Davis-Murdoch Stone Company

Time for a review

Time has past, things have changed. It may be a good time to get reaquainted with the project.

Alberene Stone, Schuyler, Va. - Google Earth

What was the Davis-Murdoch Stone Company?

Davis-Murdoch was bare, unpainted cinder blocks and stone slabs, rusted corrugated metal, old drums, broken pallets, cinder piles, broom sedge, scrub cedars and gum trees. The smell of coal smoke and heavy lube oil. Tan, rust, gray. Not well marked, very easy to miss.

Where was the Davis-Murdoch Stone Company?

Davis-Murdoch was somewhere in a region bounded roughly by Bremo Bluff to the east, Gladstone to the south, Piney River to the west, and North Garden to the north.

What remains of the Davis-Murdoch Stone Company today?

A general impression of Davis-Murdoch can be developed by visiting:
  • Alberene
  • Arvonia and Bridgeport
  • Bremo and New Canton
  • Cartersville
  • Cohasset
  • Columbia
  • Dilwyn
  • Esmont
  • Gladstone
  • James River State Park
  • Lovingston
  • Norwood
  • Schuyler
  • Scottsville

Is there information available related to Davis-Murdoch?

Operations like Davis-Murdoch are referred to in:

Rattling Through Town

The full sized plan is good for mocking up scenes


I have always enjoyed visting small towns along the James River. Their primary attraction for me is the railroad running nearby, but many of them predate the railroad to the old canal days before a railroad was built on the towpath. They serve as the inspiration for this little scene I am mocking up on the full sized track plan. A scene I would love to run up on driving in Nelson County; a few company buildings at a crossroads with the weedy quarry tram running up an alley.

What scale is this?

My current Davis-Murdoch layout is a revision of my previous On30 layout.

Something occurred to me while I was ripping out sections of the old Piedmont & East Blue Ridge layout.

The Piedmont & East Blue Ridge layout never made it this far

In all the time I built and operated the P&EBR, construction never advanced to the point where anything on the layout indicated what scale it was. Being On30, it could easily have been mistaken for an HO standard gauge layout. I had plenty of opportunities to remedy the situation but never did. Whether that insight is significant or not, it is affecting my approach to building Davis-Murdoch. I hope to define Davis-Murdoch as an O scale layout early and often.

Full Size on the Floor

I take a sketchpad on vacation.

My wife has a much greater tolerance for sitting in sand on the beach than I. While she is out at the breakers I am back at the cottage scribbling away on track plans.


Last summer I enlarged one of my beach projects to full size and printed it out in about 2.5 by 3 foot tiles. I made registration holes in the ends of each tile so they could be assembled into larger sections using brass fasteners. I really like this perspective on the layout, it is definitely worth the effort to produce and assemble.

Layout Revisions

As illustrated in my recent Construction posts, I am removing the Piedmont and the Winwood sections of my layout.

Doing something like that never occurred to me until I was spending hours in my shop working on the Railroad Display for the Quarry Gardens at Schuyler. During that time, my attitude toward my shop in general and home layout in particular started to shift, and I became less interested in operating the layout and more interested in building a series of detailed scenes connected by a railroad. I started thinking that operating dioramas - a series of linked scenes built as if they were static displays - was really the most respectable approach to building the layout and was the way I would be happiest with it.

The revised plan shows the main mill with standard gauge sidings is to the left as you come in the door. These standard gauge sidings are the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge Railroad. They run off stage from the Mill up Cobblers Creek to the connection with the Outside Railroad. In reality they stop under an overhead traveling crane at the layout room wall in a narrow alley between two buildings. There will be a mirror under the crane.

Testing the idea of standard gauge in the Shops area

The balance of the layout is the narrow gauge tram that the Davis-Murdoch Stone Company uses to move stone and talc. Unlike before, the narrow gauge handles almost no “front end,” or finished product traffic. Now it is primarily “back end,” or raw material hauling. The only exception being a few narrow gauge boxcars routinely get loaded with bags of talc at the Dust Mill to be transferred to the standard gauge.

Before, my layout was like a narrow gauge version of the Nelson & Albemarle Railroad. Now, it is a more “typical” quarry operation. The layout used to run into the shop and office for operational reasons. As my interest in operation cooled, I considered how I could remove those two sections and still have a nice layout in a nice space. Fortunately, I only have to make a few track revisions and no benchwork revisions in the layout room in order to pursue this new idea.