Welcome to the Chesapeake Bay & Western. We are going to take you on a tour of the layout traveling westbound from Langley Yard to French Creek. This trip would take approximately 30-40 minutes for a train traveling at prototypical speeds and covering roughly 16 scale miles (2000 linear feet). Enjoy!
Once clear of Arsenal, you’ll pass under the rail bridge into Norge/Croaker. Norge is home to the James River Bottling Company, Norge Lumber, Tacy’s Hobbies and across the street is Viking Hardware. A couple of doors down and on the corner is Norge Drugstore. Across the street from the drugstore is May’s Café and next door…the Norge Cleaners. Just past the main part of town is Your County Coop. Your transition into Croaker takes you past the Robert E. Lee Elementary School, Lee Memorial Park and the Main Street Rail Station. Past the state route crossing and just before Helix-A is the R.J. Frost Ice & Storage Company, Molden’s Feed & Grain and next door is the area’s only welding facility…which is a “stone’s throw” to the river railcar barge facility.
Having cleared the Helix-A tunnel and onto the main street in Thornburg and it’s principle employer, the Shenandoah Valley Produce Company. Crossing the Rapidan Rapids over a steel I-Beam structure bridge and into the outskirts of Rapidan is the W.A. Decker Building Supply Coop and Jannie’s Feed & Seed Store. By the rail crossing are the offices of Allied Ready Mix. Next is the Rail Truck Terminal complex adjacent to the Reliance Rail Terminal, which serves the rail needs of the Shenandoah Valley. Just at the outskirts and prior to the single span river bridge is the Hillside Junction Railroad Office.
Just west of Rapidan and across the scenic Columbia River is the industrial complex of Columbia Furnace (CF). As you enter the town, to the left is the Coleman Cement Plant and the Main Street railroad crossing. Downtown CF features Ken’s Hobby Shop, the City Bank and on the corner is Adella’s Restaurant featuring “the town’s best banana split.” Columbia Furnace is also known as the “CB&W’s version of Milwaukee Wisconsin” because of several brewery’s. There’s Lee Beverages Distributors and the Columbia Furnace Brewery which features an outdoor dining and sampling area. Other businesses include Meg-A-Watts Transformer Manufacturers, King Midas Flour, the Main Street Rail Station, CF Manufacturer Plant and on the city’s west side is the fire department, Armour Beef Refrigeration Company and the cities oil refining sub-station. Once clear of the sub-station, you’ll enter Helix-B where you’ll make two loops and exit onto the Columbia River (concrete & steel) viaduct bridge just above the Coleman Cement Plant into the Shenandoah Valley where you’ll pass through the Shenandoah Quarry & Limestone Company, around a loop just above Thornburg and back into Helix-A.
Four laps up Helix-A and through the tunnel entrance with the Flat Earth Society’s open pit mine on the right side. Once clear of the mine, you’ll arrive in Keezletown (K-Town) and the main street rail station. K-Town supports three major industries; Allied Concrete, Pittman Salvage and the Texaco Fuel Distribution Center. Travel across the Route 10 intersection, the Farmer’s Coop and just prior to the tunnel you’ll pass the Mt. Grove Switch House.
Clear of the K-Town tunnel you’re now onto the open plains of Helper. From there it’s a quick trip to Helix-B and back out (but elevated) through Helper and another tunnel. When you exit, you’re now on the CB&W’s version of Pennsylvania’s “Horseshoe Curve.” You’re now at the top level of the club layout looking down upon Keezletown and across a 9-span steel railroad bridge for another quick trip around Helix-A.
Telegraph is home to the Corbett River Dam-Project #4 hydro-electric plant and a fully stocked lake and farm graze lands. At the western end, you’ll enter a tunnel underneath the Gauley Hills. Atop the hills is the Gauley Ski Mountain & Lodge, which is the tallest point on the layout. Just past the hills you’ll cross under the arched steel-rail bridge. Around the bend is the Boyer Slope #7 Coal Loading Facility with your next stop being Germantown. The town is highlighted with a statuesque cathedral, local villas and the Darnstadt HBF Main Rail Terminal.
Once clear of Germantown and across the Diamond intersection and overpass, you’ll see the French Creek Veterans Memorial Stadium and Union Station in the distance.
Upon entering Union Station area facility, there’s a Pizza Hut on the left and the French Creek Transit Company with the main terminal just on the right. Should time permit a little sight-seeing, Union Station and its adjoining skyline is home to multiple shops, businesses, restaurants, a 12-story skyscraper (the layouts second tallest point) the King Midas Flour Corporate HQ’s and the Belmont Label Company. As you continue, your transit takes you just above the steam repair facility towards the town of Winchester.
As you transit into Winchester, this area is multi-faceted business complex with the Perdue Meats & Packing Company Provincial Distribution Center and the region’s largest auto/rail transport facility, the Winchester Power & Electric Construction Corp, Winchester Fuel Depot & Relay Station and the Winchester Rail Station.
You’re clear of Winchester and now traveling down Telegraph and over the concrete rail bridge, whose design was influenced by early Roman architecture and you are at the foot of the cascading Gauley Hills. Across the Gauley Bridge and past the McBee Baking Company and the Anchor Gas & Fuel Propane Facility into the town of Widen. Main street in Widen centers on Baxter’s Grocery Store and Jimmy’s Town Barbershop, a three-generation family business. On the corner is Marsha’s Café and JJ’s Dime Store and the law offices of Weeche & Eaton. Next door to the law offices is the city’s fire department and across the street is the town’s only car repair & tow shop. On the town’s edge is the Brindza Mine #2 Coal Facility and across the tracks is the Widen Lumber Mill and Yard.
French Creek Yard:
French Creek Yard is the second marshalling facility on the CB&W rail line. The yard serves as host to Union Station passenger terminal, the Railway Express Agency and consists of two-main lines, 11 spurs and covers 12.12 scale acres. French Creek also serves the Union Station Main Terminal and is the main line to the steam repair facility.
Mingo/Steam Repair Facility:
As you transit through French Creek, you now approach the Mingo Double Cross-over into the steam repair facility. The steam repair facility is home to a 17-bay fully functional round table. There is an adjacent 2-Bay Car/Engine Repair facility, a fully functioning sand station and a car/engine wash facility. The steam facility sits on 5.21 scale acres. Just as you depart the steam facility you’ll pass “the Ball Signal.” This was the last active ball signal on the CB&W rail line. The Ball Signal was retired on 4 January 1952.
This completes your journey through the CB&W Model Railroad. Once you clear the French Creek Facility, your reciprocal trip back to the Langley Yards begins.