The C&O's Ryder Gap Subdivision is an HO scale, prototype 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, as well as the yard work and turns necessary to support the operation. A typical operating session lasts 4 hours. Crew assignments are changed midway so that everyone gets a chance to work two different jobs. The layout has hosted 30+ operating sessions over the last four years.
The design is based on the premise that the C&O built its Greenbrier Subdivision off of the existing Hot Springs branch per the engineering department's recommendation. Scenes, track plans, and modeling are heavily inspired by the railroad's operations in Covington, Virginia and Thurmond and Cass, West Virginia.
Compression within any one scene is 2 to 1 or less in a 930 sq ft 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. As an 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 20 to 25 cars both inbound and outbound.
Part of realistic operations is remembering that the layout is set in the mountains of Virginia in 1974. No one was in a hurry. We are striving to enjoy the challenges of prototype switching operations in a relatively low stress environment!