Saturday, January 30, 2021

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 8) - Little Lake Grows

In my previous blog posts, I've been covering Owenyo and Bartlett, plus operations and starting construction of my new HO scale layout.  Let's have a closer look at one of the forgotten jewels in the Jawbone Branch story, the little town of Little Lake.  The town has its roots back into the stage coach days and a supply post for the early mining operations going back as far as the Civil War!

My Little Lake Expansion

1947 photo of the 'downtown' area of Little Lake. -

I've always enjoyed passing the Little Lake area during my many trips up and down US Hwy 395.  The natural beauty of the location is spectacular, including one of the few natural lakes in the area formed by the the basaltic lava flows to the east.  These dark colored flows form a nearly shear cliff several hundred feet high. 

My original concept for the space for Little Lake, which could be about 5ft long and flow through the S-curve.

Originally, I planned to put a backdrop in with the image of the basalt bluffs east of Little Lake and a couple of buildings.  Maybe the gas station and hotel that I knew existed there.

Little Lake, North to the Left.  Along the east side of the lake is the some of the large basalt lava formations.  To the north a couple of miles are some spectacular falls from when the ice age melt waters cut into the rocks. - GoogleMaps 2021.

My more in depth research of Little Lake started with an Alden Armstrong photo I found, showing that there was more railroad infrastructure at Little Lake than 'just the hotel and gas station.'  The photo shows a speeder shed, several old carbodies for the section gang, a small water tank and an dump ramp for loading gondolas from dump trucks.  It also shows at least two tracks there.  From that photo alone it was hard to work out exactly where this mysterious 'company village' for Little Lake was.

Carl White & "Grandpa Gurdy", Fishing at Little Lake against the lava bluffs -

Thankfully I found a great history page on the town of Little Lake, which somehow I missed in November 2020 when I did my last round of searches on historical photos on-line.  The Owens Valley History page 95 and Owens Valley History page 95A have a wealth of photos and stories of the towns around the Owens Valley, including Little Lake!  If you have interest in the rich history around the area I'm planning to model, I highly suggest checking out the pages linked above!

All historical photos linked are all credited to the respective photographers and collections shown on Owens Valley History's website by Mr. Ray DeLea.  Thank you Ray DeLea for permission to use the photos off your site, they are being a great help to this project!

Town Buildings of Little Lake

These photos on the Owens Valley History page date from about 1909, before the railroad was built, all the way up to the 1990s after the fire gutted the classic stone Hotel.  Photos of the old stone store/post office, and several versions of the small post offices over the years, a gas station, and garage round out the 'civilian' structures.

The old Store and Post Office which also had an ice cream parlor - Rich McCutchan archives -

The stone store/post office dated back to the Civil War era!  I need to go through the Owens Valley History pages more to see that I'm not confusing two separate structures as the same one, but pretty amazing the area has history going back to the middle of the 1800s!  It may be possible that the civil war era structure was more north-south orientated near where the newer Hotel was built.

Little Lake Hotel, circa 1946 - Rich McCutchan archives -

I'll probably have to do some selective compression on the large Hotel and push some of the buildings back into the backdrop as flats or only semi-3d structures.

Postcard of Little Lake Hotel & Store, 1948 -

This view with the extra advertising will probably be the way I model the store and hotel.

Postcard of Little Lake Store, Gas Station & Garage, 1948 -

By the 1948 era, it seems that the garage, store and hotel have more advertising signage applied than the earlier photos, which probably date to the 1930s.

Fairchild Aerial Survey to the Rescue!

A link on one of the Little Lake forum groups from Bryan Corcoran sent me to the UCSB's FrameFinder GIS page which has a massive collection of photos from Fairchild Aerial Survey covering many years, all the way back to the 1920s!  From this site I was able to download great 1944 aerial views of not just Little Lake, but also Bartlett and Owenyo.  Truly a great find!  I'll probably be going back through with this info and doing another round of update posts about Owenyo and Bartlett!

1944 Fairchild Aerial Survey of Little Lake, cropped.  North to the Left. FrameFinder from UCSB

These photos are from high altitude and have very little distortion, so I should be able to bring these into my CAD model for the train layout and have a fairly easy time working the selective compression.  The aerial photo of Little Lake is clear enough that I can work out the locations of the switches, spurs, ends of the siding, position and size of the buildings.  Interesting that by 1944 the highway fill has been pushed through across the western edge of the lake and the railroad trestle has also been filled in with material.

