Saluda Grade Diorama (Z-Scale Gauge)

 Tracks parallel Main Street, Saluda, NC.

Tracks parallel Main Street, Saluda, NC.

The Saluda Grade diorama starts 1/2 mile east of downtown Saluda, continues down the three mile Saluda Grade, and ends at the east end of Melrose which was the staging area for trains running the grade. It is set in 1950 when both diesel and passenger trains ran throughout the Southern Railway system. It demonstrates the difficulty of getting a train safely up or down the mountain and, since people cannot see very much of the grade from the road, shows where the tracks actually are on the mountain.

 “The diorama is built using Z scale model trains which are a scale of 1:220 and even though they are tiny, we cannot build the grade truly to scale because the room in the depot is not big enough. So, we use “selective compression” which means compressing areas where there is not much of importance or repetitive scenery features to shorten the overall distance without losing the overall effect we are trying to create. Also, we have tried to be as authentic as possible with structures and terrain through the use of topographic maps and Google Earth software,” says Larry Morton, president of the Apple Valley Model Railroad Club.

 Train leaving Melrose going up the grade.

Train leaving Melrose going up the grade.

Built by the Apple Valley Railroad Model Club, building this size of a model was indeed a challenge.  The AVMRC began in 1984 with 7 members and has grown to 98 members today. Moving into the Hendersonville train depot in 1995 after a three year project, and partnering with the city, to restore the depot, it has become a tourist attraction in the 7th Avenue Historic District. Today, the club has three train layouts and a small museum on display and attracts hundreds of visitors every week. The club is comprised of mostly retirees from all over the USA who moved to the area when they retired. There is also a small but growing contingent of junior members, kids under age 18; who the club hopes will continue the love of the hobby throughout their lives.

This group was the best to build this model of the Saluda Grade because of the clubs amazing array of talents which translates to high quality models and well built layouts that are both attractive to visitors as well as solid functioning. Some of the structures are museum quality and the members constantly look to replace older, lower quality items with high quality pieces. Over the past four years they have built dioramas for the Heritage Museum in Hendersonville, the DuPont State Forest visitors center, and the Brian Rehabilitation Center. Each one has received high marks for quality and visitor interest. They built the larger HO scale Saluda Grade Diorama in the Hendersonville Heritage Museum.