The view from Observation Park overlooks the Langley Yard, its 2 main lines and 13 marshaling spurs. By HO scale (1/87) and figuring a scale 40’ box car is 6 inches in length, converting those numbers puts the Langley Yard totals at 19.8 scale acres. Exiting the marshaling tracks and into the overpass, you’ll pass Digges Construction, Hotel Langley and the six-bay Langley Engine & Repair Facility which covers 2.86 scale acres.
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 nearing the top level of the club layout looking down upon Keezletown and across a 9-span steel railroad bridge over the waterfalls for another quick trip around Helix-A where you will finally emerge on the upper level of the layout.
Hage Junction is home to the Corbett River Dam-Project #4 hydro-electric plant and a fully stocked lake and farmlands. On the west end after crossing the Overpass Junction, you’ll cross over the Gauley Hills. Off to your left in the hills is the Gauley Ski Mountain & Lodge, which is the tallest point on the layout. Just around the corner, you approach Germantown, a town highlighted with a statuesque cathedral and a small station platform. Take note of the production crew filming a movie in the center of town. As you continue heading west towards the town of French Creek, you will pass the trailer park known as Hurricane, as well as cross over the double track mainlines of the C&O railroad. At that point, you will begin your journey through the town of French Creek.
Once clear of Germantown and the Diamond intersection and overpass, you’ll see the French Creek Veterans Memorial Stadium and Union Station in the distance. During your travels, you’ll see 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 through Mingo, where you will see the small house and workshop for the switch operator who must operate the single crossover at Mingo. A trip through a wooded valley behind the steam facility delivers you to the City of Winchester.
The City of Winchester reveals multiple business complexes that include the Perdue Meats & Packing Company, Provincial Distribution Center and the region’s largest auto/rail transport facility. There is the Winchester Power & Electric Construction Corp, Corbett Fuel Depot & Relay Station, and the Winchester Rail Station. The autorack yards has four long tracks and the appropriate areas to load and unload vehicles. There is also an auto parts distribution building in the complex, as well as a truck maintenance facility.
The span of double track mainline from the Winchester station through Telegraph is where you begin your travels through the hills of West Virginia. It is a scenic trip along the river as you continue west toward the Gauley Bridge double crossover. You will enter a tunnel at the mountain where you will find the Ski Lodge sitting majestically on top. Coming out of the tunnel, you see signs of life as you approach the town of Widen. At this point, you are nearing the end of the journey to French Creek.
You’ve exited the tunnel at Gauley Bridge and are entering the Town of Widen. After passing some homes, you’ll see the Anchor Gas & Fuel Propane Facility on the outskirts of 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, JJ’s Dime Store and the law offices of Weeche & Eaton. Next door to the law offices you’ll find the town’s fire department, while 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. Residents must be careful when crossing the street since there are active railroad tracks running down the center of town. This is necessary in order to provide the town’s businesses with goods that are transported via rail. Leaving Widen, you immediately come across another double crossover at Nitro. This is the start of yard limits for French Creek and is important to getting traffic in and out of the busy industrial yard.
You’ve exited the tunnel at Gauley Bridge and are entering the Town of Widen. After passing some homes, you’ll see the Anchor Gas & Fuel Propane Facility on the outskirts of 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, JJ’s Dime Store and the law offices of Weeche & Eaton. Next door to the law offices you’ll find the town’s fire department, while 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. Residents must be careful when crossing the street since there are active railroad tracks running down the center of town. This is necessary in order to provide the town’s businesses with goods that are transported via rail. Leaving Widen, you immediately come across another double crossover at Nitro. This is the start of yard limits for French Creek and is important to getting traffic in and out of the busy industrial yard. Take note of the Paper Mill facility on the east end of French Creek Yard.
Sitting on 5.21 scale acres, the Nelson steam repair facility is home to a 17-bay roundhouse with a fully functional turntable. This facility was designed and built to represent steam facilities in their day with all of the necessary facilities in place to support steam locomotive maintenance. There’s a 2-Bay Car/Engine Repair facility, a fully functioning sand station, also well as a car/engine wash facility. You will also find a powerplant, crew dormitory, company store and a variety of other necessary building prototypical in a steam facility. A reverse loop surrounds the facility which allows trains to enter/leave French Creek Yard in either direction. There is even a cutoff to a large staging area located underneath of the entire area. On one end of the reverse loop, you’ll pass “the Ball Signal.” This was the last active ball signal on the CB&W rail line and was retired on January 4, 1952.