Railroad Structures in Little Lake

The railroad structures include a tiny "Depot" which consists of a platform where the door of one baggage car/RPO or boxcar could be lined up to for unloading goods and materials off the main track.  There's a very small shed on the platform for securing goods which are not ready to be picked up immediately, probably also secured Railway Express Agency parcels.

Little Lake Railroad Depot (MP 468.3)

SP Depot at Little Lake - piled to overflowing with supplies for the store and hotel! -

The SP Depot at Little Lake couldn't be a better prototype to model.  According to a written description of the depot is a 12x16ft platform, built around 1916 and abandoned in 1954.  It's down right tiny!  A very small platform with a small shed on it.  It is located just north (RR east) of the grade crossing (dirt road).  I'm almost surprised Hollywood didn't take over the town to shoot a western in!

SP 1433 leads a Owens Valley passenger train with RPO and coaches at Little Lake - pre-1938. - Susan Stanton collection -

Given the above photo shows the SP 1433 without aluminum smokebox and Southern Pacific Lines lettering on the tender, so this photo should date from before 1946.  Looking up the engines history in Strapac's SP Steam Compendium, the SP 1433's history shows that it was an E-23 class, superheated at Bakersfield on Dec 18, 1918, renumbered as Second SP 1500 on 3-22-38 in Fresno and scrapped on March 11, 1949 at Sacramento.

Soho 70-BP-30-1 class SP 5130 painted for service as post-1946 lettering.  Identical body to the 70-BP-15-3s, which were later rebuilt without the window next to the RPO door.

An interesting question that arises from this photo is the use of wooden 60ft SP coaches in this shot and the 70-BP-30-1 style RPO, which very well might be one of the 15ft apartment cars of 70-BP-15 which where rebuilt to 30ft cars in the mid-late 1940s.

First US Mail RPO Bus/truck trip through Little Lake, July 14,1952 -

I need to do a bit more research as to when the SP's passenger service up the Owenyo Branch ended.  I know that the US Mail contracts shifted over to a mail bus out of Mojave on July 14, 1952.  However from reading John Signor's Tehachapi, I believe that the scheduled passenger service ended well before then.  Something to do more research into.

Ore Dump Ramp

Little Lake "Company Village" - by Alden Armstrong photo, circa 1959 -

The dump ramp at left in the Alden Armstrong photo above is the only one I have showing it clearly.  A couple of the other overview photos hint at where it must be, but are so fuzzy they're not going to be of much help.  I used Google Earth to help align the closer rock formations west of the tracks with the eastern Sierra features, giving an idea how far north the company village and dump are.  It appears that the dump ramp was fed by the trucks accessing directly off of the old highway.  (Edit, at least this was by guess before the Fairchild Aerial Survey photo from 1944 shows exactly where the ore dump is!

Recropped and annotated Fairchild Aerial Survey 1944 photo of Little Lake

This would probably mean a GS gondola load every week or two as the miners hauled in their loads.  Interestingly the dump is located on the Little Lake siding, not the spur.  This gives some indication of the operations on the branch not needing Little Lake as a regular meeting point for trains when the dump was built.

Gasoline Storage Tanks?

Recropped photo of Little Lake from the rocks above the depot showing the edge of the storage tank pumphouse and end of the spur. Original photo link -

Notice that the spur appears to drop down into the area right next to the two gasoline storage tanks.  I start to wonder if Little Lake's gas station did enough business to warrant rail-service.  I imaging that if an ore gondola got away, the last place you'd want it going is down the spur next to two fuel tanks, above the little town.  Which brings up another interesting question... did they have a derail at the south (RR West) end of the siding at Little Lake to keep any cars spotted on the siding from getting away and rolling all the way to Linnie or Inyokern!?

Recropped view from the south end of town of the gasoline tanks and pump house, plus depot at the left. Original photo link -

Some of the other photos of the branch probably show these cars coming back to Mojave as single cars piled up with open mineral loads, but not coupled to the block of 4-6 GS gondolas from the NG dump trestle at Owenyo.

