Generating Work for the P&EBR

Steve Sherrill's Shady Grove & Sherrill On30 layout | January 2006

Enough trackwork is done on my layout to allow limited operation to begin.

Completed track on P&EBR layout as of March 2009

The prospect of using a system of orders and lists to give crews instructions for running trains is very intriguing to me. I have friends who are excellent model railroaders who do not see the point in going through all the setup necessary to get operations started. They get a great deal of enjoyment out of just putting trains together and running them in a random fashion. Personally, I do not find random running of model trains fun for very long. Giving the trains purpose adds a dimension to model railroading that focuses my attention, making the hobby an even more effective form of recreation.

What is the purpose for trains on my model railroad? The theme of my layout is the soapstone business that once thrived 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 to do it. Therefore, my railroad is an integral part of the production process for the parent soapstone company.

Where does my railroad go? The placenames are noted on the trackplan above:

Piedmont: Location of the parent company's stone cutting and assembly mill. The parent company is called The Piedmont-Standard Soapstone Company. The hyphenated name implies that the present company was formed by the consolidation of two companies. When Piedmont and Standard merged, all milling operations were moved to the Piedmont plant. Quarried stone is hauled here by the railroad. It is then cut, polished, and assembled into a variety of residential, commercial, and industrial appliances and products.

Shops Yard: The railroad's repair and service facilities. The machine shop at Shops also services the mill and quarry equipment of the parent company.

Ariel Church: the only town near the railroad big enough to have a post office. Ariel Church is the gathering place for the railroad's maintenance of way equipment and supplies. Since the railroad exists only for the benefit of the parent company, it does not serve any businesses in Ariel Church.

Cove: Location of Piedmont-Standard Soapstone's largest quarry.

Dust Mill: The waste stone from the quarries and the mill is hauled here to be milled into a very fine powder. Due to the mineral properties of soapstone, the fine powder is industrial grade talc, which had a wide range of industrial applications. The talc was bagged and sold to tire, paint, and portland cement manufacturers, to name just a few of the customers for this versatile product.

Meridian: This quarry was once owned by the Standard Soapstone Company, whose mill was further down the same branch that serves the quarry. Once Piedmont and Standard merged, the Standard mill was closed, and the railroad was abandoned back to the quarry.

Winwood: The site of an historic mill on the James River. This is where the narrow gauge Piedmont & East Blue Ridge transfers freight to and from the standard gauge Chesapeake & Ohio.