East of the Blue Ridge

Chronicles of an On30 quarry railroad

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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

A Place for Everything

For years I made frequent trips to the Quarry Gardens at Schuyler

I worked on the Railroad Display in the Visitor Center there.

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Still in Quarry Garden mode one year later

While at the Visitor Center, I would compile a list of items I needed to bring with me on my next trip. Back in my shop, I stocked a shelf rack with the tools and supplies that regularly showed up on the list. The night before heading back to Schuyler, I would use my list to pull what I needed and load the blue box at the bottom of the photo. Upon my return I would unload the box back onto the shelves.

One year after the last trip I made to the Quarry Gardens to work on the Railroad Display, the shelf rack and blue box still looked like I was planning to go back to Schuyler the next morning.

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What a pile of stuff!

The day finally came to clear the shelves and put everything away. A complete rethink of my storage system was required.

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Organized and arranged on the walls

I bought clear plastic containers, choosing sizes that both accommodate the contents and efficiently fill the space under the layout once construction progresses to the point that I can move them there. The taller containers will go on the floor, with two short containers stacked on top, total height coming up to 3 inches from the bottom of the benchwork. Something to keep in mind when installing the fascia.

For now, everything is organized and put away on shelves around the perimeter of the shop. So far I have been able to find things quickly.

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.

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sub roadbed for hidden track along west wall

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

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Preparing to cut plywood sub roadbed