A Lost Industry in On30

Davis-Murdoch Stone Company

Creating a history of time and place


A shallow river winding through a rugged and remote gap in the Blue Ridge foothills passes through a pocket of industrial activity. A near imperceptible narrow gauge railroad grade extends from the ancient stone plant along the river past quarry sites, small crushers and stone mills, hydroelectric plants. The tram is a thin rust scratch through abrupt topography and encroaching foliage. Rusted iron and broken stone, gray timbers, mildew, mossy and old, cinders, worn concrete, slab ruins.
–Professor Cyrus P. Snodgrass, An Unsubstantiated Overview of Western Piedmont. E.I.E.I.O. Press

The Davis-Murdoch Stone Company

An imagined search through Nelson County for any remnants of a forgotten soapstone operation.


On my model railroad, I try to bring to life a fictional archaeology of time and place.

The Davis-Murdoch Stone Company’s narrow gauge railroad runs through an ancient landscape, marked by quarries, old mills, and small company towns. The route is strung together from research, correspondence, and recollections from years of hiking to abandoned industrial sites in the foothills of the Blue Ridge Mountains
Inspiration for Davis-Murdoch is drawn from evidence of the once thriving soapstone industry in the Blue Ridge Mountains of Virginia. The quarries were relatively small and the mills were compact with interesting architectural and mechanical details. Labor intensive, anachronistic, shop-worn industrial operations set in rural isolation provide unique inspiration as a modeling subject.
Plans are attempts to depict the historic precedent of the soapstone operations on a relatively small layout. A lot of thought is given to design and composition in order to fit the necessary elements of each scene into the space.
Projects are ongoing endeavors using a wide variety of technologies, media, and materials that go into building a functional model railroad.

The intimate world of obsessed amateurs: outwardly ordinary but inwardly focused, like addiction, on some private creative pursuit. Model railroaders, tattoo artists, trout fisherman, etc. Masters in their own chosen realm. A man's world: Grail Quest in an enchanted forest of gizmos. Passion breeds its own subculture, its own heros, its own literature and terminology, a whole vocabulary of shared mania.
–Michael Flanagan, Stations, An Imagined Journey, Pantheon