Railroad "Company Village" 1959

The Section Gang, railroad workers who maintained the Jawbone Branch every 15-20 miles would have a base of operations.  These locations would usually have some basic features:

Photo of the Company Village looking South towards the hotel in the distance.  Three old wooden passenger cars and a boxcar -

Bunking space for 20-30 men, foremen and other higher level workers may have single dwellings with family space.  These accommodations often were in the form of old carbodies from boxcars and passenger cars.  Little Lake's bunk space seems to be in the form of three wooden passenger car bodies and one or two wooden boxcars.

Northern most old wooden passenger carbody and water tank, looking north -

Small water tank of a couple thousand gallons for domestic use.  An interesting question is if the water at the company village was from a well or brought in by the SPMW tank car in the Alden Armstrong photo above.  Other photos of Little Lake show that the town seems to have been supplied by well water.

John Olais, Sr and crew next to speeder shed at Little Lake -

Speeder shed for the track inspectors and the gang to move about on their area of the railroad.  This shed at Little Lake was located off the main line, east (north) of the village.

1944 Fairchild Aerial Survey of Little Lake, cropped.  North to the Left. FrameFinder from UCSB

I've looked up a Fairchild Aerial Survey of Little Lake from 1944, and it clearly shows that the company village was not there.  I've heard that the section gangs were at Brown, about 10 miles south of Little Lake.  So it's possible that between 1944 and 1959, when the above photos were taken, the section gang base was moved to Little Lake.  I hope to ask John Olais a bit more about this part of the history.

SPMW Boarding cars

Boarding car in the background - John Olais at Little Lake - Credit

There is a photo, which is a bit blurry, but I'm guessing that the car is SPMW 4240 - B-40-5 which was rebuilt from the wooden boxcar SP 36484 on Dec 31, 1946.  This car was located in a spur next to the village, I believe, this car or ones like it are seen in several photos of the SP Owenyo Local working the branchline.  

SP Extra 2751 East arrives at Little Lake - Sept 18, 1948 - Notice the SPMW bunk car behind the string of steel GS gondolas. -

There's also a great photo of SP 2751, a 2-8-0 working the Owenyo Local east into Little Lake with a string of steel GS gondolas and a SPMW Bunk car.  Unfortunately, I can't really read the number on, but my guess is that this car could be used as a 'camp' car away from the Section Gang's regular base if a crew needed to spend a couple days working on the track somewhere else.  The Owenyo Local ran three times a week, one day out, the next day back, so movement of these MW Boarding cars could be planned to layover at a job site for several days at a time. 

No More Linnie!?

No more Linnie - Jason Hill photo, copyright 2002

I planned my layout originally to include an space for the little town of Little Lake in the middle of the North Wall, east of where I jog around the bookcases.  In doing my new research this week, gathering about 90 photos off the Owens Valley History page, then studying Google Earth and Google Maps, and making a collage of the aerial photos to rough-out where the buildings once stood.  This rough map gives me a good starting place for how to lay out the town of Little Lake.

Little Lake center North wall, Linnie spur NE corner.

The trouble comes in that the wall is only about 10ft long between the bookcase and the NE corner of the room in which the spur of Linnie is planned to be.  In talking with several friends who have been very helpful in my researching of the branch... I'm missing a couple of the really good books on the branch from my library it seems!  ...the siding at Linnie was removed in 1947.  

The wood chipping operations were started in the mid-1960s and the saw mill built there in the early 1970s, supplied by the lumber operations up Nine Mile Road in and around Kennedy Meadows in the Eastern Sierra.  I was hoping to include Linnie since I visited the area in 2002 and was struck by the massive piles of wood chips and bark remaining in the acreage around the site.

Now that this time issue has cropped up (Thanks Jim Summerskier!), while mildly annoying and tripping my anachronisms meter, the issues of Linnie not being an operational lumber producer was partly over-ruled by my "Rule One" (This is my railroad, and I'll built it how I want to!).  However....

In Closing - Linnie Replaced!

Town of Little Lake 1930s, depot at right -

...However, with the new research of Little Lake and the resulting size increase to get the Hotel at the southern (RR west) end with the other buildings and the 'company village' at the northern (RR east) end of my space, and the natural curve which Little Lake is on, the spur at Linnie I believe will have to go away.

I may decide to stick it outside the curve into Mojave just (drawing) north of Owenyo in the SE corner of the room.  There's a window there which I like to have a fan in... soooo, at this point I rather doubt that would be a good idea!

