The Ten Mile Branch – the MCMR&HS second HO layout – – Part 5 – The Launching of the Stubby III from the ULC Mill Pier

This series of blogs are part of my efforts to document the history of our club (The Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society – the MCMR&HS). The construction and running of the HO Ten Mile Branch all took place in 2002 and 2003. The last post detailed the misadventures of building a prototypically accurate HO model of the ULC (Union Lumber Company) pier which jutted out some 670 feet into Soldier Bay here in Fort Bragg.

My consultant on the pier construction was my very good friend Hank Simonson. In one of our many planning sessions – Hank’s wife Flo called them extended coffee breaks – Hank told me that he and a friend, with the full permission of the mill supervisor refurbished a small sailing boat named the Stubby II they acquired from the ULC on ULC Mill property. The ULC superintendent encouraged the “boys” and offered materials from ULC stores, as well as advice and encouragement. The gas tank for the boat was salvaged from the bottom of Elm Street, now known as Glass Beach. There are cliffs all around the Mill site and the only way to launch Hank’s Stubby II was off the ULC pier. In 1939 demolition of the pier was kindly held up until the “boys” finished and then Stubby II was lifted off the pier into the water.

Unbeknownst to Hank I asked Flo if there were any photos of the Stubby II and if so could I borrow them without Hank knowing. Flo produced two of the Stubby II being launched from the ULC pier.

1939 launching of Hank Simonson’s Stubby II off of the ULC pier

The Stubby II on the ULC pier

Well, we had the ULC pier whose “box” even though filled with 500 pounds of concrete leaked. Could we stage a re-enactment of the launching of the Stubby II as a surprise for Hank. Wife Sarah, Fort Bragg’s ace shopper, was enlisted to acquire the Stubby III. I knew she wouldn’t fail and you can see Sarah and I trying it out for size:

Sarah testing the Stubby II for size

Me, the ULC pier and the Stubby III

The wires on top of the pier are for the to and fro mechanism Hank installed on the pier.

The club, like now, needed members. Club Pres Phil Miller suggested that we hold an open day to show off my creation (even though it was far from complete) as “bait” for new members. Sarah volunteered free chili and her friends pitched in with cakes, tea and coffee. The date was set for July 6th, 2003. Hank agreed to run the trains on the pier which would be filled with water:

Hank re-tailing a loco on the ULC pier

Then came the great moment – the presentation of the Stubby III to Hank:

Hank, Daughter Annalise, my good friend from England, John Wooller and me presenting Hank with the Stubby III

Hank was tickled pink. Hank decided to perform the launch at the deep end before all the water ran out.

Me watching Hank launch the Stubby III

Hank kept the Stubby III in pride of place on top of his home computer.

More about July 6th 2003 in the next post.



The Ten Mile Branch – the MCMR&HS second HO layout – – Part 4 – Building the ULC (Union Lumber Company) Pier

MCMR&HS is the name of our club – The Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society

Hank Simonson and I used to sit in his garage and pontificate on the state of the world whilst we were feted by his wonderful wife Flo with coffee and delicious cookies. Our ideas, designs and plans, both practical an outrageous whiled away many a pleasant hour. One design, “The Ain’t Goin’ Nowhere layout” still exists. I appointed him consultant extraordinaire for the Ten Mile Branch.

In his consultant capacity Hank helped me design the ULC pier for the Ten Mile Branch. Hank had worked for the ULC and had intimate knowledge of the pier – more of which in the next post. This is what the ULC pier looked like:


ULC pier from the sea

ULC Pier from the top of the Mill

Now comes a very sad part of this post.  Make sure you have tissues to hand.

In order to obviate the same level of disaster I had building the Little Valley Tramway (see previous post) Hank and I agreed that I should build the pier upside down. This worked well and we got the track and decking looking pretty real. Next I built the pilings and attached them to the decking. Voila, I had a six foot long pier.

Hank and I agreed that to make it look authentic it should stand in the sea. No prob, right?

I built a rectangular box of 1″ by 8″ on a sheet of 1/2″ plywood. This I mounted on four 4″ by 4″ Here’s the pier in the box.

Th pier in the box

I painted the inside of the box and caulked the seams. Then I put in water. It leaked like a sieve. Not only did it leak but there was no seabed and shore . My trusty consultant and I agreed that the answer was concrete. I mixed up two 60 pound bags and it went nowhere. So, I got two more. Still didn’t look right. So I got two more. Better, but not great. So I put in two more bags. It still wasn’t perfect but it was passable. And then I went to bed.

Now you geniuses out there have, I am sure, figured out what happened overnight. Under the weight of eight sixty pound bags of concrete the box had undertaken a Titanic size list. With the aid of a buddy and some car jacks I got the bloody thing level again. I reinforced the supports and thought I was home free.

Not so. I hadn’t realized that not only had the box listed the  1″ sides had bowed out. I sloshed some more concrete around the edges to fill up the gaps. Next day I poured in water – it leaked like Niagara Falls. My consultant suggested caulk. Well that worked to the extent that it took about three hours for the tide to go out. We decided that we should quit whilst we were ahead by a nose.

Looking down the pier to the shore soon after filling

Hank said it looked ok except that the pier legs needed barnacles. More concrete was applied.

The pier with barnacles and the tide nearly out

The above pics show the pier being tested. After the test Hank and I posed besides our masterpiece.


Yours truly

We never did get it to hold water. Alas, our ideas for making waves were never tested. Pity.

