East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

Rolling Stock

Troublesome Trucks

I cleaned all the rolling stock off my layout to work on scenery. Once I had made a little headway on scenery, I was ready to run trains again.

I matched up some car cards with some waybills, and started pulling the corresponding cars in preparation for staging the layout.


Looking at the cars laying on their sides like this made it apparent how many different styles and sizes of trucks I have on my rolling stock. The variety of trucks is far less apparent when the cars are sitting on the track, with low, wide side sills normally blocking the view of the trucks in the dark shadows under the car.

Still, I need to give thought to standardizing on some style of truck. I have enough rolling stock kits in inventory to completely restock my layout. Many of these kits do not have trucks. The time had come to do some research and decide what trucks and wheel sets to use for upgrading the fleet.


As an example, here is a pile of Foothill Model Works gondola kits that I am looking forward to getting on the layout. The natural choice for trucks on FMW kits would be MacLeod Western. There is no denying that MacLeod trucks are excellent, but they are far larger than any that I am currently using. I wanted to find a style of truck that would work with FMW kits, but looked more typical for my fleet.

As is usually the case, my narrow gauge modeling friends came through with some great suggestions. Their recommendation was that I take a serious look at Grandt Line On30 trucks.


Jeff Patelski gave me a pair of Grandt Line SR&RL On2 trucks that are On30 gauge. To go with the trucks, he also gave me some Reboxx HO wheel sets and Mount Blue Models brake beams. The trucks in the photo above are upside down show the MBM brake beams.


The combination of the Grandt Line On2 trucks and the Reboxx HO wheel sets put this Boulder Valley Models boxcar at just about the correct height.

Tom Sullivan gave me a pair of Grandt Line SR&RL On30 trucks, with the recommended NWSL wheel sets to go with them.


The combination of the Grandt Line On30 trucks and the NWSL wheel sets put this Foothill Model Works flatcar at just about the correct height.

The only difference between the Grandt Line On2 30 inch gauge truck and the On30 truck is the bolster height. So, using various combinations of wheel diameters and bolster heights, the Grandt Line trucks offer a range of possible car heights that in turn allow them to be used on a range of car kits. As an added bonus, the appearance of the Grandt Line side frame is generally similar to the
Bachmann On30 "low rider" truck, as well as the truck Bachmann uses on their 18 foot industrial rolling stock.

I was thinking I had discovered the perfect solution to my truck problem, until I actually tried to order Grandt Line trucks. They did not appear to be available from any of my usual sources. Eventually I called Coronado Scale Models in Phoenix. They said they had months-old backorders for Grandt Line trucks waiting for another run. I decided to get in the queue and placed an order anyway, not knowing when or if Grandt Line would manufacture On30 trucks again.

In the meantime, I searched the Internet for Grandt Line trucks. I found small quantities of them available from random sources. As time passed, I called Coronado to ask if they thought I should cancel my order with them and go scrounging. Sheldon said not to cancel the Coronado order. He was sure Grandt Line was going to make another batch of On30 trucks … sometime. He was confident it would happen, but had no idea when.

Sheldon was right. Grandt Line did indeed produce more On30 trucks, and a box containing my Coronado order showed up on my doorstep a few weeks later.

Easing into it

Determined to resume ongoing construction on my layout, I started off small.

I built this On18 Grandt Line mine car in time to include it on my module at the Greenberg Show in Richmond.

I plan to build a few On18 cars and a static locomotive to display on the short stretch of 18 inch gauge track on my James River Slate Module.

One of the items I bought at the Greenberg Show was this nice Backwoods Miniature Whitcomb shell. I bought it on speculation that I would be able to use my old HO scale Walthers SW-1 as a donor drive mechanism ... no such luck. The search for a donor continues.

I purchased a pair of flatcars a while back that I know very little about. If they were built from kits, I don’t recognize the manufacturer. While they look great, they did not track well.

The tracking problem was due to these unusual trucks. Their design allowed the sideframes to swivel on the ends of the bolsters. This
provided a rather sloppy approximation of equalization. I doubt if the wheelsets were the originals that came with the trucks, which didn’t help. The best way to provide rigidity to the sideframes would have been to add outboard brake beams, but I was not in the mood to figure out how to do that. Instead, I used gap filling CA glue to bond the sideframes to the bolsters ... problem solved. The flatcars are now in the paint shop for lettering and weathering.

A Combine for the Winwood Mixed - 1

The Winwood Mixed trains on my layout are the “bookends” of the operating cycle. The Morning Mixed starts the session off by gathering up westbound freight and commuting soapstone workers down by the river at Winwood, then making the run up to the company offices and depot at Piedmont Mill. At the end of the session, an afternoon Mixed train originates at Piedmont and rolls back to Winwood, hauling workers back home and loads to the transfer with the Chesapeake & Ohio.

I decided to use the
Bachmann Side Door Caboose as the starting point for my combine. This is a very nice model, with interior detail, opening doors, and plenty of weight for reliable tracking.

I disassembled the caboose and removed the cupola from the roof. I cut a sheet of scribed styrene and glued it to the roof to cover the hole where the cupola had been.

I painted the roof and underframe of the combine dark gray. After all the problems I had coming up with a satisfactory red for the Quarry Job caboose, there was no way I was painting the combine red. I settled on a dark blue green.

I applied decals and put the combine in service to look at it for awhile and decide how to proceed with the roof.

A Caboose for the Quarry Job-4

The Quarry Job caboose found its way back to the workbench for revisions. I did not like how high the caboose rode on its trucks.

Bachmann makes a Low Frame arch bar truck with 22 inch wheels. Using these trucks on the caboose brought it down to a level that looked much better to me. In order to use the low frame trucks, I had to make some minor revisions to the frame and coupler pockets. Cross members of the frame were notched to clear the wheels, and the stock coupler pocket was cut even with the bottom of the end sill. Kadee coupler pockets were glued in place.

With these adjustments, the new coupler height was perfect using the low frame trucks.

I repainted the caboose, easing up on the weathering a bit, and mixing some warm brown with the Roundel Red to reduce the brightness and reduce the purple/pink cast.

I am much happier with the color of the car, and like it rides down closer to the rails.

A Caboose for the Quarry Job - 3

I cleaned the dust off the body of the caboose with a stiff brush and a can of compressed air.

I used an Xacto #11 blade to scribe open the gaps between the individual siding boards, then applied an alcohol and ink wash. I painted the metal railings with Polly S Rust and Grimy Black. The truck frames were highlighted with a rust colored pencil.

I am generally not satisfied with how the caboose turned out. The Roundel Red strikes me as being too bright pink. The dust weathering I used is not very controllable, and came out too blotchy and uneven, as well as being too heavy overall.

I do not like how high the car rides, which is I did not notice before. So this caboose will eventually come back to the shop for more work.

A Caboose for the Quarry Job - 2

Continuing work on the roof of the caboose, I used matte medium to glue the kraft paper strips to the weathered wood deck.

I set the roof aside, and painted all the remaining parts of the caboose.

The trucks and wheel sets were brush painted
Polly S Rail Brown. I masked the windows, then spray painted the body of the caboose with light gray auto primer, the frame dark gray.

I brush painted the caboose Polly S Roundel Red. The frame and trucks were sprayed with fixative and coated with a mixture of soapstone dust and rottenstone. I glued a patch of rust painted paper on the roof to represent tin flashing around the base of the smoke pipe.

My stencils for cabooses have a letter “C” prefix. Lettering the Quarry Job’s caboose “C02” struck me as mildly amusing. I painted a dark gray rectangle on the sides of the body and painting the lettering within the rectangles in white.

Once lettered, the caboose body got the same dust treatment as the frame and trucks.

A Caboose for the Quarry Job - 1

The Quarry Job on my layout is the most complex of the three jobs required to run the railroad. The Quarry Job works many sidings and can be out on the line a long time. It seemed to me that the crew could make good use of a caboose rather than all crowd into the cab of a small saddletanker, or ride on the open cars in the weather.

I picked up a small Bachmann caboose for the use of the Quarry Job. Its no nonsense utilitarian simplicity seemed to fill the bill nicely.

After using the caboose a few times on the Quarry Job, it had a home. But I could not abide by its extreme “plastic countenance,” as it lacked the look of a rough handled piece of quarry railroad equipment.

I disassembled the caboose, only then realizing it had a detailed interior. I weighed my options and decided against developing the interior of the caboose. Eventually I will replace it with something scratchbuilt that may indeed have a fully detailed interior.

I want the caboose to have a worn tarpaper roof. I cut strips of kraft paper for tarpaper, then carefully sanded the edges to remove the crisp cut edges.

