East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Nelson County - imagining

I gave my clinic on backdrop painting at the MER convention in Lynchburg on Saturday morning, and drove back to Richmond in the afternoon by way of a scenic route that took me through Nelson County.

Like many "prototype freelancers", I have traced the grade of my fictitious railroad operation on Geologic Survey maps. So I can actually "hike the grade" of the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge, taking reference photos and gathering dirt and rocks for my model railroad layout that came from areas immediately adjacent to where the tracks once ran.

Over the years, I have lost the ability to immerse myself in the fantasy of picturing something that never was. But late on an autumn afternoon, along the Rockfish, the trail hugging the riverbank, it suddenly became very easy to see the grade, hear the distant flange squeal of a short train winding through tight curves, smell oil and coal smoke, and believe that it all really did happen.