A ride through the French Pyrenees on the Yellow Train

I have been to France many times but have never ridden this train. In fact until I began my pandemic induced world tour of railroads I didn’t know of its existence!

In the early twentieth century, the railway line carrying the famous Yellow Train was built to link the high Catalan plateau to the rest of the region. Work began in 1903 and by 1910 connected Villefranche-de-Conflent to Mont-Louis. The final stretch was completed in 1927 reaching Latour-de-Carol.

Today it follows its original route through magnificent mountain scenery. Laying the track required the construction of 650 engineering masterpieces, including two remarkable bridges, the Séjourné Viaduct (suspended 65 metres above the ground) and the Pont Gisclard (80 metres above a precipice), allowing the Yellow Train to chug along the contours of the mountains.

The line runs all year round, serving 22 different stations. During the summer season, the Yellow Train has open wagons for a real mountain experience. The track passes through nineteen tunnels (including one tunnel 337 metres long at Planes, and the Pla de Llaura tunnel near Ur, 380m long). The map below shows you the route:

Map of yellow Train Route

The train runs on an electric drive system. Electricity is provided by a third rail which runs alongside the track. The Bouillouses dam and hydroelectric plant at La Cassagne, between Fontpedrouse and Mont-Louis, were built and commissioned in 1910 to provide electricity to the Yellow Train. The electricity production complex at La Cassagne is operated by the Hydroelectric Company of Southern France, a subsidiary of the French National Railways, created in 1937.

Jump on …………………………….

According to what I have read the Yellow train has run  every day since it was completed. And snow? The yellow Train has its own snow plows.

Yellow train Snow Plow

North Carolina Transportation Museum – jimmy Buffet singing Railroad Lady

I was going through my collection of railroad songs and found this vid that I had not seen before. Intrigued I looked up the North Carolina Transportation Museum.

The museum was founded in 1977, when the Southern Railway deeded 4 acres of land to North Carolina for a transportation museum. Two years later, another 53 acres was added to the original donation; the entirety of the railway’s largest former steam locomotive repair shops. The museum’s first exhibit called People, Places and Time opened in 1983. The museum grew over the years, most notably in 1996, with the opening of Barber Junction, a relocated railroad depot from some 30 miles away, and the newly renovated Bob Julian Roundhouse. Barber Junction serves as the museum’s Visitor’s Center and departure point for the on-site train ride. The Bob Julian Roundhouse serves as the hub for most of the museum’s railroad exhibits.

Several bays of the Spencer Shops roundhouse, built in 1924, are devoted to locomotives and rolling stock in the museum collection restored by volunteers. It was here that steam locomotives from 1924-1953 were repaired. In the first 16 stalls, visitors can walk among the massive locomotives and rail cars on display in an open-air setting. Moving into the enclosed Elmer Lam gallery in stalls 17 through 20, aviation exhibits dominate, with a full size replica Wright Flyer, Piedmont Airlines exhibits, and more. Moving into the restoration shop occupying stalls 21 through 32, visitors may also see volunteers working on various railroad pieces, and even manufacturing parts. The museum is the largest repository of rail relics in North and South Carolina and averages 80,000 visitors annually. About three-thousand people were employed to repair the trains at the Spencer Shops in the first half of the twentieth century.

In 2005, the museum’s Back Shop underwent a massive renovation. This building, where the full overhaul of steam locomotives once took place, is most notable for its size. It is two football fields long and nearly three stories tall. However, it may be most notable for the words “Be Careful,” standing some three feet tall, visible from nearly anywhere on the north end of the site. In 2009, the museum opened the Back Shop to the public for the first time, with an access ramp on the south end. In 2017 the backshop was opened completely, allowing more exhibits.

Alas, I have never been there.

National Summer Steamup 2019 – G Scale Live Steam Locomotives at the Mclellan Comference Centre in Sacremento

I have been to this event several times. This time I went to souse out information to assist in a project we may consider at our layout in Fort Bragg (CA.). That being so my camera was mainly focused om “stuff” rather than the wonderful locos that, as usual, abounded there.

My trusty brownie kodak did capture a few items that particularly caught my beady eyes – see below.

Whoever would have thought of using ducks a "load"?

Whoever would have thought of using ducks a “load”?

These guys are quackers!

These guys are quackers!

Three shots of an amazingly detailed caboose.

Rear of caboose

Rear of caboose

Interior of caboose - notice the egg frying!

Interior of caboose – notice the egg frying!

