No. 74: Almost Andalusia

My longtime friend and professional railroader Tom Holley is back, this time with a terrific article on modeling the Central of Georgia at Andalusia, Alabama.  Tom is a professional railroader—a freight train engineer—for Norfolk Southern, and a third-generation Central of Georgia man.  His layout plan shows how the professionals keep it simple, and “keep it real”. 

Our thanks to Allen Tuten and the boys at the Central of Georgia Historical Society for the use of photos and material for this article.  – John G

Almost Andalusia

By Tom Holley

You can’t always get what you want
But if you try sometimes you just might find
You just might find
You get what you need

The Rolling Stones weren’t singing about track planning, but they could have been.

We all have to make compromises when designing our model railroads, and sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we just can’t find a workable solution.

Andalusia, Alabama was a branchline terminal on the old Central of Georgia Railway in South Alabama. It’s a place near and dear to my heart, as both my dad and granddad held seniority there, as did James Deason, an old family friend.  I grew up listening to stories about the railroad down there, and it’s always been a place I wanted to model.  But when you look at the trackage layout, you’ll see that it’s a spread out, tangled up mess that’s just not going to fit into a 10×14 foot room in HO scale.

So I shelved my Andalusia plan, and put it into the “That’d be nice to model but can’t” file and moved on.  But I kept coming back to it, and trying to find a way to make it work.  It was an exercise in sheer frustration…until one day when it occurred to me that I didn’t have to model the whole thing!

Andalusia1967Above.  Here is a mid-1960s view of the Andalusia area.  The Central entered from the east (the right side of the photo).  The track at the bottom left was the tail of the wye. 

The tail of the wye was pretty long and that was one reason I omitted it from the track plan.  The cement plant and naval stores are on the main line on the right.  You may also note that the L&N and Central run close on the right side of the photo (you can see that better on Google Earth today); after the Central was shortened a crossover was installed to let the shortline access the old Central track up to Gantt, Ala. 

Below, here is a closer view of the L&N Crossing and the depot area.

Andalusia1967 - Copy

To me, the depot area is the key feature of the town.  The wye, although nice to have, is a space eating monster that won’t be big enough to accurately capture the scene anyway.  I run early diesels, so I’m not turning steam.  In later years the runaround track was removed and all trains ran the wye and backed in, but I just kept the runaround.  Not prototypical, but I can live with that choice.  It’s the runaround or no Andalusia layout.

By omitting the wye, I’m losing three industries: a cotton gin/fertilizer distributor, a beer distributor, and the L&N interchange. But I am getting the essence of the town, at least to me, and I can add the other industries over toward staging.  I can add a track to simulate the L&N at another place and still get the traffic.  The photos below show the feel of the town I’m trying to capture.

442 1

442 and 443 1

Taken in 1949, the photos above show trains 7, the daily passenger train from Columbus, Georgia and 95, the local from Union Springs, Alabama at the depot area.  A neat scene, to say the least.  Central of Georgia Railway photographs, Collection of the Central of Georgia Railway Historical Society.  Used with permission.

The crossings over the L&N were protected by Central of Georgia STOP boards (such as the one seen below–this is a Tom Holley photo).  Before crossing you stopped, flagged the crossing, and then proceeded if there was not a train on the other line.  If another train was coming, you waited.  I don’t know what the L&N rules were, but they had to be similar if not the same.  


In the era I model, just a few years later in 1953, the passenger train is gone and those sexy Pacifics have been replaced by RS3s and GP7s. But the track, industries, and depot are still the same.

Here is the track plan I came up with.  And yes, the diamond on the warehouse track is prototypical; that’s where the wye ties into the main.

Andalusia Cameo 3 - NEW


An operating session would be simple: 95 comes in from the staging area to the right, runs around his train, and does his switching.  There were a Hercules Powder stump loading  track and a cement distributor to be worked on the way in.  Then he leaves and goes back to staging.  Nothing hard or fancy, but a time machine to take me back to the Central’s glory years.

Below, here is a 1960 track profile of Andalusia. For a small terminal, it’s pretty spread out.

Track Profile

Train were small, powered by a single four axle unit. Thanks to information provided by David Payne, we have the train data for the period of September 1, 1958 through September 6, 1958. Train consists were as follows:

  • 9/1/58 Engine 166 (GP9) 2×1 (two loads, 1 empty) in, cab (caboose) hop out
  • 9/2/58 Engine 166 9×4 in, 5×0 out
  • 9/3/58 Engine 166 2×0 in, 1×7 out
  • 9/4/58 Engine 166 11×0 in, cab hop out
  • 9/5/58 Engine 168 3×2 in, 5×2 out
  • 9/6/58 Engine 168 cab hop in and out. It was, after all, the crew’s Friday…

Andalusia CG Depot - CopyAbove.  Here is a recent photo of the depot, which fortunately has been saved.  Below is a view of the area as it looks today.  The location of the wye can still be seen.  Much of the Central right of way has been converted to an automobile road.

Andalusia AErial TOday

This industry list from the 1950s shows the large number of customers served.

Andalusia Industry

And finally, below, is some additional about trains 95 and 96, collected from Central of Georgia train sheets by David Payne.  This shows train consists from the Central locals coming out of Union Springs in September 1958.  The consists include cars in and out of Andalusia.  The usual On Duty time was 5:30am.

Monday, September 1 (Labor Day)

  • Engines 166 – 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:45am with 15 loads, 21 mtys and arrived Andalusia at 12:45pm with 2 loads, 1 mty and handled 15 loads, 22 mtys, 1850 tons.  Eng 168 was set out at Gantt.
  • #96 left Andalusia at 1:45pm as a caboose hop and arrived Union Springs at 5:45pm with 15 loads, 11 mtys, 1450 tons and handled the same.  Eng 168 was picked up at Gantt.  There is a notation of TS 3′ 15″ and off duty @ 6:15pm.  We’re not sure if the TS indicates Terminal Switching or Total Switching.  If I get it sorted out, I’ll let you know.

