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: