East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

The past speaks with unusual clarity in Soapstone Country.

Old Dominion Quarry

Flooded quarries are evidence of the once thriving soapstone industry in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. Large deposits of high quality stone in Albemarle, Nelson, and Amherst counties were in rural areas with poor roads. If a company wanted to move heavy stone from quarry to mill, it had to build a railroad. These small industrial railroads were an integral part of the production process for the parent soapstone companies.


The Piedmont-Standard Stone Company
An imagined journey through the Blue Ridge foothills.

On my model railroad, I try to bring to life a fictional archaeology of time and place. The Piedmont-Standard Stone Company’s narrow gauge railroad runs through an ancient landscape, marked by quarries, old mills, and small company towns. The route is strung together from my research, correspondence, and recollections from years of hiking to abandoned industrial sites in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains

Themes for the Piedmont-Standard narrow gauge railroad are drawn from the rural countryside of central Virginia, and the old soapstone operations in the foothills of the Blue Ridge.

Concepts are attempts to represent the theme in miniature. Constraints on building a 1:48 scale model railroad in a relatively small space require a lot of thought to be given to design in order to fit the necessary elements of each scene into the space available.

Construction is an ongoing endeavor using a wide variety of technologies, media, and materials that go into building a working model railroad.

The intimate world of obsessed amateurs: outwardly ordinary but inwardly focused, like addiction, on some private creative pursuit. Model railroaders, tattoo artists, trout fisherman, etc. Masters in their own chosen realm. A man's world: Grail Quest in an enchanted forest of gizmos. Passion breeds its own subculture, its own heros, its own literature and terminology, a whole vocabulary of shared mania.

–Michael Flanagan