The new layout (Part III) and an announcement concerning the site

In this post, I will do “an around the horn” discussion of the proposed customers along the line, starting east and working our way southwest to the end of the SP-DRGW line.


Hernandez and Sons Beverage Distributors

The customer to be behind the ATSF box car is Hernandez and Sons Beverage Distributors.  It is the region’s Budweiser distributor. Beer cars bearing SP, UP, MP, WP and ATSF reporting marks will arrive full of “Suds.”  Business is usually a couple of loads a weeks, except for the holidays.  Last Christmas, there were five cars at once in town for this shipper.   In fact, a couple of boxcars were unloaded off the grain elevator track directly onto trucks for delivery.  You might say the boxcars served as a warehouse addendum for a few days.


Mountain West Transload

Continuing down the line further into town, we see Mountain West Transload (where the two dirty UP boxcars are spotted).  Business is often boom or bust with MWT.  You may see strings of reefers loading onions or potatoes for a couple of 2 or 3 weeks, and then see very little traffic for a month of two.  Bagged beans and scrap paper are often loaded in boxcars as well.  MWT is toying with transloading corn syrup and cooking oil for a couple of factories in the valley, so tank cars may appear in the future to help provide more regular traffic.


Carrizo Valley Co-op

Across from MWT sits the Carrizo Valley Co-op.  It is a full service co-op, but the primary traffic is wheat loading.  During the wheat season, six car strings typical load a few dozen times.  The 2 to 3 times a week service from SP-DRGW can become almost daily for a brief stretch.   Aside from wheat loading, the Co-op can receive other loads from time to time–box cars and covered hoppers of feed, off and on, the Co-op will handle molasses for cattle feed and an occasional box car of ranch supplies such as barbed wire or building supplies, etc.  Last year during a quiet time at the co-op, the county highway department used the track to off load a few covered hoppers of highway salt.

Here on, the next couple of customers are on the SP-DRGW, but actually serviced by the Pinedale and Limpia Creek.  The P&LC runs 25 miles up into the foothills into the Carrizo National Forest to service a medium-sized sawmill and a few other infrequent shippers including a scrap dealer, feedmill and a mining supply in Jimenez.  Occasional loads of acid and feed come in and scrap metal out.  However, 95 percent of the freight is outbound lumber and wood chips.


Consolidated Perlite

Here just outside town, sits Consolidated Perlite. Except in the dead of winter, Consolidated Perlite will load anywhere from 3 to 8 cars a week.  It is a good reliable customer.  I will be kitbashing Walthers’ Cornerstone Diamond Coal Corporation to construct the loading and processing facility.


Jimmy’s Scoria loading facility

Further towards the southwest sits the scoria loading area.  A couple of mines truck their production to this loading site.  Jimmy has a contract with both of them to load here.  As long as the weather cooperates, Jimmy is good for 2 to 4 loads a week.

At the end of the SP-DRGW line, we see the P&LC train coming into town.  The train will service Consolidated Perlite and Jimmy’s Scoria before setting out the interchange with the SP-DRGW.


Pinedale and Limpia Creek train coming onto the SP-DRGW main.

All the names I have used are just working names.  The actual business, etc., may change names as the layout progresses.  I will see how they wear over time.

Well all that’s left is to do is — all this stuff — wire the layout, build the buildings, weather the locomotives and cars, construct the scenery, etc, etc.  Looks like you won’t be seeing many posts from me for awhile.  I have a layout to finish!

I will try to provide an occasional post.  I have been doing this site about a year, so it is time to slow down anyway–work on the layout, write my book, go hiking and do all the other things I must and want to do!  I hope you have enjoyed the site.  I am not going away, just slowing down.  Happy trails from Rails West!

The new layout (Part II)

Last week, I shared the new track plan.  Click here to see the track plan.

Over the next couple of posts, I will share the new track plan.  As you may have noticed, I am painfully deliberate in layout construction.  There are at least two reasons for that–

(1) I don’t like wiring, and I want to make sure the layout is fun, practical and interesting to operate before I drill any holes, solder any wire.

(2) I have a thousand other interests–family, spiritual life, exercise, blogging, reading (reading a great book on Ethiopia right now), hiking, golf, watching baseball and football, work and writing on my novel (expected publishing date in 2015) .

That all said (or written), here is the layout with the proposed track plan in place.  It is not wired and please forgive the un-weathered rolling stock.  Only the cars from a previous layout are weathered.  Though the layout is targeting operations on the DRGW-SP (a couple of years after the UP takeover) around 1998, cabooses will be used from time-to-time.  I am a sucker for cabooses!  Home road cars will feature cars from the SP and DRGW as well as the UP and associated railroads–MP, WP, CNW and MKT.

The first post will give the big picture.  The second post will further discuss the industries and operation.IMG_0919

Here is a view of the layout looking southwest towards the principal town (yet to be named).  The layout features a pretty generous, fold-out staging track so the main train can completely get “off stage.”


Far to the left almost out of sight, is the main train getting ready to enter the principal town.


The train is coming “on-stage.”  It is kind of a short one today, especially with the wheat elevator running low and not needing a cut of cars today.  It is getting towards the end of wheat season, but another cut or two of covered hoppers will likely be delivered before the season is done.  A couple of weeks ago, the tracks all over town were filled with covered hoppers.  Once the wheat season is over, only occasional shipments of feed or fertilizer will come in in bags (boxcars) or covered hoppers..


The train arrives in town.  The switching will soon begin after the crew takes lunch at Garcia’s cafe.


Continuing to the southwest, on the outskirts of town, we can now see the perlite loading facility. (There are two covered hoppers spotted there.) It is normally good for two or three covered hoppers.


Looking to the end of the layout to the southwest, we see the scoria loading site and in the distance, the short line is coming on-stage.  The scoria shipper typically loads the black variety of scoria.  The short line mostly serves a sawmill that is up in the foothills.


The short line coming on-stage–it ships a lot of lumber and woodchips.  The track in the foreground is the end of the SP-DRGW mainline.  It did go miles more to the the southwest, but service was cutback to the present location in the 1960s.

The next post will discuss the proposed industries and provide more details on the operations.

The new layout

The ATSF in Roswell layout has been heavily revised.  I love the Santa Fe and hope to occasionally run a little ATSF action, but I recently had an epiphany.

SP-DRGW action near Trinchera Ranch Road, Colorado 2003  –©photo by James Griffin.

SP-DRGW action near Trinchera Ranch Road, Colorado 2003 –©photo by James Griffin.

This epiphany led to a significant change in the layout.

There are five and a half reasons (actually many more as well)–

1. See this post. (Selecting an era)

2.  See this post. (Perlite and scoria post)

3. See this post.  (The half reason — The beauty of the DRGW scheme)

4. The Union Railway of Oregon

5. Life experiences (Probably the biggest)

6. Pursuit of a less complex but more diverse operating scenarios.

Here it is—

The new layout

The new layout

I guess I had signaled the change in recent blog posts.  Here are some iconic photos (to me) prompting the shift.

Scoria loading into open hoppers south of Antonito.  Locally mined scoria was added to the traffic mix after B. Smith’s visit in 1984.  Scoria is volcanic rock primarily used for landscaping.–©photo by James Griffin.

Scoria loading into open hoppers south of Antonito, Colorado. Note SP (SSW) and DRGW locmotives. –©photo by James Griffin.

Union Railroad of Oregon in Oregon. Note tiny locomotive on train. This was the inspiration for there being a shortline on the new layout design. Photo by Dan Schwanz

Union Railroad of Oregon in Oregon. Note tiny locomotive on train. This was the inspiration for there being a shortline on the new layout design. Photo by Dan Schwanz

Denver Rio Grande & Western DRGW 3103_West Colton CA_Randy Keller_1989-01-22_66599

Denver Rio Grande & Western DRGW 3103 in West Colton, CA January 22, 1989.  –@photo by Randy Keller,

SP 4837 Mesa AZ Jan 25 2000

SP 4837 Mesa AZ Jan 25 2000 –photo by Tom Fassett,

SSW 67667 Corvallis OR Feb 2 2007

SSW 67667 in Corvallis, OR Febuary 2 2007. –©photo by Charles Bonville,


Below is why these images are iconic to me.

I grew up in Houston, TX in the 1970s and 80s.  There were Southern Pacific and Missouri Pacific and Missouri-Kansas-Texas rail lines near my house.  I would hear their horns whenever I was outside playing baseball, football or yard golf, which was most of the time! (It was before computers.)  I would visit a number of places around town that featured Santa Fe, Rock Island, Burlington Northern and Houston, Belt and Terminal action.  I had a GREAT railroad childhood.   Later in life in New Mexico and other parts of Texas I would frequently see Southern Pacific and Santa Fe action in the 1990s.

SP 2900 Southern Pacific Railroad Alco RS-11 at Houston, Texas by Gary Morris

SP 2900 Southern Pacific Railroad Alco RS-11 at Houston, Texas. I distinctly recall seeing one of these working the SP line along Griggs Road in Houston in the mid-1970s. –©photo by Gary Morris,



SP 3141 Alco C630 in Houston, TX. I would frequently visit the Milby Street Roundhouse in Houston and saw Alcos being serviced into the late-1970s –©photo by George W. Hamlin,

I saw the tail end of the Alcos in Houston as a kid.  I distinctly recall seeing an RS-11 servicing the line near my house about 1975.  The Southern Pacific was almost always near most of my life.

