Written by: Gary Dolzall
The Baltimore & Ohio Kingwood Branch route rekindles the hard-edged, tradition-rich Appalachian mountain railroading of the 1960s
For American railroading, the 1960s were the closing act of an era, a time when the long-held rich traditions of railroading still held firm, when the first-generation diesels that had replaced steam still dominated the high iron, when railroad companies still catered to passengers, and when coal was king. The remarkable B&O Kingwood Branch route takes us back to that time.
Just as they did in creating the acclaimed Virtual New Haven Springfield Line, which so perfectly captured late 1950s-era railroading in New England, so has the talented VNHRR team magnificently re-created the compelling essence of 1960s Appalachian railroading.
In my youth, I had the opportunity to roam the remote “hills and hollows” of West Virginia and witness first-hand the branch-line, old-school, hard-edged coal railroading of the Appalachians as practices by the likes of the Baltimore & Ohio, Chesapeake & Ohio, and Norfolk & Western. The B&O Kingwood Branch route rekindles that experience and that railroading magic.
Branch line railroading in the Appalachians was tough and unforgiving. It meant reaching into remote valleys and climbing rugged slopes to serve coal mines; it meant totting heavy tonnage of bituminous coal; it meant grinding up steep grades in notch 8 and ever-so-carefully descending twisting steel paths with air brakes applied and dynamics screaming. It was, in short, challenging work. And that is the remarkable experience that awaits you on the now available Train Simulator B&O Kingwood Branch route.
The B&O Kingwood Branch route is based upon the West Virginia Northern Railroad, a short line coal hauler built in the 1880s that existed into the late 1990s. The route is semi-fictional in that it re-creates the WVNRR property as an early 1960s-era Baltimore & Ohio branch line. The route includes a 10-mile roller-coaster main trunk between an interchange with the Baltimore & Ohio main line at Tunnelton and the Kingwood Branch’s namesake northern terminus; a backwoods 7-mile branch to a large coal seam at Birds Creek, two additional short branch lines, and numerous spurs serving a total of 14 diverse coal mines and coal-loading facilities.
Coal-haul railroading is the heart and soul of the Kingwood Branch, but it is far from its only intriguing aspect. The B&O Kingwood Branch route features a variety of non-mining lineside freight customers, freight houses, and team tracks, and the branch is also host to classic flag-stop passenger operations – complete with operating flag-stop signals at its small-town depots!
Among the hundreds of diesel locomotive types that have served American railroads, few have been more successful nor more efficient than the Electro-Motive GP9, of which more than 4,000 were constructed between 1954 and 1959. And with the B&O owning a large roster of 193 GP9s, the classic “Geep” is perfect as the featured motive power for the Baltimore & Ohio Kingwood Branch. The GP9 is provided in both its original Baltimore & Ohio livery and in B&O’s early 1960s-era “Capitol” scheme. And the Geep will have its work cut out, given the simply extraordinary variety of included rolling stock. A traditional heavyweight 65-foot coach in B&O blue and gray livery is provided for passenger service, and the route’s freight equipment includes B&O class I-5, I-5D, and I-12 cabooses; 36-, 40-, and 50-foot boxcars in multiple liveries (including B&O, Chesapeake & Ohio, and Western Maryland); a B&O flatcar; B&O 52- and 65-foot gondolas; 55-ton and 70-ton coal hoppers in multiple variations and railroad liveries; a 1950s/60s-era tank car, B&O Airslide covered hopper; and wood- and steel refrigerator cars.
The Baltimore & Ohio Kingwood Branch puts you right to work with 13 authentic and challenging career scenarios that include freight, switching, and passenger duties as well as training runs on this rugged railroad line. The unique and timeless appeal of tradition-rich and hard-working railroading, 1960s Appalachian style, will be yours with the new B&O Kingwood Branch route, available now at the Dovetail Games and Steam Stores! – Gary Dolzall ■