Our Club models the fictitious ‘Mon Yough Valley Railroad’ (MYV). This ‘model railroad’ name was copyrighted when the Club was chartered in 1950. Yes, we ‘own’ the MYV. At the time, steam engines were still pulling over 70% of America’s trains. Within a decade, those were gone. Today, the diesels that replaced those steamers are also gone, replaced by efficient, modern diesel-electric locomotives. As times have changed, so has the MYV.
One of the issues with model railroading is the ‘era’. The surrounding scenery should be reflective of everyday life. Our Club chooses to model the ‘transition era’; the period between 1950 and 1960 when the American railroad landscape encountered its most dramatic change. Steam, which had powered over 90% of trains from 1900-1940, was gone completely by 1960. (Electric lines first appeared around 1890 and experimental diesels came along in the mid-1920′s…the first production model diesel came in 1936, but large-scale production did not happen until after WWII.) Many of our members are steam enthusiasts, and nearly every member has at least one steam locomotive, so this modeling era helps justify the use of steam.
Nonetheless, the MYV, which rosters nearly 900 freight cars, represents more than just the 1950′s. Of the freight car fleet, less than 2% are pre-1940 cars and less than 10% are post-1990 cars. The remaining cars fit somewhere in between, with the heaviest concentration being the 1970′s. The MYV freight cars use a five-digit system and every car has a unique car number. This extends to cars we sell. Car numbers are not duplicated. The numbering system, which was a 4-digit system until 1984, when it was extensively revised. The entire freight car pool, which was over 500 cars at that time, was renumbered by November 1985. We also roster over 40 passenger cars and 35 Club-owned diesel locomotive models from the 1950′s to the 1990′s and one steam engine. Several members also own an MYV engine or two. Locomotive numbers are assigned by the Club.
Since the MYV itself is fictional, and the Club was founded in 1950, it was necessary to allow for a history of the MYV as if it were a real railroad. This ‘history’ allows members to model as far back as 1850 if they so choose or as recently as today, since the MYV is still in business! In our ‘history’ the MYV did not end making use of steam locomotives for everyday purposes until 1965, even though real-life America stopped using them by 1960. Visitors are likely to see a 1950′s steam-powered ore train followed by a 1980′s mixed freight during Open House, but the consist of each particular train is representative of its place in time, even though it may not match the scenery which it passes.
The current layout, which is being extensively reconstructed, is the Steel Valley Division of the MYV. This implies that there is more to it than what can be seen or operated. Although our display is fairly large (52′ x 42′), what can be fit in that space could never represent a regional railroad to scale. To relate, if we were to model the USS National Works which occupied 62 acres of river flood plain in downtown McKeesport, it would fill the building completely. Also, our former main line (the one that operated here from 1990-2009) was only 8 scale miles from one end of the room to the other, itself hardly worthy of ‘division’ status. Model railroading uses the term ‘selective compression’ to assist the scenic squeeze between the model and the real thing. Large structures, for example, need not be exactly to scale to represent what is modeled, a 12-story model of a real life 20-story building will still be impressive. A 700′ long bridge, properly modeled, can represent one that is nearly 2000′ long.
The Steel Valley Division of the MYV is a point-to-point railroad (with bypass loop available for continuous operation) which reflects railroading from an area near the Mason-Dixon Line in southwest PA, northwestward to and through the local area. The non-existent Chesapeake Division is the eastern point and the phantom Lake Erie Division the western point. These termini are reflected in what is currently car storage yards. These yards will be modified to be included in the operational workings of the Steel Valley Division of the MYV.
Our Club has also always had a narrow gauge route, although one was not modeled at the Third Street School location. Narrow gauge railroads were very common between 1890 and 1910 in the US (nearly all were 3′ gauge…standard gauge is 4′ 8Â½”) . Most were rickety substitutes of real railroading. There were hundreds of 3′ gauge railroads at one time, and, after 1941, the only 3′ gauge railroad in operation east of the Rocky Mountains, itself one of the first ever built, remained in operation in south central Pennsylvania until April 1956, the East Broad Top Railroad & Coal Company (EBT), based in Rockhill Furnace, PA.
EBT was the zenith of narrow gauge railroading – rebuilt from 1907-1914 to standard gauge parameters, and its survival can largely be contributed to the ‘bulking up’ it received at that time. Sold for scrap upon being abandoned [5/1/1956..the last train movement was 4/13/56], the new owner, Kovalchick Salvage Company of Indiana, PA, stalled the scrapping operation long enough to see the railroad revitalized by the communities it served for the local bicentennial of the area’s 1760 settlement, when he ran trains along a couple miles of track for one week during August and public support was overwhelming. So much so, that regular tourist service ensued in the spring of 1961 and has been happening ever since [now weekends only from June through October]. EBT is entering its 50th year of tourist service in 2010. (www.ebtrr.com)
Until March 2010, our Club’s narrow gauge entity was called the Fallen Timber Valley Railroad (FTV). In keeping with the Club’s layout reconstruction, we decided that since we are modeling southwest Pennsylvania during the 1950′s, that our narrow gauge route should copy the survival story of EBT, since it was the only 3′ gauge railroad in operation in the US during the 1950′s that was not in Colorado, Alaska, or Hawaii.
East Broad Top got its name from the fact that it climbs the east face of Broad Top Mountain to within two miles of its summit (a couple hundred feet higher at Broad Top City, PA). Since we are modeling the southwest PA region, but want a 1950′s 3′ gauge line, we changed the FTV name to West Chestnut Ridge Railroad (WCR), since where it will be built will be reflected as being west of Chestnut Ridge.
The EBT was built to haul coal from the mountain down to a connection with the Pennsylvania Railroad (PRR) at Mount Union [Huntingdon County], PA. EBT served several small communities in southern Huntingdon County. A lumber hauling railroad connected at Rockhill Furnace from 1921-1929, and was responsible for over 15% of the EBT tonnage during the 1920′s. Compare that to the 1940′s when coal was by then 98%, and ganister, a silica rock quarried and pulled from a branch line, nearly all the rest of EBT’s freight. The WCR will be a mix of coal and lumber. The standard gauge MYV will reach a remote logging camp near the WCR right-of-way with the help of shared, or dual gauge, trackage along part of the narrow gauge main line. The WCR is being built during 2010, although whether it is operational by Open House remains uncertain. The remaining 2/3 of the existing FTV, still in the front half of the building but long out of service, may still be viewed by our visitors through 2011.