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Our Layout

The layout is of a logging railroad that might have existed somewhere along the Mendocino Coast between 1925 and 1940 when steam was still king. It’s a testament to the men who cut the giant trees; the railroads which brought the giant logs to the mill and the schooners that took the products to market from the dangerous doghole ports along the Mendocino Coast. After two and a half years of construction in the Capenter’s Barn in the yard of the CWR’s Skunk Train our layout is open to the public. The scenery still has a ways to go but we have “more than enough to put on a show”.

The main line tracks are 35 inches above floor level and the Mill and Town to Country Line are 42 inches and higher. Our model is set in the 1920 to 1940 period when steam was still king and diesel power was just entering the scene. The two main lines each of 1.7 scale miles and the logging line are all operational. Our locomotives use solar power electricity, battery power and radio control and for special days we have a collection of live steam locomotives. The curves of the main lines are large enough to handle even the largest locomotives. Become an Associate Member and you can bring your own loco and consist and run it on the layout.

It is nearly impossible to build a model railway to be prototypically accurate. Why? Well, to model the Skunk Line from Fort Bragg to Willits would require a mile and a quarter of model track in G Scale! There are model railroads with main lines of 1,200 feet but ours, like most, is constrained by available space. This means that the layout becomes a series of scenes or dioramas connected by the track.

What to put in the scenes? Our objective is to create a living history of railroads of the Redwood Coast. In each of the scenes on our layout we want to be able to depict with reasonable accuracy structures and equipment that actually existed somewhere up and down the Mendocino Coast. Hopefully visitors will be able to see, in miniature, the components of a logging operation.

The original plan for the layout was drawn to scale to enable us to order the exact amount of each type of curve and straight track needed. Like all plans it did not survive intact when it met the enemy – reality. The good news is that by and large it worked. The gooder news is that we managed to incorporate two dioramas (an incline and a switchback) that we could not make “work” in any of the 117 iterations of the plan. The bad news is that there are some of us who really, really want a flume……

In order to create a new plan of what we have actually built we asked our webmaster, Roger Thornburn, to take some pictures of the layout. Click on the photos to see them “full size”.

Carpenters barn behind the Skunk Depot

The Carpenter’s Barn in the Fort Bragg
Skunk Depot is the home of our layout

This first pic is of the 100 plus year old Carpenter’s barn wherein is our layout. The Barn was used to build and repair passenger and freight cars for the Union Lumber Company and its successor The California Western railroad (CWR - the Skunk Train). The entrance is on the right and we are looking from south to north. The CWR Skunk Train depot is off to our right and the Roundhouse is to our left and slightly behind us. You can also view a full 360° virtual tour here.

View along the East Wall

View along the
East Wall

You have walked in the door and are perched on a high ladder looking down on the pier and toward the mill. The Main Line tracks on the lower level go out through the wall and circle the building and provide the two main line tracks in excess of 370 feet long (1.7 scale miles) each with curves ample enough to handle the largest l of G Scale locomotives..

The pier is on the right of the picture below and the mill next to it. The mill pond with slash burner at the back is in the middle. In front of the mill pond is a Howe Truss bridge and under it is the Mill pond dam. Next going left is the Fort Bragg Skunk train depot and along the (north east) wall is Main Street Fort Bragg. Click on the photos to expand them and see masses more detail.

View of the 55 feet long East Wall

View of the 55 feet long East Wall

The tracks from the Mill pass over Tunnel #1 as you can see below. The tracks between the Main Line and the upper level on the left are the end of the upper end of the switchback where it joins the Mill and Town to Country Line.

North East Corner

North East Corner

Inner East Side

Inner East Side

Here you can see better how the switchback works (4% grade). The top end is just after the northern exit of the tunnel and the bottom end is on the lower (Main Line) level on the siding to the right of the inner Main Line. You can see the side of the Depot too.

In the next photo you are looking along the north wall. The reverse loop that circles the Depot rises as it goes along the north wall on its way to the woods. The building on the left at the back is the Roundhouse and in front of it will be the ash pit, water tower, sand storage and drying building and other “necessities” used by steam locos.

25 feet long North Wall

25 feet long North Wall

In this next pic you can see Noyo River Corner which separates “town” from “country”. You can see the trestles in the bottom left in place to carry the tail of switchback over the river and the Main Line round a 16 foot plus semi-circle.

North Corner

North Corner

This next pic shows “the whole” vs the parts. The upper level Mill-Town-Woods line continues to climb along the inside of the West wall and the Main Line is at the bottom.

