Welcome to the CR&NW!

After ten years of making absolutely no progress on my model railroad and switching potential prototypes every year or two, I’ve come full circle to what I had originally planned to model – the long-abandoned Copper River & Northwestern Railway of southeastern Alaska.

The real CR&NW was a copper hauler from the mines at Kennicott, AK, to tidewater at Cordova.  Completed in 1911, the line only lasted a mere 27 years before the Depression and the depletion of high grade ore took its toll.  For its time, it was a spectacular feat of engineering, crossing waters between active glaciers, spanning deep ravines, and dealing with the extremes of climate for which inner Alaska is reknown.

I’m not much of a model steam guy, so mine will be a proto-freelance version where the ore body remained viable and mining continued to present day.   I’m currently targeting a modeling era of September 2012, though that may slide forward or back a few years.  The line will stick closely to the actual prototype, following the route from Cordova up through Miles Glacier, the Copper River canyons, Chitina, and over to Kennicott.   That said, there will be a few concessions to “because I want to”, such as a possible completed Katalla Branch.

The N scale layout will fit in a 16×22 space in my basement, filling two full decks and a possible partial third.  As of the end of July 2013, I have a track plan semi-finalized, and I’ve started clearing out space and tearing down the old layout.  I’ll post progress, or non-progress, as it gets made.

My current timeline calls for benchwork to be complete by January 1, and hopefully track to be complete by mid-Februrary.  Electrical should follow along closely behind, hopefully by the end of March. Then I plan to run for a few months, hammering out any gremlins in the trackwork and getting it down to bulletproof.

After that, I plan to step out into undiscovered territory, at least for me – scenery.  My layouts always hang up in control systems, because, well, I’m an electronics kind of guy.  But I swear, I can change.  If I have to.  I guess.  (With my apologies to Red Green…)

3 thoughts on “Welcome to the CR&NW!

  1. Michael

    Dear CR&NWRR Fan

    I’m a N-sclae modeler from Swtizerland who also felt in love with the Copper River RR.

    Great Layout. I’m surprised that you have almost the same story for your Layout as I. Sure I have to walk a bit taller with my layout as there is only a small corner of my room avaible.
    In my case or history, the US army take over the railroad during the WW2 and begun to expand the line from Chitina to the Alaska Higway at Glenallen. The line from Chitina to Kennecott was abandoned. After the war the US Army descide to transfer the line and rolling stock to the Alaska Railroad which will be part of the ARR as Alaska Railroad Cordova Subdivision. The line to Kennecott was reopen due to new copper sources at Kennecott. For legal reasons the line from Chitina (now Chitina Junction) to Kennecott is serviced with the new founded CR&NWRR. The Ore trains will run with ARR Power from Cordova to Kennecott. I wrote the hole story of my layout in a german modelrailroad forum.


    Sorry it’s only avaiable in german, but I hope you could see the pictures and the trackplan.

    I wish you a lot of pleasure with your dream layout and always a successful progress. Your Layout and how you realize it is great. Thanks to share it with us.

    Best regards from Switzerland

  2. ndholmes Post author

    Welcome! I figure that makes three of us now – Ron Simpson, myself, and you. I even contemplated putting an ARR connection at Chitina, following the one of the original expansion plans of the CRNW to connect with Fairbanks. Please keep us updated on your progress. I’m interested to see a European modeller’s take on the Copper River.

    No need to apologize on the German – having spent some time in the German-speaking countries (mostly Switzerland and Germany itself, but some time in Austria), I can usually read enough to figure out what someone is trying to say. And for what I can’t figure out, there’s Google Translate. That said, before I settled on the CRNW, I gave a lot of thought to modelling the RhB’s Bernina Pass line in HOm, so the interest goes both ways. Besides, I’ve been there more often than I’ve been in CRNW country in the last few years.


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