I cut whatever that thing is in the center of the roof off flush, and planked over the roof with coffee stirrers. I glued the wood strips to the plastic roof with clear caulk.

Hunterline weathering solutions were used on the coffee stirrers, and the ragged strips of kraft paper got a quick spray of dark gray primer.

Module Rolling Stock

I am working on a few freight cars for the JRD module group’s Atlantic & Danville Railroad

The cars are lettered with custom decals from
Shawmut Car Shops. They are weathered with Doctor Ben’s Weathering Pigments that I bought at the NNGC in Hickory last year. This is the first chance I have had to try them out.

These coal hoppers will be hauling freight at the
MER Convention at Suffolk, Virginia in a few weeks.

BVM Hopper Cars - 2

Once my Boulder Valley hoppers were primed, I lettered them.

My lettering scheme is very simple ... just a number on each side and on each end. I use laser cut stencils and acrylic craft paint to letter my rolling stock. My intention is for the numbers to appear to be hand painted by shop personnel, but not too messy or illegible. I stippled the paint through the stencil with a small, dry brush. Once the paint was dry, I removed the stencil and touched up as needed.

The primed and lettered cars were then sprayed with a heavy application of Testor’s Dullcoat lacquer, and immediately dropped in a box containing rottenstone and soapstone dust. The box was closed up and shaken to assure complete coverage. The cars were removed and allowed to sit for about an hour.

The loose dirt was knocked off the cars, then they were cleaned up with a relatively stiff synthetic paint brush and a can of compressed air.

I applied Bar Mills rust and weathering powders with a small brush, alternating between the rust powders, then going over the same area with grimy black to kill some of the brightness in the rust colors.

The car on the left has had the rust and black powders applied. The car to the right has had the powders applied and also received an alcohol and black ink wash. Very little ink is necessary in the wash, as the powders provide most of the toning.

Very little of the Bar Mills powder is necessary. Very light touches of color will show up pretty intensely on the model. The alcohol wash will blend and knock back the colors to a degree. The alcohol also attacks the Dullcote varnish, causing it to randomly haze and cloud.

After the alcohol and ink wash, I sprayed the cars with fixative and repeated the dust application. Less dust sticks to the cars when they are sprayed with fixative than with Dullcote.

After cleaning, enough dust remains on the cars to blend the coloring and highlight the details.

I tapped and drilled the underframes for Kadee number 58 couplers. The coupler boxes fit nicely into the pockets once the “ears” are trimmed off.

This view shows the enclosures under the slope sheets that contain the buckshot, and the brake wheels applied.

The cars are ready for service on the P&EBR. I used BVM trucks and wheelsets which track very well and put the couplers at precisely the correct height.

In hindsight, the weathering procedure I used on these cars was messy, and probably should have been done outdoors. I had quite a mess to clean up at my modeling bench after these cars were completed.

These were my first resin kits. BVM’s parts were precise and clean and the instructions were excellent, making these cars a good project for a beginner.

BVM Hopper Cars - 1

Several years ago I purchased a Two-Pack of Boulder Valley Models hopper cars from John Weigel. I had no real experience building resin kits, so the unopened box sat on my shelf for a long time.

In the meantime I completed the trackwork on the P&EBR, and began running trains. In order to move coal from the transfer with the Chesapeake & Ohio to the mill and shops at Piedmont, I needed some hoppers. I finally opened the BVM kit and scrubbed all the resin parts with soap and water.

All the parts of the kit were well made, and the instructions were excellent. Being inexperienced at this, I followed the instructions pretty precisely. One of the early steps in construction is installing all the wire grabirons, which required drilling mounting holes in the car sides.

The carbody was built up from the frame. I found a flat, steel work surface helpful for making sure all parts were aligned while the glue set. I used ACC “slow cure” glue to assemble the cars. If this was “slow”, I would hate to see “fast”! I only had about 10 seconds of wiggle time before the parts were bonded together permanently.

Once the carbodies were complete, I began assembly of the hopper doors. I found the quick grabbing glue particularly troublesome as I was trying to adjust and align the position of the doors.

With the bodies of the hoppers close to completion, it occurred to me that they were very lightweight, and there was nothing in the instructions about adding weight.

My single major departure from the assembly instructions was to add two small enclosures to each car. I used styrene sheet to add a small floor and wall to the frame directly below the slope sheets.

