East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Placing the Peninsula

Much of the space in the train room will be occupied by the peninsula which carries the railroad on a long loop.

The peninsula is an odd shape, which complicated cutting the pieces and joints. AND I laid it out on the floor to assemble upside down, which really strained my spacial conception capabilities.

Once the peninsula was assembled, I propped it up in position. I carriage bolted it to the existing benchwork. Legs were clamped in position, and diagonal braces were cut, glued and screwed in position.

Junk immediately began to accumulate under the peninsula as soon as it was in place.

A building or two

The structures on a layout should convey the theme of the operation. They should reflect the region and era being modeled. Small frame buildings are very common in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains, many of them dating back to a time before electrical service or automobiles were commonplace.

The ubiquitous small frame building was the subject of a scratchbuilding workshop given by Dan George. I built this HO scale tarpaper shed at Dan's.

When I switched from modeling in HO to O scale, I was very aware of how my small layout space would put serious constraints on the size of buildings. A rural narrow gauge railroad operation seemed to be conducive to keeping things small and compact, so I revisited Nelson County on the lookout for old, small, prototype buildings to model.

The tarpaper shed I built was precisely the kind of structure I was looking for. I just needed a way to scale it up from HO to O scale. My friend Chris Jessee at KingMill Enterprises was developing software that made it easy.

Using Kit-O-Mat software, I was able to create and order a custom O scale laser kit based on the HO scale shed. I put the order together one morning before I went to work. Kit-O-Mat offers an easy means of converting a sketch or photograph on my computer into a laser kit.

Searches along the backroads of Nelson County yielded a wealth of "model-genic" buildings, not the least of which was the old post office at Rockfish.

Close along the mainline of the Southern Railroad, Rockfish was once the western terminus of the Nelson & Albemarle Railroad. Chris Wiley, Chris Jessee, and I took many photos of the post office, since it was so ideally suited for what I was looking for.

Not long afterwards, I received a package from Kingmill Enterprises in the mail. Kit-O-Mat had struck again! Chris had sent me a kit for the Rockfish PO.

The kit was highly detailed, and even included the counters and sorting pigeon holes for detailing the interior.

Building this kit really challenged my inexperienced construction capabilities. I developed a new respect for modelers that can build a beautiful structure from a craftsman kit. Construction and finishing methods for high fidelity model building are an ongoing topic of discussion on the Railroad-Line Forums.

I am still not happy with how my raised seam metal roof came out, and I have not installed the interior, but these two models have shown Kit-O-Mat to be a practical tool for converting reference information into a scale model.

From Old to New

With the backdrop completely repainted, all that remains of my old HO scale layout is the brackets for the benchwork.

I am starting the New Year by modifying the brackets. My old benchwork was built in separate sections of box framing. The sections merely sat on the brackets along the wall, being connected to each other, but not connected to the support brackets or to the wall itself. I thought this might prevent stress and possible buckling on the layout by allowing it to "float" in the space. In practice this turned out to not be a good design. Sitting on widely spaced brackets did not provide enough support for the sectional benchwork, and the sections tended to warp or twist over time.

The first modification to the old brackets was to lengthen or shorten them as necessary to fit the depth of the new benchwork. I either cut the brackets, or added longer joists to the existing bracket depending on the situation.

I then added a stringer across the ends of all the brackets to tie them together on the front. The position of the front stringer reflects the eventual depth of the benchwork in that particular area.

Then I added another stringer connecting the backs of all the brackets, near the wall.

The addition of the two stringers to all the brackets increased the strength of each individual bracket, but more importantly increased the amount of bearing surface to support the new benchwork.