Continuing our build out of Nick’s HO micro layout.

Nick's railroad

Once the base was set up and roadbed established we started to build up the hill and tunnel out of 4″ thick Styrofoam.

Picture 058

We cut a mock tunnel portal for sizing.

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Then we gave everything that would become “ground” a good coat of dirt-colored latex paint.

Nick Paints Dirt

Then we started preparation for the installation of the trestle bridge by hot-knifing the end abutments and here I’m making a “story pole” that will be used as a template for the location and height of the bents. The track has been rough cut and painted but is not yet installed.

Picture 008

We used Micro Engineering code 83 flex track and here we’re preparing some matching Micro Engineering code 83 bridge flex track with appropriate ties and spacing.

Picture 013

To make the bents we made a jig into which 3/16″ dowels will be held while being glued.

Jig for Bridge Trussle Bents

Picture 004

While the glue dries on bent assemblies we started to make plaster molds of the tunnel interior using a Woodland Scenics mold.

Mold For Tunnel Walls

It looks like we’re going to be building an On30 (not On2-1/2!) micro layout and the typical question has come up.

When you say “micro,” how micro do you really mean?

We want to run trains round-and-round so we need a loop. The size of a small layout is dominated by its turn radius. The size of the turns will be decided by the size of the motive power. I have a bunch of Bachmann Porter 0-4-0s in On30 around so we’ll use these to rule the design.

Bachmann Porter 0-4-0

I love the Internet. A quick Google of “minimum radius porter 0-4-0” returned a link to a pdf:

On30 Commercial Loco and Car Minimum Radius Guide written by the infamous “Professor Klyzlr” [BTW, Professor Klyzlr, I would link into your site but it has no home page.]

And the data the Internet On30 community has given is that Bachmann says 18″ radius but people find that 12″ is a practical minimum and 6″ is absolute minimum. I’m going to shoot for 10″ radius — but I’m going to test that.

Nick's railroad

Nick joined our “build stuff” group with no idea what he wanted to build. We suggested he look though our library of books and he saw my copy of Stindt’s “Northwestern Pacific Railroad” and started explaining to me that this was the railroad that used to run through our neigborhood.

Lounging Research

This, I knew. What I had not known is that Nick was a rail fan.

We had Nick sort through and tag all the photos in the books he liked and ended up with a concept of a micro-layout with a tunnel and a bridge.  We had about 50 building hours available to us in the project series so things needed to be kept small and simple.

Nick tagged about 50 different photos and we scanned them quickly at low resolution so we could see them all together. We all saw that Nick was strongly attracted to tunnels and trestle bridges so I proposed a small diorama with a hill, creek bed, tunnel and a bridge.

To get things started we cut some plywood to define the footprint.

Dan Pulls

Although it is not my favorite technique, I had a lot of styrofoam around so we cut and built up layers of foam.

Nick Starts his First Cut

We marked where the tracks, bridge and tunnel would be. I suggested making the tracks “skewed” (not parallel) to the layout edge but Nick insisted he wanted it straight.

Nick's diorama

Pretty soon, we had something starting to look like a micro-layout.

Picture 051

I haven’t written much lately but I’ve been building a LOT. As I mentioned in July, We moved to a new house with a workshop . The plan was to use the shop space for the layout (of course) and a workshop space for model building.

So much for plans. We’ve started teaching “build stuff” workshops on weekends for
teenagers/young adults. We started with a three month class meeting for four hours on Saturdays. That filled so we added a Sunday section. The projects are really great and since part of what the kids are doing will be blogging about their work I’ll just show a sample of what they are doing and I’ll provide a link to their blogs once they are up.

Ian is building an Airbus 380 in 1/144 scale.

Picture 004

Nick is building a micro layout in HO with a bridge and tunnel – the only model railroad project!

Picture 027

Sarah is building a fantasy diorama of a bed flying over a city at night.

Picture 059

Peter is building a super complex Gundam kit with a bagillion pieces.

Picture 012

Phoebe is making a ¾” scale room box of a Vamire’s Steampunk style home.

Picture 055

We’re all taking turns practicing airbrush and other painting techniques on my old model of the Millennium Falcon.

Millennium Falcon model

Kris is building a 1/48 scale tank for a diorama.

Picture 007

Not pictured: Reggie’s free-lanced 12” Globe, Devon’s Manga stage model and Steven’s world of eraser people.

It’s a huge amount of work but also tremendous fun.

