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|Updated: February 22, 2020|
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In order to tap the vast mineral and timber resources in the West, thousands of miles of narrow gauge railroads were constructed. The distance between the rails is known as the gauge of the track. Standard gauge rails are 4 feet 8 inches apart. Narrow gauge railroads were typically built to a gauge of 3 feet. Since the equipment and track for narrow gauge were much smaller than standard gauge, construction and equipment costs were lower.
The narrow gauge railroads of Colorado are the most famous, but narrow gauge was used all over California, Oregon, Washington, and British Columbia as well. Narrow gauge was particularly well suited to logging railroads, which often laid track into areas where the timber was cut, then removed the track and placed it somewhere else. Special steam engines were developed which could operate reliably on track that was less than perfect while climbing steep grades and traversing tight curves. Eventually, logging trucks replaced the railroads as a more efficient way of getting logs from the forest to the sawmill.
The narrow gauge railroads may be long gone, but their legacy is preserved here in model form. Narrow gauge is represented on all three layouts at the Golden State Model Railroad Museum in O, HO, and N scales.
The O-scale Eureka and Empire narrow gauge railroad is built to a scale of an inch to the foot with 36 inches between the rails-On3. Narrow gauge operations are based on mining and lumber industries of the West. Several mines dot the mountainside, including a hydraulic mine (13) using high pressure water to wash away the hillside in order to reach the gold bearing gravels. The railroad has been completed (2007) high into the mountains where logging and lumber operations will occur. You will witness the entire cycle of felling the great trees, hauling logs to the mills, and moving finished lumber to market. The area directly in front next to the Passenger yard leads contains a yard and interchange where freight and passengers transfer between the narrow gauge and standard gauge trains. All of the track is hand laid on individual wooden ties. The scenery consists of plaster rocks formed from rubber molds over a wood and cardboard frame. The very impressive trees are also handmade, some of them over 160 scale feet tall!
On3 Scale Layout SizeThe On3 Eureka and Empire scale layout occupies over 400 square feet of our building. It is intended to capture the flavor of the western mining and logging railroads.
Layout ConstructionA variety of construction and scenery techniques are evident on the layout. We have a master track plan that were following in the construction. First, a framework of lumber is built to support the layout. For the roadbed beneath the track we cut narrow wood splines that are then glued together. This spline allows us to form very natural sweeping curves, and is very strong. To this is glued a layer of Homasote, a paper product that provides the basic shape of the roadbed to which wooden ties are glued and rails are spiked. Almost all of the track is laid by hand. We then glue ballast to the roadbed to provide a more natural look.
To build the scenery we first construct a frame of plywood to form the contours. Over this goes a lattice of cardboard strips, then newspaper, and a layer of Hydrocal, a cement like product similar to plaster of paris. To form rocky areas, we pour hydrocal into a mold, then attach it to the basic shell. After that we paint the bare hydrocal and add a variety of commercial and natural scenic materials to form grass, weeds, bushes, and rocky areas. Trees are a combination of commercial and home made materials. Were always on the lookout for natural scenery materials to use. Buildings and other structures are a combination of scratch built and commercial kits.
Here's a complete track plan of the layout - click image for larger view:
The On3 Scale Eureka and Empire layout doesn't attempt to model any specific area, but generally resembles the mountain areas of the Western United States. The layout is noted for its high mountains, deep canyons, wide rushing rivers, steep climbs, long straight-aways, and snow-capped peaks. Although a specific era was not targeted during construction, most of the structures would mark this as a mid-1930s to mid-1950s motif.
YardsA yard -Eureka Yard- with engine service facilities is being build near the front of the layout between the Pt. Richmond passenger yard leads and the Empire Mine.
We run with two mainline cabs using a manual power block control system, with two hand-held throttles which can be switched to the various divisions on the layout. There are xx different power blocks on the trackage.
On3 also is wired for optional DCC. With DCC (digital command control) it is much easier for fewer operators to control more trains. All the trains receive control information on the tracks in packets, much like a local internet. Decoders in the locomotives respond to those commands to adjust speed, control lights and sound.
Front Mine ModelThe mining structure with tracks leading across the bridge is the Panatella Mine, original model built by Charles Trombly. The headframe mine to the left was scratch-built by Jim Ambrose and is typical of mining structures found throughout the West. The other structures in the old west town came from the original Halleck Street layout of EBMES.
If you are interested in the latest progress, please visit O Scale Progress Section.
If you are interested in learning how to become an O Scale member of the East Bay Model Engineer's Society >click here.
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