The C&O's Ryder Gap Subdivision is an HO scale, proto-freelanced switching layout set in the mountains of Virginia in May 1974. Four crews are responsible for serving the subdivision's industries, including Back Creek Paper, Mill Gap Lumber, and Highland Chemical. In addition, crews work the yards and run the locals necessary to support the operation. A typical operating session lasts 4+ hours. Assignments are changed midway so that everyone gets a chance to work two different jobs. The layout has hosted 45+ operating sessions over the last five years.
The design centers on the idea that the C&O built the Greenbrier Subdivision off of the existing Hot Springs Branch, crossing from Virginia into West Virginia through the Ryder Gap. This alternative is developed by using scenes, track plans, and modeling that are heavily inspired by the railroad's operations in Covington Virginia, Thurmond West Virginia, and Cass West Virginia.
Compression within scenes is 2 to 1 or less in a 930 ft.² room. This allows track lengths, numbers of tracks, and train lengths to be fairly close to the prototype and enables industrial and yard switching operations to be relatively realistic. For example, Back Creek Paper, which is patterned after the sprawling Westvaco paper mill in Covington Virginia, is over 20 feet long and has 13 industrial spurs. It is switched twice a day with 25+ cars both inbound and outbound.
It is May 1974 in the mountains of Virginia. No one is in a hurry. Come and enjoy the challenges of prototype switching operations in a relatively low stress environment!