Wednesday, August 29, 2012

#278 on Jakes Creek Trestle

Here's a "grab" shot of my PBL C-16 #278 going over Jakes Creek Trestle. For some reason the sky got washed out. This bridge is around the curve from the large mine on the upper level.

Tuesday, August 28, 2012

Track Plan

Here is the track plan I have come up with. No, it's not a cad file but it's the best I can do on short notice. The room is 18' x 21', so the grid is 12". Having St. Anne stacked on top of Elizbethtown hasn't been a problem since there are only 3 operators during an op session. Plus it gives me the longest mainline run. Of course by now 95% of the visible track is handlaid, and about 25% of the scenery is in. This past week I added the hardshell behind the mine on the upper level. The backdrop is complete from the end of St Anne to the mine. Many structures have been built, including a scratchbuilt coaling tower, the Chama sandhouse and water tank. On the upper level there are two water tanks plus the depot and five other structures in St Anne. Not everything on this plan is labeled but you get the idea. Elizabethtown looks a lot like Chama, NM. The only difference is the siding by the depot and the south end of the yard, which has been drastically compressed. St. Anne resembles Silverton, but then again I'm just trying to have fun with this.

Thursday, August 23, 2012

#278 West of St. Anne

Prototype or Freelance?

I have always enjoyed the Gunnison/Crested Butte area of Colorado.  The mountains that surround Crested Butte are amazing.  In fact Kebler Pass has the largest aspen grove in the world.  So when it came time to design a prototype track plan for my Sn3 layout I decided on Gunnison.  Since my old layout was double decked, I kept that design for the new one.  While It's true that most double decked layouts have narrow sight lines and scenery can be compromised, the trade off is I get twice as much main line to operate.  So for me it's worth it. 
Since the Gunnison valley is mostly flat, it's a good fit for a layout on two levels.  I can model the valley floor and paint the mountains on the backdrop.  Also, with the exception of the K-36, every class of motive power ran into Gunnison in the early 1940's.  A K-37 could be found right next to a C-16.
So after researching the track alignment and doing some on location photography, I began designing the layout.  Gunnison yard would be on the lower level while I'd model a portion of the Crested Butte branch on the upper level.  So after 1 1/2 years, after I had rebuilt my old helix, handlaid the upper level and most of the yard, I had an impromptu operating session.  It was then that I realized how little main line running there was since the yard took up most of the lower level.
After a bit of re-designing in my head (I've never been one to draw on paper), I decided to only model the western half of Gunnison since it would give me more running room.  Fast forward 6 months; after another impromptu operating session, there were too many logistical problems with the yard.  I needed another siding.  But, it wouldn't be prototype...
The main issue was that I was trying to model too much of the prototype in too small of space.  While I could have picked a smaller area to model, I enjoy operations with a few friends over.  So I made the dreaded decision to freelance the layout instead.  This way I can model my favorite scenes instead of being tied down to one area of the D&RGW.  I have found that building a hardnosed prototype layout has taken away a lot of the joy the hobby can provide.  Now I can model what I want, I mean, it is my basement...
I like the early 1940's because I can model both the Moffat herald and well as the Flying Grande.  So Gunnison went away, besides I like K-36s.  I am now modeling a scaled down version of Chama with a branch line that resembles the Baldwin branch.
I'm pretty satisfied with the plan I've come up with as it can entertain 3-4 operators for a few hours.  There are two staging yards, one for Montrose and one for Alamosa.  A total of 10 trains make up an Op session, three from each staging yard and up to four on the branch.  The upper level also can have continous running. 
I've named the entire railroad after our dearly departed Golden Retreiver, Jake.  The Jakes Creek Branch.   I've also named all of the towns, etc. after members of the family.  Chama yard is now Elizabethtown, Baldwin is now St. Anne.  Theres a large stamp mill operation named after my wife (Queen of the West) and what was the Smith Hill mine north of Crested Butte is now named after my son Brian. 
I'm having a lot more fun now building structures, etc. from all over the Rio Grande narrow gauge system. I'll try to post a track plan soon.  Until then...

Tuesday, August 21, 2012


I've decided to start up a blog page to share the progress of my Sn3 model railroad. 
I got back into model railroading when my family moved into our home in Littleton 14 years ago.  Driving along the "joint line" and watching SP, Rio Grande, BN and Santa Fe trains re-kindled the train interest I had as a kid.  After building a small layout based on the B&O, I settled on modeling my childhood railroad, the Louisville and Nashville in the mid 1970's.  The layout was 40' x 22', all visible track was handlaid including turnouts, two staging yards and 40% of the scenery was in.  It was a prototype layout based on the L&N "Short line" between Louisville and Cincinnati.  It required 7 operators plus a dispatcher.  The dispatcher controlled all train movements using a computer by using a program based on the JMRI software and a program designed by Rodney Black.  The layout was in my eyes a big success, trains ran flawlessly without derailments and operating seesions ran like clockwork.  What more could I ask for...
Then in 2008, on a trip back from Santa Fe, NM, I decided I'd take a route home that ran through Chama, NM, home of the Cumbres and Toltec Scenic RR. That trip changed everything.  When I got to Chama that morning, there was double header ready to leave.  Following those two K-36's out of Chama, through the narrows, over Lobato and up Cumbres Pass blew me away.  Seeing, hearing and smelling those steam engines "did me in" and the narrow gauge bug bit. 
Before I did anything drastic to my old layout, I decided to build a few narrow gauge kits to test the waters.  I built a few kits in HOn3, but I found that the size was too small to really enjoy detailing the cars, plus I enjoy handlaying track and again found it too small to enjoy. On3 has the perfect size trains, however, I couldn't come up with a track plan that would fit my space that would allow for satisfactory operations, plus the structures are huge.  After building a few PBL kits and seeing how smoothly the locomotives ran, I made the decision to model narrow gauge in Sn3.  Since then the old layout has been torn down and a new narrow gauge layout based on the D&RGW has risen from the ashes.
Best of all, the prototype inspiration in Chama is only 4 1/2 hours away!
So thanks for following along.