East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad


Building Turnouts

The revised track configuration for the Piedmont-Standard requires two new turnouts.

I initially assumed I would build the new turnouts in place and just drew the new shop siding on the plan without a lot of thought given to frog angles or track geometry.


It occurred to me to pull out my old Fast Tracks fixtures to see if I could use any of them to build the shop siding turnouts. Using the fixtures is preferable to building the turnouts in place since they make it much easier to maintain consistent dimensions and tolerances. I have built turnouts in place but it is a long process of fitting, adjusting, and tuning. FasTrack fixtures get me 90% of the way toward a reliable turnout and allow working at my bench rather than reaching over the benchwork.


My curved fixture with a #6 frog angle was close enough to what the shop siding needed for me to give it a try. Over ten years since the last time I used them, the instructions, tools, and materials still felt familiar and the process went fairly quickly.


I built the turnouts with overly long stock rails coming off to tie into the existing track work, hoping that would give me some "wiggle room" to splice new track into old.


Test fitting the new turnout for the shop siding west end.


New turnout for shop siding east end sitting on top of the old Ariel Church siding.

Installing Flex Track

Having decided to use cork roadbed for the standard gauge track, it was time to install it.


Liquid Nails adhesive was used with plenty of weight applied until it set.


And so it went with the new sections of Homasote roadbed.


Once installed, the new Homasote roadbed was painted dark gray to seal it.


Micro Engineering On30 code 70 flex track was installed on the hidden sections.


New and revised On30 tracks that are not hidden will be hand laid.

Standard Gauge Roadbed

My meager supply of leftover Homasote went toward new roadbed.

I was able to piece together sections of reasonable length to do the hidden tracks.


The long, straight standard gauge sidings would have required a puzzle of Homasote scraps, so another approach was needed. I had good results on the Railroad Display for the Quarry Gardens at Schuyler using Midwest cork roadbed and Atlas 2 rail O gauge flex track.


Setting some O scale cork roadbed in position with a stick of O gauge flex track on it did not look right to me. The cork roadbed appeared too wide, and the flex track did not have the look of an industrial siding.


Three strips of HO cork roadbed are narrower than two strips of O cork roadbed and appeared to be a better fit under O scale crossties.


I went with three strips of HO cork roadbed for the standard gauge sidings at the mill site, which will be hand laid to P:48 gauge.

Installing Roadbed

With the sub roadbed ready, risers were cut and installed

Spirit and line levels were used to set the height of new roadbed.

sub roadbed for hidden track along west wall

All new track is level, which made installation pretty straightforward.

Sub roadbed for hidden track in northeast corner

I had enough leftover Homasote scraps to piece together roadbed for the new tracks. For the most part, it was a simple matter to use the plywood sub roadbed as a pattern for cutting out Homasote roadbed.

Location of new locomotive servicing area

Locomotive servicing used to be in the northeast corner of the train room, but that is now the location of the transfer with the standard gauge Piedmont & East Blue Ridge Railroad. Narrow gauge locomotive service is now along the east wall near the junction with the northeast hidden track. I mocked up some small buildings to help visualize how the service facilities would fit in this small, odd shaped space.

The mainline runs between a company access road on the old Scale Track grade and the new engine shed

There was no new section of plywood sub roadbed that could be used as a pattern to cut out the Homasote roadbed for the new locomotive service track.

Full size plan of locomotive service area

I laid out a full sized plan of the new service track on the shop floor and used building mockups, locomotives, and rolling stock to make sure the plan was workable.

Full size planned positioned on layout

Once I verified that the plan was OK as is, I placed it in position on the layout. I was able to use the plan as a guide for cutting the Homasote roadbed for the new locomotive service track.

New roadbed for service track

Barely having enough leftover Homasote to try this one time, I carefully cut and fit the new roadbed.

Installing Subroadbed

Planning to revise the track layout, I noticed there were two thicknesses of plywood sub roadbed.

There were complex combinations of blocks splicing sections together, and it soon became apparent why.

Thick on top of thin to the left, and thin on top of thick to the right

The plywood for new subroadbed matched the thinner plywood that was used before. Masonite shims brought the level of the thin plywood up to a close match to the thick plywood.

A Masonite shim to raise up new thin plywood to match old thick plywood sub roadbed

A bridge girder taped to a flatcar helped determine the height of a loading dock that will have standard gauge tracks on one side and narrow gauge on the other.

