This is the high level “System Map” for the CH&FR Railroad. It is still a work in progress, but I found it necessary in order to work out some of the operations plan for the railroad.
As you can see (in red), the CH&FR runs a basic route between Chestnut Hill, WV and Frost River, KY, through the town of Glover’s Bend (my actual current layout under construction) along the (fictional) Watash Creek near the (very real) Tug Fork River. There is an interchange with Norfolk Southern at Williamson, WV, enabled via trackage rights over the NS mainline there. The actual connection to the NS line happens somewhat north of Williamson, but CH&FR trains run all the way to the yard to spot cars. This keeps NS from having to build a new siding just for CH&FR traffic.
Likewise, CH&FR runs north to Russell, KY over the CSX line to drop cars for interchange there. This enables two things: first, CH&FR has access to two of the 5 major Class I railroads, and so can trans-ship anywhere in the country. Second, the CH&FR does a brisk business shuttling through freight between Williamson and Russell, avoiding some (probably fictional) legal, regulatory and practical hassles with the two railroads transferring freight themselves.
An extension is planned from Glover’s bend to the (also very real) NS rail yard at Danville, KY. I may change this to come in to Lexington instead. There is a branch line in town that used to extend at least as far as Winchester to the East. If I can establish that this line went somewhere near, then I may propose that the CH&FR is revitalizing the old right of way, rather than building a new one into Danville.
Costs for the proposed Danville /Lexington connection are being partially supported by NS as it provides a short circuit route from Roanoke, VA (and thus points east) and St. Louis, MO. Currently, traffic from Roanoke must go either North to Columbus, OH or south to Chattanooga, TN. The relatively small amount of high priority freight that can benefit from the shorter route isn’t enough for NS to build the line itself, but is plenty to justify the CH&FR considering it.
In our Virtual Interchange operations game, the connections to Russell and Williamson become the gateway from the CH&FR to the other layouts in the game. For instance, NS owns the former Pennsylvania RR lines near Pittsburgh, and so traffic bound for the TCIRR in that area will go to Williamson. Traffic bound for the railroads in Michigan, can go either to Williamson or to the CSX yard at Russell, depending on preference. Westbound traffic would head to Russell, and thence to Cincinnati, and so on.
I will be posting more about this as we go along, including possibly some additional detail on just how and where the CH&FR ties into the NS and CSX mainlines along the Tug Fork river.