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 2) - Researching and Changing of the Plan

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 3) - Consists and More Bartlett Research

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 4) - Freight Car Roster

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 5) - Pulling the Trigger (Buying the materials for the benchwork)

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 6) - Q&A Continuing Design Tweaks - Working out the logistics for the staging yards other details.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 7) - Film & Construction Begins - Historic movie film clip of Owenyo Local and starting construction of the layout.

Saturday, January 23, 2021

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 7) - Film & Construction Begins

A comment sent me to the following film footage of the Owenyo Branch with the 3203 working in Owenyo!  The narration is pretty close, other than the slight vague comment of the Owenyo Local working everyday.  As far as I know the job worked out three days and back the other three days with Sundays off.

The full video is available at Classic Railroad Video for purchase: Desert Princess - The Southern Pacific Narrow Gauge

Construction Begins!

Owenyo #3 Section

Rough cutting plan for the Jawbone Branch (Jan 13, 2021)

Now that I have the basic materials for the layout, I started on Jan 22, 2021 marking track centers at the East end of Owenyo (Owenyo section #1). 

East Owenyo coming together in Sharpie marks on pink foam. Jan 22, 2021

 I'm keeping it at the full 4x8 sheet so I can mark the center points of the two wye curves at 24" radius.  They are 48.5" apart and 32.625" off the back edge of the foam.  This will allow the two 24" radii with a 1/4" easement on each curve at the wye switch.

At this stage I'm using very basic tools consisting of: 48" ruler, 24/18" square, flashlight and scale rule.  I'm making most of the marks with a standard Sharpie marker which is not leaving depressions in the foam.

SP 3259 sitting on foam where the future east leg of the wye will be. Jan 22, 2021.

To double check my measurements, I placed my Balboa SP 3259 Mk-5 with 120-C-2 tender on the east leg of the wye to check that it will fit comfortably.  I'll be temporarily putting down some flex track at the 24" radius to check that the engine will be able to operate comfortably on that radius before I finalize the layout and markings for the Owenyo wye.

SP F-70-3 60ft flat used to transfer the SPNG engines to the Bakersfield shops.

Another point I wanted to check was that the 60ft F-70-3 flatcar can fit on the transfer pit track, which it does with several inches to spare before the fouling point of the switch.  The NG track is marked with double cross marks.

The western edge of Owenyo #3 section with offset crane trackage to be splined in later

Owenyo #1 section also has the team track offset about 0.950" through the overhead transfer crane.  The tracks are marked out for 13ft centers.

Owenyo #2 Section

Owenyo #2 Section which is to be located just west of #1 Section

Next will come Owenyo #2 section, which has more of the loading platforms and a short stub spur off of the team track.  The track centers will hold across the joint between #1 and #2 sections.  The west switch of the siding (upper track) will be adjusted  to clear the frog to stay with the rest of the switch, probably moving west about 2", giving a bit more room for the lower team track headblocks.

In Closing

Looking forward to moving some of the other bookcases around in my shop and starting to work out the bracket supports for the Owenyo Yard.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 2) - Researching and Changing of the Plan

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 3) - Consists and More Bartlett Research

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 4) - Freight Car Roster

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 5) - Pulling the Trigger (Buying the materials for the benchwork)

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 6) - Q&A Continuing Design Tweaks - Working out the logistics for the staging yards other details.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 7) - Film & Construction Begins - Historic movie film clip of Owenyo Local and starting construction of the layout.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 8) - Little Lake Grows - More research materials have surfaced for my modeling of Little Lake

Sunday, January 17, 2021

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 6) - Q&A and Continued Design Tweaks

In previous posts I've posted on some of the various operational aspects of my concept for modeling the SP's "Jawbone" Branch.  Since roughly the New Year, I've been pondering the designs I should dive a bit deeper into the discussion on some of the engineering details of how the plan can be actually pulled off.

Note: I wrote this post as "Part 5" before I bought the material and posted the "Part 5 - Pulling the Trigger", forgetting that I had this in the editing bin!  So I've re-edited this post somewhat and it will now be "Part 6".

Staging Yard - A Must Have for Operations

Staging - A critical box to check on any operational interchanging layout.  Three "Decks" ready to lead freights out of Famoso Staging Yard, LMRC.

Freight Car Fleet Size?

Ok, this has to be one of every operating model railroader's blessings and nightmares.  

How big of an operational fleet do I need?  