Inside each of the enclosures I caulked a line of buckshot in place. The shot are small enough to not interfere with the placement of the slope sheets, and they add a considerable amount of weight in a very inconspicuous location, lowering the center of gravity of the cars as well.

Before installing the slope sheets, I spray painted the cars with dark gray primer. I also primed the BVM trucks I had purchased and assembled for these cars, and blackened the wheelsets in Micro Engineering Rail Weathering solution.

It was when I was fitting the slope sheets in place that I realized the end sections of the cars were slightly warped. I had to do some creative filing and sanding in order to get tight joints where the slope sheets met the car ends.

The cars were ready for lettering and weathering.

Rock Cars

The Piedmont & East Blue Ridge is an industrial roadroad serving several quarries, Consequently, it will haul a large volume of stone. I needed a few cars suited for hauling broken waste stone, and Chivers 20 foot ore cars seemed to fill the bill.

These are gable bottom gondolas built on the standard Chivers flat car as a base. Construction of the styrene carbody was straightforward. I sprayed it with black automobile primer, not worrying too much about getting complete coverage.

The gable bottom of the car has gussets underneath lifting the center of the floor just enough for a row of #3 steel buckshot to fit under it. On top of the floor I glued down a new paper floor with seam and rivet detail embossed in it. The floor was spray painted auto primer rust with black overspray.

I have built enough pairs of Chivers trucks now that I am getting reasonably good results. These came out free rolling, and the brake hangers are pretty straight. The wheelsets are painted scale black and the frames are sprayed primer rust.

The cars got a rough, almost sloppy lettering job. Contrary to appearances, I did use stencils.

The cars and trucks were soaked with a heavy coat of fixative, then dumped in a box of soapstone powder and shaken.

After the fixative had time to dry, I used a brush to knock all the loose powder off the cars and trucks. All metal parts received a wash of Rust-All, and the trucks were touched up with black Bar Mills weathering chalk. Then the cars got an overall wash of 91% isopropyl alcohol and india ink.

Trucks and couplers installed, the cars are ready for stone service on the railroad.

Work Caboose - 4

After testing the fit of all the pieces, the flatcar and cabin received their initiation. I sprayed them with matte fixative, and while they were still wet I dumped them in a box of soapstone dust and rottenstone.

I throughly coated the car parts with dirt, and let them sit long enough for the fixative to dry. Then I cleaned the parts with a cheap 1 inch paint brush, removing all the loose dirt.

The parts then got brush painted with rust details, and received several earth tone and ink washes. I glazed the window with acrylic.

I cut a square of leftover roofing and sprayed it lightly with red oxide primer to make it look like cheap tin flashing, and used it for the smokejack.

Brass wire was used for grabirons and the brakestem. Trucks and couplers were highlighted and installed.

Lead weight on the floor in the cabin lowered the center of gravity of the car and make it less prone to tip and rock. The crate and old tires are an HO scale flatcar load.

The work caboose is ready for service on the P&EBR.

Work Caboose Construction - 3

Once the roof was warped, I decked it with stripwood, shot it with gray primer, then brush painted gray and earth tone stains on the individual boards.

Then I sprayed kraft paper on both sides with black primer. I cut the paper into strips about 3 scale feet wide, then trimmed pieces to paper the roof.

I sanded all the cut edges off the pieces of kraft paper, and glued them to the roof with matte medium.

I brush painted the cabin for the work caboose Rondel Red, with a little gray mixed in toward the bottom of the siding. I sprayed the interior of the cabin and the floor black. I brush painted gray and earth tone stains on the individual deck and sideboards of the car.

I wanted the lettering on the car to be simple, and to appear to be done by hand. I used a stencil set made for me by Chris Jessee at KingMill Enterprises to paint the number on the car.

Here are the various parts of the car loosely fitted; the roof is sitting on the cabin, the cabin is sitting on the car, and the car is just sitting on the trucks.

Work Caboose Construction - 2

I added some stripwood framing to the window,

and stripwood slats for the sideboards.

I used CA glue to attach the wooden slats to the plastic side posts.

A scribed sheet was provided in the Cache Creek kit for the roof. I wet it and bent it around a can to warp it to match the curve at the top of the end walls.

Once the sideboards were dry, the flatcar got another shot of primer. I painted the inside of the cabin black, and the trim on the cabin Armour Dark Green.