The Denver and Rio Grande, Frisco and Illinois Central were my mystical lines that I only saw occasionally while on vacation.  Of the three, the Rio Grande was the most mystical.  I still vivedly recall seeing Rio Grande action as a 12 year old.  For a kid growing up in flat Houston, mountains and trains were almost too good to be true!  Especially, with an exotic name like “Denver and Rio Grande Western!”

Lastly, my experiences in Arkansas gave my an appreciation of short lines as I poked around the Prescott and Northwestern and actually rode on the Graysonia, Nashville and Ashdown.  There was something very appealing about the simplicity of these operations. See this post about the “Mystical Mine.”

Graysonia Nashville & Ashdown #80 awaiting its next work at Ashdown, AR in December 1981. Tom Sink©

Graysonia Nashville & Ashdown #80 awaiting its next work at Ashdown, AR in December 1981. I rode this locomotive from Nashville, AR to Ashdown, AR and back in the late 1970s. –©photo by Tom Sink,

As I looked at photos to help design the ATSF in Roswell layout, I stumbled upon a few photos of the SP, DRGW and Union Railway of Oregon.  I realized that if I modeled a generic western setting in the late 1990s, I could pull many of these special railroads and even a shortline operation onto my layout.  For many years, upon their merger in 1986, the SP and DRGW railroads used each others equipment throughout their respective systems.  By modelling the late 1990s (after the Union Pacific acquisition), you could have the bonus of “home road” freight cars from the Union Pacific, Western Pacific, Cotton Belt, Missouri Pacific, Missouri-Kansas-Texas and Chicago and Northwestern.  That means it is entirely plausible for empties to be spotted with any of the above reporting marks plus SP and DRGW!  You still see many of these reporting marks on Union Pacific trains across the country.

Along with the addition of a short line which will also likely switch the scoria and perlite operations (as well as serving a number of industries off the layout), I wanted to insert a few turnouts to simplify operations and avoid a few painful bottlenecks.  The off layout industries give you the option of running occasional “oddball” loads, such as scrap metal, sand or anything you’d see at a team track.  I see wood products as the primary loads–wood chip cars, loaded flats and lumber boxcars.

The track is now in place along with an extension that will serve as the “off-stage” staging track.

In Part II of this post, I will share photos of the new track configuration on the layout.


Selecting an era to model…

It is funny how fundamental this decision is, yet not a great deal is written about it.  For some of us, it tortures us to select just the right locale, era or railroad to model.  For others, it seems to come easy (I kind of envy or perhaps even almost hate those people, just kidding).  Why should it be so easy for them and so hard for others (including me)?

CB&Q 902 in Denver, CO, October 1970.  Photo by Hol Wagner.

CB&Q 902 in Denver, CO, October 1970. Photo by Hol Wagner.

I have had many scenarios during my modelling career.  Here is a highly simplified summary of my torturous history–

Mid-1970s — CB&Q in the 1970s (Midwest)

Late-1970s to early 1980s — BN in the 1980s (Pacific Northwest)

BN 2087 Mar 20 1977 Stockton CA.  Photo by Jim Gavin.

BN 2087 Mar 20 1977 Stockton CA. Photo by Jim Gavin.

Took a break — College, women and career

Mid-1990 to early 2000s — SAL, L&N and ACL in the early 1960s (Southeast)

Early-2000s to mid-2000s — MILW, Rock and CNW in Midwest in the 1980s

Mid-2000s to late 2000s — BN, SP and WP in 1978

Late-2000s to early 2010s — CSX in Florida (modern, Lance Mindheim almost hooked me, click here to see how.)

CSX 1143 Defuniak Springs FL front Dec 27 2011

CSX 1143 Defuniak Springs FL front Dec 27 2011. Photo by Glenn Laux.

2011-2012 — CSX, NS in Midwest (modern)

2013-2014 — ATSF in New Mexico in early 1990s, UP modern

ATSF GP30 near Roswell 1993.  Photo by C. Hunt

ATSF GP30 near Roswell 1993. Photo by C. Hunt

2014-present — DRGW-SP in Southwest (right after UP merger, late 1990s), UP modern


DRGW-SP era in southwestern Colorado, 1999. Photo by Roland Levin. See his great website –

That is really kind of a “train wreck” because I collected equipment for all of these periods.  There is really a financial impact and almost emotional impact for jumping around so much, particularly in this era of hyper-limited runs.  Thank goodness for ebay!   Through ebay, I estimate that I have been able to cut my losses by about 70%.

Here’s a point of sharing my lack of focus, you are better off settling into a period and primary set of railroads as soon as you can.  It is a lot easier on the wallet and saves you some of the anguish of collecting then selling so much!  We often assume that once something is run, It will never be run again.  That is often not true.