Currently my expected freight roster of cars I have, or plan to soon have which would be useful and fun... plus a certain "cool" factor is around 80 freight cars that I figure could show up on the branch.  In addition the 'passenger excursion' consist would probably be one that I put together specially and not regularly store those 8-10 cars on the layout.

Well, let's quickly look at my plan again, just as a recap:

Owenyo Local with Extra 3237 East working at Bartlett.  Circa 1950-53, Eddie Sims collection

Owenyo Local (1st Consist) = ~10-15 cars on average pending tonnage proof for engines that will be used.

Cars spotted at Caliente, LMRC.

Cars Spotted on Layout = ~20 cars on average.  Max Capacity ~30 cars, plus about 20 car lengths of run around space at Owenyo for the local to work in turning around.

Owenyo Local (2nd consist) = Another ~10-15 cars, as listed above.

Suitable Pool of Foreign Interchange Cars = ~10-20 cars I figure will allow my foreign boxcars, etc to rotate through and provide some variety to the 'look' of the trains.  This gets us up to about 70 cars total now.

These first two listed requirements will cover the 'regular train' during an operating session.  However we always know that the same group of cars (outside of assigned cars) will probably never return in exactly the same way again.  This will mean that a second consist of local equipment should be kept ready to rotate in from the staging yard and a pool of other 'extra foreign' cars could be stored to rotate through.

SP 73611, an example of an S-40-5 from Red Caboose.

Live Stock Special = 10-25 cars  This consist would obviously be a 'special occasion' consist, but worth running to mix things up.  I don't know if a dedicated staging track would be needed or if I would simply remove some of the extra 'foreign' cars to clear some space for it.  I don't currently plan to operate more than about 3-5 SP stock cars.  So having a full train of these cars is not really in the plan right now, but I should provide for it "someday" rather than not provide for it and then be stuck when 10-15 more stockcars show up when a friend drops by or something.

SP 3237 & 3266 at Searles Station - 5-30-52 - Carl Blaubach photo - Brian Black Collection

Passenger Excursion = 9-12 passenger cars, two engines, two water cars.  For a bit of extra variety the Owenyo Branch is the fan trip and excursions which ran up the Jawbone Branch to visit the SPNG out of Owenyo.

Conclusions About the Fleet Size and Layout Capacity

One of the main things I've learned at LMRC over the 20+ years I've been involved there is that I am a firm believer in that much of the "prototype feel" comes from having the free space and plenty of extra track at the stations.  There is no games of "traffic jam" where you can only move one car to move the next.  At LMRC Caliente for example can fit about 45 cars in the non-mainline/passing sidings.  However, very rarely will the station see more than 20-25 cars spotted.  This leaves plenty of elbow room for switching crews to work the station.  I don't really enjoy working "puzzles" which don't fit well into the prototype 'elbow room' of most stations.

A typical day at Caliente with a work train filling up the 'short' siding. The spurs aren't very full.

The current plan for Owenyo's track capacity should allow plenty of maneuvering room for the local to work.  If I had a crazy idea, I suppose I could have the local in town when the stock special or passenger train show up, but I believe the prototype would have tried to avoid this as the local only ran three times per week, leaving plenty of opportunity for a second train to operate and get in the clear between the regular local.

What size Mojave Staging Yard can I have?

Currently, I plan to have a four-track staging yard.  Track 1, the "Main" will be the front most track (northern in the drawing) and will be a run-around track, which will ideally be kept open for engines to move on.  The next track, Track 2, will be the main 'Arrival-Departure' track where the trains come into, are switched, and depart from.

Mojave Yard with notes of approximate "Cassette" locations

Tracks 1 & 2 will measure about 12.5ft long (~25x45ft car lengths) and have a right-hand crossover with at least 14" (one Mk-2/4 or Mk-6 length) of clear 'head space' at the western most (stub) end as an escape track for the arriving road engine.  The caboose can also be shoved down into this tail before the departing train is shoved together.

Tracks 3 & 4 will be stub-ended storage tracks, each about 30x45ft car lengths long.  These two tracks can have a spare consists of freight cars for the locals, perhaps a 10-15 car livestock cut of cars, or a passenger excursion consist staged.

