Norm Stenzel’s Brandywine and Benedictine model railroad is a 1950’s coal haul that runs between Clearbrook, Virginia and Ballard, West Virginia. The railroad extends beyond the layout with the model section only being about 30 miles of a much larger railroad. It extends from Winston Salem, North Carolina and Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania running North and South. Norm chose to make an extension beyond the layout because it makes the model section much more believable. This way there are trains coming in from hidden staging yards at both ends and passing through the model section of the railroad.
The coal traffic originates mostly from the north of the modeled section.There are some coal mines on the railroad but the bulk of coal traffic is off stage. Norm drew inspiration for the location from other lines as he is a great fan of the Virginias and Southern Pennsylvania. He travels to those areas quite often on railfanning trips and fell in love with it. He views it as a neat place and totally different from what he is used to, also finding it interesting from modeling point of view.
Stenzel was able to create the ambiance of coal hauling on his railroad by creating a fictional history. He did this because he didn’t want to be limited by modeling a particular railroad, instead creating a railroad that could have existed. He also has freedom to change the history if he wants to make any changes to the railroad. Norm even went to Georgia Tech and found topographical maps, trying to find a perspective route for where he wanted to run the railroad.
When he wrote the history, it justified every decision he made on the railroad. The history starts in 1890, constructed in 1905. It was originally a subsidiary of another fictitious railroad which belongs to a friend of Norms. In the Depression era the railroad went through a bankruptcy and became an independent entity in 1930’s.