East Kentucky Coal



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This is a TRS04 route - it will NOT look good loaded into versions higher than TRS06.  EK3 is a better bet!

My East Kentucky route was originally available in two forms, generally referred to as 'EK1' and 'EK2'.  The second release is an extended version of EK1 which includes all of the first release but corrects several errors in it.  There seems therefore to be no practical reason to continue to have EK1 available and to the best of my knowledge no third party sessions have the original route as a dependency so only EK2 is currently available.  If anyone has any pressing need to have EK1 there is an email link at the foot of this page.

Content and Support

This route was built using the Auran TRAINZ® Railway Simulator 2004 (TRS04).  All content for the route is freeware.  All content installs into TRS04 without errors reported in TrainzObjectz.  With the exceptions listed below all content is available from the Auran Download Station.  The route itself installs into TRS06 without errors, but I cannot offer support for route dependencies reported as faulty by CMP.

Content not on the DLS:

Lars' ProtoLars Industry Tracks  and Weevil's Bridges and Abutments are both necessary content only available from the TrainzProRoutes forums.  You will need to be registered and logged in to download.  Registration is quick, easy and free.  Register or log in at TPR via this link

After registering and logging into the forum, the ProtoLars content is available from this page.   Scroll to the bottom of the first post and get the two cdp packs labelled ProtoLars Mega Pack 1.1 cdp and ProtoLars Marker Poles cdp.  While you are there it is well worth a few extra seconds to also download the ProtoLars Manual zip file.  The cdp packs will extract and install to the correct locations in Trainz automatically.  The Manual is for information only and may be unzipped to any convenient location.

For Weevil's Bridges and Abutments go to this page and download Bridges.cdp from the link in the first post.

Known Ground Texture Issue

Some testers report a problem with TrainzObjectz not correctly identifying some content.  If you are missing ground textures near rail lines and along river banks download the following content from the DLS manually:

KUID2:122285:4200:10    KUID2:122285:4201:10    KUID2:122285:4202:10    KUID2:122285:4203:10


Download 'East Kentucky Coal' here. (19.5Mb approx)


(Download count does not include many thousand EK1 and EK2 downloads from when the route was available from the DLS)



EK2v1a is a re-release of the original EK1 route with the addition of the entire Leatherwood Branch. This line extends the original route south from Dent Junction on EK1 to the rail complex at Beech Fork, and then on to Leatherwood (Leatherwood Branch) and Tilford (Blair Fork Spur). The 'freelance' power station located on the truncated Leatherwood Branch on EK1 has been removed. There is therefore no destination for loaded coal trains on the EK2 Route. Whilst this may be seen as a minor detraction from operation there is still plenty to do on EK2. Travel time at track speed from the Western Portal to Tilford is 70 minutes (slightly less than that to Leatherwood) – assuming no conflicting train movements. To drive an empty unit coal train from the Western Portal to Dent Junction, split the train into two sections, deliver the first half to Leatherwood and the second section to Beech Fork, load, return both sections to Dent, re-assemble the loaded unit train and return to the Western Portal will consume at least three hours, and with the addition of conflicting AI traffic, could easily take at least four. Other scenarios such as balancing excess empties between Leatherwood and the Montgomery Branch at the Western end of the route could easily take even longer.

The total EK2 route covers a total of approximately 55 miles, roughly half of which is a part of the East Kentucky Main.  The balance is made up of seven branch lines of varying lengths.  The Leatherwood – Blair Fork Branches extend the Eastern end of the main by about fifteen miles, the Western end is extended by the Carr's Fork Branch which adds over seven miles.  The Montgomery Creek Branch adds another three miles to the length of Carr's Fork.


This freelance route is based on a Digital Elevation Model of the valley of the North Fork of the Kentucky River and some of its major tributary streams, particularly the areas around Carr’s Fork and Leatherwood Creek.  The track follows as accurately as possible the route of the prototype.  The layout of stations and yards is based on on-line maps which as near as I can tell represent some time in the 1960s.  All coal loadouts represented on the route are located as accurately as possible and carry a name that was associated with that particular facility at some time during its history. Other than that pretty much everything is a product of my imagination – qualified and guided by a fair bit of research – but the route is NOT prototypical.

