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Virginia Blue Ridge and Southern Railway

In the future I will begin to share with you photos of my current HO scale model railroad. This layout is based on a published trackplan and is designed for a first time layout builder with limited space, in other words, me.  I was inspired to develop the VBR&S by Jim Six's Carolina & Northwestern.  Jim's former layout (he moved and it was dismantled before being finished), was a fictional bridge route mostly in the Carolinas that took into account his interest in the ACL and Clinchfield.   I came up with the VBR&S to take a favorite shortline of mine, the Atlantic & Yadkin Railway, and imagine that the hoped for connection with the Norfolk & Western Railway north of Mount Airy would give the line that bridge route to the Ohio Valley.  The real A&Y was the product of the Cape Fear & Yadkin Valley Railway's failure to fulfill it's promoters' dreams.  My idea was to realize that dream and turn the sleepy little shortline with it's two trains per day into a much more vibrant railroad with multiple trains and maybe even some passenger action!  But I found that a fictional road and a small oval trackplan was great for learning how to build a layout, but was not as much fun as trying to recreate a real historical railroad.  This became more and more true as I became more and more engrossed in the history of the CF&YV and A&Y!

Right now I will share the short-lived VBR&S's hopeful history.  Like the real A&Y though, the grandiose plans of the VBR&S's owner and operator, never came to full bloom.  I hope you enjoy reading about the VRB&S as much as I enjoyed the planning and construction (it has made it to a semi-scenicked operating layout)!  I hope you might find something of value in this modelers experience and ideas to date.

A short mythic history:  The Virginia Blue Ridge and Southern Railway is a small short line railroad linking Radford, Virginia and Wilmington, North Carolina. The VBR&S consists of two divisions, the Blue Ridge and the Yadkin Valley divisions.  Prior to the American Civil War, the founders of the VBR&S' predecessors wanted to link the bountiful Shenandoah Valley with the ports in North Carolina.  Although the idea had merit, the Blue Ridge mountains and the Civil War blocked construction.  Surveys of a route and the creation of a Virginia, Wilmington and North Carolina Southern Rail Road Company chartered in both states was all that happened.  After the war, the need for farm product exports was less until rebuilding the South was complete.  In the meantime, the Cape Fear and Yadkin Valley Railroad was formed entirely in the state of North Carolina.  This line went into bankruptcy and was reorganized into the Atlantic and Yadkin Railroad.  This line was owned half by the Atlantic and Danville and half by the Wilmington and Weldon. When the A&D went belly up and was reorganized by J.P. Morgan interests into the Southern Railway, the W&W now owned by the Atlantic Coast Line Railway (and a stronger competitor to the Southern than the W&W was with the A&D) offered to buy the Atlantic and Yadkin RR outright.  The Morgan interests would not allow this.  Instead, they negotiated with a "neutral" third party, a David K. Clyde, to buy the entire Atlantic and Yadkin Railroad and set it up as an independent line.  The heads of the Southern and ACL assumed that this little shortline would soon succumb to the competition of their own railroads and thus be an easy acquisition in a few years.  J.P. Morgan relied upon the familial ties of David K. and the former owners of the A&D system, William P. Clyde, to strengthen the Southern's bargaining position.  The ACL figured that the embittered Clyde family of Philadelphia, who lost a fortune in railroads but managed to hang on to their shipping lines in the Chesapeake and north, would never sell to the Southern ensuring a bright future for the ACL in North Carolina.  Both were wrong!  David K. Clyde knew of coal in the Blue Ridge region of Virginia and planned on extending the line across the VA/NC border to haul it down to Wilmington!  If only he'd have known about the Pocahontas fields!  As it was, David K. Clyde managed to get the Atlantic and Yadkin into Radford and a connection with the Norfolk and Western gaining a small portion of the Appalachian coal business and creating a bridge route for goods from Ohio.  Unfortunately for Mr. Clyde Wilmington did not end up as great a natural port on the Atlantic as Norfolk.  Although the Atlantic and Yadkin stayed solvent, it was a poor cousin to other roads.  In 1910, Clyde sold the Atlantic and Yadkin to the Southern Railway.  As plans to abandon portions of the line began to be discussed by SR executives, WWI and the nationalization of the railroads changed everything.  The Atlantic and Yadkin was separated from the Southern and returned to independent status.  At the war's end, the road was bought by the Bird family who saw the lumber potential of the A&Y land holdings as well as the rising demand for coal in the developing industries of North Carolina.  The A&Y was renamed upon purchase to the Virginia Blue Ridge and Southern Railway upon the insistence of Virginia Bird, who had discovered a letter from one of the founders of the original company dated 1858 in her perusal of the Company books.  The Virginia Blue Ridge and Southern Railway was again absorbed into the Southern Railway in 1949 and is known now only by the VBRS sublettering seen on the first generation diesels that plied it's rails.

The HO scale VBR&S: My scale model railroad is currently a 5'x9' layout based upon Andy Sperandeo's "Jefferson, Memphis and Northern" found in Track Planning Ideas from Model Railroader 58 track plans from past issues selected by Bob Hayden and originally published in the October 1979 Model Railroader (p92). The goal was to produce a "creditable but not overwhelming" model railroad that allowed for simple operation by one or two people.  What I liked about it, was that it didn't have a spaghetti bowl track plan, it had a southern setting, it was scenically interesting, and it could allow for continuous running (I like operation, but pure switching can be boring to me and I wanted a place to break in locos or let kids play too).  I also like the interchange tracks which allow me to add a staging yard if I can figure out how in the space I've got, and the passing tracks which can become staging in one person operation.  I haven't modified the track plan, but I did use Code 83 flex track and switches everywhere, and I used a different method for benchwork and scenery construction to allow for some portability.  I constructed three 3'x5' box frames by using drywall screws to fasten clear pine 1x4's.  These box frames are bolted together to form the basic 5'x9' benchwork, but can be broken up and re-used in a more linear layout when we move and I gain more basement.  The frames have eight 1x2 legs bolted to them at each corner.  The legs have T-nuts and bolts on the floor end to aid in leveling.    I bought tomato support stakes (rough hewn 1"x1" stakes in just over 3' lengths) from a local nursery since I had a hard time finding smaller dimensional lumber here in New England.  I used these as diagonal braces between the end legs and the frame for stability.  Then I covered the entire surface of the benchwork with 2" blue foamboard.  I used 4-5 tomato support stakes screwed into each box to act as supports for the foam.  This combination gave me rigidity, strength, and lightness sufficient that I can lift the WHOLE 5x9 layout with ease. The legs and foam bring the layout track height to 50" above the floor.  This may be tall for some people, but I'm 6'3" tall and have no problem reaching into all the track areas (even with buildings in front) and height allows me to store quite a bit under the layout because space is at a premium in my home.  I have a footstool for children and most adults can view the layout and operate trains with ease.  So far, I have gotten the roadbed and track laid, wired, tested, painted, and tested again. I've also cut in the stream and low areas and have built the ridges by stacking and shaping more foam.  I have painted the foam with a water-based Carolina red clay color paint I picked up when the local variety store (Rich's) went out of business. Now that it runs and is no longer a "plywood pacific" I have turned to equipment modeling. I decided not to do any more scenery than I have already since my plans have changed: I might be moving to a new place soon and I want to take my layout building to the next stage.  My goal now is to focus upon constructing a section of what I hope is to be my model of a good section of the Atlantic & Yadkin Railway from Mount Airy to at least Rural Hall and maybe to Greensboro.


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This site Copyrighted  1999 by David M. Bott.

This page last edited Monday, August 16, 1999