The Ten Mile Branch – the MCMR&HS second HO layout – – Part 3 – Building the Little Valley Lumber Company Tramway

Remember when reading this that it all took place in 2002 and 2003. Club members did not have computers. Then Club President, Phil Miller, used to make telephone calls to members to advise them of club meetings. A different world indeed. Back to the story ………

When the main track was complete there was a 12 foot diameter turn around at the far end of the point to point track. You can see this in this picture:

Looking across the turnaround

What to build in the space?

At a club meeting the idea was broached of making the space into what we now know as McKerricher State Park. No prob – masses of concrete and trees. Then someone remembered that there used to be a mill that had a tramway that ran through McKerricher Park.

Mckerricher State Park was called Cleone Point in the late 1800’s. Little Valley Lumber Company built a tramway which ran two and one half miles from their sawmill back on the hill east of Cleone. At the Point was a chute from which lumber and forest products were loaded aboard ships.

Laguna Point pier and chute

The tramway was unusual because no steam locomotive ever ran on its rails. The rails were wood to which metal straps were spiked. Gravity-propelled cars loaded with lumber or tanbark. Leaving the mill, a “train” comprised of two to four cars rumbled though downtown Cleone (known then as Laguna). The grade from the mill was sufficient to propel the lumber-laden cars out to the ship loading chute. Horses hauled the empty cars back up to the mill.

Horses pulling cars past the Mill Store in what is now Cleone

Having made the decision to build the chute some bright spark noted that the tramway never crossed the Ten Mile Branch. The tramway was abandoned before the Ten Mile Branch was conceived. The answer was, poetic licence. Who would know except those that were in the know?

As I soon discovered, replicating the spindly pier and chute in HO scale was no easy task. The first version collapsed in a heap of sticks when I accidentally knocked it on the floor in my workshop. The second one was also fragile and I decided it would only appear on high days and holidays.

The winch house on the pier

The completed model of the pier and winch house

Fortunately you cannot see the great gobs of hot glue that hold the legs to the base!!!!!!!


The Ten Mile Branch – the MCMR&HS second HO layout – – Part 2 – Building the Pudding Creek Trestle

As you can gather from the previous post the fact that I had never finished ANY layout did not stop me from building a 135 foot long HO “monster” – The Ten Mile Branch. Well, fools rush in where angels fear to tread. My next idiotic move was my decision to build a prototypically accurate model of Fort Bragg (CA) iconic Pudding Creek Trestle:

Pudding Creek Trestle from the south end

The first step was to measure each of the bents:

Height of Pudding Creek trestle calculation

I thought that I had measured everything wrong as my calculations showed that the trestle ran uphill from north to south so I went back and measured it again – with the same result. At this point I decided I was a right twit and wouldn’t tell anyone what I had found and build my trestle “flat.” Many moons later I found out that my measurements were correct and that, indeed, the trestle rises 2 foot in every 100.

The next step was to build the bents (the uprights). Oh dear, oh dear, oh dear what a shambles. My first three “freehand” bents were total, unmitigated disasters. I was in despair and about to abandon the whole project when, whilst reading a railway mag I chanced upon an itty bitty advert for Black Bear Scale Models who offered an HO jig for building trestle bents. Hallelujah, project saved.

I freely admit I am not an accomplished modeller but, if I say so myself, with the aid of the jig the bents turned about really well. Judge for yourself:

Trestle bent- that’s my finger and thumb in the bottom right corner

Mock up of trestle

Another view of the mockup

Close up of mockup

Testingstrregth with an HO loco

Side view of test

And what did the final product look like?

2-8-0 crossing the Pudding Creek Trestle

Side view of installed trestle


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


Xenon Central Railroad – an HO Railroad on a Garden Fence using Concrete Scenery

As I told in an earlier blog we got the bullet from the owner of the building wherein our club had its first layout. Bill Shepherd kindly stored the benchwork we had constructed at his house. Aided by President Phil Miller’s eternal optimism we continued to meet and hope that something would turn up.

When I told my neighbour of our plight he scoffed at our predicament, “All you need is a fence and some concrete and you can have a layout like mine.” I asked if he would be kind enough to show his layout to our Club so that they could see whether they thought we could replicate his efforts in some way. So on August 20th 2002 the club came to check out the Xenon Central Railroad. These pics were taken by then historian Louis Hough and my brother, Sean.


Dan Fessler’s Garden Layout

I’ve been poking through my piles of photos trying (not that successfully) to get them into some semblance of order. In the middle of a pile of baby pictures I came across a few photos of the layout that Club Member Dan Fessler had in his garden. It wasn’t a grand affair – just a large oval of track mounted on pallets snagged from the local brewery. I thought that the pics must be somewhere in the website of in the blog but, it seems, they are not. The layout is history and I am the historian so I feel I should post the good pics for old tyme’s sake.

The Goons Inspired Inside Mount Everest G Scale Railroad

The Inside Mount Everest G Scale Railroad was my first bash at a G Scale layout. Perhaps layout is the wrong word as the track was mounted high on the wall of my train room. Whilst it wasn’t a great railroad I learnt a lot building it and had a lot of fun running it.

And the name? The name came from an episode of the Goon Show. The Goons were/are Prince Charles favorite radio comedy. If you have never heard of the The Goons may I offer the following. The first was the first appearance of the Goons on US TV.

This is the episode that provided the name of my railroad. It’s in two parts.

Part 2

Many of the voices were Peter Sellers. The other voices were Harry Secombe (later Sir Harry) and the man who “wrote” many of the shows, Spike Milligan.