Determining the height to make the standard gauge so floor level of cars matches the narrow gauge

The standard gauge track will be at a lower level in order to match up deck height with the narrow gauge.

Trackplan Revisions

Changing my On30 layout from the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge to the Piedmont-Standard Stone Company required making some changes to the track plan.

The most obvious changes were removing the extensions of the layout that went into my shop and my office. Those were pulled out a while back. The deletion of those two areas required making a few revisions to the track that remained in the train room.

Revisions to the East Blue Ridge to transform it to the Piedmont-Standard

When I lost the extensions, I lost a mill site that was in the office and a standard gauge transfer that was in the shop. On the Piedmont-Standard, the mill site and standard gauge transfer are combined. This is a more conventional arrangement, as it would have been more typical for the narrow gauge to provide transportation between the quarries and the mill. Finished products from the mill are loaded into standard gauge cars for shipment to the Outside World. On this revised layout, the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge Railroad has become the standard gauge shortline connection which is represented by two sidings that will end at a mirror in the mill complex, implying that they extend a few miles to the Southern Railroad at Aberdeen, Virginia.

Working out the placement for the new standard gauge sidings

The new mill site with its attendant new standard gauge sidings are on the layout where the locomotive service area used to be, so locomotive servicing had to be moved to the right a few feet, requiring a new track of its own. New track also includes the addition of two hidden tracks.

planning sub roadbed for hidden track along west wall

Even though the P&EBR version of the layout was larger, it had less hidden track than the Piedmont-Standard. I am not a big fan of hidden track, but I came to the conclusion that the track plan could benefit from the addition of hidden tracks that might enhance operation enough to make them worthwhile. One is along the west wall, the other runs along the east wall toward the northeast corner. These hidden tracks open up the possibility of operating the layout a number of different ways, which could come in handy if I ever host any more group op sessions.

There already was a hidden track in this corner, but it curved away from the wall in order to go through a hole in the wall to the office. The new hidden track stays straight along the wall.

To begin the process of adding track to the Piedmont-Standard, I cut patterns for the new sub roadbed from corrugated cardboard. Once the patterns had been trimmed and shaped to final size, I laid them on a sheet of 3/8 inch plywood and traced them.

Preparing to cut plywood sub roadbed

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.

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.

Returned Ballast

It has taken a long time for me to get tired of looking at my incomplete trackwork.


Most of my turnouts have been waiting a long time to have the copper clad crossties and throwbars painted.


My first few attempts at painting copper were unsuccessful due to the paint not sticking. A thorough search of my paint supplies turned up these Floquil paint markers. They came in a set called “structure weathering.” Colors included Weathered Concrete, Roof Brown, and Weathered Black.


The Floquil markers did an excellent job of coloring the copper. Since the markers are no longer available and I wasn’t sure it they would last once primed, I went ahead and painted all the copper crossties and throwbars on the layout. Hopefully I will have the opportunity to use them again before they dry up.


After the paint dried on the copper crossties, I ballasted the turnouts. This limestone ballast was crushed and screened for me by Gene Browning. Years ago I gave the ballast away after getting all my track laid, completely forgetting that I still had all the turnouts yet to do. I felt like an idiot having to go back and ask for my ballast back. It had been given away a few more times, but it miraculously found its way back to me. I mixed some sand and HO scale cinders in the limestone ballast and spread it very thin, sprayed it with a mixture of water and rubbing alcohol, then a mixture of water and matte medium.

Weigh Scale Track -1

Last month a few friends and I visited a layout that included weigh scales as part of the operation.
This got me to thinking about the scale I am planning to include on my layout.

I had installed the pad for the scale when I laid the track for Shops Yard, and used
Kit-O-Mat software to design the scale house.

My scale house is a slightly modified version of this chicken coup.

Referring to photos of the scale track at Rockhill on the
EBT, I determined that the “live” rails that crossed the scale were offset pretty far from the “dead” rails that heavy locomotives rode on to bypass the weigh scale mechanism. On the three foot gauge EBT, the rails were offset half the gauge from each other, or 18 inches apart. I tacked the rails down on my scale track to see what half the gauge, or 15 inch offset, looked like. That appeared to be pretty extreme, and I began to move the rails closer together until the offset between the live and dead rails “looked right” to me.

I ended up with a relatively small offset between the rails across the pad. Probably too small, but I wanted to be sure the offset did not adversely affect operation of cars being weighed on the live rails.

