Welcome to the Port Saint Lucie O scale Model Railroad Club!
The On30 DCC-controlled model railroad is housed in a 900 square foot room, and is modeled after the Denver & Rio Grande and the Rio Grande Southern railroads circa 1939.
About our model railroad
Upon walking into the room you will notice two hidden yards, located in a separate room off of the main layout room. These yards are built on two levels. The Division One yard is on the lower level, and is a stub-ended yard, while the Division Two yard is on the upper level and is a through-yard. Each yard has an operating turntable to turn the locomotives around to head them back they way they arrived - headlight first!
The main layout room consists of four ‘L-girder’ benches laid out in the shape of a capital ‘E’. The back of the ‘E’ butts up against the wall that conceals the hidden yards. The mid and lower legs of the ‘E’ are peninsulas wide enough to handle our minimum 36” radius curves (that’s a 6-ft. diameter!) and the upper leg of the ‘E’ (the East end of the RR) is the stub-ended Denver yard. This handles the narrow gauge RR’s arrival and departing trains, as well as Standard Gauge trains.
The layout has two Divisions - an upper (Division 2) and lower (Division 1). The lower merges with upper on the first peninsula (the Western portion of the RR) which is the one closest to where you entered the layout room. As mentioned, the third peninsula is the dual-gauge yard designed to appear as if the ‘Standard Gauge’ trains continue out to the ‘rest of the country’ (all done with mirrors!).
The reason most Western Colorado Narrow Gauge railroads were built, was to service the mines, industries, and towns confined to the specific area for which the railroad was built. They brought the freight out of the mountains and usually terminated at a dual-gauge freight yard. Most of the goods were then trans-loaded to the standard gauge railroad which moved the freight to the rest of the country. Conversely, it performed the same function in reverse order, bringing freight in from such cities as Chicago or New York to be trans-loaded back onto the narrow gauge cars.
The term ‘standard gauge’ reflects the distance between the two rails and in the U.S. it is 4’ 8.5”. Anything less was considered ‘Narrow Gauge’.
Operating the Railroad – or why does this model railroad exist?
The railroad is controlled by a Dispatcher. All operators (both in the three yards and any on the main line) must call into the Dispatcher, using the telephones phones located at all stations, to advise of the train’s location, receive orders to advance to the next location, or hold for a meet.
The Dispatcher has a track schematic of both upper and lower levels of the layout in his office. He keeps track of each train by using a numbered magnet moved along the board, providing a picture of where all the mainline trains are.
We attempt to run two peddler freight trains during our operating session. One is assigned to Division 1 and the other to Division 2. These trains are usually the first to depart from their home yards, the Division 1 local leaving Denver and heading west, switching all trailing sidings per his or her switch list, along the route. The Division 2 peddler leaves the east end of the upper hidden yard and performs a similar task on Division 2.
These ‘Local’ switch jobs are usually ‘all-nighters’, or, in model railroad terms, a full operating session and seem to be the most requested by our members.
After the peddlers have been released, the dispatcher will release the ‘Thru’ trains on both Divisions. One train will head west out of Denver, terminating at the Division 1 hidden yard (Alamosa). The second ‘Thru’ train is released from Alamosa and heads east to terminate in Denver. Further trains include the Division 1 to Division 2 and the Division 2 to Division 1 ‘Thru’ trains.
Many additional runs, or ‘extras’, are also run during our monthly Saturday afternoon operating sessions.
The Division 1 peddler (do you recall him leaving the Denver yard?) heads west toward the Division 1 hidden yard but had orders not to enter the yard but instead is to arrive at a siding just outside the hidden yard. Here he switches any assigned cars on his list at Cheyenne Switch and then turns his locomotive on the 50’ turntable. He then returns east towards Denver under a new assigned train number, switching all trailing sidings as required. Of course, he has to always duck into sidings to make way for all superior trains during the operating session!
We prefer to operate with two operators working each yard, two in Denver, and two in the hidden yards. The remaining operators are assigned to handle the scheduled and any extra trains that need to run on the railroad. A key assignment is the Dispatcher position that controls the operation of this railroad!
If we have more operators than jobs, we will assign them to an ‘experienced’ operator who usually acts as Conductor of a train.
I was previously involved in building a similar layout, though in a smaller scale - HOn3, with help of a couple of loyal members/ friends. This was located in a club I belonged to in Long Island NY, between 1999 and 2002. Yes, the layout was completed, scenery and all, in time for the National Narrow Gauge convention held in Rhode Island, September of 2002! We were selected as one of the layouts on their ‘Layout tours’. We had a strong attendance and received a lot of positive feedback from the visitors.
Unfortunately the club lost the lease to the building by January 2003 and the layout had to be taken down. About ten of us were, however, able to operate this layout successfully every other Friday for a year or more.
This PSL club layout was designed and built to operate on the same concept, and is just as enjoyable, if not more so.
On a side note
Seven of the ten NY members received the NMRA Chief Dispatchers A.P. Certificate, all at the same time, and two more received the same Certificate about six months later, all from operating on that HOn3 club layout! I went on to receive my scenery, structures, rolling-stock as well as the Prototype Modelers A.P. certificates, in a large part from building this layout. I was awarded my Master Model Railroader award (#305) in April 2002.
In 2003, Broadway Ltd. released their On30 DRGW C16 Consolidation locomotive, of which I purchased one, no make that two units - I now own four! A few months later I purchased my first DCC control unit, convinced my great wife to let me build in a spare bedroom (in our NY home), and five years later, hello Florida!
I met a bunch of On30 Modular guys and we organized a club called the PSL On30 Western Bay Railroad. We had a building erected on a piece of property I own and it became our new home. The first rails were laid in May 2010. The main lines were completed in July 2012.
We meet most Tuesday evenings and have all-day operating session about once a month (on a Saturday) when we invite many from out of town to join us to run. We occasionally provide live clinics and try to have fun with this great hobby of ours!
Our address: Western Bay RR club
1713 SW Castinet Lane
Pt. St. Lucie, FL 34953
So, come join us. Dues are next to nothing and we have no lease to worry about! Lots of scenery to do and lots of train operation going on.
Al Sohl MMR
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