East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad


Pulling Up Winwood

Out of another room

The entire surface of the Winwood shelf was Homasote. I wanted to save and possibly reuse it.

Scraping up the track and ballast was messy but didn't cause much damage to the Homasote.

Track and Homasote roadbed were cut at the holes in the wall.

The Homasote was secured to the plywood subroadbed by a few drywall screws. Once it was removed, I had a nice shelf that will remain in place.

Turning the Corner

The pace of demolition is slowing, and some repairs are made.


The hole where the Mill Lead tracks used to go through the wall of the train room into the office is plugged and being patched for new paint. I am giving thought to reinstalling the pocket door that had to be removed when I extended the roadbed through the wall here.


The hillside that was to be the talc loading operation has been removed. After all the sketching and mocking up and hand wringing that went into that scene, it has been deleted. The new focal point on the layout in this area will be about where the glue bottle is sitting. A nondescript wooded slope will be behind it.


Trimming the rear scenery profile down to its revised height revealed an ancient petroglyph on the backdrop.

On30 Railroad That Shrinks - 4

Demolition continues in the train room

Skeletal remains of Piedmont ready for the scrap pile

Without the Piedmont or Winwood sections, traffic volume on the remaining layout will be reduced, which in turn will reduce the need for siding tracks.

The rails are pulled from the Scale Track. This long siding came in very handy over the years when Shops Yard became congested.

Lifted turnouts are piling up, as are the pulled track spikes in the square container.

Ties are scraped off the Homasote roadbed. The Scale Track is history.

On30 Railroad That Shrinks - 3

With the Piedmont section of the layout removed from my office, demolition began in the Shops area of the layout.

The sub roadbed was cut back to the new end-of-track.

The continuous run connecting hidden track was pulled up . . .

And the roadbed removed.

Rails were pulled in the locomotive service area and that section of the roadbed was cut away.

The new mill site and standard gauge transfer will go along this wall to the corner.

On30 Railroad that Shrinks - 2

As much as removing the Winwood shadowbox seemed like the right thing to do, I was even more determined to remove the Piedmont section of the layout from my office.

Breaking the electrical, track, and roadbed connections between Piedmont and the main body of the layout was easier than I expected.

The Piedmont section of benchwork was soon removed from the cabinets, where a section of one layout or another had been for 20 years

Next task was to remove the backdrop, also done quickly and easily.

After wall repairs and painting, my office will have a lot more space available.

The On30 Layout That Shrinks

I can remember when Kalmbach Publishing released this book:

HO Railroad that grows

The assumption being that a bigger model railroad was a better model railroad.

After working in my shop for a few years on a big project, I started getting the impression that my layout was too big. There were terminal sections in two rooms adjacent to the room the layout occupied. Operationally, extending the layout into the office and shop was a great idea, and that was how things remained for over 10 years. During that time, I saw my entire shop building's primary purpose as being to house the layout, with some space allocated for other things.

Over the last year I could not operate the layout at all, spending all my shop time constructing a display for a garden in Nelson County. When time allowed me to once again turn on the track power and run some trains, I found I had gotten out of the mood to operate, and was much more interested in building. There would be plenty to build in the train room alone. I considered deleting Winwood and Piedmont, and operated the layout as if they were gone. The truncated track plan still accommodates a reasonable amount of interesting operation, and I could have a lot more free space in my office and my shop.

Winwood no backdrop
Winwood loses its backdrop

Initially, I had been planning on making revisions to Winwood that required rebuilding the shadowbox. But when I took the old shadowbox down, I decided I liked the shop better without a Winwood shadowbox at all.

Winwood no shadowbox
Winwood loses its shadowbox

So the demolition began, and is currently in full swing.

Main Line Grade

Once the position and roadbed of the two complex areas had been secured in place, the time came to connect them with a winding mainline.

The mainline is a simple single track that connects the yard at Shops with the yard at the Dust Mill. I waited until last to build the mainline so it could be adjusted to fit, both horizontally and vertically, since The Shops Yard is at the top of a grade.

The curves have been determined and the subroadbed cut out. Risers were cut to establish the grade up the hill from the Dust Mill to the Shops.

Setting track level

I want to use the same hole through the wall to access the staging area in the garage that I used previously with my HO scale layout. Now being in O scale, the height of the hole is somewhat restrictive, so I need to keep the track low through the hole.

Once the track height through the hole in the wall was determined, I used it as the height for all the track on this section of the layout. The height for all the roadbed risers was set using a string and line level.

Once the height of all the risers was determined, I used the subroadbed to locate them on each joist.

The location of the subroadbed was in turn checked by placing the roadbed on top of it to make sure everything was lined up from the track down.

Shops Yard in place

The height of the risers for Shops Yard put the rail height at the same level as Piedmont on the other side of the wall.

This same track level carries on through Ariel Church to make switching and spotting cars easier in this area.

Once the risers were all in, the subroadbed and roadbed were glued down in position.

Track 1 is the Scale Track. The scale will be in the short tangent between the long S curves.
Track 2 is the Yard Lead. This track eventually continues to Piedmont and the mill.
Track 3 is the Town Track. This track will be adjacent to the town site of Ariel Church. and will be the holding track for maintenance of way equipment, rail cars, or whatever the Shops Yard crew wants to keep out of the way. The Town Track will be hidden from view from the sharp curve to the left and on down the length of the wall, where it becomes the Back Lead for switching Piedmont Mill. When operating the layout "for keeps", the Back Lead and Town Track are considered to be two separate spurs. When running the layout for show, this hidden connecting track will allow continuous lap running.

In the Carport

I wanted to lay out my full sized prints of the Shops Yard trackplan flat. The only place big enough was the carport.

Once the tiles of the trackplan were taped together, I laid the sections of homasote roadbed on top of it to see if the butting edges needed to be trimmed.

The roadbed sections fit well on the trackplan. I used them as patterns to cut out the plywood roadbed. I took care to not have the joints in the subroadbed fall near the joints of the roadbed.

Once the subroadbed was cut out, it was in turn checked on the trackplan for fit.

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.

Placing the Peninsula

Much of the space in the train room will be occupied by the peninsula which carries the railroad on a long loop.

The peninsula is an odd shape, which complicated cutting the pieces and joints. AND I laid it out on the floor to assemble upside down, which really strained my spacial conception capabilities.

Once the peninsula was assembled, I propped it up in position. I carriage bolted it to the existing benchwork. Legs were clamped in position, and diagonal braces were cut, glued and screwed in position.

Junk immediately began to accumulate under the peninsula as soon as it was in place.

From Old to New

With the backdrop completely repainted, all that remains of my old HO scale layout is the brackets for the benchwork.

I am starting the New Year by modifying the brackets. My old benchwork was built in separate sections of box framing. The sections merely sat on the brackets along the wall, being connected to each other, but not connected to the support brackets or to the wall itself. I thought this might prevent stress and possible buckling on the layout by allowing it to "float" in the space. In practice this turned out to not be a good design. Sitting on widely spaced brackets did not provide enough support for the sectional benchwork, and the sections tended to warp or twist over time.

The first modification to the old brackets was to lengthen or shorten them as necessary to fit the depth of the new benchwork. I either cut the brackets, or added longer joists to the existing bracket depending on the situation.

I then added a stringer across the ends of all the brackets to tie them together on the front. The position of the front stringer reflects the eventual depth of the benchwork in that particular area.

Then I added another stringer connecting the backs of all the brackets, near the wall.

The addition of the two stringers to all the brackets increased the strength of each individual bracket, but more importantly increased the amount of bearing surface to support the new benchwork.