My scale modeling really got off to a bumpy start. In the fall of 1962 I bought my first scale Model Railroad HO Train Set, a Tyco 0-4-0. Living in a small rental house at the time, there wasn’t much room to set-up a model railroad. Two ovals of 18 inch radius snap track were attached to a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood and when not in use, this was flipped over behind the couch. This was a problem to set-up as it required two people to get it out, which meant that it was not used as often as I would have liked. So, before long it was moved out into a shed with a dirt floor that you could see daylight through the cracks in the walls. I built a plywood floor in the shed and proceeded to add on to my 4 by 8 empire. I did build some building kits, but with 18 inch curves and Snap Switches, I was plagued with derailments and never got past the plywood state.
By the summer of 1963, I had purchased a house in Riverside, but at first did not really have any place to build a railroad. After a few months, I was no longer able to resist the urge and built a small HO scale railroad on a 2 by 2 foot piece of plywood. The track was a 10 inch radius circle and I was able to have trees, grass and some of the buildings which I had previously built. With a 10 inch radius, I was very limited in what I could run, but I was able to keep things on the track and watched it run around the circle for hours.
How it all started and The NOT Line
SP #99, a 0-4-0 Shifter was the only power that would operate on the 10 inch radius curves used on my 2 by 2 foot Model Railroad.
My garage was just long enough that if I pulled the car up to and touching the back wall, I could almost close the garage door. Before long I had bumped the back wall and it was starting to bulge out. I soon decided to just park in the driveway and the garage was now available for other uses. The Garage door was nailed shut and a 30” walk in door was installed.
By the spring of 1964, I had built an L shaped switching railroad in one corner of the garage. Continuing to use snap switches, snap track and fish-hook couplers, the operation was frustrating to say the least.
Soon, I had expanded down one wall, then another wall, then before long a 4 by 8 sheet of plywood was added in the middle and another short section to complete an oval. I also had an interest in Traction modeling and added two loops with overhead wire, one interurban loop and one city loop with a 6 inch radius curve around the park.
With no plans drawn up ahead of time, this soon developed into a hodge-podge nightmare. Even though by now I had converted over to Kadee Couplers, the snap switches and tight curves were a killer. There were also several other very discouraging factors, such as the use of fiber tied flex track that shrunk gauge when wet scenery was applied. I had used techniques described in how to do it books such as A Model Railroad That Grows and Scenery for Model Railroads and it just wasn’t working.
At this time, had it not been for a couple of model railroad friends that I had become acquainted with, I would have most likely found another hobby. I also found out that most local hobby shops will sell you anything they can, good or bad, with not even a little bit of friendly advice. Over this issue and others, I did cease dealing with this one hobby shop. Fortunately, I was able to find another hobby shop and over the years spent many thousands of dollars which the first hobby shop missed out on. You have to wonder how many other folk’s just throw their hands up in disgust and go on to other hobbies, I know of many.
Considering the failures that I had encountered in the previous railroads, I continued to study more books and magazines and talked with others in the hobby. I decided to chuck what I had and “start over”. First of all I determined that in the garage I had an 11 by 17 foot space to work in. (There was about a six foot strip along the one wall which was used for other things.) I then found a track plan which would fit the space and if it were flipped over would give me a 5 foot long crawl access to the middle operating pit. After looking at the different types of track available at the time, I decided to use True Scale Milled Road Bed, hand laid track with True Scale Switches. The True Scale Milled Road Bed was made from soft pine and had a grove milled into it for the rail, making hand laying the track very easy.
Basically, the track plan was a double track main line that ran around the room 3 times, one loop was hidden underneath. There were turnaround loops at the highest as well as the lowest points on the railroad; the lower loop was completely hidden underneath. There were no working crossovers between the two tracks and the trains were operated right hand running on either track. After studying my options on trying to decide on whether to use brass or nickel silver, I decided on the brass (big mistake) because it was cheaper and I figured that I could do without the shiny silver look. Also much of the published information at the time favored brass rail.
By the spring of 1965, I had removed everything and was starting to build the bench work for the new railroad. By mid 1966 the main line was in and work was progressing on the yard as shown on the left. The crossover shown in the picture was only for looks and was never used.
I had used plywood sheets in the yard which turned out to be a major problem with putting in spikes. I finally found spikes which were quite heavy and was able to push them into the plywood, but I never again made another yard with the track surface on plywood.
The upper loop turned out to be another problem as it used a 4% grade to clear the double track main line below it. This was eventually solved with the use of a steeple cab electric helper powered from a wire overhead.
The name for the Railroad was the NOT Line, which in geography locations was National city, Oceanside and Temecula. In fun, it stood for Never On Time.
Construction continued and by the fall of 1967, most of the track was in operation. By this time, I had also decided to add an oval of HOn3, Narrow Gauge track around the operating pit
By the end of 1967 much of the scenery had been completed, the electric overhead on the upper loop was installed and the narrow gauge loop had been completed. I had also built a logging and mining branch line which ran along two sides of the Railroad. On the far right of the picture is Shay #8 on the trestle. The logs were then hauled by the NOT Line and delivered to the sawmill, shown in the lower left of the picture.
The branch line included a switch back for trains to enter the town of Borate, and then continued up over several trestles and bridges to get to the logging site.
I continued to make improvements to the yard and at the right base of the mountain is the start of the branch line.
Shay #8 is shoving a couple of empty log flats up the branch line to the switch back and into Borate.
The NOT Line had quite an operating crew, some of who I have pictures of are shown here.
The mine was just outside of Borate and was a good source of revenue on the branch line.
Unfortunately by the summer of 1971, the mine had closed and with all the trees cut in the area, the branch line was abandoned.
In the blink of an eye, the rails were removed and the town of Borate, now a ghost town has started to return to nature.
As with just about every Model Railroader that I knew at the time, I was having problems with bad electrical contact between the locomotive wheels and the track. My engines would jerk and sputter then eventually stall out completely. To get things moving again required cleaning wheels ant track, then if I were lucky, for a time things would once again run only to repeat the bad contact cycle. Then one day and quite by accident I over oiled some locomotive wheels and found that my contact problems were reduced significantly. Continue to Brass Rail, Dirty Track and a Misguided Love Affair with Oil.