Tuesday, September 2

  • Engines 166 – 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:35am with 14 loads, 34 mtys, arrived Troy at 8:50am with 13/34 (Loads/Empties), departed Troy at 9:15am with 12/21, at Brantley 11:35am-11:45am, arrived Andalusia at 1:20pm with 9/4, and handled 23 loads 35 mtys 2535 tons with 4′ 35″ (four hours, 35 minutes) switching.  Eng 168 was set out at Gantt. 
  • #96 left Andalusia at 2:25pm with 5 loads and reported “by” Brantley at 3:35pm with 5/0 and arrived Union Springs at 7:00pm with 42/11, 3670 tons, and marked off at 7:30pm.  The T/S time shown was 3′ 10″.

Wednesday, September 3, 1958

  • Engines 166 – 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:25am with 10/5, arrived Troy at 8:20am with same and departed at 8:30am with 7/0, arrived Brantley at 9:45am and departed at 9:50am.  Eng 168 was set out at Gantt.  Train arrived Andalusia at 11:30am with 2/0 and handled 10 loads 5 mtys, 710 tons, with 2′ 40″ switching.
  • #96 left Andalusia at 1:20pm with 1 /7, picked up Eng 168 at Gantt, was at Brantley between 2:35pm and 2:45pm, arrived Troy at 3:50pm with 3/0 and departed at 4:10pm with 14/4.  Arrived Union Springs at 5:05pm with 14/5, showed off at 5:30pm, handled 14/12, 1450 tons with 1′ 55″ TS.

Thursday, September 4, 1958

  • Engines 166 – 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 6:55am with 4 loads/4 mtys, arrived Troy at 8:10am with same, departed Troy at 8:15am with 4 loads/2 mtys, was at Brantley from 9:30am to 10:05am.  Eng 168 left at Brantley.  Train arrived Andalusia at 11:30am with 11 loads/0 mtys, handled 15 loads/2 company material/6 mtys, 1200 tons, showing 2′ 40″ switching.
  • #96 left Andalusia at 12:05pm with cab, arrived Brantley at 1:05pm with cab and departed at 1:18pm, no report, picked up engine 168, arrived Troy at 2:30pm with 6 loads/1 mty and departed at 2:45pm with 14 loads/1 mty.  Train arrived Union Springs at 3:35pm with 14 loads/3 mtys, off at 4:00pm, handled 14 loads/3 mtys
  • 1220 tons with 2′ 40″ TS.
  • Note: Engine 166 was picked up by Train #40

Friday, September 5, 1958

  • Engine 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:20am with 12 loads/31 mtys, arrived Troy at 8:35am with 12 loads/30 mtys, departed Troy at 9:20am with 7 loads/13 mtys, at Brantley from 11:10am to 11:20am, and arrived Andalusia at 12:45pm with 3 loads/2 mtys.  AT Andalusia the crew handled 12 loads/35 mtys, 1680 tons, with 4′ switching.
  • #96 left Andalusia at 2:40pm with 5 loads/2 mtys, at Brantley from 4:10pm to 4:25pm, no report from Troy since agent-operator would be off duty at 5pm, arrived Union Springs at 8:00pm with 23 loads/12 mtys, 2280 tons with 2’50” TS, off at 8:30pm.  

Saturday, September 6, 1958 (on duty at 5:00am)

  • Engine 168
  • #95 left Union Springs at 7:15am with 16 loads/11 mtys, arrived Andalusia with cab at 11:15, handled 16 loads/11 mtys, 1600 tons, no switching shown.
  • #96 left Union Springs at 11:30am with cab, arrived Union Springs at 3:00pm with 4 loads/4 mtys, off at 3:15pm, handled 4 loads/8 mtys, 490 tons, with 3′ 15″ TS.

Here are a few notes on engines and cabooses from June 1963, again from David Payne.

  • On the 1st, Central of Georgia engine no. 148 was used on a spray train between Columbus and Andalusia / 164 on 95/96
  • On the 2nd, Central of Georgia engine no. 124 left for 95/96
  • On the 3rd, Central of Georgia engine no. 124 on 95/96
  • On the 4th, Central of Georgia engine no. 130 on 95/96
  • On the 5th, Central of Georgia engine no. 178 on 95/96
  • On the 6th, Central of Georgia engine no. 113 on 95/96
  • On the 7th, Central of Georgia engine no. 116 on 95/96
  • On the 8th, Central of Georgia engine no. 126 on 95/96
  • On the 9th, Central of Georgia engine no. 126 left for 95/96
  • X48 was the cab on trains 95/96 and cabs X22 and X73 were on train 71/40.  The spray train on 01 June had cab X43.
  • Train 40 would leave a locomotive at Union Springs (except on Saturday) and would pick up a locomotive at Union Springs (except on Sunday).  Actually, No. 71 would make the pick up on Saturday.

I’d appreciate any feedback or constructive criticism.  Remember, it’s not Andalusia, but it’s almost Andalusia.  Email me at

OR Holley SR Inspecting Track

Above.  Tom’s Grandfather, O.R. Holley, inspecting track on the Central’s Margaret District.





2 thoughts on “No. 74: Almost Andalusia

  1. Thanks, John and Tom for sharing this CofG information and layout. It’s simple but realistic and for those of us who railroad (ed) for a living it’s something doable and over whelming. My thoughts, have always been to build something which is easy to construct, maintain and operate.
    I would add, because I am a “wye” man, (John understands only too well) I would have built a drop down one to enhance operations…but that’s only me.
    Happy New year all,


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