The Ten Mile Branch – the MCMR&HS second HO layout – – Part 9 – lessons from building an outdoor HO layout

This series of posts is about the second MCMR&HS HO layout. MCMR&HS is the Mendocino Coast Model Railroad & Historical Society. After the train show described in previous posts I was asked to write a report to club members about what I/we had learned from building an outdoor HO layout. In 2003 there were very few computers so there was no e-mail among club members. This is my written report.

The Gestation of The 10 Mile Railway Model

The first Club layout was the brainchild of Joe DuVivier and I greatly admired his design. Joe and I both visited the NMRA National Meet when it was in San Jose in 2000. When Joe returned he penned a very insightful article for the Club on what he had seen/observed. Inter alia he made the following points:

  • you should look at a model railway not down on it. So, I set the 10 mile sea-level at 3 feet 9 inches which meant that Fort Bragg (when completed) will be 4 feet 3 inches as it is 45 feet above sea-level. 
  • sound really adds to the realism. Joe advocated installing on-board sound which, I agree is very effective indoors where the sound is contained. Alas, it is also expensive so I settled for an inexpensive “out board” system as it can be cranked up to “mystify” the neighbours.
  • The best layouts are where there are scenes linked by track. I spent a considerable time analyzing the “Skunk” and the 10 Mile Branch and identified 23 scenes!!!!!. The Model contains 9 scenes:
    1. the Glass Beach Underpass
    2. the Pudding Creek trestle
    3. the Virgin Creek Trestle
    4. the Cleone Tramway
    5. the Laguna Point trestle
    6. The Sandhills trestle
    7. The Inglenook Fen Trestle
    8. The 10 mile river road bridge
    9. Camp One
  • Use a device to show people scale …… in this case it’s easy ‘cos everyone “knows” the Pudding Creek Trestle.

A fellow modeler was very helpful too. He advocated KISS to the nth degree. In particular he advocated:

  1. make every switch manual ….. keep the electrics to the minimum …. we live by the sea and salt air is murder on electrics ….. add to that I think it is neat to throw the switches yourself just as in real life.
  2. Make all the rolling stock heavy and don’t try and run when it is windy
  3. Wire every section of track from a bus (a pair of wires running the length of the track) so you don’t have to rely on the rail joiners to carry the electric current.I reinforced the nine main fence posts last November (2002) with 3 bags of post mix each to stiffen them up. During the winter I started scrounging materials. Now keep in mind that in 32 years of being a model train enthusiast I have NEVER completed one itsy bitsy layout. On March 9th  construction began.

The plan, like all good plans, didn’t survive after contact with the enemy, The layout is currently about 135 feet long …..about 2 and a bit scale miles (vs 9. something in real life) …… it takes about 7 minutes to traverse the layout if the top speed of 12 miles an hour is observed (12 was the max in real life). The path of the railroad contains 12 tons 435 pounds and 4 ounces of rock and took 162 wheelbarrow loads to move. That’s about the limit of my record-keeping. I have kept the trestles to scale …. The curve at 10 mile river is 10 degrees just as in real life.


What have I learned so far …..

A clear vision is not the same thing as a short distance.

Expect the worst and that’s what you’ll get … except it’ll be worse.

Things got better after I abandoned hope.

Hot glue really is hot …. Like it leaves a huge blister.

Einstein may be right about genius …. 99 per cent perspiration and 1 per cent inspiration. Model railroading is 100 per cent perspiration.

Concrete is REALLY heavy. Concrete cracks.

You can drill a hole in your finger.

The next steps: If I keep at it I should more or less finish what you see by this fall. Next I want to connect the ULC pier to the main layout by adding Fort Bragg and the downtown wye so there is a “logical” thing for the train to do …. bring logs from Camp 1 and take the lumber out to the pier. I’d like to add the wye that existed at Camp 1 so the train can turn around.

What actually happened? Pretty much nothing. My wife and I were asked to run the Ice Cream Concession in the local Gardens and that’s where we spent the next eleven summers. The layout became so dilapidated that it was torn down. VERY sad. I had great fun building it.

Above all:

Keep calm and carry on