The Thunder Valley Narrow Gauge Railway is 16 yrs. old. It has 350 ft. of aluminum Code 215 track and is modeled in F Scale: 1:20.3. The track is ballasted with “path fines”. The era is 1930’s in California gold country and represents a small narrow gauge railway serving two gold mines, a quarry, some logging and two small towns. It is basically point-to-point, connected by a loop for continuous running, but with visual blocks, no tunnels, to avoid the “running in circles” look. The railway is run with radio controlled locomotives powered either by live steam or on board batteries with sound. Operations are typically mixed trains with both freight cars and passenger combines. At one end of the railway is located a “steamup” area where live steam locomotives are prepared for running. We have valleys and hills with grades up to 8 percent. Plants are miniatures, dwarf and other bonsai to fit the scale of the railway and Zone 9 conditions. A small stream, dam/pond, and a working water powered mill are included.
In March 2013 my neighbor John asked to see my layout. It had no pizazz. John had a few ideas. A few e-mail diagrams later we decided to redo my layout. I tore out all my track, buildings, etc. The next morning when John arrived the project began. After many loads of moss rock and fill it started to look like something. With a few adjustments and the addition of a loop we were pleased. I have never worked so hard moving rock, dirt, more rock, gravel, etc. The railroad now includes about 300+ ft. of track, 2 loops, tunnel, bridge, trestle and a double cross-over. A forest grows at one end and a homestead is at the other end. We run track and battery power and can run any size G scale train. It is still a work in progress. We have some animal issues. Moles have tunneled under the tracks and moss rock causing minor landslides. Turkeys like to walk around and leave droppings and knock over rolling stock. Leaves from the trees clog the tracks, small rocks jam the switches; same stuff we all experience.
We have about 300 ft. of track with two loops, one double cross over, two trestles, one bridge and a tunnel. There is a water feature. Early west narrow gauge is the theme. I run primarily battery, but track power is available.
We started planning our railroad in 2010 before we closed escrow on our first house by drawing potential track plans over scaled satellite views of each house we considered. Actual construction started with a retaining wall and initial 150′ loop, completed in 2011. In 2012 we added a water feature, two concrete mountains, and five bridges. In April 2014 we completed our long-planned 500 foot mainline with 20′ diameter curves wrapping around the back of the house to the front yard.
Our theme is agriculture, shown in full-size with our vegetable garden as a prominent part of the landscaping. Additional full-size plantings include grape vines, avocado trees, and other fruit trees. There are also some miniature plantings around the mountains and water feature.
Our era is mostly the transition era with modern steam power and early diesels, mostly Southern Pacific and Union Pacific. We have a unit train of PFE ice reefers since they go so well with our theme, and pull long mixed freights as well. We occasionally run some modern equipment too. Everything is 1:29th scale, mostly USA Trains. Power to the stainless steel track is DCC with QSI Titan sound decoders in the locomotives.
The DE&N Narrow Gauge Railway began in 1994 in the front courtyard and double tracked down the side yard. By 2003 the railway had expanded around the entire backyard. Today’s railway is constructed from remnants of a previous layout, several club projects and many truckloads of broken concrete. It features two rivers, several tunnels, bridges, waterfalls and custom buildings. There are two duck-under bridges with 5′ 6″ clearance crossing the side yard canyon. New this year is the beginning of a 25′ X 42′ indoor railway and workshop in the attic.
Construction on the HardPan Valley Railway was started in 2005 and is still a work in progress. The layout is currently 22 feet by 70 feet and operates on two levels. The valley level (234 ft.) began operation in August of 2013 and the mountain level (200 ft. when finished) should be operating by June 2014. Trains are remote controlled with an Aristo-Craft Train Engineer system, although a battery powered train is in the works. Our layout focuses on the early 1900’s in the foothills of the Sierra Nevada Mountains. It covers logging, mining, farming as well as a vineyard & winery. The layout currently features two waterfalls feeding a pond, three bridges and a tunnel passing under one of the waterfalls. The HardPan Valley Railway uses mostly steam power, however, there is an occasional time warp and GP-7s can be seen operating on the Valley Line.