As late as September 2014, I was focused on the ATSF in New Mexico around 1990.  I designed and built a track plan around the concept.  It quickly became apparent that the layout was going to be limited and difficult to operate.  I started to redesign it, but then I anguished over letting go of Roswell as I did.  As I began to gently let go of Roswell, Athearn Genesis came out with DRGW GP-40-2s.


Here is the troublemaker. Athearn’s release of this locomotive, partially caused me to re-evaluate my ATSF in Roswell concept.

As soon as I saw them, I had an epiphany–I always wanted to model the DRGW, why wasn’t I doing it?!  As I started considering it, I also started to think how neat it would be to model the DRGW-SP era.  I grew up with the SP kind of in my backyard in Texas and felt an emotional attachment to the SP.  I thought if I model right after the UP merger, I could feature UP, MP, DRGW, SP, SSW, WP and CNW (all railroads of interest to me) all as “home road” reporting marks.  This concept really caught hold with me, and I am committed to it (for now).  I have re-designed the layout in a much more free-lance manner that offers less complicated, but richer operating scenarios including a shortline inspired by the Union Railroad of Oregon.  (Click here for a nice link on the Union Railroad of Oregon.)

Union Railroad of Oregon in Oregon.  Note tiny locomotive on train.  This was the inspiration for there being a shortline on the new layout design.  Photo by Dan Schwanz

Union Railroad of Oregon in Oregon. Note tiny locomotive on train. This was the inspiration for there being a shortline on the new layout design. Photo by Dan Schwanz

I hope it sticks.  Here’s why–

1 — It is rich with having both DRGW and SP motive power and an occasional caboose.

2 — Home road cars of UP, MP, WP, SP, SSW, CNW and CNW.  All favorites–just need some ATSF thrown in.

3 — The track plan holds great promise and having a shortline could offer a variety of operations as well as mini-operating sessions when desired.

4 — I am very tired of re-configuring my rosters!!!

5 — It operates in the part of the country that I love and is beautiful.

Time will tell.

I also seriously considered backdating to the WP (early-1980s) but decided against going that far back.  I love the WP, but it is a bit limited compared to the versatility of the above scenario, plus I can run some WP rolling stock as a home road reporting mark.

I hope my sharing my difficulties in settling on an era, may help you navigate this tricky issue that we often may not fully appreciate.  We may let ourselves just drift along being knocked off course whenever a bright and shiny new product is offered.  (Take me for instance.)  Try not to go there if you can avoid it!  It is ultimately exhausting and can derail your dreams of having an operational layout.

Layout progress report #4

The track crew has informed management that they are done!  Management noted that the track arrangement isn’t per the diagram, but the track crew (me) made it clear that it is big enough.  For the original plan see this post from February 16, 2014.  The new layout is about 22 x 13 1/2 feet.

As a result, you will notice some changes from the original diagram.  Actually, some of the changes are to make the layout operate more smoothly.  Others are to just keep it manageable.

Model railroading, is a passion for me, but only one of about 100 big interests of mine. I want a layout that is fun to operate for about 30 to 45 minutes and easy to maintain.  (I have family (#1), trails to hike, rivers to kayak, wilderness to save, books to read, golf rounds to play, beers to drink…)

So here is the track configuration (in reality).


Starting from the north (towards Clovis)…

photo 3 (15)

Budweiser distributor (to be)

Looking north towards Clovis.  Note change is team track lead.

Looking north towards Clovis. Note change to team track lead.

I modified the configuration to making switching the team track much easier.  It is different but keeps with the overall flow of the actual Roswell track configuration.

Team track with plastic filled covered hopper waiting to be unloaded.

Team track with plastic filled covered hopper waiting to be unloaded.

Unchanged from the original configuration.

Looking south on other side of team track.

Looking south on other side of team track.

Looking towards south side of town.  The track is actually straighter than it appears in this photo.  (No, the track gang had not started drinking in the morning!)

Rounding the bend...

Rounding the bend…

View from air.

View from air.

In this “aerial” view, we see the rest of the layout looking south.  Whitcamp’s Recycling is first spur to to the right.

"Reverse angle" photo of south end of layout.

“Reverse angle” photo of south end of layout.

Here you start to see the most dramatic difference.  The track gang threatened to start boycotting Coor’s beer unless they moved to the site of an abandoned industry on the line (which really exists).

photo 1 (24)

Covered hoppers loaded with feed for dairy cows.

photo (27)

Close up of car waiting to be unloaded.

OK, so I wimped out a bit.  It is all about balance.  Further, none of this is irreversible.

Next is wiring.  I hope the electricians are easier to work with than the track gang!