O Scale Grade Diorama of Eras of Railroading in Saluda
After studying the engineering feat and history of the Saluda Grade, Dr. Fred MConnel (Mac), has held a passion for Saluda and the role that this section of the railroad played in the transformation of western NC. Dr. McConnel, a native from Asheville and currently Atlanta, GA has captured this railroad history in a multi-tiered, interactive train model that he donated to the Saluda Historic Depot.
Just like building a railroad up a steep grade, Dr. McConnel was challenged building a train model of the Saluda Grade because of the space limitations in the depot building. Instead of drawing the O scale model to scale in width, he would go up and layer the different sections and eras of the railroad.
The Saluda Grade Train Model donated to the Saluda Historic Depot is of a O Scale diorama that illustrates different scenes of the railroad eras starting with the first passenger steam locomotive pulling into Saluda in 1878 complete with convict labors and Captain Charles Pearson, chief engineer of the building of the Saluda Grade. Scenes also include the logging trains, a model of Melrose and the safety tracks, The Carolina Special, a reproduction of the 611, and a replicate of the train crash with Pit Ballew who first thought of how to make the grade safer and probably saved the grade from abandonment in 1903. Engineer Ballew’s concept of safety tracks is probably the most important contribution of Saluda to transportation safety. Even though the track now lies in rust, lives are still being saved on highways that have run-off areas to save trucks that have lost their brakes.