The Wheeling Branch has a name that gives it more credit than it deserves. The branch comes off the main line just south of Baker and, in my mind, heads over to Wheeling, West Virginia. In the real world the Baltimore and Ohio had a similar line running west from Washington, PA. In my case, the branch fairly quickly heads into a tunnel and staging. There is no industry or other interesting operation associated with the branch.
In my world, the Norfolk and Western sold its Rook Yard in Pittsburgh to developers and abandoned its line to the West Virginia panhandle. The N&W then made an agreement with the PS to move its trains to Pittsburgh via trackage rights. Each operating session sees three N&W trains in each direction. One train in each direction is an Alpha Jet, the many railroad route from the mid west to the east coast. One of my operators assures me that the Alpha Jets still ran in some form into the early 1980s. The Alpha Jets run through Pittsburgh to North Yard and the Chessie System. They do pause in Pittsburgh to drop cars for the Pennsylvania Southern and to pick up any cars headed to the Chessie. The remaining N&W trains run to and from Pittsburgh.
The Pennsylvania Southern runs a local in each direction from Washington but once again that train does no work, it just runs to or from staging. The train from Wheeling typically runs early in a session while the return runs as needed when Washington gets enough cars.
The Wheeling staging tracks are under Bridgeville. In the Pennsylvania Southernís first home, this was a two track yard that came onto the layout from its other end in what is now Waynesburg. In that house, it was Bridgeville and Pittsburgh was connected to that end of the layout. In those times, the N&W was on their own rails until quite close to Pittsburgh. The move to its current home and room arrangement caused the need to flip ends. In the old house, Pittsburgh and State Line Yard were side by side on opposite sides of a wall. State Line Yard was 8 inches higher than Pittsburgh. Here, the yards had to be stacked and it made far more sense to put Pittsburgh on top. That meant that an N&W train from staging was headed south right into staging, a very uninteresting run for the crew. For that reason the tracks now come out the other end and an new fictional explanation was prepared. As the car fleet grew, it was necessary to add two more tracks. The right of way for those new tracks was hung from the existing Bridgeville benchwork. It was an interesting job to do in cramped quarters. The photographs do a better job of explaining everything.
The turnouts for this staging yard are just inside the tunnel and run parallel to the industrial park at Baker. A diode matrix and rotary switch are used to control the position of these turnouts. The main line turnout is operated independently of the yard ladder so a train from any track can pull to the junction and hold there if needed for permission to enter the main line.
This view shows the Wheeling Branch coming from the bottom left around to the tunnel leading to staging. Except for a small portion of the line out of the picture to the bottom left, this is the entire visible extend of the branch. The tracks to the left are parts of the main line. The left track is headed for Washington, PA while the track to its right is headed for West Union.
This view shows part of the Wheeling staging yard. These two tracks are the newer tracks mentioned above. The original two tracks are lurking in the darkness. The train on the near track is AJ-2, the northbound Alpha Jet, awaiting its turn on the main line.
As you can imagine, this is a cramped shot from under Bridgeville showing the Wheeling yard tracks. The two near tracks are the newer ones. In order to gain adequate clearance below the benchwork supporting Bridgeville, it was necessary to nibble away those parts until the track could descend enough to be low enough. The Hercules covered hopper car in the background is on one of the original tracks.
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Pennsylvania Southern Railroad
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