Although I have tried to capture the ‘spirit’ of the area, no effort has been made to duplicate in any real way the actual area represented by the route on the ‘other side’ of the Railway fence.  Towns carry their real name, and are located where they should be, but no effort has been made to duplicate the actual places.  Buildings and their locations were chosen from what was easily available and placed to more-or-less please the eye never forgetting the overall goal of the lowest possible poly count.

Such details as are included come as much from my day-to-day observations of Australian railways as from my book-knowledge of US Railroads.  I think the blend is visually pleasing – even convincing.  But it is not accurate.  It was never meant to be.  I set out simply to create the model railway of my dreams on a computer.  If that’s not your ‘thing’ – don’t run it!

A special note regarding Leatherwood

Leatherwood as modelled bears absolutely no relationship to the real place. The 'real' Leatherwood has large mines on both sides of the valley linked by a high trestle from which is filled a truly enormous conical loader suspended over the tracks. There is also a sizeable town located right against the line and terraced back up the surrounding hill sides. Given the lack of any Trainz asset remotely like the actual loader at Leatherwood and the overall goal of keeping the route as 'lo-poly' as possible, the area has been totally freelanced. Apologies to anyone disappointed at this approach, but I have the blank HOG/DEM route archived for anybody game to tackle a more realistic version.

There are two other problems around Leatherwood, both associated with the steeply graded track in the area. The first is 'roller-coaster' track around the tipple. The tracks both sides of the tipple are steeply graded, but the industry tracks cannot be inclined but must lie on a horizontal plane. This results in sharp sudden grade changes either side of the tipple and some instances of 'floating' track, both of which only serve to exaggerate the already steep track.

The second problem is that due to the steeply graded track in the area Leatherwood yard and tipple are not suitable for AI Train control. Because of a glitch in the way the AI applies the train brake, AI drivers are unable to hold loaded coal trains downgrade in the Leatherwood area and will run past red signals. This problem does not extend to user-controlled trains which will behave as they should.


This is a ‘Lo-Poly’ route.  Everything is simplified and minimised to give the best possible result using the least possible computer.  There is plenty room for detail improvement!  This is especially true in the commercial areas of some of the the towns, and detail around the tipples and mines on the route.  If you want more detail, add as you will.

The greatest visual compromise is the ‘texture only’ approach to hillsides.  Virtually the whole area modelled is very heavily forested.  No computer on Earth could run if all the trees needed were included.  The textured hillsides look fine from afar (cranking up the ‘good weather fog’ option results in a surprisingly realistic 'summer haze' view, particularly under a blue sky) but the transition where the forest edge comes right down to the railroad right-of-way is at best dodgy.  Live with it, or plant trees to taste!

Coal Assets

The route includes every coal loadout that I have been able to positively identify.  It should be remembered though that the amount of coal produced in the area varied greatly from year to year as economic conditions changed.  Not all of the mines produced coal all of the time.  Don’t be daunted by the thought of setting up literally dozens of Lars tracks and trying to cope with the output.  Start simple, with just a couple.  Treat the other mines as ‘closed’.  Demolish buildings, rip up tracks or even close some branch lines if you like!



Coal dominated.  In L&N days apart from a few local way-freights, it was all coal.  Some bridge traffic was carried in CSX days after the Eastern end of the line was diverted through Deanne. 

There are coal mines on the EK Main both East and West of the modelled section, so coal loads and empties travel both ways.  The loads traffic was slightly heavier Eastbound, but when setting operating patterns up, don’t forget through coal headed West.

The line carried virtually no passenger traffic, but I LIKE passenger trains of the two-or-three car sort, so every likely location has a Passenger Depot.  If you don’t like the semi-freelance approach simply delete the offending assets. Or if you like it, add invisible platforms.  The ‘Tram’ stops by andi06 (available on the DLS) are perfect for the level of intensity required.  

Leatherwood Branch The Leatherwood Branch occupies up to three mine run crews per day. Due to sharp curves and severe grades on the branch empty Unit Coal Trains bound for the branch are divided at Dent Yard and sent down the branch in two or three sections. Loaded sections are re-assembled at Dent. 

