The Ten Mile Branch – the MCMR&HS second HO layout – – Part 1

When the Mendocino Model Railroad and Historical Society (MCMR&H) got the toss from their premises downtown and were unable to find another joint to house their “Skunk” layout my febrile brain got to wondering if it was possible to have a “Skunk” layout outdoors. After lengthy cogitation and negotiations with wife Soggy about a lease for the field at the bottom of our property I set to work designing an outdoor HO layout. This was 2002 and club members did not have computers so written reports were generated to hand out to club members at our monthly meetings.This is the club report on the project:


Site preparation for the California Western Railway and Navigation Company (CWRN) Ten Mile Branch layout at Tony Phillips’s Inglenook home is well underway. The Ten Mile Railroad and its five trestles will be modeled in full HO scale length — no puny structures shortened to fit cramped spaces. Together the real trestles measured 2,297 feet. That is 26 ½ actual feet on Tony’s railroad.

          The only real trestle still in existence, of course, is Pudding Creek. .Its piles, bents, and timbers have been scrupulously measured for building its HO replica as close to the prototype. The trestle today is the focus of a conservation effort by the California State Parks and the Ten Mile Coastal Trail Foundation. Its HO counterpart is now under construction.

          CWRN built the Ten Mile line in 1916, completing it that year up the Ten Mile River as far as Camp One. From there the first load of logs rolled south across the dunes and over the trestles to Union Lumber Company’s Fort Bragg mill on January 3, 1917. Camp one was headquarters for  logging operations in the entire Ten Mile River drainage, which yielded redwood logs for more than five decades — carried by rail until June 1949 and by truck thereafter — until January 1983 when fierce storms washed out the haul road, ending the transport across the dunes.

          Camp One was a community unto itself with accommodations to house single men and homes for families, a store, cook house, electric plant, dance hall and theater. Union Lumber had an office to manage logging operations, with drafting rooms, and even a guest house. There was a blacksmith and a machinists’ shop.

          Tony’s layout will run as far as Camp One, where a number of structures and facilities will be represented. There has been no word whether the notorious sixteen-hole outhouse will be included.

          CWRN’s line ran nine (9.1) miles from the Fort Bragg sawmill to Camp One. The projected length of Tony’s HO replica is about 135 (134.88) feet, measured from the wye in the Fort Bragg yard out to Camp One. That is nearly 2 ¼ HO scale miles or almost 25 percent (24.69%) of the actual run.

          Late last fall, eleven posts were erected, with three sacks of concrete per post to secure them in place. The posts form the “spine” of the line. The sub-roadbed is attached to the posts.

          One Saturday, March 8, 2003, construction resumed with assembly of the sub-roadbed (essentially open bench work cantilevered from the posts). Both the 180-degree reverse loop and the sweeping curve into Camp One (with its approximately ten foot radius) are laid on cross-braced bench work. Following that, about 89 feet of feet of blue sky backdrop was added to the posts. As this newsletter goes to press, more sub roadbed is being secured and Romex cable positioned. (Each length of flex track will be fed power).

          By mid-May, club members should see a sizeable section of the line ready to run trains.

          This June will see completion of all 135 feet of No. 100 flex track, plus sidings. Not in place, however, will be the trestles.

          By comparison, CWRN crews constructed the nine miles across the dunes, benchland and creeks in about nine months (March through December 1916). Including nearly half a mile of single track trestles. There is a precedent and challenge for our HO artisan of today.”

Here’s the plan:

The Ten Mile Branch Plan

The spine from above

Tony leaning on one of the posts that comprised the spine

Looking down the spine

The turn at Laguna Point

The 0-4-0 HO loco used in testing the rail bed gives an idea of the size of the project

The then club historian Louis Hough inspecting progress

The first track test

Looking down the back side of the layout – the structure at the far end is the Union Lumber Company pier

Looking down toward Fort Bragg