Side view of the inerior

Side view of the interior

How about this for ingenious detail!!!

Love at first sight

Love at first sight

EVERYONE I met was extremely kind and helpful to this admittedly not too bright technical yoyo.

Nn3 Visits Fort Bragg February 1 and 2, 2003

Note the date. How many Fort Braggers remember this remarkable show?

The reason I ask is that Club Member Joe DuVivier is currently building an Nn3 model layout of the Caspar Lumber Company for a show to be held later this year (2017) in Denver. So, I thought a reprise of this show (one of two model railroad shows that have ever been held in Fort Bragg) was apropos.

Here’s the report I wrote for Club Members at the time:

Nn3 gauge is small. A locomotive, caboose and the entire consist can fit in the palm of one hand. Some handful!  Nn3 means N-scale three-foot narrow gauge. On a real narrow gauge line, the rolling stock is smaller than conventional standard gauge. Think Denver & Rio Grande compared to Union Pacific. So, Nn3 is proportionally tinier than N-scale. Engines are 4 to 5 inches in length, freight cars 2 inches or a little more, and a caboose is only 1 ½ inches.

Nn3 Locomotive in the palm of your hand

            Trains that size were rolling on a modular layout set up in the Company Store on February 1 and 2, 2003. The show was put on by four members of the Norcal division of Nn3 Alliance.

            The Alliance (which is world-wide) is representative of model railroading in the space age. Space and mobility are key. Members keep in contact, sharing information with fellow travelers all over the planet. Norcal people, for instance, plan and coordinate an event, converge separately on location (each packing one or more modules) and connect them up, ready to roll. Seven modules were assembled in the lobby of the Company Store.

            While Norcal and the Alliance may be “space age,” the motive power, rolling stock and modules on display at this meet were quite “turn of the century.” ONE CENTURY AGO. A desert location, for example, was identified as “Hawthorne, Nevada circa 1900.”

Wayside Village

            In olden times, narrow gauge railroads were legion in the United States, Canada and the Yukon. These prototype operations are perfect for modeling: funky, folksy, loaded with personality. They are ideal for imaginative people who want to build something unique.

            Joe DuVivier participated in this show, providing a reverse-loop module in a wooded mountain-side location, most of the loop hidden in a tunnel. Other participants were: Tom Knapp of San Francisco, David Smith of Concord, and Bruce Hunt of San Mateo.

            Tom Knapp, who furnished four modules for this event, was the “pilot truck,” shall we say, of the engine of Nn3 and narrow  gauge development. Tom tells of discovering in 1968 that Marklin Z- scale (6.5 mm gauge) track was “close enough,” as he puts it, to approximate three-foot narrow gauge in N-scale. At that time, he built a ten-wheeler using Marklin Z-scale mechanism and drivers on top of which he scratch-built an award-winning 4-6-0. It was selected best steam locomotive at the NMRA San Diego convention in 1974.

Joe DuVivier and Tom Knapp working on an electrical problem

            Tom developed what he then called a “sectional train layout” based on the three-foot gauge Pacific Coast Railway. The prototype began in the 1870s, running goods from the small seaport of Port Harford (now called Port San Luis) ten miles to San Luis Obispo. The line expanded south (in the period before Southern Pacific came through) to serve the communities of Santa Maria, Lompoc Landing, Los Olivos and points in between.

            Interest in Nn3 has grown in the past thirty-odd years. The sectional layout notion became today’s popular modular concept for portable miniature railroads. A module consumes little space at home while you build it. It folds up neatly and wighs very little when you pack it to a meet. Those Tom had on display, built of plywood and styrofoam, weigh less than seven pounds each. He said that he can load several modules in his van. When needed, he can lug more than the four he brought to Fort Bragg. Last year he carried a module on a commercial flight to a Rhode Island event. The airport inspectors, he said, took a long time checking it out.

            Perhaps one of those inspectors is on the net right now, gathering some tips for his new Nn3 module”

Tom Knapp (my view) is one of the geniuses of the model railroad world. He built this WORKING Nn3 Shay:T

I had a million photos of this show. Here’s the ones that I can find:

The Highest Train You Can Ride – Xining (China) to Lhasa (Tibet)

Talking to visitors to our layout, I have concluded, requires an encyclopedic knowledge of trains and railroads around the world as well as knowing where in town (Fort Bragg, CA.) you can find the best ice-cream (Cowlicks). The questions I can’t answer off the top of my head I jot down on a pad and see if I can find an answer when I get home.

