Sierra Railroad 1955

Modeling the Sierra Railroad in Twain Harte, CA

Layout History

We moved into our new house in Twain Harte in the fall of 1991. The layout was started in the summer of 1992 with the construction of the Sierra Yard. Over the next several summers the layout progressed eastward just as the prototype. First to Warnerville, then Cooperstown, Hetch Hetchy Junction, Chinese and finally to Jamestown.

Limited operations started in 1993 with a small group of local model railroaders getting together every Thursday afternoon from April 16th through the end of the year. As the layout grew so did the number of operators from 3 to 5 up to 6 to 8. After reaching Jamestown the eastward expansion picked up speed as most of the benchwork had been built and was in place to receive the new trackwork.

The first major expansion of layout occurred in 1997 when the layout was expanded into the crew lounge room. This area had been off limits until the new right of way was secured through negotiations with upper management. In a matter of a couple of weeks both decks were in place and the trains were running over the new track without missing a single weekly operating session.

The next major improvement to the layout came in 2003 with the conversion to DCC. The decision to go with CVP’s EasyDCC was based on their Radio Throttles and the easy to use throttle design. In late August of 2003 21 decoders were installed on then the current locomotive rooster. The next operating session was run with borrowed locomotives that would still run on the DC wired track. The following week the track was converted into six booster blocks and other changes were made to convert the track to DCC. The Friday after Labor Day we had our first test of the new DCC wired layout. It did not take long to see the tremendous benefits of using DCC. We haven’t look back since. Since then a number of locomotives have been added to the rooster and about a third of the locomotives now have sound decoders with the number increasing every year.

In 2004 work was started on the 8 ft by 50 ft room addition. This area of the basement was unfinished with a dirt floor. The first step was to dig out the dirt embankment to create a 8 ft wide level floor. Once the dirt was removed a slab floor was poured and a new wall running the length of basement was built. That competed the work for 2004. In 2005 a drop ceiling and lighting was installed. Finally in August of 2005 the benchwork for the new track was started. In a matter of 4 weeks over 800 ft of track was laid and wired into the DCC system. With the completion of this room the Sierra mainline was complete , the mainline had finally reached Tuolumne. The Sierra mainline from Oakdale to Tuolumne is a scale 10.5 miles long.

The last major track expansion will start this summer. The Pickering Railroad’s mainline will be extended approximately 75 ft to the reload at Soap Creek. The extension will include the bridge over the Stanislaus River (pre- Beardsley Dam) and the Chinaman Creek Trestle. Once this work is complete the extension of the WSLCo mainline will start. The line will be extended down to the River Bridge and out to Camp 24 with its balloon track. This extension if not completed in 2007 will be completed in 2008.

January 2011 Update – All the track work has been completed. The Pickering mainline runs from Ralph all the way to Soap Creek.  The WSLCo track runs from Tuolumne out to Camp 24 and its balloon track.  And finally the Stockton Yard and the CV&P trackage is in place. The CV&P (Central Valley and Pacific) is a traction line that serves various industries in the Stockton area.  Just another excuse to have Sacramento Northern equipment on the layout.

Once the track work is completed the primary focus will switch to the completion of the scenery. The goal is to have the scenery complete prior to the 2011 National Convention in Sacramento.

January 2011 Update – 90% of the base scenery is complete. The last remaining stretch of track is the  Pickering mainline from east of Ralph through Schoettgen Pass to west of the Peeled Onion. This section will be completed by the end of June. Once completed work will continue on finishing more of the scenery.

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Sierra Railroad Logo

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Sierra Historical & Modeling Seminar

The Sierra Seminar is normally held the 3rd weekend in April, the Sunday after the West Side Loggers Convention, in Sonora, CA. For information on this year's Seminar please contact me at jzach@hrblock.com

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