By now, one of the things that I have learned was that to create a Successful Model Railroad, the first thing that must be done is to have a well thought out plan. For larger railroads, one must carefully think out when operated, how the trains will be run. When I started thinking about my Alaska Model Railroad, I still had 7 years to go and I spent a lot of time planning which I think paid off. First of all, a set of goals were laid out for what I wanted to accomplish.
•The railroad would be walk-in; there would be no duck-unders to get access to the operating area.
•There would be access directly to the outside for visitors to come and go without disturbing the family.
•A bath room for visitors.
•Creature Comforts need to be considered, the room needs to be warm and comfortable.
•The railroad will have continuous running capability with only minimal monitoring required.
•Use broad curves, 36 inch on the Main Line to permit the operation of long cars. (Some staging track curves were made on 30 inch curves.)
•Keep tunnels and hidden track to a minimum. If you can’t see it, you can’t enjoy it.
Once these goals were decided, I started to draw track plans until a suitable plan was worked out.
Construction of the CSWRR was started in September of 1995 after approximately seven years of planning and new home construction. The Railroad is housed in the 30 by 40 foot basement of my home with carve outs for a bathroom and stairs. While there have been several minor changes, there have been no major changes to the original plan and none are expected.
Physically, the CSWRR is an HO scale, 350 foot, double tracked main line, with staging yards at each end, Barstow on the East and Los Angeles on the West and a major yard, San Bernardino in the middle. Except for the staging tracks, trains can be operated in either direction on either track. There are 8 double crossovers and 4 single crossovers, and all but 3 of the single crossovers are controlled from the CTC Board. The modeled portion of the railroad runs from Porphyry (near Corona) to Victorville. One major feature of the CSWRR is Cajon Pass, which may require the use of helpers. To give the CSWRR the flavor of the actual railroad, only the station names from prototype have been used. While some industrial names from the area have been used, the use of names of regular CSWRR operations participants is often used to honor them.
As built, the railroad was originally powered by Block Control however it was found that with the number of trains running, it was too difficult to keep track of where what was. In December, 1998 it was converted over to DCC and is now powered by a Digitrax Chief, two additional boosters and any number of compatible throttles, including radio control. The control of the main line switches and track occupancy are controlled and displayed on a Central Train Control (CTC) Board similar to that used on the prototype in the 1985 time period.
The railroad is regularly operated on a twice a month basis, on the second and fourth Saturday of the month. An Open House is held in the fall and special operation sessions may be held at other times. The operation of trains are controlled by a Dispatcher. All trains are operated as Scheduled Extras with the session running around 3 hours and 30 minutes. Staging is regenerative, so trains entering into a staging yard are ready to be used again later without any further action.
By December 1995, construction was progressing on the lower Staging yard shown on the right and to the left is the May area. I decided to use particle board for the sub base, which was a good decision as it is easier to work with and I have had no problems with it sagging.
By the end of January, 1996, the construction is progressing rapidly. The lower level is operating to Highgrove and some of the sub base for the San Bernardino yard is in place.
By September of 1996, just a year after construction started, trains were operating through Summit shown above on the right to the upper staging yard at Barstow
In the far distance, we see the upper staging yard at Barstow. On the upper track along the wall to the right Is Lugo and the Natural Crossover in the far corner. Below is the San Bernardino A Yard and in the distance is the B Yard. The seven tracks on the right were the main line and 5 holding tracks for storing trains. These were later removed to make way for industries. In its first year, the CSWRR has come a long way.
By 1997, I was having a monthly Operation Session. Here we see BJ manning the B Yard. In the foreground, we see the Roundhouse and shops which are on a peninsula off the San Bernardino Yard.
The yard is full of cars as Larry Boswell and Ross Gunn are moving a train through the Yard. Note that by now, the 5 Holding Tracks had been removed and the Kaiser Electric Furnace and Rolling Mill have been added.
A very happy Paul Eaton is working the May Turn.
TP was one of several members of the operating crew who enjoyed dispatching. At this time, the CSWRR was using DC Block power and to keep track of what throttle was powering what block became a real nightmare. The Dispatch Panel was mounted high enough that a person seated here could see most of the railroad which was great when one person was operating the Railroad.
Between the December 1998 and January 1999 Operating Sessions, the DC power supplies were removed and a Digitrax DCC System was installed. Shown here are about 30% of the panel wiring that was eliminated and removed in the changeover.
Shown here are the DCS 100 Command Station as well as two DB 150+ Boosters and a UR91 Radio Receiver. Switching over to DCC Power greatly reduced the stress on the Dispatcher, really made train operation a lot more realistic as well as much more fun.
By the end of 2003, I was finding that the raised CTC Board was becoming a real problem. When Dispatching an Operation Session, required climbing up and down to assist others was a pain. When I operated trains by my self, I was usually moving all around the train room and seldom operated while sitting on the raised bench seat. It was difficult to reach some of the switches from the floor and the entire structure was in the way. After much discussion with crew members, in January of 2004, I decided to rebuild the CTC Board. When rebuilt, it was turned around to back up against the wall and the Operator now sits in a comfortable chair on the floor. For easy access to the components behind the panel, the panel was made to swing out.
The front of the new CTC board was similar to the first one, but with no Block Switches.
The rear view of the new panel shows the swing out front to give easy access to the system components. To the right of the panel, we see the Digitrax DCC system and behind the swing out CTC Board, against the back wall is the Block Signal System Detectors. This panel change has greatly improved the railroad’s operation.