A New Years Catch-up from Rails West


I wanted to catch Rails West readers up on a few things. (Very shortly, I will debut a post on Ponderosa Feeds.  It is now close to completion.)

Below are a few items related to the layout and subject matters of the layout.

I completed an up-to-date map and narrative of the layout to reflect the new developments.

The map



Hernandez and Sons Distributing

The narrative

The Rails West layout has a rich narrative that is immensely helpful to me, provides a degree of plausibility and helps the visitor get what they are seeing.

Below is the latest narrative–

rails-west-logo-ii — The Narrative

The Rails West layout is not designed to capture a specific place or in a sense a specific railroad.  It is specific as to an era.  It is unequivocally 1981.  It is also equivocally set in the American West.  It is a collection of some of my favorite scenes and memories during my time of living in and traveling across the American West in NM, W. Texas, CO, OR, WA and NV.  I also attempt to somehow plausibly connect to favorite childhood memories of chasing the Frisco in SW Arkansas (1977-80) by exploiting the BN/SL-SF merger.  (I spent some summers growing up in Arkansas.) It is designed to evoke a special region at a landscape scale versus modelling a specific locale.

The created history features a semi-plausible story that is “good enough” to permit me to run the equipment of two (actually three) of my favorite railroads and plenty of BN predecessor cars, including the Frisco.

The “history” of the line is that for years the Chicago, Burlington and Quincy and Southern Pacific ran almost parallel lines across the Carrizo Valley and beyond. In the 1930s, the two companies decided to selectively abandon portions of their lines and create a joint line between Trinidad and Carrizo Springs.  The CB&Q line continued west to Asherton and the SP line ventured on to Carson and a bit west to a mine at Mina.

By the time of the Burlington Northern merger in 1970, the SP had sold the branch line to Carson to Carson State University after a large sawmill on the line had shutdown.  It was a beautiful line that went from almost desert country well up into the green Carson foothills (and Carson National Forest) but difficult to justify operating due to slow track speeds and lack of traffic.  The CB&Q had long ago abandoned the line to Asherton.  Hence, what we find in 1981, is a joint BN-SP line from Trinidad to Carrizo Springs (and a bit west). 

Carson State University operates the Carson Branch from just west of Carrizo Springs to Carson.  The University originally acquired the line to ensure the campus boiler and power plant had access to coal and that the campus commissary operations could continue shipments as needed.  (CSU can operate it effectively as a non-profit and a classroom for its robust Civil Engineering program.)   In 1976, the large sawmill partially resumed operations so the University found itself hauling some lumber traffic.  Flatcars, lumber boxcars and wood chip hoppers also appear in interchange for the “CSU” line.

In 1979, the “CSU” line also agreed to service the IMC mine just at the cutoff to the Carson Branch.  As a result, BN-SP services technically stop at the occasionally used piggyback ramp west of Carrizo Springs.  A department store, furniture store, building supply and a feed store further west in the valley still get piggyback loads at the ramp. 

The layout takes place on the heels of the recent BN-Frisco merger, so some Frisco motive power and freight equipment grace the rails as well.

This is the story of the Rails West experience!

Capturing experiences

I attempt to capture experiences a lot of different ways.  I try to capture businesses or even particular scenes special to me.

Hope SL-SF GP-15 III

GP-15 in Hope, AR in August 1979–©photo by C. E. Hunt


NP boxcar at Budweiser Distributor in Roswell, NM. 1993–©photo by C. E. Hunt

Sometimes, the scene can be from a book.  Page 95 of Southern Pacific Trackside in Northern California has a great picture of an SP GP-9 spotting a New Orleans Public Belt boxcar to “Maxco Supply” in Reedley, CA in 1990.   I was taken by the scene and wanted to capture it with a newer 1981 version of the same car.


A new car for the Rails West layout.

I wish I could include a copy of the photo from the book, but if you don’t own it, you probably should if you like the SP!


It is a great book.  Speaking of great (or at least very good) books, check out:


I just got a copy.  It is not quite as breathtaking as the Southern Pacific Oregon Division book, but it is pretty good.  (In my mind, the Oregon Division book is a benchmark for rail-related books).

Well, the augers are in place and servicing Ponderosa Feeds.  I will post on this new customer very soon.  Strings of covered hoppers loaded with cattle feed are now coming into Carrizo Springs!


Happy New Years from Rails West!


2 thoughts on “A New Years Catch-up from Rails West

  1. Wow! My wife got me the SP Sacremento Division book for Christmas. What are the odds? I also got the Bob Larson Western Pacific book, as well.

    Nice update on the layout.


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