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Wood River Branch Railroad HO Scale Track Plan.

P&W Wood River Division

A Freelanced What If Railroad

Track Plan At A Glance

Layout Theme: Regional Railroad Branch
Layout Type: Permanent Layout
Size: 18'x22'
Scale: HO Scale
Era: 2010s
Track: Code 83 (main), Code 70 (sidings)
Turnouts: No. 5
Min. Radius: 30"

Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: January 17, 2017

One of my favorite types of freelanced layout themes is the "what if" model railroads that take the story of an abandoned railroad - add some revisionist history - and create a fictional version as if the railroad existed today. By combining prototype research, new life will be given to an old rail line.

At various places on this website, you might have noticed variations on the name "Wood River" - on trackplans and on past layouts I've constructed. The reason for this is that one small unremarkable shortline railroad called the Wood River Branch was located near my home town in southern Rhode Island. This railroad was a total of six miles in length from an interchange on the Northeast Corridor at the cleverly named Wood River Junction and terminated in the Hope Valley, RI.  The line was built in the late 1870s and hovered near breakeven until it was absorbed by the New Haven Railroad in the late 1920s.  The line struggled along until only one shipper remained - a grain elevator in Hope Valley.  The New Haven Railroad wanted out but instead of abandoning the line, simply sold the property to the owner of the grain elevator - Roy Rawlings - for the hefty sum of $301.  The railroad was operated until the late 1940s when the elevator burned down.  Without a source of traffic, the railroad was abandonded.

Fictional History

What if the grain elevator hadn't burned down?  How might history have changed?  Well, in theory, with the post war boom, a new industry could have moved into a large mill which used to be served by the railroad in Hope Valley (Langworthy Industries).  Interstate I-95 was constructed at about the same time the railroad was abandoned but an exit was built near Hope Valley.  This also could have lead several more companies to relocate near the railroad providing a base of traffic to justify keeping the line open.  We can assume the line managed to survive as an independent shortline until the early 1970s and the creation of the modern day Providence and Worcester Railroad.  P&W eventually gained the rights to move freight traffic on this segment of the Northeast Corridor and would have provided interchange service for the Wood River Branch.  As the P&W grew, it would have made sense for them to take over the ownership and operation of the "Wood River Division" in the 1990s. Fast forward to the current decade and a daily turn originating in Providence and switching the customers of the branch, kept this little southern Rhode Island shortline in business. 

Layout Design Criteria

Another one of my friend's also has an interest in the Wood River Branch as he too grew up in the area.  He recently bought a basement and was contemplating creating this fictional P&W Wood River Division.  The design criteria he laid out for the railroad were as follows:

Around the Railroad

As can be seen at the beginning of the article, the layout is point to point and includes the entire route of the railroad from the interchange at Wood River Junction to the terminal at Hope Valley.  In general, the prototype track arrangement was followed at several key scenes - like the Wood River Junction, Langworthy Industries, and Hope Valley.  The various industries that were desired dot the mainline and again, general take the location queues from the locations where industries used to exist.  A typical operating session would start with the Wood River Turn staged at the interchange track.  The train would then proceed up the line working the various industries along the way to and back from Hope Valley.  The operating session would end with the train back on the interchange track ready to head back north to Providence.

Prototype Resources

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.