Trips to Schuyler

An amazing thing was happening. It would occasionally occur to me as I drove up to the Visitor Center to talk to the construction foreman.


The long drive along the James River from Richmond to Schuyler is one of my favorite road trips.


The soapstone industry is my favorite subject for historical research and industrial archaeology.


Model railroading is my favorite pastime.


And it was all coming together at the Quarry Gardens.


Interior framing for a shop area, classroom, office and entryway was going up.


Included in the framing was the benchwork for an O scale model railroad display that was to feature historic scenes in the local area. If I had not seen it with my own eyes I would not have believed it.

Footprints for Buildings

Marked up, cut and folded, my plans for the Railroad Display were modified to match the framing for the layout. I needed to be sure the plans accurately portrayed the space available.


Plans were spread out on the floor of my shop and measured to compare with measurements I made at the Quarry Gardens.


I trimmed out the footprint of every building on the full sized plan and packed them up along with reference photos and a scale plan of the entire Railroad Display.


I loaded up the car and headed up to the Lycoming Meet, where talented O scale modelers display their latest projects and exchange ideas.

Framing for Shadowboxes

Framing progressed on the Visitor Center quickly. The benchwork for the Railroad Display was incorporated into shadowboxes.


The length of the front of the Display was divided into four scenes. As the shadowboxes took shape, I updated my plans to keep them accurate.


This particular shadowbox contains the mill scene. It will portray a portion of the Alberene Stone campus in Schuyler.


The Rockfish River will run diagonally across this shadowbox from back to front.

Framing for Display

As the Visitor Center at the Quarry Gardens was taking shape, work began on the Railroad Display. I printed out the track plan for the O scale 2 rail layout full sized.


At over 30 feet long and 10 feet deep, the Railroad Display is enormous, requiring a big pile of plans.


I trimmed and taped the plan tiles into four large sections; one for each of the four scenes represented on the Display.


The plans were laid out at the Visitor Center to guide the construction of the framework.


Benchwork was built with drop sections to accommodate creeks, rivers, and a quarry.

Space for a Railroad

There is a large barn-like Quonset building on the grounds of the Quarry Gardens at Schuyler. Plans were made to convert it into a Visitor Center, and to make space inside for an O scale 2 rail model railroad.


I was surprised at how large an area the quarry folks were willing to allocate to the railroad display. About 30 feet along one wall, from the planned entry foyer all the way to the back wall, and about 10 feet deep.


Concept sketches and conversations with the architect designing the Visitor Center yielded a line of "shadowbox" style dioramas with a long, narrow utility closet behind the displays along the arching exterior wall.


There will be four displays, each a different season of the year, depicting scenes along the Nelson & Albemarle Railway. The right of way will wind through each of the scenes, then return to the beginning on a long shelf along the back of the closet.


During the early months of 2017 the Visitor Center began to take shape, changing from a cavernous utility building to a multi-use information center.


The framing of the Railroad Display is very substantial, making it the sturdiest model railroad benchwork I have ever seen.