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Pour Me a River: Part 1

George Pandelios O scale river crossing scene was inspired in part by Grif Teller’s painting for the 1953 Pennsylvania Railroad calendar titled “Crossroads of Commerce.”

Pour Me a River: Part 1

July/August 2021By George Pandelios/photos by the author

In Issue No. 101 of O Scale Trains (January/February 2019), I discussed the start of my new model railroad. The layout is the Pennsylvania Railroad Panhandle 2.0, an O scale attempt to recreate the area between Weirton, W.Va., and Steubenville, Ohio. The key feature, and indeed the centerpiece of the layout, is Pennsylvania Railroad’s double track bridge across the Ohio River. This bridge was immortalized in 1953 by Grif Teller’s calendar painting “Crossroads of Commerce.” The original painting can be seen in the Grif Teller exhibit at the Railroad Museum of Pennsylvania in Strasburg, Pa.

In 2014, I acquired the bridge’s main span; approach spans followed in 2016-2017. Between 2015 and 2017, I designed the piers and bridge shoes and had them constructed. In 2017, I commissioned RailroadBackdrops.com to photograph the river area just north of the railroad bridge. That expedition took place October 9 of that year, with the backdrop being completed and installed in mid-2018. Benchwork to support the bridge and represent both shores fol-lowed in the latter part of 2018.

Panhandle Layout

Pennsylvania Railroad Panhandle 2.0

The Starting Point
Many of the steps in building a layout overlap and tend to flow into one another. That makes their description a bit difficult, requiring one to back up enough to find a realistic starting point. To make the pouring of the river happen, I had to identify and carry out all the steps that would precede it.

Our timeline here will cover positioning the bridge, pier, and abutment, construction, weathering, building the Ohio shoreline (and C&P River Route), construction of the eastern approach, installation of the West Virginia shoreline, and then finally the pouring of the river itself.

Panhandle Bridge

ABOVE: Relationship of bridge piers to backdrop looking east.

Placing the Bridge
My layout is 47 ft. long by 11 ft. deep. The river and bridge occupy a section of the long back wall. The view is due north, upstream.

When this effort began, benchwork against the long back wall of the layout was generally in place, but the bridge’s exact location had not yet been finalized. Accurately fixing the shorelines and the other geographical features required that I test fit the bridge in its proposed location.

Panhandle Bridge

ABOVE: Bridge placed atop its piers and positioned against the backdrop.

To enhance the realism and maintain the positions of Weirton and Steubenville with respect to each other, I angled the bridge a few degrees away from the wall so that it did not run parallel to the backdrop. This reflects the prototype. Steubenville is farther south on the west bank of the Ohio River; Weirton is farther north and on the eastern bank of the river. Figures 4 and 5 show the relationship of the bridge to the backdrop.

All approach spans were bolted to the main span and the bridge was lifted onto the two pocket piers (Pier 7 and Pier 2) and the two mid-channel (east, west) piers. Building the western (Steubenville) abutment required aligning the entire bridge with its prospective eastern attachment point…

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This article was posted on: July 15, 2021