Reversing Trains (Carrs Fork Branch) Since the Carr's Fork Branch has only trailing access to the Eastbound main these trains will need to be reversed at Jeff Junction.  Trains up to about 30 cars (assuming 100 ton quad hoppers) can be reversed by a simple run-around move in Jeff Yard, however longer trains are a bit trickier.  Trains up to about 72 cars can be reversed using the Wye at the Western end of Jeff Yard.  Trains of up to 120 cars (ex-Charlene Tipple) can be reversed at the Unit Train Passing Loop west of Jeff.  The line west of Jeff Junction look to be double track but it is not - this is a very long passing loop to run around the very long unit coal trains off the Montgomery Branch.  

Caboose Usage (Carrs Fork Branch) There is a Caboose Track at Jeff Junction between the west end of the yard and the Carr's Fork Branch.  Several switching moves in the Carr's Fork area require long pushing moves with the locomotives at the rear.  Wherever such a move crosses a public road at grade, a Caboose is required on the leading end of the train, even in CSX days.  The Brakeman rides the leading platform and is equipped with a radio to communicate with the Driver, an air horn to warn road traffic and a brake valve for emergency applications.  Because some of these backing moves are made after the locos run around the train (Knott's Creek Branch for example) the caboose will sometimes need to be initially cut in at the front of the train, immediately behind the locos :~)

Signalling and the AI The line is set up with a signalling compromise visually acceptable to the human eye and operationally acceptable to the AI - PROVIDED that all scheduling is set up to ensure no conflicts.  If you prefer to run a random arrangement, Mexican Standoffs are guaranteed!  To improve performance on a ‘random’ system I strongly suggest that all signals protecting the FACING ends of junctions be deleted.  While this will significantly reduce the number of trains the route can carry, it will also dramatically reduce the number of standoffs.


Level (Grade) Crossings:  For almost the entire length of the route rail and road transport run side by side through narrow valleys, a situation which necessitates numerous bridges and crossings.  Wherever possible grade crossings are represented by scripted 'mocrossing' objects.  However in many instances to preserve either the continuity of road surfaces and/or the integrity of railroad curves it has been necessary to represent crossings simply by continuing the road spline across the rail spline.  These crossings are enhanced by various props to look the part, but unfortunately there is no way to control road traffic at these crossings.  I acknowledge that this is a less than perfect solution!

Blue Texture and 'Un-necessary' Boards:  Several boards near the ends of the route are marked with a small circle of bright blue texture.  These are 'Delete Here' markers for end boards that will need to be removed prior to merging later additions.  They are out of line-of-sight from the railway, texture over them at your peril!  Also there are several entire boards near the ends which are entirely out of sight and appear superfluous.  These boards are visible from the tracks after future additions are merged and the merge is simpler if these boards are left on at this stage.  Again, delete them at your peril!


The Future:  It is planned to extend both ends of the EK Stage 2 Route.  EK3 will be a short addition on the Western end, but since this includes the major yard at Hazard Ky and several more mines including the Lott's Creek Branch and (at last!) the Power Station, it will be a small but important addition.  EK4 is an additional 20 or so miles of main line running towards Ravena in the west and EK5 will be a similar main-line addition towards Deanne in the East.  That's the plan.  We all know what happens to 'plans'.  It might take a while, but I love Trainz and I love the EK, so the additions will come!

Acknowledgements and Thanks:  Special thanks to all at USTrainz for helping me get EK2 out. Sorry lads – it still has the default junction levers. Thanks also to Evan for spotting quite a few 'oopses' that snuck through on EK1, and for picking up a major track goof at Leatherwood.

Thanks once again to the TPR crew for their help on EK1, which remains a fundamental part of this release.

Thanks to the fabulous website W&H Main Yards Guide: Guide to Appalachian Coal Hauling Railroads Vol 3c which provided much of the prototype information on coal company tipples and locations.

Thanks also to all those who offered support through the Screenies thread at the Trainz Forum and also for all the encouraging emails I continue to receive.

Conclusion:  If you get half as much pleasure from running the East Kentucky Coal Route as I received from building it, it will have been worth the effort.  Constructive criticism and suggestions are always welcome, and I will offer whatever help I can in overcoming any problems users might encounter. 

Have fun!

Andy (aka Dermmy) 

December 2006

Feedback is always welcome - please email any comments queries or criticisms here.

© Andrew Turnbull 2006/7/8/9/10