Even the lightest cars should not have a problem staying coupled and on the rails going over the scale.

With throwrods installed, completion of the scale track is waiting for delivery of servo switch motors.

Open for operation

The last section of track to be completed on the layout was complex, at least for me. I wanted to build it last so I would have plenty of experience going in.

A jungle of electrical connections were created under the roadbed. Hundreds of spikes were driven. There were mysterious problems with the stationary decoders.

The last section of track to be powered up was the scale track at the Ariel Church end.

Finally, the work train was pushed up into the town track and unloaded. The trackwork is done!

With wooden blocks filling in for soapstone boulders, the first stone train leaves Meridian Quarry.

The train swings around past the future location of the dust mill.

Rocking over the switches at Cove Quarry.

Up the long grade toward Ariel Church.

Past the Ariel Church town site.

At the yard, the Plymouth locomotive cuts off and runs into the locomotive service track.

The Mill Job pushes the loaded flats past the end of the yard.

The future site of Piedmont Mill, where an overhead crane will lift the soapstone boulders off the flatcars.


Lots of New Turnouts

A long expanse of new crossties stretched away from Ariel Church all the way to Piedmont Mill.

First order of business was to stain them and the Homasote roadbed a dull black with a heavy coat of ebony wood stain.

Once dry, the stain was sanded almost completely off the tops of the ties.

Once that mess was cleaned up, I went back and stained the tops of the ties with a random application of wood weathering gray solution, Floquil Driftwood and pickling stains.

Then ballast was spread over the roadbed, shaped and graded with a paintbrush, then soaked with a water and alcohol mix. While still wet, the ballast was saturated with diluted matte medium. Once that was dry, I used a single edge razor blade and dental pick to clean ballast off the tops of the crossties. A thin acrylic wash of dirt and mud tones was then applied to the ballast and ties.

I drilled an eighth inch hole down through the roadbed centered between the point crossties, and centered between where the rails would run over them.

This was used as a pilot hole for drilling a five eighths inch hole up through the subroadbed. I did not drill up through the Homasote. Once the hole was drilled up through the subroadbed, I went back up on top and elongated the pilot hole to the width of the larger hole underneath.

Six new Tortoise switch machines were tested prior to installation using a toy transformer.

I bent six actuating rods from the heaviest gauge piano wire that would fit through the #56 holes I had drilled in my turnout throws. I am afraid it might be too stiff, and cause undue strain on the throw solder joints. Time will tell.

Each Tortoise switch machine was attached under the subroadbed, first with just two screws to allow some adjustment, then with four screws tightened to hold it securely in place.

Each actuating rod was centered, then checked to make sure it was centered in the hole through the roadbed.

The turnout was then dropped down over the actuating rod. I slipped 1 mm thick styrene shims under the PCB ties near the throw to help reduce friction of the switchpoints rubbing across the wooden crossties when the turnout is thrown.

Track is being extended to connect the installed turnouts.

Lots of New Ties

With snow accumulating from one storm to the next, I have begun laying all the track remaining to be built in the area from Ariel Church to the Shops, and on to a connection with the Piedmont trackage.

My piano jig got a real workout, generating string after string of crossties for new track.

Long expanses of roadbed comprise a major portion of all the track on the layout. The seven turnouts required have all been built and are waiting to be installed.

Ties are custom cut to fit the three turnouts that lead to the locomotive servicing area.

This arrangement of three more turnouts lead to the RIP and scale tracks. Just beyond, the crossties for the locomotive shop track are glued and clamped.

Blue tape strings of crossties are dropped on the mainline roadbed. Just beyond is the RIP track, the locomotive service track, the fuel track, and way back against the wall is the hidden continuous run connection from Piedmont.

Gluing down the mainline ties. This latest tracklaying project ate up almost all the ties I had on hand.

Whose Idea was This?

Upon completion of the trackwork at Piedmont Mill, I was able to run trains through a hole in the wall between my office/shop area and the main layout room.

The track through the hole is hand laid, requiring the rails to be spiked to the wooden crossties by hand. As I spiked the rail down approaching the wall from both sides, it became apparent that there was a long stretch of track through the wall that was going to be very difficult to spike. The two factors conspiring to make track laying trouble were very poor access to the hole, and the shallow angle of the track through the hole.