We are building a hill (mountain?) in the northy-west corner of the layout. Give or take its twelve foot high -300 G Scale feet. I had an animated conversation with a young lad and his mother about how we were building the hill and how his grandpa might build one on his N-scale layout. The lad and the mom were clearly impressed with our efforts – its going to be really high. The lad then asked what was the highest train you can ride. I confessed I didn’t know but thought that it might be in Peru. I promised to find out, post a blog and e-mail him with the result of my research.

Well, it took a couple of hours on the ‘net to find out that Peru is NOT the answer. The answer is the The Qinghai–Tibet railway that connects Xining to Lhasa. The length of the railway is 1,215 miles. The line includes the Tanggula Pass which, at 16,640 feet above sea level is the world’s highest point on a railway. Tanngula railway station  at 16,627 feet  is the world’s highest railway station. The 4,390 foot) Fenghuoshan Tunnel is the highest rail tunnel in the world at 16,093 feet above sea level.

Exactly where is it? This map helped me:


What’s it like to ride on? There aren’t too many vids to enable one to get a taste. This one is the best I can find:

I must confess, world’s highest or not it’s not one for THE LIST.

London Underground – Truly transportation for the masses

The iconic roundel - its design

The iconic roundel – its design

If you have ever been to London there is a VERY good chance that you have traveled on the Tube, The Underground.

I have been reading Bill Bryson’s latest book, “the Road to Little Dribbling” whilst I was trolling down to Joshua Tree to spend a weekend with Club Member Bill Shepherd who is working on the layout there.

Bill’s book (like all of his books) is hilarious and filled with incredible factoids. One of these was/is about the Tube. Let me quote:

“People forget how bad the Underground was once upon a time. When I first came to Britain, it was dirty, poorly managed and often unsafe. Several stations – Camden Town, Stockwell and Tooting Bec to name but three – were positively dangerous at night. By 1982, fewer than 500 million people a year, a decline of 50 per cent from the early 1950’s, ventured into the Underground. The King’s Cross fire in 1987, when thirty-one people died after a discarded cigarette started a blaze in uncleared rubbish beneath a wooden escalator showed how lamentably under managed the Underground had become.


Commuters wait to board a tube train in Clapham Common station.

Well, look at it now. The platforms are the cleanest places in London. The service is smooth and reliable. The staff, as far as I can tell, are unfailingly helpful and courteous. Passenger numbers have risen to an astounding 1.2 billion a year, which is more than all the above ground rail journeys in the country combined. According to Time Out magazine, at any given moment there are 600,000 people on the Underground making it both a larger and more interesting place than Oslo. I read in the Evening Standard that the average speed of Underground trains is just 21 miles an hour, which doesn’t seem very much (unless you travel regularly by train between Liss and Waterloo, in which case it’s like being on a rocket ship) but it all feels pretty brisk, and to convey such a massive number of people over such an enormous and aged system with rarely a hitch is an extraordinary achievement.”


Andrea Fernandes photo of a flasher on the London Underground

I never remember flashers when I traveled the Tube. No wonder ridership has soared.

If you a bit more on the Tube try these two blogs:

3,000 plus dead under London’s Liverpool Street Station

Steam train back on London Underground

Google Maps visits Minatur Wunderland (the largest HO layout in the world) in Hamburg, Germany

I don’t think that there are too many folks who have not read about, heard about or seen Google Maps street level camera. Well, Minatur Wunderland modified one of their cars and turned it into a Google Maps camera car and then sent it out onto their gigantic layout:

That was just the intro. Google Maps then published the pictures that the camera car took. Before I show you those pics I want to say that Google Maps may have got the idea from the photos that our club computer guru Roger Thornburn took or our layout. Here’s the link.

Now I’ll take you to Google’s tour de force. It took me a sec or two to get the hang of what Google have done. Click on the first page, “Explore the Wonderland.” On the next screen is a map – click on any of the balloons and sit back in awe. Here’s the link.

I spent nearly three hours gawking at the different scenes.

Thanks to daughter Annalise for the heads up.


Grand Central Station O scale model railroad

Daughter Annalise recently went to the New York Transit Museum in Brooklyn. From there she and her friend went to see the O scale (3 rail) layout in the annex of Grand central Station. Here’s the pics she sent:

There aren’t too many public model railroads using 3 rail O scale – beautiful layout.

Thanks Annalise