The crossover at the west end of Track 2, will result in a stub of about 18", which I think will be useful to stash cabooses, extra engine, etc.  Given that it is behind the regular escape track, there shouldn't be any issues seeing or accessing the equipment in this pocket.  One option I'm considering for this crossover is flipping it to a left-hand crossover, which would put the stub on the end of Track 1, the closer track.  This would be ideal if I want to change the stub to a cassette staging option.  If I add the cassette under the south-western curve, it will probably need to branch off east of the crossover, which would make the orientation of the crossover of no concern, other than the run around tail would be better to keep towards the front of the staging yard.

Three of these four tracks will give about 85 cars worth of track space.  This should be enough for my basic operating scheme, so the freight cars aren't constantly being lifted on and off the layout into storage boxes.  From 25 years at LMRC, the majority (probably 80%) of the damage to equipment comes from handling it, dropping it, etc.  I would say less than 20% is from operational damage from actually running the equipment.  The less I have to lift the equipment on and off, the better it will be!

Current Approximately: 170 Cars Max Capacity

Mojave Staging: 110 – 60 storage + 2x25 A/D with one as run around.

Owenyo: 60 - ~20 runaround space, ~12 on-spot
Other Stations: ~ 6-10 spots (average between Bartlett, Little Lake, and Linnie)

Engineering Questions

Let's get into some of the questions of the layouts engineering.

What grades do I need to clear the Mojave Staging Yard under the Owenyo Yard?  

3D view from south side of the layout showing the vertical arrangement of the elements.

Currently I'm considering 1.5% grades in my 3d CAD model of the layout.  I would prefer not to go steeper than this so the Mk-2/4 class engines can handle more than 8-10 cars.  I don't want the Owenyo Local to require a helper all the way to Owenyo, which was not done prototypically.  "Short Helpers" were used on the livestock trains as far as Haiwee Summit, between Little Lake and Bartlett, but I won't really have the space to 'cut' a helper in that area, and on the model the grade will be continuous along the opposite side of the room from Owenyo/Mojave.

How much vertical clearance do I want to have in the staging?  

I'm currently planning for a 3.5" layout top surface to bottom of benchwork.  This will be pretty tight, but it is about all I can spare.  Working the staging yard will have to be done along the front edge or by pulling a string of cars out for flat switching, basically into Linnie.  I do want to consider this, as restaging moves should be clear of the operators' area at Owenyo if I have more than one person operating at a time.

How much structure will I need under the Owenyo Yard?  

I think the 1.5% grade and 3.5" space for staging should allow 2" of thickness for the Owenyo 'benchwork'.   I'm considering using 2" extruded foam with wood edging, rather like we've seen with Luke Towan's dioramas on YouTube.
I may have to play with this method with some material to prove that it will do what I expect.  There will probably still need to be some form of L-bracket on the underside of the layout for the areas at Owenyo and Staging Yard.

As of January 14, 2021, I've picked up 1" thick foam and will probably try to keep the edge supports to ~2" tall and thicker in places where I can spare the vertical space.

How many average cars can I have a Mk-2/4 reasonably pull on a 1.5% grade, a 1.75% grade, a 2% grade?  

The regular "Owenyo Local" engine would be pulled from a pool of four engines based at Mojave.  The lightest of these usually would be 2-8-2s from class Mk-2/4.  One Mk-6 did show up from time to time in the employe timetable's special instructions and ratings.

I hope to soon get the mechanism of the SP 3203 completed, DCC installed, weight set up, and then I could do some 'tonnage testing' and get an idea what grades and train lengths can be hoped for.

Does the wye at Owenyo need to be made larger than 24" radius? 

I believe 24" should be more than enough for the Mk-2/4 and Mk-6 class engine models.  I will need to test this pretty soon to confirm that I don't need to increase the size of the wye.  Looking at how 40ft tank cars will look on the 24" radius curve at the water tower/pump complex, I can't really see going smaller than 24" radius for realistic scenic effect.

 Do I need to offset the wye tail length for the switch on the tail? 

Currently I have the wye planned with only 0.25" extra easement.  I may end up increasing the offset over 24" radius so that I can have smoother easements through the frogs, especially the wye-switch at the tail of the wye.

What will be the rough concept for how the wye tail be 'removable'?

I probably will work on some form of a removable tail for the wye, giving me more room in my shop when the layout is not in operation.

Owenyo Yard showing the plan for the wye tail.  I may cut it off closer to the wall.

