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Layout Tour: The Niles Depot- Part 1 the Depot

April 24, 2008


The Niles depot, formerly located in the Historic Niles Depot in Fremont, Ca. The Depot itself is a BEAUTIFUL “Colonnade” Style Southern Pacific Depot build in 1906. The Southern Pacific wanted to demolish this venerable depot until a bunch of members and local people ponied up the money and will to have it moved across the tracks to it’s now second former location, on Mission Boulevard facing away from the tracks, but still near them, about a 1/4 mile from it’s original location. It was moved in 1981. Twenty years later, in 2001, plans were drawn up to “re-vitalize” the Niles Downtown area, which is unusually preserved from modern progress by geographical isolation. On river, three rail lines (Two ex-SP and one ex-WP, now owned by “Uncle Pete”) and a series of puddles known as Quarry Lakes regional park. Most of the town’s architecture dates from before WW2, most of that even before WW1. It’s a unique place, and a great place to explore on a warm summer day, it’s best on a bicycle. Make sure to bring your camera if you’re a modeler, excellent amount of character in 90% of the buildings in town, all fodder for good scratch-building projects.

The Depot was moved in 2007. The Club now resides in a Firehouse in Fremont near the 880. If you’re reading this in 2009, they’re now located in the Freight House adjacent to the now twice-moved depot in Downtown Niles, accessable off Mission Boulevard or Niles Boulevard.


The Club Overview:

 The TSCME (Tri-City Society of Model Engineers) (The Tri-Cities, are Newark, Fremont, and Union City)  is a group of individuals who model in both N and HO scales, mainly modeling a facsimile version of Northern California on relatively large (now demolished) layouts.  There seem to be about 15-25 members at any one time, always rotating depending on which way the wind blows. (I’ll get into that later) The club itself seemed to work somewhat fluidly when it came to doing things to beautify the Depot, maintain the Caboose (a Steel Bay Window WP caboose #467 ) and keeping up appearances to the general public. The club meetings were well-organized. Most of of the main “movers and shakers” sat around a large table with club minutes in hand. Other members sat on a classic wooden station bench.

Some of the perks of being a club member was being able to check books out from their well-stocked library, that had plenty of reading material for even the most studious among us. We also had access to a good collection of rail fanning tapes, which were typically played in the station during “run days” (Usually 1&3 Sundays from 11-5) Another perk was the plethora of Magazines, with our MR collection going back into the 1940’s and a good collection of RMC, Trains, and other railfan publications.

See More and visit their link to their website HERE:

My Experience with the TSCME from 2004-2007

The Good:

It reinforced what I learned at the Pleasanton Club. With a BIG thanks to Brain L, Keldrick Randolph, Nick F., Rick and Kevin Zem, Tom, Mike Oberg, Larry, Casey, and the rest for fueling my interest in Rail fanning, Prototype Modeling and Model Railroading in General. All those became solid pastimes for me while being a member of this club. Pizza afterwards was wonderful, and thanks for all the help with modeling projects over the years. I had a LOT of great expiriences happen there. I saw the last DRGW tunnel motor, the last SP SDP-45 (ex-EL), a VO1000, Plenty of awesome weathered cars, and a good variety of interesting models. I bought my first DCC locmotive there, and learned the wonders of Digitrax DCC, which I use on my layout today. I discovered Sound decoders, and bought my first DCC+Sound locomotive, a Bachmann Spectrum 2-10-0 with TSUNAMI sound, WOW!  

The Bad:

Club members, as usual, don’t get along all the time, which is human, however some soon escalated far beyond what I expected to happen, resulting in members leaving in a huff, members actually being forced out, and members engaging screaming matches…Once again, It’s JUST TRAINS PEOPLE. Having seen all this friction, and deftly avoiding many of the contretemps, remaining neutral, especially when I had good friends on BOTH sides of the fight.

The Ugly:

Club politics were NOT as bad by any measure as the Pleasanton club, but the personal confrontations mentioned above often boiled over into rather tense club meetings. There was one member who was a constant pain for about a dozen people, who was forced out, and a guy with some special needs that made for some rather strange and problematic situations, but it wasn’t that bad at all.

In Conclusion:

This was an Excellent club, and with the promise of a more strict prototype-reality based layout depicting ACTUAL locations and tells the story for the Bay Area’s Railroad, the only thing that could go wrong would be lack of funding, or slow construction, which you can speed up by joining this excellent club.

This 20 year old portion of scenry depicts my SD7 rolling though some orange groves on the MIDLAND DC layout. Basically the DC layout is a huge peninsula in the middle of the room, and the DCC layout snakes around the Peninsula around the walls. The layout itself is located beneath the Depot in a purpose-built basement.

The City of Midland is at the tip of the Peninsula, and features a non-operational trolley line, and a fairly good city scene. This is by far the nicest scene on both layouts.

The SP local passes the Quarry on the midland layout.


Look for part 2 coming soon…

One Comment leave one →
  1. Tom Nelson permalink
    October 17, 2008 5:18 am


    I’m redesigning the website for the Niles Depot and I was wondering if I could use a few of your pictures. The two of the SP SD9 are the ones I’m eying. I’d give you credit, of course.

    Enjoyed reading your commentary on the club politics, as well. =0)


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