Initially, I had quit spiking when it became aggravating to proceed any further through the hole. This left about 14 inches of track unspiked. Not long afterwards, trains began derailing in the hole. Once I got around to trying to fix the problem, the loose rails were back in gauge again. So, I guess I was lucky that I discovered early that the rails could not be left “floating” through the hole.

I ended up climbing up onto the layout and laying across the Shops Yard roadbed on my stomach, reaching into the hole with a pin vise to drill pilot holes, then inserting spikes with very thin pliers, then pushing them home with a nail set. The ”pushing them home” step of the procedure enjoyed about a 20% success rate. Eventually, the rails through the hole were spiked and glued securely, and I was left to look at the three other holes through walls that I plan to run hand laid track through.

Backing into Piedmont

Laying track in Piedmont started out neat enough.

The turnout at the far right was built in place. The other two turnouts were built in Fast Track jigs, then spiked in place. I installed the Tortoise switch machines while the turnout positions could still be adjusted.

The white cardboard inserts between the benchwork joists kept ballast from falling down into the cabinet underneath. But the cardboard had to go when I started pulling Loconet cable and dropping feeders to the buss wires. Consequently, much of what was in the cabinet had to be pulled out, and what remained got a good shower of ballast and sawdust.

Try as I might to keep the office clean, it soon degenerated into a typical construction zone with tools and parts everywhere.

Entry into Piedmont is currently only possible from the hidden track bypassing Shops Yard.

The second boxcar is on a section of roadbed that will be cut out for a bridge.

Setting my office right again is going to take a while.

Old ties, new rail at Piedmont

I am waiting on an order from Boulder Valley Models so I can continue building rolling stock. I thought I would fill the time by laying some more track.

This is the Piedmont Mill site. It is hard to believe that I glued down, sanded and stained the crossties on this part of the layout four years ago. At that time, I was just considering using Fast Tracks fixtures to build turnouts. Consequently, the trackplan had not yet been revised to include only “standard” turnouts. One of the turnouts in Piedmont is a little odd.

In the plan above, the red turnout is slightly curved. The diverging route radius is 24 inches, but the “straight” route is the beginning of a 24 inch radius reverse curve that leads to the Warehouse and Boilerhouse spurs. I bought a Fast Tracks fixture for building #4 wye turnouts, and I could have used one here. But the ties were already down, and I was in the mood to go ahead and build this turnout in place.

I used my Fast Tracks Point & Frog Jig to make a #6 point for this custom turnout. This worked out well, as the two routes out of the turnout follow the crossties nicely.

I gave myself a lot of “lead” between the frog and points, so the point rails came out long and either route through the turnout is smooth.

This is the first turnout a visitor will see when they enter the layout, and I think it came out fine. But I still much prefer using Fast Tracks fixtures to build turnouts.

A Major Tuneup

A train runs up the newly extended mainline. The unballasted section will eventually be cut out for a bridge.

When the mainline was extended to Ariel Church, it became clear that the P&EBR was ready to begin limited operations.

Entering the Town Track. Shops Yard will extend from this turnout over the crossties in the foreground.

Trains can use the hidden extension off the end of the Town track as a staging area for out and back operation.

The problem with this idea was the condition of the previously built handlaid track on the layout. I had been hasty to build and move on, and there were dead spots, dips and rises, and out of gauge sections throughout. Unreliable operation was one of the major factors leading to the death of my old Dry Fork layout. So I decided now was the time to do whatever it took to get the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge running like it should.

A close inspection of a variety of locomotives and cars running over all the track pointed up problems that required hours to resolve.

Watching and listening for clicks, rocking, binding, electrical dropouts. Running fast and slow, coupling light cars to heavy cars, long cars to short, pushing and pulling trains through all the turnouts.

Dozens of new electrical connections and hundreds of new spikes later, the railroad is almost ready for regular operations to begin.

Against the Wall

With enough Fast Track turnouts built to lay the entire Shops Yard, I determined the best place to start laying track was in the area with the worst access. That way I could lean on the Yard roadbed and use it as a shelf for tools and materials without fear of crushing anything.

There is a stretch of hidden track that will connect the Piedmont Mill trackage to the Town Siding at Ariel Church. This surreptitous connection creates a reverse loop, making continuous running of trains possible. It is not to be used during actual layout operations, so it will be hidden from view under the scenery. The connection it makes to the Mill trackage is through the hole in the backdrop shown above.

I used HO standard gauge flex track to lay the hidden connection along the wall. The handlaid track starts where the hidden track curves away from the wall, comes out from under the scenery, and becomes the Town Track siding.

