Monday, August 3, 2009

Welcome to the Western & Atlantic R.R., North Branch

Greetings, and welcome to an HO scale model of the Western & Atlantic Railroad. The W&A was a Georgia state owned and operated line between Chattanooga TN and Atlanta. Both cities were major rail hubs at opposite ends of a 136 mile route. It was one of the most organized and well run rail operations in the South. A particular incident occurred along the line on April 12, 1862. It would forever be known as The Great Locomotive Chase. About 22 Union soldiers dressed as civilians stole a train, the General, and several box cars with the intent to burn bridges as they headed back north. However, they were all captured. In the end these soldiers were the first recipients of the first Congressional Medals of Honor, some posthumously

The Western & Atlantic RR was a key supply line for several Confederate Armies, especially the Army of Tennessee. Summer of 1863, Union forces led by a General Rosecrans were pushing south toward Chattanooga intending to capture the city, its rail line and destroy the Rebel army. Rosecrans was eventually replaced by a General Tecumseh Sherman who was able to utilize the railroad as his supply line while he campaigned along the line heading for Atlanta. My version of the W&A is set in August 1863. General Rosecrans and the Union forces are just across the Tennessee River above Chattanooga beginning a siege. Trains have been running south for a couple of weeks removing important equipment out of the reach of the Yankee "invaders" as a precaution. The Rebel forces have been unable to halt their advance and civilian confidence has been waning. At this same time trains are also helping deploy Confederate forces into Georgia from Mississippi and Virginia to turn back Rosecrans and the Union army.

Layout Overview
The idea for a Civil War layout had begun in the 1960's with a friend, Dave Eberhardt, also a civil war enthusiast who had begun his own layout but of the Penn Central. The work on this layout started about 1999 when I decided to purchase a house, one requirement being a space for such a project. Fortunately, and eventually, my wife realized this intention of mine was for real and not a Christmas time endeavor around the tree.

Many years of research in places such as the Atlanta Historical Society and Georgia State Archives led me to very influencial people. Retired Army Colonel James Bogle was one such person. He was not only an authority on the Western & Atlantic, he was also good friends with a fella named Wilbur Kurtz, consultant to movies like "Gone With The Wind" and Disney's "Great Locomotive Chase". Mr. Kurtz, who I unfortunately did not meet, was married to the daughter of Bill Fuller, conductor on the train being pulled by the locomotive General during the great chase. In the archives there are letter exchanges between Mr. Kurtz and his father-in-law about topics such as length of house cars, the type of brake wheels and the motherload... mention of the color, slate blue.

Colonel Bogle also connected me with a model railroader from Michigan, Ken Pruitt. Ken had modeled the W&A and the Chase in particular. He is a terrific modeler who built his layout in the 1980's and many of the structures on my railroad are Ken's which were purchased along with most of his equipment. He unfortunately needed the space for other purposes so the timing of meeting Ken could not have been more perfect. He helped launch my layout.

The Blog
Entries are made on occasion versus every few days, weekly or even every few weeks. The intent has several objectives:
  • A journal to capture highlights of the construction and operating.
  • Hopefully provide a few insights, ideas, lessons learned and enjoyment for other modelers and interested parties.
  • A way of acknowledging my friends who have made terrific contributions to every aspect of the layout.  
We hope you enjoy the ride.


  1. Very interesting project. I am also modeling the W&A, although I am in N-scale and my era is about 150 years later (modern). Looking forward to following your progress.

  2. Great setup. Can't wait to see it sometime.



  3. I grew up in Tunnel Hill and was a member of their Historical Foundation as a student member in high school. If I remember the story correctly, the chasers in the Texas could still see smoke from the General in the Tunnel when they were in the chase, and it was the first place they realized they were getting close to catching the Andrews Raiders. If you need any information about Tunnel Hill, I can probably dig up some old tunnel and depot photos and provide a few I've taken myself, as well as some other information. Just a few hundred yards from the tracks is the Clisby Austin House, where Sherman planned much of his march to the sea. Love the project, and keep up the good work!

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