Dan Mansfield’s Georgia Railroad Camak Division
Georgia Railroad locomotive 802, an 0-8-0, works Hulsey Yard in Atlanta, Georgia.
In July I had the opportunity to operate on Dan Mansfield’s amazing O Scale Georgia Railroad Camak Division layout. The layout replicates the prototype Georgia Railroad which was chartered in 1833 and was built west from Augusta, Georgia covering 171 miles and reaching Atlanta, Georgia in 1845. The railroad handled through freight, passenger service, and served numerous customers along the line until 1983 when it was acquired by CSX.
The Camak Depot was scratchbuilt by Dan including a fully detailed and lighted interior of Rachel's Café. The detail is so incredible you can almost smell the fried chicken.
Dan’s father worked as a Brakeman on the Georgia Railroad and Dan has always been a passionate Georgia Railroad railfan. In 1960 Dan remembers riding a GP7 from Macon to Camak, Georgia with his dad, eating lunch in Rachel’s Café located in the Camak Depot, and then returning back to Macon. Dan told the following story about Rachel’s Café, “Business was brisk in Camak in 1960. There was interchange there with the Savannah and Atlanta Rwy, plus the Macon Branch, and two daytime and two nighttime passenger trains, plus thru freights. Mr. Rachel’s son would board the daytime passenger trains with a large box of fried chicken and a cooler of Coca Colas. Mr. Rachel would pick up his son at the next stop and return to Camak. Of course, the fried chicken and Cokes always sold out!” With these memories and stories about the line it was easy for Dan to decide to model the Georgia Railroad. Dan stated, “Lesson learned, is to follow your heart’s desire in modeling railroads and trains.”
Operators work Camak Yard to assemble their trains. The Camak Depot is located on the right. Layout owner Dan Mansfield is seen in the background wearing the Amelia Island shirt.
The layout is constructed in Dan’s basement and fills a good portion of it. Set in 1952, Dan operates both steam and diesel locomotives. Just like the prototype, the layout runs from Augusta to Atlanta, Georgia. When designing the layout he had several requirements that he incorporated into the track plan. Dan wanted to be able to operate two branch lines separately and have them not interfere with the main line trains. He also wanted to place the main line towards the back of the layout so that operators would not have to reach over it to switch cars. For operator comfort and convenience, there are no duck-unders, only one lift bridge to the main yard representing Harrisonville Yard in Augusta, and a swing gate that is used for continuous runs. The layout also has generous three foot wide aisles, is single decked, and set at a comfortable height for operators. The layout is operated with a Digitrax DCC system and portable digital throttles which allow crews to follow their trains around the layout.
Pacific Fruit Express is located adjacent to Hulsey Yard in Atlanta. Dan used a mirror to double the length of the building. The mirror is located between the 8th and 9th windows and does a very effective job or creating a deeper scene.
Operating sessions involve running numerous trains including thru freights from Augusta to Atlanta, and two local freights which switch the branch lines. In addition there are two yard jobs. The Camak switcher works Camak Yard and the quarry located nearby. The Atlanta switcher works Hulsey Yard, industries located adjacent to the yard, and a couple of industries located just south of the yard in Decatur, Georgia. All of this action keeps several crews busy for two to three hours.
The yard crew from Camak Yard switches the quarry, the structure was scratchbuilt. The main line runs behind the rock wall and allows the crew easy access for switching the quarry.
Paperwork for an ops session consists of a bulletin that indicates the train number, departure terminal, and instructions for train meets, clearances, and special information on switching customers. Crews contact the dispatcher prior to departure to receive clearance to enter the main. Dan uses a dynamic “car card” system which identifies the car and next destination for the car. Crews are responsible for picking up and setting out cars based on the car cards and placing the cards in the appropriate card box on the fascia. Dan has done a great job of creating realistic operating sessions while keeping them low stress and very enjoyable.
The town of Washington is one of the two local switch jobs. This portion of the layout could be a stand alone layout and is a lot of fun to work with it's numerous car spots.
O scale model railroading has a certain appeal to it. The trains are large and have a lot of heft to them. When you make a hard coupling you “feel it”. It is so much easier to see and appreciate the detail when modeling in 1:48 scale. Dan’s layout was featured in the May/June 2021 issue of O Scale Trains magazine for those that would like to see and read more about his layout. Dan Mansfield has done a fantastic job on his layout and I look forward to many more operating sessions.
Until next time, stay safe and happy model railroading.