I also need to work out two lifting or removable spans for the two doorways.  Yes, some comments have been made about out-ward swinging the doors, etc.  That's not really an option, and I'll leave it at that.  Probably the one just outside of Owenyo will be the main doorway, which I will need to have opening most of the time.  I will probably put in cut-out interlocks so the track will drop power when the bridges aren't in place.  I have also seen some ingenious pop-up pins, plates, etc that will protect equipment from being shoved out an open bridge.  Some method will have to be used, as I don't want Sunset Mk-2/4s going to the floor!

How should I turn the engines at Mojave Staging?

I think that a "Cassette" style section of track could be a really good way to turn the steam engines around when in the staging yard to restage the trains for returning to the branch.  Given that I may want to set up and easily turn engines that I'm doing testing with on the layout, which will not be able to be turned on the wye at Owenyo, an 18-20" long "Cassette" that can be reversed and plugged back into the staging yard area fit the need nicely.

There are two places I see being able to put such a unit.  One is under the curve at the west end of Owenyo, near the tail of the staging yard.  The other is under the 'core' of the wye, where I do not plan to have it being removed.  In both cases an extra switch would be needed on the staging track to allow access to the "Cassette".

Probably in both locations otherwise I would have to keep that track open as a run-around so the engine could come off the arriving train, run to the "Cassette", turn around, then continue to the other end of the staging yard - completing the run around.  If I have "Cassette" docks at both ends of Mojave Staging, then I could (in theory) carry the cassette to the other end of the yard and not need a running track open.

In Closing

This project certainly has me being stretched in some directions I've not gone in a number of years.  I find it fun to see the changes in materials and what's available in the hobby.  On the research front, I'm still trying to gather some information from CSRM related to the 'Val Maps' which I know they have for basically all of the Pacific Lines.  Hopefully my email to CSRM will solicit a response soon.  Until then, I guess I get to pluck away with what I have for information.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 2) - Researching and Changing of the Plan

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 3) - Consists and More Bartlett Research

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 4) - Freight Car Roster

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 5) - Pulling the Trigger (Buying the materials for the benchwork)

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 6) - Q&A Continuing Design Tweaks - Working out the logistics for the staging yards other details.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 7) - Film & Construction Begins - Historic movie film clip of Owenyo Local and starting construction of the layout.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 8) - Little Lake Grows - More research materials have surfaced for my modeling of Little Lake

Wednesday, January 13, 2021

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 5) - Pulling the Trigger

Doing the Deed

Well, I went ahead and did it Monday. Gasps from the peanut gallery.

I went to the home supply stores and bought several sheets of 1" thick 4'x8' XPS expanded polystyrene foam insulation.  I picked up a 1/2" thick 2x4' sheet of MDF to make the lift out door sections from.  I also picked up a 1/4" 4x8 sheet of MDF to rip the edge structural pieces from.  I also considered 1/4" Birch plywood.  It was within $1 of the MDF, but the MDF feels solid enough to hold bolts and not warp or chip.

The six primary sheets of MDF and XPS material to build the Owenyo Branch with stored in my shop.

Most of the scenery will be modeled nearly void of terrain features.  So I am not really planning to build up whole mountain sides of stacked foam.  The contours near the track will be carved or hot-wired cut into the foam.  Little Lake will probably be the only place where I may have some 'stacked' foam scenery.  I need to do a bit more research about that section regarding exactly what terrain features will fit best into my space.

The Plan

View from South of how the Owenyo Branch relates to the major items in my shop space.

These two views break down how the layout will have to weave around the furniture in my shop space.  The Owenyo and Mojave yards will be stacked over my long work bench.

View from North of how the Owenyo Branch relates to the major items in my shop space.

I'm planning to roughly follow the diorama construction scheme of Luke Towan on YouTube.  The foam sheet will be glued inside the frame of 1/4" MDF strips to form the modules (Luke Towan's Modular Benchwork).  I'm planning to modify my layout for wall-mounting compared to his modular support system.  I'll have the MDF extend down at the ends and allow the parts to be pinned and bolted together.  A single plug pair will connect each module as all I need to bridge is DCC power.  No signals or switch wiring will be needed.

Construction Plan Notes:


Current Owenyo Yard plan, minus the secondary tracks and buildings.

The bench work at Owenyo is along a 20'8" wall.  The 'west' end of Owenyo is filled with the Narrow Gauge dump trestle and the main track swinging over to the end wall of my space with a 48"R curve.  I plan to build 96"-odd long panels.  The wye and the switch at the tail will probably be a removable section, so the nominal 11" width will reach about 36" to cover the center area of the wye.  This should result in two long panels and a third corner piece.  The west end door is build with a removable 'bridge' section.

