Mine Run Model Railroad Track Plan

  • 01 of 02

    The Mine Run RR - A Track Plan You Can Build

    Mine Run Plan
    The Mine Run offers opportunity for big scenery and operation without consuming an entire room. ©2013 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    A model railroad doesn't have to be huge or take over an entire room to provide a lot of modeling and operating fun. One way to maximize your hobby enjoyment while minimizing its footprint is to build along the walls of a room. This simple plan uses a two-foot wide shelf along two walls of a 10 x 12 foot room to recreate a mountain branch line.

    The layout would fit nicely in a spare bedroom, allowing plenty of room for additional furniture for a home office, guest room, home gym or any other hobby. The track plan is simple, but don't let that fool you. There is a lot of operation to be had on the Mine Run.

    Layout at a Glance


    Benchwork could be built using L-Girders or open-grid benchwork using shelf brackets for added support.

    The open benchwork will also provide a good foundation to use a minimal amount of subroadbed beneath the track and add a grade if desired while enhancing the vertical look with scenery above and below the roadbed.

    A grade would enhance both the look and operations of this railroad. Grades of up to 3% would work with the size trains typical of a layout this size. Keep the tracks at the mine sidings and interchange level however to prevent cars from rolling once spotted. The steepest part of the grade could be hidden in a tunnel in the corner.


    This trackplan is designed around standard track sections, but you could also substitute flex track. You could use track with an integrated roadbed, or conventional tracks. With the curves and parallel sidings of this plan, flex track would provide a much smoother layout and with only a possibly cost savings as well.

    For sectional track, here are the pieces you'll need:

    1. 22" radius curve - 13
    2. 18" radius curve - 1
    3. 18" radius curve, 1/2 section - 2
    4. No. 4 Switch, Left - 1
    5. No. 4 Switch, Right - 7
    6. 9" Straight - 26
    7. 6" Straight - 3
    8. 2" Straight - 1
    9. 1.25" Straight - 1
    10. .75" Straight - 1
    11. Bumper - 2

    Note that even if you decide to stick with sectional track, you may find it easier - and cheaper - to use standard size pieces and simply custom-cut them to length using a pair of rail-cutters (available at most hobby shops.) This will give you the exact fit you want without having to try and match up a bunch of small pieces.

    Switches are all close enough to the operator that manual switch throws could be used to cut costs and simplify construction. To avoid having to reach into the scene, or simply to hide out-of-scale switch throws, you could also install switch motors under the platform.

    As the entire railroad would be one operational block, conventional or DCC systems could both be used to power the line. A DCC system would allow you to easily add a second locomotive to entertain a second operator or just make your own operations easier.

    A power bus with feeders to the many sidings will allow reliable operations through the many switches. A system which allows walk-around mobility would greatly improve your enjoyment of this narrow but long platform, keeping you close to the operations.

    Continue to 2 of 2 below.
  • 02 of 02

    Scenery, Structures and Operations

    In a scene very much like one which could be found on this railroad, a Russian Decapod steam locomotive (Bachmann) drills hoppers at the mine (Walthers New River Mine with added details.). ©2013 Ryan C Kunkle, licensed to About.com, Inc.

    Scenery and Structures

    Only a minimum of structures are required for this railroad. The New River Mining kit from Walthers is a popular model and is shown for the large mine at the end of the branch. You could use kits as-is, or do some kitbashing to make the model unique. The second mine spur could be a smaller affair, even something as simple as a truck dump built into the hillside.

    If coal mines aren't your thing, you could easily substitute a logging operation, quarry or another industry for one or both sidings.

    Much of the layout will be dominated by mountain scenery. Installing a tunnel in the corner would help hide the sharp curve and grade and make the run feel longer. The rest of the hills could be constructed using foam or hardshell scenery.

    If you're modeling an Appalachian line, then trees may be one of your biggest modeling projects. Simple background forests would occupy a lot of the space however.

    Operations and Rolling Stock

    This line could be branch line of a larger railroad or its own short line. There would be many motive power options, depending on your era. For steam locomotives, a small consolidation or even a geared steam engine would be a logical choice. For diesels, four-axle power would perform best on the tight curves. Locomotives like an Alco RS-1, EMD Geep, or even a BL-2 would be appropriate from the late transition era to today. (You'll still find some shortlines using this older power today.) Or for a more modern look, a GP38 or set of heavy switchers would work well.

    With smaller locomotives like this, spending a little extra time to ensure your track is laid well, and powering switch frogs will go a long way towards increasing your enjoyment. Uncoupling magnets on the sidings would also make switching easier.

    Freight cars would obviously include mostly hoppers if you choose the coal mine theme. Depending on the era, 50, 70 or 100 ton cars could be used. You'll want several removable coal loads to simulate the loads-out empties-on operations of the mines. Don't forget the occasional flatcar or boxcar of mine prop timbers or other supplies.

    With the lack of a run around track at the top of the hill, trains serving the big mine will have to be pushed up the grade. This means a caboose would be required even today.

    You could also add a small passenger service for the mine workers by adding a coach or combine to the freight local, running a dedicated one car passenger train, or using a "Doodlebug."

    The "mainline" extends to the edge of the platform at both ends. You could build an attachment to staging cassettes here. Multiple cassettes of trains could be held below the layout and brought up to start each session with something new without having to handle the equipment itself.

    You could use a car-forwarding card system to set up operating moves, or just set up a train with a few random cars for each of the mines.

    Despite the simple plan, this layout could easily provide enough operation to keep you busy switching cars for an hour or more. And the nice mountain scenery will be a great backdrop for whatever activities you choose for the rest of the room.