These continue to be amazing times for model railroading, and I continue to be amazed and thankful for some of the new experiences I am continuing to have in the hobby.
First off, at the start of this month, thanks to the graciousness and tenacity of my wife and children, I was able to spend a few days operating on the famous Tehachapi Pass layout of the La Mesa Model Railroad Club, housed in the museum facilities of Balboa Park in San Diego, CA. Words and photos cannot describe the experience - it's a must see for anyone who enjoys modeling that can get there.
Check out the details. The tie fenceposts, the earthwork, ballast, and maintenance roadways.
A brief overview of the trip is in order: we flew out Thursday 11/1 early in the morning so as to have a day to get to the club and assist in staging the railroad for operations on Friday 11/2, Saturday 11/3. and Sunday 11/4. Thursday night allowed some time to 'get qualified' on the physical characteristics of the railroad - and to be amazed at the scope and scale. WOW. For instance, one of the club regulars was moving this 105-car train of refrigerated boxcars ('reefers' in railroad jargon) west to Bakersfield for the following day. 105 cars! You don't see that every day, and certainly not on an operating mountain railroad.
The railroad climbs about 15 real feet in elevation, close to the correct scale for the actual line. The scenic feature most recognizable from the pass and the layout is the Tehachapi Loop, a full helix-in-real-life on a 2.5% grade eastbound. Here an SP manifest comes down the hill, crossing under its own tail as it moves west.
My first solo trip on the railroad on Friday morning was Santa Fe's #23 train, the westbound Grand Canyon, a first-class passenger move. Since westbounds are superior to eastbounds by timetable direction, I had an easy run with no opposing moves to worry about - they all had to get out of my way! But even with no waiting, and track speed the entire trip, my journey from Mojave at the east end of the railroad to Bakersfield at the west end took about 45 minutes. Amazing.
Here that same ATSF train #23 comes down through the lower part of Caliente, CA, having traversed most of the railroad by now. This scene is one of the most remarkable in all of model railroading, as it is nearly a dead ringer for the prototype. Caliente in the foreground, the horseshoe curve up the hill, and then successive levels behind the operator in the distance up to Cliff siding, which is a mile away as the crow flies, but 7 miles away by railroad milepost. Incredible - because that's what we see here, in HO scale!
A good portion of the scenery on the middle areas of the run are above the head of viewers, leading to angles like this one at "Cliff" siding - very appropriately named.
There is no way to really capture the vast expanse of modeling on the railroad, and the attention to detail throughout the finished portions with scenery. But, here's a tailing off image of ATSF Train 23, with his markers passing the east switch of Ilmon siding. Bena is ahead with double track from there to Bakersfield. You get the sense that you are actually running trains on a railroad here, not a layout: it's so grand in scale to be prototypically vast.
This post is long enough already, so I'll end with a quick reflection. As time goes on, my definition for 'busy' seems to change. In the past I used to think I was busy, with different activities demanding time and energy, and yet those times seem to pale in comparison to these days. Still these things go on, and there's something reassuring about that. Holidays like Thanksgiving really allow one an opportunity to sit and breathe and appreciate some of the good things that go unnoticed most days. Walking without pain. Food to eat. The colors of nature, the smiles from happy people, the faith of friends and family, and loyalty of pets.
Best wishes to you and yours for a happy and healthy Thanksgiving!