Mojave Staging

Plan for current Mojave Staging Yard.

Like in Owenyo, the Mojave Staging Yard will be built in two sections and a third curved section to the east reaching the 'bridge' section over the bridge.  I'm planning to use Caboose Industries ground throws in the staging yard and will probably be using Code 83 flex track.

Staging Operations in Mojave Staging

The right-hand #7 crossover may be installed as left-hand switches to make the stub closer to the edge to put the removable 'cassette' docking point.  The other place to put it would be at the eastern end of the yard, under the Owenyo wye.  I may decide to put the cassette in both places, allowing me to 0-5-0 cradle the engine from one end of the staging to the other, or down to the workbench.

I've done some rough calculations for the whole layout and specifically what goals in operations I see the staging yard needing to fulfill.

Mojave Storage Yard: 

Track 1 – Main - 25 Cars - 157”
Track 2A – Run-around – 25 Cars - 157”
Track 3 – Storage – 30 Cars - 180”
Track 4 – Storage – 30 Cars - 180”
Track 2B – Stub – 18”

Total Spots – Staging = 110 Cars Max (60 storage + 20 car Owenyo Locals)

Owenyo Yard:

Main Track – 20.5 Cars – 120” Minimum
Siding – 23 Cars - 140”
Transfer Siding – 19 Cars - 115”
Transfer Trestle Dump – 4 Cars - 24”
Transfer Ramp – 1 Car – (60ft spot)
Transfer Stub – 1 Car – (50ft spot)
South Wye Curve – 3 Cars – Water Spur
North Wye Curve – 3 Cars – Oil Spot

Owenyo Spots = 62 on main three tracks, + Spurs

Layout Staging/Operating Car Counts:

170 Cars Max
Staging 110 – 60 storage + 2x25 live run around
Owenyo 60 - ~20 runaround space, ~12 on-spot
Other Stations ~ 6-10 spots

These basic calculations are needed to sort out how much staging I'm figuring I'll need at Mojave Yard.  The normal max length for the local consist will be about 16 cars, plus engine and caboose.  This should result in a train around 20 carlengths, assuming slightly over 6" per car, that means about 10 feet of track for a normal local.  Both Mojave A/D track and Owenyo's sidings can easily handle a 20 car train.

I figure Mojave Yard will need to store a second consist of cars for the local, some stock cars for a livestock special, and a 3rd consist for the passenger excursion.  Therefore I'll need 3 tracks for storage.  Mojave Staging track 2, which forms the regular A/D track will be plenty long enough for the regular local.  The storage tracks 3 & 4 should be able to handle about 30 cars, which will allow for some extra cars to be stored 'deep' in there and allow me to switch out the staging yard to mix up the freight consists.

The Cutting Plan

The layout track sections I'm planning to be a maximum of 96.5" long counting the two 1/4" sheets of MDF which will strengthen the ends of the modules.  I'm planning to leave some extra materials around the edges in some areas if I want to add some more width.

The cutting plan for the 4x8 sheets of foam.  Looks like my 4th sheet might be spare!

I plan to cut up the thicker 2x4ft section of MDF to form the two removable bridge sections for extra strength.  If I also want to make foam layers on the bridges, then I'll be cutting out #4 and #9 from the drawing above.

In Closing

The next steps will be tracking down.. the track. (ouch, bad pun)  Also per my plan to construct the layout to match the mechanical standards of LMRC, I plan to use the frog and point parts from Details West.  Here's the link to the Details West Frog and Switch Parts.

Now that the rough layout of the cutting plan is done, I'll probably start transferring the cut plan to the foam and confirming that my switch layouts and spirals will lay out properly.  I'll be posting more on that as I get to it.

Jason Hill

Related Articles:

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 2) - Researching and Changing of the Plan

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 3) - Consists and More Bartlett Research

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 4) - Freight Car Roster

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 5) - Pulling the Trigger (Buying the materials for the benchwork)

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 6) - Q&A Continuing Design Tweaks - Working out the logistics for the staging yards other details.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 7) - Film & Construction Begins - Historic movie film clip of Owenyo Local and starting construction of the layout.

SP Jawbone Branch (Part 8) - Little Lake Grows - More research materials have surfaced for my modeling of Little Lake