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Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line

By | March 26, 2012

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Norfolk Portsmouth Belt Line

Name: Norfolk & PortsmouthBelt Line
Layout designer: Bob Sprague
Scale: N (1:160)
Size: 11′-3″ x 13′-10″ with 30″ x 14′-81⁄2″ shelf
Prototype: NPBL
Locale: southeastern Virginia (Hampton Roads)
Era: present day
Style: shelf with peninsula Branchline run: 30 feet plus 15 feet
Minimum radius: 18″ (9″ on some industrial tracks)
Minimum turnout: no. 6
Maximum grade: none

Originally appeared in the May 2012 issue of Model Railroader.

Click on the link to download the PDF of this track plan.


6 thoughts on “Norfolk & Portsmouth Belt Line

  1. I used to live near the NPBL yard in South Norfolk, so I'm really looking forward to this issue. I've often thought it would be a good modeling subject.

  2. Bob Sprague’s Norfolk and Portsmouth Belt Line plan is a hit. It really captures the essence of the NPBL, but there are some improvements that I believe would enhance the project. I understand the need for selective compression, but if the additional room is available, a major feature that needs to be included is the Belt Line’s Portsmouth “Port Norfolk” yard. On the track plan, this would be located between the Portsmouth Marine Terminal at Pinners Point and the CSX (former SAL) interchange. It’s not much to look at today, having been reduced to about four storage tracks, but before the mega-mergers, it was an essential hub of the Belt Line’s operations. The engine house was located here as was the coaling tower and service area for the Belt Line’s steam and diesel locomotives. And the former yard office also houses the corporate headquarters! Modeling the former Atlantic Coast Line crossing into Pinners Point would also help tell the story of the changing railroad scene in the area.
    Major switching in the Port Norfolk yard included blocking auto-parts cars for delivery to the Ford Light Truck Assembly Plant in Norfolk. Truck frames arrived by flat car and other parts came in 80-foot DT&I box cars. These were blocked and then forwarded to the plant and finished trucks were shipped out on auto-racks. Before the closing of the Ford plant, this traffic really kept the Belt Line busy.
    I would also recommend some changes in the area of the Norfolk Naval Shipyard. The plan implies that the NPBL has access into NNSY. It does not. All NNSY switching is handled by USN locomotives, most recently GE 70-ton center cabs. The belt line makes deliveries to an interchange track located on the South side of the shipyard near the Southern Branch Bridge where the shipyard locomotives receive and return cars. And considering an aircraft carrier under construction, there haven’t been any ships built at NNSY since 1953. The last aircraft carrier built at NNSY was launched in 1945. So it would be more appropriate to show a ship or submarine that is undergoing overhaul or repair, rather than under construction.

    Jerry Kay
    Portsmouth, Virginia, one block from the NPBL Port Norfolk yard.

  3. I would like to see if you Bill Aldrich's "New Haven" layout track plan on file.

    Dr. Robert Sylvester

  4. I know this is a bit off topic, but I would welcome an article in MR about how to illustrate a home layout using CorelDraw or similar programs. Your fine illustrators perhaps could share some tips and techniques on how we could take a stab at drawing our own layouts.

  5. I live about three miles North of the NS coal piers on the west side of Norfolk. I can see NS and Belt line traffic. My layout (now under consruction) has a Western Norfolk locomotive (a Bachman center cab) as an imitation NPBL AH fantasy!

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