West Wall North End

West Wall North End

In the middle of the next picture is Ten Mile River with a high trestle to carry the Mill-Town-Country reverse loop. Caspar Tunnel is to the right of Ten Mile River.

West Wall Middle

West Wall Middle

Next is a view of the west wall at the south end. Ten Mill River and a dam will be on the extreme right and the upper level Mill-Town-Woods line goes over Tunnel #2. On the extreme left you can see the lower level main line exiting through the wall so that it can travel down the outside of the west wall and around the north wall.

West Wall South End

West Wall South End

South West Corner

South West Corner

Looking down on the above picture you can see the reverse loop for the upper level Mill-Town-Woods line. To the north of the loop will be the logging camp. In the top right hand (south west corner) will be a Pomo village. Point Cabrillo lighthouse will be on the south side of the gulch where the Main Line exits the building. You can see Point Cabrillo lighthouse stored up on a shelf at the top right of the photo. The shelf will house the seventh automated line high up on the west wall which will bring cut logs to the incline (70 degrees plus). The incline is the board running across the green post.

In total there is well over 1,300 feet of track.

Building the Layout

We've been keeping track of our work from the empty barn to the present, with many photos and a panorama of the inside of the barn. On Friday January 28th 2011 we received the keys to our new home in the Carpenter's Barn. Our new home is over 100 years old and we are convinced it had been collecting dust and dirt since the day it was first used.

What have we accomplished to date? We have scrubbed our "old lady" from top to toe, installed fans, installed lights, built a new ADA compliant door, installed ADA compliant ramps for access, glazed the broken windows, sealed up where she leaked, added new windows and generally spruced her up. We have built the benchwork for the trains and have virtually all of the track in place. The scenery along the east and north wall are nearly complete. All of the major structures have been built or are in the throes of completion. So not good ….. but not bad either!

The north wall of the Barn the day we got the keys

Click on the photo of the barn taken on January 28th, 2011 to see a gallery of the photos taken as we built our layout.

We've made a "Virtual Tour" of the inside of the barn. 108 photos were stitched to make a single photo 36,000x14,000 pixels (500 Megapixels). Special software now cuts this into over 3,000 tiles that allow faster downloads with high resolution. Click here for a virtual tour of the barn.

Click the photo left to see the slideshow

0-4-0 and consist entering tunnel #1

As others see us – Photographs taken by Visitors to our Layout

Lynn Prunty's photographs

Lynn Prunty came to the layout and handed me a flash drive with 115 photos that he took on his last visit. I have picked out what I believe to be the best to share with you. The first shot is a real corker.

 

