East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Layout Tours

On30 in Virginia

I had a great time visiting a few On30 modelers and their layouts this month.

Tom Sullivan


Tom has gotten a lot done on his new layout. This one has a Maine two foot theme.


The layout has numerous operational focal points, with plenty to keep operators busy.


I was impressed by how much historical information Tom is incorporating into the operation of this layout. As we discussed possibilities for managing operations, I learned a great deal about the two foot railroads.


Train time in Albion. The local crew has a few sidings to work, and will have to turn the locomotive and combine for the return trip.

Ashe Rawls


I am lucky to have Ashe as a neighbor. His new layout is a source of inspiration for me and everyone who visited during the Module Meet last March.


Ashe has a real knack for building structures. His layout is an excellent vehicle for displaying his talents.


A great source of tricks and tips, Ashe is always trying new techniques and materials.


His layout is covered with highly detailed craftsman kits, and he is finishing up a big scratchbuilt sawmill with a complete interior.

Mike Nataluk


Mike is well along in building a large layout that has modular benchwork


Mike has brought his considerable modeling experience and vast collection of shop tools to bear on my kitbash conundrums.


Mike and I both like to run smaller locomotives and rolling stock on our layouts. He has collected and built a wide range of smaller equipment.


Very impressive little geared steam locomotive models populate his engine facilities.


Mike also has an eye for creating little narrative scenes on his layout.


I enjoyed looking through Mike’s collection of unpublished information about Maine two foot narrow gauge railroads.

Lycoming On30 Summer Meet

Janet and I took a long weekend roadtrip to attend Al Judy’s On30 Meet in Milton, Pennsylvania.

I chose a route to Lycoming County that bypassed Northern Virginia traffic and sent us through Orbisonia, Pennsylvania.

Though not in operation, the EBT is still an amazing thing to see.

We stopped at the East Broad Top yards at Rockhill Furnace.

We were both impressed with the beauty of rural central Pennsylvania; big farms in rolling valleys.

Downtown Williamsport and the Susquehanna Valley.

Having never been to Williamsport, we were impressed with the
Genetti Hotel and surrounding neighborhood.

The Lycoming On30 meet was a lot of fun. There were tables and table of items available to spend money on, and I’m afraid I took full advantage of the opportunity.

Al Judy’s module

Alan Carroll’s fantastic 2-10-4 Forney

Steve Sherrill’s Dead Rail modules

We also got to see an On30 layout in a museum at the old resort town of Eagles Mere.

The layout features scenery depicting actual points along the line

The layout portrays the old narrow gauge railroad that once climbed the mountain to reach several large resort hotels.

Al was kind enough to open his
home layout for us to see.

The Mill Creek & Lycoming

All in all a fine weekend of scenic views, great hospitality, and model railroading.

Shady Grove & Sherrill - II

Ted and I took a long look at Steve Sherrill’s layout at the West Virginia Mini Meet.

Ted had not seen the layout before. He brought a lot of details to my attention that I lost track of over my visits.

Steve’s layout impresses me for several reasons. Back when I was regularly driving around on the backroads of West Virginia to see the sights, I would stop in small towns like Philippi, Belington, or Lewisburg, looking for things that tied the town to the setting. If, on one of my trips, I had driven down an alley behind a block of old warehouses and stumbled upon a small narrow gauge railroad yard crammed in between old industrial buildings, I would have had a heart attack and happily died on the spot.

The SG&S is that Holy Grail found, or at least a model of it.

The layout does an excellent job of depicting a small rail operation that follows an improbable route along creeks and rushing rivers to connect small lumber and mining operations to the outside world.

The layout has an overall look that consistently reflects the setting and operational concept.

It is an excellent portrayal of obscure industrial history, which is what Ted and I want our layouts to be.

And it all looks achievable. Not a collection of master models all built to “stand alone” standards, it all works as whole, depending on the context to imply the missing details.

When the time comes for my annual visit to the SG&S, I have a new list of current issues I am dealing with on my layout. So, I am looking looking closely at a different list of specific situations to see how Steve handled it.

West Virginia Mini Meet

This past weekend Ted and I attended Steve Sherrill’s Mini-Meet in Ranson, West Virginia.

A Gordon North kitbash

Steve’s Meet brings together a very diverse group of modelers with one thing in common; an interest in On30.

The On30 theme extends the focus of the Meet into the kind of inventiveness and creativity pioneered by
Gordon North.

For someone like myself who has a lot to learn about building a layout, the Meet provides an excellent opportunity to get questions answered.

A wide range of models were on display. Modelers in attendance were ready to give pointers and discuss their experiences working with everything from resin casting to electronics to 3D printing.

I came away with a new appreciation for the possibilities of On30, and enthused to try something new.

A model railroad pulls together such a broad range of disciplines that there is always more to learn.

Shady Grove & Sherrill - I

Last month I attended Steve Sherrill’s On30 meet.

The highlight of the day for me was getting to see Steve’s model railroad again.

It had been years since I had seen it last, and Steve had made some major revisions in the meantime.

Steve’s SG&S was the first On30 layout I ever saw in person. I was in HO scale back then, just considering changing scales.

Steve took the time to look at my proposed trackplan, and suggested that it could depict an industrial narrow gauge if I simplified it.

A simple layout can be very interesting to operate, and the priorities of building the layout shift to actual modeling.

The trick becomes determining the point at which you are getting the most impact from the least elements.

Seeing Steve’s modeling, and hearing his “get the most out of the least” philosophy convinced me to switch scales.

I must say that Steve Sherrill does not exactly practice what he preaches, as his SG&S layout is big and complex, going pretty far beyond what I would consider the minimum necessary to be operationally interesting.

I appreciate Steve’s generosity, both to me personally and in promoting On30 modeling in general.

The Sundance Central

I attended the National Narrow Gauge Convention in Hickory earlier this month.

A highlight for me was the opportunity to see the Sundance Central layout. This large scale display is beyond superlatives, but what I find most incredible about it is that the SC is both highly detailed and portable.

Walking around the perimeter of the layout, I paid particular attention to the small scenes that had been created on the fringes of the rail operation.

They created an atmosphere that very effectively pulls the viewer into the scene.

Lighting and scale figures are used to emphasize and attract attention to particular compositions.

When I saw these little scale people, I would try to interpret what they doing, exactly the same way I would analyze the motivation of real people.

In this way, looking at the Sundance Central was somewhat disorienting, since for brief moments I would forget the difference between model and reality.

For me, the Sundance Central epitomized the attraction of modeling narrow gauge.