Starting on Car Construction

I find the trucks to be the most difficult part of building a Chivers kit. I deviated from the instructions a bit and used a great construction tip I saved off Geren Mortensen’s old On30 forum. Once assembled, the trucks are very free-wheeling and look great.

The sideframes of Chivers flatcars have the posts and pockets molded on, so I cut and sanded them off where the Cache Creek structure will slide down over the sides.

I discovered that a block from a 2 x 4 stud fits exactly between the sideposts, making a nice jig to hold the car while assembling the underframe.

The hardest part of assembling the underframe is threading the trussrods over the queenposts and under the bolsters.

Moving on to the Cache Creek resin caboose, I found this clamp in my tool drawer. It is really the bomb when it comes to holding the walls together at the corner for gluing.

Fast setting CA glue and the right angle clamp had the caboose body together in no time.

A test fit of the Cache Creek caboose on the Chivers flatcar.

Supply Car Kitbash

As I created the paperwork for operating the Piedmont & East Blue Ridge, I included waybills for “Less than Carload Lot” freight and merchandise to be picked up at the Winwood connection with the C&O Railroad. LCL would best be handled by a small box car or a passenger car with a freight compartment. The P&EBR did not have a car that fit this description.

I dug through my collected kits, and found a small Cache Creek resin 10 ft. supply car. I opened it up and spread the parts out. The issue that immediately struck me was the underframe. Not sure what wheelset and coupler combination would yield the correct coupler height, I decided to build the frame of the kit first.

Inserting wheelsets into the castings and holding the whole thing together with a rubber band, a problem became apparent. All four wheels were not touching the railhead. A small bearing hole in one of the castings was out of line.

For a modeler with more experience and the right tools, this might not present a serious problem, but I am not prepared to deal with this sort of thing. So I began to search for alternatives for a car to be used to haul LCL freight.

At about this time, the Railroad Lines Forums started a Rolling Stock Challenge. Many of the initial posts were suggestions for building some sort of maintenance or crew car. This got me to thinking about mixing and matching parts of different kits to come up with the car I needed.

Casting about through the kits I had on hand, I discovered that a Chivers flatcar deck was precisely the width of the structure from the Cache Creek kit. This opened up the possibility of building a unique car out of two kits.

Combining the Chivers flat car with the Cache Creek supply car may provide the P&EBR with a solution to its LCL problem, and also provide the maintenance crews with a tool car.

Chivers Flatcar

My first On30 kit is a Chivers 20 foot flatcar from International Hobbies.

I was initially not aware that the stakes were molded into the stake pockets. I decided to put add low sideboards and trim the posts short. Some cast metal barrels, nail kegs, and other details in the car with add some needed weight.

The next kit on the bench was a Cache Creek work caboose. Just after I started on it, the weather here in central Virginia turned unseasonably cold, too cold to spray paint outside. So the caboose has been put away for the time being, and the crews are back to laying track.

First flatcars

The first flatcars out of the company shops

I used soapstone powder to weather these Bachmann flatcars. I could use some practice in order to gain more control over the effect.

Something to Run

With a considerable amount of the track in place, it was becoming apparent that I had nothing to run on my new layout.

I am beginning to put together a freight car fleet for the P&EBR. The first flatcars and boxcars are Bachmann ready to run. Once I have some painting and weathering experience, I will advance to Chivers and Boulder Valley kits.

I am trying to come up with a simple, repeatable process that yields acceptable results. Particularly in the case of ready to run models, I would like to have an assembly line approach that does not require a great deal of individual attention being given to the paint and finish.

This initial test flatcar came out reasonably well without a lot of effort. The most aggravating part of the process was applying decals. I think I will create art for polyester stencils to be laser cut by Kingmill Enterprises.

Arkansas Railroad Supply

As trackwork progresses, I am spending more time thinking about the operation of the layout. This will require more rolling stock than I currently have on hand.

I was fortunate enough to have the opportunity to purchase some models from Bill Davis. Bill is an outstanding modeler whose work is often associated with Tom Yorke Studios. I purchased this Porter Diesel model from Bill.

It is a Tom Yorke resin kit built on a Bachmann Trolley power truck. Bill did an incredible job of detailing and finishing this model.

I purchased one of these kits myself along with a Trolley donor, but have not started on it yet. I will be using Bill's model as a reference.

I also picked up this little flatcar from Bill. It is the first in a large fleet of flatcars that will be hauling stone on the East Blue Ridge.