East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

February 2007

From Plan to Roadbed

I built the benchwork referring to scale printouts of my trackplan. Once the benchwork was complete, I printed out my trackplan full sized, trimmed each piece out to fit the benchwork, and laid it all out in place.

I was interested in trying to get an overall idea of the proportions of the parts for the trackplan. Were the sidings the right length? Was the servicing area big enough?

These concerns over getting the general impression of the railroad right rested on several issues.

Primarily, I had never modeled in O scale before, and had not developed a feel for how much space would be required to portray the scenes I wanted to include on the layout. I wanted to err on the side of allowing too much space. To aid in visualizing the layout as being an O scale model, I built a mockup of the completed layout using the trackplan as a basis.

Secondly, I was concerned that the layout went through all the initial plan and design phases with the assumption that it would be an HO layout of a West Virginia coal and lumber operation. Once I decided to model a soapstone operation in On30, I made very few alterations to the plan. So, when I looked at my trackplan, I could still see it as an HO standard gauge layout. Steve Sherrill helped me understand the operational differences between HO and On30. My previous layout had suffered from not giving an accurate impression of the operation I was trying to model, and I did not want to make the same mistake again.

I didn't see any glaring problems with the full sized trackplan laid out on the benchwork. I thumb tacked sections of the full sized trackplan printout to sheets of Homasote, and transferred the trackplan to the Homasote by tracing over it with a pounce wheel.

Adjoining sections of roadbed were trimmed for a tight fit at the joint.

Joists and Splines

Joists were going in on the benchwork stringers. The joists provide support for the risers that will determine the height and grade of the roadbed itself. Since there were places along the line where I did not want a riser to be interfering with the space under the roadbed, I had to plan the placement of the joists accordingly. Primarily I did not want a riser to occupy a space where I would eventually need to install a Tortoise switch machine. On the other hand, I never wanted the risers to be farther than 16 inches apart. Keeping both these placement priorities in mind required some joists to be closer together than others.

As for the length of the joists, I planned to cut them the correct length and angle across the end so that the fascia could be attached directly to them. The Masonite fascia will curve continuously along the benchwork. To help determine the position of the curved fascia, I used a spline that I clamped to the front of a pair of joists on either side of the curve.

The spline is a nylon rib used for making Roman shades. Steel pins can be inserted in holes drilled down the ends of the rib to extend the length. With the spline clamped to the end of two joists on either side of an area where the fascia would be curved, I could use it as a guide for cutting the length and angle of all the joists within that curve.

Here the spline is being used to determine a curve for the fascia that will just miss the benchwork behind it.