Click the photo right to see the slideshow

Work train on east side of the Barn President Phil Miller's Diesel in the correct CWR colours for when she was active Mill yard 0-4-0 taking a break beside Basil Casabona's scratchbuilt caboose cum workcar Fort Bragg Depot with Railbus about to depart Fort Bragg Depot is a very busy place Cat with log hauler waiting to be taken out to the woods Cat waiting to be taken out to the woods 4-6-0's on storage track 4-6-0 exiting Tunnel #1 2-8-8-2 resting on the west side of the Barn 0-4-0 taking lumber out on the pier to the waiting schooner Jim's ingenious key for setting the speed of the doodlebug Doodlebug taking the curve outside the barn Doodlebug rolling down the east side of the Barn Control mechanism is stored in the doodlebug luggage compartment Battery is stored in trailing combine car Webmaster Roger Thornburn in his photographer role Waiting for the word that we under solar power Vice President Chuck Whitlock Webmaster Roger Thornburn Historian Tony Phillips talking to Billy's owner Dan Fessler Trackmaster Deb Smith firing up Billy Trackmaster Deb Smith and Tony Phillips watching Billy taking the northwest corner turn Trackmaster Deb Smith and Tony Phillips watching Billy emerge from the west side of the building Tony Phillips watching Billy rounding the northwest corner of the barn -  Basil Casabona in the background Steve Worthen and deb Smith in earnest conversation Steam Donkey being brought back from the woods for repair Solar Powered Logging Consist Rounding the nort-west corner under solar power MOW Consist on Pudding Creek Trestle Historian Tony Phillips entranced with watching club members' trains going round the big tracks for the first time Ernestine crossing the A Frame Bridge on the east outside side of the Barn Crossing the Pudding Creek Trestle Club Members Steve Worthen, Tony Phillips, Deb Smith, Dan Fessler, Basil and Meary casabona inside the barn Club member Dan Fessler holding Billy which he owns BIlly strutting down the east inside track Billy rounding a curve on the tracks outside the barn Billy powering down the tracks on the wast side of the barn Billy on the west side of the barn which you can see is proximate to the California Western's Engine house Billy getting up steam Billy crossing the Pudding Creek Trestle on the east outside side of the barn Billy at speed going down the tracks inside the barn Battery Powered Ernestine at work Basil Casabona showing Tony Phillips how the drilled out log is attached to the log car Working the mill yard The mill with the town behind Working lumber loads from the mill to the pier for shipping Club member Basil Casabona;´s Caspar Lumber Company look alike 2-6-6-2 en route to the Enginehouse Waiting for his first drink of the day View of the Depot from the Goodyear Blimp View from the Goodyear Blimp from the North End of Main Street Postman staggering under load of mail Passengers waiting for the train Maintenance of Way Tanker Main Street from the Goodyear Blimp from the South End Log Hauling Tractor freshly weathered Houses built by Jess Pratt being positioned Houses built by Jeff Pratt Front of the Depot Errant pig on the Depot Platform Engine house which has recently been weathered by Basil Casabona Donkey engine (scratch built by Colin Menzies) waiting to be taken out into the woods Cat waiting to be put to work in the woods Busy platform scene Bulldozer waiting to be taken to the woods Broken down car at the back of the Depot Back of the Depot and Parking Lot Backdrop for the North Wall of the Carpenter's Barn Auxiliary winch (scratch built by Colin Menzies) waiting to be shipped out to the woods Angry Mob Pursuing wall Street Financier 0-4-0 working on the track atthe north end of the layout Sawdust grass in front of the Depot Mountains of Mourne The log pond after the initial coat of fiberglass Testing a log car with a 10 foot diameter log - 10  foot that is if it were real Small A-frame bridge in front  of log pond spillway awaiting weathering Our homemade clearance gauge One of Basil Casabona′s weathered mill worker's houses New Speeder Diorama on East Wall Jim Williams admiring his handiwork Stacks of wood being used to cover gap at base of rocks Depot with ballasted track Cones ready to be made into Pomo Wikiups Diorama added to celebrate Gordon McNutt, a founding member and Hank Simonson, a long time member who are sadly missed Our depot with its new platforms built by Richard Marks Ron Bloomquist's shot of the side of the mill 0-4-0 pulling a section of a BIG tree - it would have been 10 foot diameter in real life View of the yet to be completed front of the mill and mill yard A radio controlled 0-6-0 under test in front of the depot Ron Bloomquist’s photo of the water tank by the mill The Skunk Depot on it’s new platform. The side of the mill taking shape The log pond spillway with the three bridges in place and abutements mocked up Richard Mark patience on display - every shake was hand cut and glued on Tunnel #1 weathering under way Church hill corner under construction West wall under construction The result of President Phil Miller's scenicking in front of the Mill Shingle roof being put on the mill Richard Marks putting the siding on the mill Readying the escarpment in front of the mill for pouring of concrete President Phil Miller sceniking the sea wall in front of the mill Looking down on the pier; Richard Marks working on the escarpment Jeff Pratt's model of the Skunk Depot Jeff Pratt's logger's cabin Interior of Jeff Pratt's logger's cabin Haunted lighthouse corner under construction Building the sea wall in front of the mill donkey engine awaiting installation Commissary Car after being weathered jim and deb deciding testing out how the town will look The first sections of track being laid What do you think? Not bad, not bad. The first club meeting in the Barn The opening on the east wall for the main line under construction The incline being tested The west wall ridge line test underway Testing the ridge line on the west wall The mill pier under construction Benchwork on the east wall under construction Test fitting the door of the MOW barn Jim Williams preparing electrical connections If you procrastinate long enough Decisions, decisions, decisions. The sub-committee of the subcommittee of the sub-committee in session The battle plan Scrubbed and cleaned and benchwork construction underway The club flag installed on the north wall to stake our claim I think its upside down. Measure twice and cut ???? Jackscrew being used to straighten north east corner of Barn Installing new window above door on south wall Hasp of new door hand made by member Bill Shepherd New door being installed Old door being demolished New ADA compliant door made from recycled wood and hinges 0-4-0 coming through the west portal #2 0-4-0 taking a long consist over the Pudding Creek Trestle Busy scene at the west wall portal #2 0-6-2 doing yard work 10 wheeelers in the engine house Busy scene at the west wall portal Blue Comet waiting at the Depot Can you see the bear Coming over the Pudding Creek Trestle Inside view of the roof of the Carpenter's Barn - all old growth redwood Logs waiting to go into the log pond Long consist crossing the Pudding Creek trestle Pier and Mill Railbus waiting at the depot The gandy dancer's privy 0-4-0 coming through the west portal #3