The Carquinez Model Railroad Society is having its annual December Open House on December 6, 2008. The open house will be 10am to 4pm, December 6, 2008. A donation of $2 per adult, $3 per couple or $5 per family will help them keep moving forward.

The Carquinez Model Railroad Society is located at 645 Loring Ave., Crockett, CA, across from C & H Sugar.

The Carquinez Model Railroad Society’s layout is HO scale, DCC operated, and is inspired by the Southern Pacific line from Oakland to Truckee.

In less than two years the club has completed the bench work for all three levels, installed track, and wired the mainline on the first two levels. We have about 500 feet of double track mainline currently operating. Trains move between the levels via the two large helixes. Work continues adding more track to the second level and planning for the third level.

Also please check out their new web site at:

Thank you,

Greg Ockander


Corte Madera Creek trestle. Facing east, north is to the left.

One of the clearest remaining artifacts of the Northwestern Pacific Railroad in southern Marin County is the Corte Madera Creek trestle and bascule span.

I’ve always been attracted to the railroad-to-water interface and this captures a lot of that charm and has a lot of small elements that could be incorporated into a layout.

Built in their current form in 1923, these were designeted by the railroad as two bridges: the North and South Corte Madera Creek approaches and both were specified by the railroad as structure number 14.61 with a combined length of 1,252 feet.

The bridge was originally two side-by-side bridges (the trestle is one track but the bascule may be seen to be two-track) for the orginal dual track main line but was single track for as long as I can recall, back through the 1970s.

I assumed the number 14.61 referred to miles from either Tiburon (SF&NP mileposts) or maybe Sausalito (NPC or NS mileposts) but this location is about 5.6 rail miles from Tiburon and 8.5 rail miles from Sausalito so I’m stumped. The mystery was solved when I found that Milepost 0.0 is the San Francisco Ferry Building, south across the bay so the 14.61 signifies “miles from San Francisco.”

Google Earth kmz file to the location

The bridges are largely intact other than the recent removal of the rails and 165 feet of the north end that crossed East Sir Francis Drake Blvd — thanks to damage caused by an idiot colliding with the bridge in a too-tall truck.

There is a foot/bike path nearby which is a nice spot to take pictures. The bridge is climbing a short sharp grade leading up into the tunnel number 3 on the way to San Rafael.


Almost the same view in 1949 with NWP 178 and leased SP 2336.

Corte Madera Creek







Note the galvanized steel caps on the piles. This is where the truck-damaged section of the bridge was cut away.





Volume 3

Volume 3: Electrical and Control (Including DCC) is a case study of how Joe’s layout is wired and an in-depth look at DCC wiring, installation, and configuration.

Joe Fugate was kind enough to send me a review set of his Siskiyou Line videos. The five volume set covers almost all aspects of the design, construction, and operation of his HO scale Siskiyou Line layout based on the Southern Pacific’s Siskiyou Line in the 1980’s.

Please see my comments on Volume 1 and Volume 2.

This is a really excellent guide for someone like me. I’m very familiar with traditional (DC) layout wiring but this new-fangled DCC is hard to initially get your arms around. Joe works up from basic DCC wiring, on to DCC decoder installation and basic programming, and advanced techniques like “consisting” (double-heading for steam guys like me) and using your PC hooked up to your DCC controller to configure detailed parameters of your DCC system.

This DVD is completely free-standing in that if you just want DCC information this one DVD would be an excellent choice independent of the rest of Joe’s series.

I hope Joe produces updated versions of this disc as time goes on since some of this material will eventually become dated.

I think viewers will get the most value from this video if they have seen Volumes 1 and 2 first but this video is also very valuable all by itself if you just want the DCC information.

Joe’s DVDs may be purchased at model-trains-video and retail for $24.95 each.

I recently mentioned to my wife that one of the books that got me interested in small railroads as a child was Dorothy Newell Deane’s 1960 book Sierra Railway, which I found in my grandparents’ library as a child. That original book got lost but it got me thinking so I searched at Amazon and several small booksellers were selling copies for various prices. I chose one seller because they were nearby – in Sacramento.

The book arrived promptly (I’ve had excellent luck buying used books through Amazon). It’s a first-edition and in condition as described by the seller.

Sierra Railway

Then I look inside and see the previous owner has written his name: T. Wurm.

Sierra Railway

T. Wurm, Ted Wurm? Ted Wurm is (was?) a prolific author of many railroad books with most being written in the 1950s and 60s focusing on the history of small western railroads. 

Link: Search for Ted Wurm books at Amazon

I have several books he wrote but I never expected to have one of his personal copies.

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