway at night.  Considering the technology of the time, his photographs are stunning.  His work has been featured in a number of books and an entire museum has been built around his career which is located in Roanoke, VA. (O. Winston Link Museum)

While his more famous work is the black and white photographs of N&W mainline steam operations, Link also took color photographs of a branch line - the Abingdon Branch - also known as the Virginia Creeper - in southern Virginia and northern North Carolina.  Just like his better known work, the photographs of this line captured the end of an era of railroading where the railroad was the lifeline for a town.  As automobiles, trucks, and roads became more ubiquitous, these branch lines were closed and the tracks removed.  In the case of the Abingdon Branch, when it was abandoned, the right of way was converted to a bike trail and a number of railroad structures were preserved.

Green Cove Station in 2010 on the Abingdon Branch. | Photo by Jim Spavins.


This display layout has a simple track plan - just a loop of track - but designed to recreate some of those scenes captured by O. Winston Link.  The plan includes scenes from Green Cove, Lansing, Alvarado, Creek Jct., and Nella.  Each scene can be detailed to include many of the stories Link was able to capture during his time riding along the Virginia Creeper.

This layout is one which I had actually started to construct a few years ago and the benchwork for the layout can be seen in the photo below.  Each benchwork section is a basic 2'x4' rectangular frame with a 1'x1' right triangle added on each side of the rectangle.  This makes each section 2'x6' overall and when the four sections are connected together creates an 8'x8' layout.  The legs were designed to fold under the sections and a rack was built so the four sections could be easily transported in a minivan.

This would be an enjoyable layout for someone who enjoys structure building and detailing plus is interested in model railroad photography.  This layout offers a lot of challenges in recreating the legendary work of O. Winston Link.

The Abingdon Branch benchwork. | Photo by Jim Spavins.


For Track Plan Tuesday's, I am digitizing all of my old track planning notebooks and sharing the designs here on the website.  To see all the plans, visit the track plan home page at: jimspavins.com/jimstrackplans.