The Town Track is ballasted with a mixture of Highball cinders, Pecos and Brazos limestone, and sifted sand and dirt from my neighborhood streets. I smooth and spread the ballast with an inch wide paintbrush.

Once graded, I wet the ballast down with an alcohol/water mix, then glue it down with a mixture of white glue, matte medium, and water. Once dry, I scrape down any high spots in the ballast, then paint it with a thin wash of earth tone acrylics.

I sanded a strip of cardstock into a wedge to raise the level of the flextrack up to the height of the handlaid. Then I started handlaying track toward the Town Siding switch. Once these rails are spiked down, I will install the Town Siding switch, and then extend the rails from it up the siding to make the connection here.

End the Year Laying Track

All this past summer, the end of the East Blue Ridge Railroad was at the first crossing of Buffalo Creek.

This winter, the track is being extended all the way up the hill and through Shops Yard.

The mainline crosses Buffalo Creek a second time, and then immediately enters the yard limits at Ariel Church. I built the two turnouts at the entrance to the yard, and cut Kappler switchties to fit.

Long hours have been spent hunched over the bench, assembling turnouts in Fast Tracks fixtures.

Cutting, bending, and filing rail, huffing solder smoke, and listening to long sets of John Fahey, Adrian Legg, and Laurence Juber.

The turnouts that form the opposite end of Shops Yard are built. Now I can "rough in" the alignment for the yard tracks.

Dust Mill Yard Complete

The mainline and sidings are finally in place and powered in the Dust Mill and Cove Quarry areas.

I was overly optimistic in estimating the time it would take to install, adjust, power, and program a long string of Tortoise switch machines and Hare stationary decoders. To the very last turnout I was dealing with connectivity and shorting issues. But, as of right now, it all works.

The dump cars on the elevated track are in position to be pushed out onto a trestle that will be built over the crusher at the Dust Mill. The waste stone will be dumped into the crusher, milled into powder, then bagged and stacked on pallets. The boxcars are spotted for loading on the Dust Mill siding. With two quarries and the Cutting Mill providing the Dust Mill with waste rock and cutoffs, the Dust Mill will be loading a lot of boxcars. A string of flatcars sits on the Dust Mill Yard track waiting to be consigned to a quarry for loading, and the Davenport is on the mainline pushing a pair of flatcars to Meridian Quarry.

I imagine this will be a busy spot on the railroad with plenty of work for a crew to do.

Jumping Ahead

Once the Tortoise, stationary decoder, and feeder wires were in, the road crew wasted no time loading Dust Mill yard with rolling stock.

For some reason, I decided that rather than continue to extend the track around the corner, I would jump over to the other side of the aisle, and start laying track back toward Dust Mill Yard.

Choosing to jump directly to Cove siding meant having to deal with some electronic issues sooner rather than later, since this turnout is the beginning of a reverse loop.

Dreaded Task Done

Ever since I included a custom curved turnout in the trackplan for the Dust Mill yard, I had been dreading the day when I would actually have to build it.

That day finally came as I extended the mainline around the end of the peninsula from Glade Junction.

I have built turnouts in place before, but few had come out well enough for me to be confident about building this one.

Once the turnout was in, I pushed a variety of rolling stock through the closed and thrown route, adjusting and filing until even short 4 wheel cars would roll smoothly over it.

Turnouts on a Curve

The crossties in the Cove area of my layout are Kappler 6 foot, and 6 foot 6 inch ties mixed

Five turnouts had to be built in order to get the track through the curve. Most of the turnouts are curved themselves, which complicated the placement of crossties.

Ties had to be custom cut and angled to carry the track along the curve.

The sets of crossties were then glued down in position.

Once all the crossties were glued and dry, I stained them with Olympia Ebony stain. After letting them sit overnight, I sanded almost all the ebony stain off the tops of the ties.

Once sanded, I stained the tops of the crossties gray using a random combination of Driftwood and Micro Mark's wood graying potion.

I then ballasted the roadbed. I used Gene Browning's Pecos and Brazos O scale limestone ballast, with some sifted sand and road dirt from my neighborhood streets mixed in. Gene's ballast is very clean and uniform. When I went to his house to pick up my order, I got to run trains on his layout. Great customer service!

The dust mill siding turnout before -

and after -

staining the ties and ballasting the roadbed.

