East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Installing Subroadbed

Planning to revise the track layout, I noticed there were two thicknesses of plywood sub roadbed.

There were complex combinations of blocks splicing sections together, and it soon became apparent why.

Thick on top of thin to the left, and thin on top of thick to the right

The plywood for new subroadbed matched the thinner plywood that was used before. Masonite shims brought the level of the thin plywood up to a close match to the thick plywood.

A Masonite shim to raise up new thin plywood to match old thick plywood sub roadbed

A bridge girder taped to a flatcar helped determine the height of a loading dock that will have standard gauge tracks on one side and narrow gauge on the other.

Determining the height to make the standard gauge so floor level of cars matches the narrow gauge

The standard gauge track will be at a lower level in order to match up deck height with the narrow gauge.

Trackplan Revisions

Changing my On30 layout from the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge to the Piedmont-Standard Stone Company required making some changes to the track plan.

The most obvious changes were removing the extensions of the layout that went into my shop and my office. Those were pulled out a while back. The deletion of those two areas required making a few revisions to the track that remained in the train room.

Revisions to the East Blue Ridge to transform it to the Piedmont-Standard

When I lost the extensions, I lost a mill site that was in the office and a standard gauge transfer that was in the shop. On the Piedmont-Standard, the mill site and standard gauge transfer are combined. This is a more conventional arrangement, as it would have been more typical for the narrow gauge to provide transportation between the quarries and the mill. Finished products from the mill are loaded into standard gauge cars for shipment to the Outside World. On this revised layout, the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge Railroad has become the standard gauge shortline connection which is represented by two sidings that will end at a mirror in the mill complex, implying that they extend a few miles to the Southern Railroad at Aberdeen, Virginia.

Working out the placement for the new standard gauge sidings

The new mill site with its attendant new standard gauge sidings are on the layout where the locomotive service area used to be, so locomotive servicing had to be moved to the right a few feet, requiring a new track of its own. New track also includes the addition of two hidden tracks.

planning sub roadbed for hidden track along west wall

Even though the P&EBR version of the layout was larger, it had less hidden track than the Piedmont-Standard. I am not a big fan of hidden track, but I came to the conclusion that the track plan could benefit from the addition of hidden tracks that might enhance operation enough to make them worthwhile. One is along the west wall, the other runs along the east wall toward the northeast corner. These hidden tracks open up the possibility of operating the layout a number of different ways, which could come in handy if I ever host any more group op sessions.

There already was a hidden track in this corner, but it curved away from the wall in order to go through a hole in the wall to the office. The new hidden track stays straight along the wall.

To begin the process of adding track to the Piedmont-Standard, I cut patterns for the new sub roadbed from corrugated cardboard. Once the patterns had been trimmed and shaped to final size, I laid them on a sheet of 3/8 inch plywood and traced them.

Preparing to cut plywood sub roadbed

Backdrop Painting

Going back around the backdrop and extending the tree/foliage pattern downward meant doing a passable job of matching painting I did 15 years ago.

To do that I dug up old notes and looked at old progress photos.


The new foliage only had to be good enough to not be distracting or draw attention to itself.


Since it was all down toward the bottom of the backdrop, a lot of it will eventually be hidden by 3-D scenery.


These revisions to the backdrop are going to give me a lot more flexibility when it comes time to design and install the sub scenery.

Downward Extension

The very first Construction blog entry on this website from December 2006 was about painting the backdrop.

At the time, I was preparing to host an Open House for the January 2007 Meet of the James River Division. At that Meet, I gave a clinic on backdrop painting, then invited attendees to my home to see my backdrop, which was the only thing to see in the train room at that time.

The bottom of the backdrop is high above rail height, and many areas are not completely painted.

Once construction of the layout progressed to scenery, it became clear that I had made a serious error in judgement regarding the backdrop. I painted it only as far downward as I assumed was necessary relative to the 3D scenery to be built in front of it, and my assumptions were incorrect. In general, the background tree and foliage patterns on the backdrop needed to be extended downward. There were places where the actual backdrop itself needed to be extended downward as well.


Strips of Masonite were used to extend the backdrop down to rail height or slightly lower in several areas.


The seams around the new extensions were spackled, sanded, then painted with white primer. Afterwards I dug out my acrylic paints. Also dug out the handouts from my backdrop painting clinic in 2006 to relearn the process of painting my backdrop.

New Paint

The Office Gets a Makeover


With holes patched and sanded, the drop cloths came out and the office was repainted the same Navajo White. 25 years ago Navajo White was a popular warm white. The current Navajo White is not the same hue. I had to specify that I wanted the "classic" version. I brought a can of the old paint with me to the store, which may have been older than the clerk who mixed the paint.


The new paint appears to be a good match to the old Navajo White still on the walls of the layout room.