Susquehanna Ontario
& Western Railroad

Part 1 - The original layout

A bit of history...

The Susquehanna Ontario & Western Railroad is an imaginary railroad that found its origins in 1976, when the various railroad that made up Conrail merged together. New York investors made the acquisition of some lines of the previous Erie Lackawanna, of little interest for Conrail, and created the Susquehanna Ontario and Western Railroad which, at that time, operated only in New York state. Since then, the railroad has grown and acquired new lines and trackage rights over Conrail to Chicago. It has good relationship with Conrail and Conrail trains can frequently be seen on SOW tracks. Motive power has been completely renewed and now includes the latest engines, such as GE C44-9W's and EMD SD60M's. Amtrak is also using SOW tracks on its way from New York City to Chicago, and return.

Some facts about the layout

Author Mail to Jean-Louis Simonet
Jean-Louis Simonet
Scale N (1/160th)
Size 3,60 m x 2,40 m (12x8 ft)
Structure L girders
Track and switches Peco code 80 and 55
Superelevated curves
Curve easements
Minimum radius r=45 cm (18") on main track
r=40 cm (16") elsewhere
Maximum grade 2 %
Layout control DCC (Digitrax)

Track plan

(Clicking on the track plan will display an enlarged version [80 kb] in a separate window. Numbered arrows refer to photos below).

The main line (single track with passing sidings) Click to enlarge is a folded dogbone, with both loops stacked in the peninsula. A single-track branch line leaves the main line to reach a dead-end station located at the upper level. This dead end station is equipped with a small yard, a small engine facility and a wye for turning engines. A large double-ended yard can be reached from the main line. It includes a roundhouse for heavy locomotive repairs, a runaround track, a caboose track, fueling/sanding tracks and some storage tracks for heavy track repair / snow fighting equipment or for engines, between assignments, as well as a 4 track classification yard. A double-ended six-track staging yard is located under the peninsula (not shown on the track plan for clarity) and allows storing complete trains, up to 12 ft long. Another 3 track hidden staging yard, located at the left of the layout, allows storing Conrail trains for interchange with the SOW. Several industrial spurs give the railroad a reason for being, including the huge Glacier Gravel quarry which is one of the major SOW customers. Interchange with other railroads generates a heavy traffic on the line.

Electronic Rail Pass

The Rail Pass is an old American railroad custom. When we started this site, Jim Thompson (The Cashaway Valley Railroad) suggested that we consider an Internet version of it.

Time has passed since and I forgot about the idea. My friend Fabrice Fayolle recently reintroduced the idea and the least I could do was to follow his example. So here is the SOW Electronic Rail Pass :

Click to request your e-pass

If you wish to receive a SOW Rail Pass, click on the image above, in order to send an e-mail request.

A pictorial visit of the layout

(Click on the photos to see them full size and click on the full size photo to close it).

1. Along the line...

Click to enlarge Photo #1 (50 kb)

Downtown Northampton

A heavy freight with SOW C44-9W #901 on the point is passing Main Street grade crossing at a leisurely pace.

Photo #2 (55 kb)

Northampton suburbs

A Conrail intermodal train is approaching Northampton through an industrial area, using its trackage rights over SOW.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #3 (57 kb)


Meeting with a "foreign" train in the vicinity of busy downtown Northampton.

Photo #4 (64 kb)

Northampton suburbs

Passing by the Chenango yard roundhouse and SOW shops. Northampton skyline can be seen in the background.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #5 (67 kb)

Adams River

A lonely fisherman, busy attempting to catch the family dinner, hardly notices the passing freight.

Photo #6 (61 kb)

Beaver Valley

A SOW local is in the hole, while the daily Amtrak to NYC is coming to a stop at Beaver Valley station.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #7 (60 kb)

Beaver Valley

As soon as the Amtrak train cleared the main, the local resumes speed to fulfill its duty, delivering its cargo to the on-line customers.

Photo #8 (72 kb)


Emerging from a tunnel a heavy unit coal train from Powder River Basin heads to a local power plant.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #9 (74 kb)

"AR" Tower

"AR" Tower once guarded the E-L/PC diamonds, long gone. Tracks have been relocated since. A Conrail train is on the "River Line" while a track inspection car is idling on the SOW main.

Photo #10 (73 kb)


While a couple is is relaxing by the swimming pool, a SOW local is passing on the "High Line" on its way from Messina to Northampton.

Click to enlarge

2. "The Quarry"

Click to enlarge Photo #11 (63 kb)

The quarry

General view of the quarry, one of the major SOW customers and also provider of the great amount of ballast needed for maintaining SOW tracks.

Photo #12 (77 kb)

"AR" Tower and the quarry

East view of "AR" Tower (named after Adams River flowing nearby) and Glacier Gravel Co., in the background. Railfans can often be seen around this area which is best known as "The Quarry"

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #13 (62 kb)

Safety First !

A lot of activity is taking place at Glacier Gravel. But look at this guy with the pneumatic drill and what's going to pass over his head. Where is the safety rep. ?

Photo #14 (59 kb)

Glacier Gravel Co.

A mine truck is bringing it's load which will soon become fine gravel, after crushing. Judging from the rusted equipment, some new machinery must have been installed recently.

Click to enlarge

3. Chenango yard...

Click to enlarge Photo #15 (58 kb)

Chenango Yard west

SOW and leased engines are awaiting their next assignment, while the Company business train with E8 #305 is stored on the next track.

Photo #16 (54 kb)

Chenango Yard west

General view of the turntable, the engine fueling and sanding facility and SOW yard office. In the back are the caboose track and the classification tracks.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #17 (55 kb)

Chenango Yard east

The Messina turn, headed by GP40 #3003 (ex-NYC), gets ready to leave the classification yard, while the daily Amtrak heads for Northampton.

4. Close-ups...

Photo #18 (55 kb)

The "small Park by the tracks"

You've guessed it! This Park is a paradise for railfans... These ones are fortunate enough to watch a late running Amtrak train speed along.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #19 (62 kb)

Chenango Yard roundhouse

45 year old GP7 #1207 leaves the roundhouse for yard duties, after some minor repairs.

Photo #20 (56 kb)

Beaver Valley

Earth grading is in progress at Smith's, for the new customer parking. Ties from the old spur will soon be gone.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #21 (59 kb)

Chenango Yard engine servicing

An animated discussion is taking place at the engine servicing facility while C44-9W #907 is being refueled.

Photo #22 (60 kb)

The Track Gang

A Conrail train is inching along due to a slow order. After it's passed, the track gang will fix the problem track.

Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Photo #23 (44 kb)

Street running

Street running in downtown Northampton is required to deliver cars to this SOW customer. This is usually done early in the morning to avoid tying down Main Street traffic.

Photo #24 (57 kb)

Rush hour at Beaver Valley

Judging from the crowd on the station platform, a special event must attract all these people to NYC.

Click to enlarge

And, to complete this visit, here is a video tour of the layout :

Layout intro SOW - 2nd part

Page created by Jean-Louis Simonet
Last update : 09/21/2011
© 1998 - 2011, Jean-Louis Simonet