Trackwork Extends to Cove

Gluing down crossties for the track around the end of the peninsula and into Dust Mill yard.

Fabricating more turnouts.

Crossties going in on the mainline and down the Cove Quarry siding.

Using the turnouts as a guide for placement of crossties at Cove Quarry.

When I revised the trackplan and eliminated the Apex Quarry track, I realigned the railroad grade in this corner. The track closest to the wall once led to the transfer yard in the next room. After the realignment, I planned on simply abandoning this grade, but have since changed my mind and will be using the grade for a loading spur.

Along Glade Creek

Recent construction has seen a proliferation of wires under the roadbed at Glade Junction.

I am using Tortoise switch machines to throw my turnouts, and TTE Hare II stationary decoders to control the Tortoises. My reasons for using the Hare stationary decoders are to reduce the clutter on the fascia, and hopefully incline operating crews to bring their train to a complete stop, throw the turnout, roll through, stop, close the turnout behind their train, and continue. On such a small layout, delaying operations with some prototypical ceremony is essential for slowing everything down to extend run times.

The little work train runs back and forth finding dead spots and confused frog wiring.

Here the work train is delivering new crossties to the railhead. Soon the line will be extended up Glade Creek to Dust Mill Yard.

Laying out ties for the first turnout in Dust Mill Yard. This is the only turnout on the layout I plan to build in place. All others will be built at the bench using Fast Tracks fixtures.

Start the Year Laying Track

It was last April when circumstances conspired against laying track on my layout. The delay gave me time to rethink the trackplan, and I think the modifications are a big improvement.

But now, 8 months later, I am again in my gandy togs to line some rail. The first order of business was to pull an extension to the power bus under the roadbed from Cove Quarry to Glade junction around the peninsula.

I am using stationary decoders to control my turnouts, so the power bus will be running both the track and the Tortoise switch machines.

At Meridian Quarry, I installed the Tortoise switch machine before I installed the turnout. I find it easier to slide the turnout around on the roadbed to make slight adjustments than to try to mount the switch machine precisely. I use a toy DC transformer with built-in rheostat and reversing switch to test the switch machine during installation.

Once I was happy with the operation of the switch machine, I dropped the Fast Track turnout onto it, adjusting it so center position on the switch machine centered the points of the turnout. Then I tacked the turnout in position with a few track spikes.

Rail is being spiked down on the Meridian quarry spur and Glade Junction wye.

Crossties and Ballast

Kappler Ties are glued and clamped down to the Homasote roadbed at Glade Junction

Then I rubbed the ties and roadbed down with Olympia Ebony stain.

Once dry, I sanded almost all the stain off the tops of the ties, vacuumed up the dust, then restained the ties with a mix of Olympia pickled white and Floquil Driftwood.

Next came ballast. I mixed up a quart of ballast using ancient Life-Like limestone ballast as a base. (Bought at Bob's Hobby Center on Cary Street for 85 cents back in the early 70's). The ballast was spooned onto the roadbed, then foam brushed into place. I soaked it with rubbing alcohol, then used a turkey baster to dribble on a mixture of water and white glue.

I am not happy with the look of the ballast. It has a strong blue/white cast that doesn't have the weathered and old look I want.

Fast Tracks Turnouts

One of the major shortcomings of my previous layout was the poor quality trackwork. There are a lot of important relationships in the geometry of a reliable turnout that evade my perception. Early on I was very careful in the construction of my hand laid turnouts, and they came out reasonably well. But with experience I became less careful, and made more mistakes.

The fixtures available from Fast Tracks address very directly the problems I had hand laying turnouts. All the angles and lengths are preset to exact standards. The fixtures themselves are extremely well made and easy to use

Here is my workbench set up for cranking out turnouts using Fast Tracks fixtures. Just out of the picture at the upper left is a small belt sander that makes quick work of shaping points and stock rails.

A completed turnout set in place at Meridian quarry. Three of these wyes will make up Glade Junction.

Homasote Roadbed

The Homasote roadbed is all trimmed out, and the pieces have been set in position to check fit.

Once I was happy how everything fit, I glued the Homasote down to the plywood subroadbed using Liquid Nails for Projects. Then anything and everything I could get my hands on to clamp the pieces together was brought to bear. First in the Shops Yard,

Then through Ariel Church.

The parade continues down the mainline to the Dust Mill site,

and around the peninsula to Glade Junction

and up to the end of track at Meridian Quarry.

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.

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.