East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Hindsight 20/20

Good friend and fellow member of the James River Division On30 Module Group Jeff Patelski has built a beautiful shop building for a model railroad. Jeff has modeled in N, HO, and O scales. For his home layout, he has decided to go with HO scale. He is now collecting track plans and mocking up possibilities with flex track and turnouts.

I once had an HO scale home layout myself. The Dry Fork and Greenbrier was set in the Allegheny Mountains of east central West Virginia.

I wanted the layout itself to bring to mind Smokehole, the Canaan Valley, and the Cheat Highlands. I wanted the operation of the layout to reflect the Western Maryland’s GC&E Sub with its long, remote branchlines into the far corners of the Mountain State wilderness.

As track was laid and operations began, it became clear that the DF&G trains did not bring the Western Maryland to mind. Trains on the DF&G were short, the distances between focal points was short, and most of the time spent operating was shifting single cars around on short sidings. This layout was also my first attempt at hand laying track, and I had created a daunting challenge for myself that was frankly beyond my ability to build.

The search for a resolution to these operational issues led to my switching to On30 and building the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge Railroad. But if I had not been so infatuated with West Virginia and had more objectively looked at the situation the Dry Fork presented, I may have been able to quite happily stay in HO scale.

What is obvious now may not have been an acceptable alternative at the time, but looking back I see that the Dry Fork & Greenbrier had a lot in common with the Yancey County Railroad in the Blue Ridge Mountains of North Carolina.
Model Railroader and Trains magazines ran a pair of articles on the YCRR in August of 1974, and I was determined I would go and see it for myself one day. By the time I actually made the trip to Micaville, the Yancey County was no longer running.

But when it was still running, the day to day operation of the line was very similar to how operations appeared on my DF&G layout. And the basic configuration of the YCRR could be interpreted to fit nicely on the DF&G’s benchwork.

In transforming the DF&G into a Carolina Blue Ridge style shortline, the outside railroad would change from the Western Maryland to the Clinchfield. A small fiddle yard would be the means for getting cars into and out of operation on the layout. From the interchange, trains would appear on the layout at the town of Micaville. From there a branch wanders up to a furniture factory at Bowditch.

The mainline winds along the wall to Cane Junction where another branch leads to a feldspar loader. The feldspar operation at Cane Fork is the biggest customer of the railroad. Its short siding can only hold two cars for loading at a time, so a locomotive is stationed close by to provide frequent switching service. The lack of sidings in this part of the layout makes switching a challenge, so the Cane Fork crew will have to think ahead.

After passing Cane Junction, the mainline continues to the town of Burnsville, which is the end of the line. The depot in town serves as the railroad’s office, and there is another engine house there. Online industries at Burnsville are a Purina Feed mill and a fuel oil dealership.

A pair of Bachmann’s new
GE 45 ton switchers would be the perfect power for this simple layout. The trackwork would have been more in line with my hand laying skills, but could probably all be store bought. And the layout would have been a much better match to the operation on it.