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The Narrow Gauge Diablo Valley Lines

July 4, 2008

One of the best HOn3 club layouts resides at the Walnut Creek Model Railroad Society. It’s expansive network of unusual rail-based methods of transport, as covered in earlier articles, is no match for the crown jewel of this otherwise antiquated DC club layout: The 3′ Gauge, HO scale depiction of quite a few different narrow gauge operations. It has hints of the Westside Lumber Company, the D&RGW and Colorado Southern, even a distant hint at the Carson & Colorado, otherwise known as SP’s Keeler branch.

A myraid of locomotives and cars, some contest-quality accurate, some brass, and some really amusing and interesting kitbashed equipment comprises the rolling stock and motive power used on this layout.

A few people have created their own freelanced railroads, while some stick to the strict prototype running only what they deem is “correct” for the time they’re depicting in miniature.

What sets this narrow gauge line from the rest of the Narrow Gauge clubs I’ve seen around the bay area, is that for one, it’s actually operated regularly. Most times, there’s only one person interested in narrow gauge, builds a little NG system, then either passes away or moves away, leaving it to collect dust. The fascinating bits of this layout include a fully operational turntable/roundhouse, an extensive 10 track yard many feet above where the mainline originates.

The mainline starts down in a plateau and we watch as the trains snake their way across a mountain valley, clinging to the cliffs, if only because the mainline was installed AFTER the scenery was completed in that area! So it has a reall narrow gauge feel to it.


At the very bottom of the Grade is this small D&RGW style depot. Appears to be scratch-built, and it looks like this railroad still gets plenty of traffic.

Behind the Depot is the Roundhouse and servicing facilites. All of the bulbs light up at night, creating a very appealing scene. Look at the interesting looking M.O.W. cars sitting adjacent to the roundhouse.

Here’s the overall view of the roundhouse, pit and turntable. A modest wooden roundhouse, it looks scratch-built, perhaps it’s a craftsman kit. There’s plenty of Junk next to the old roundhouse, stacks, drivers, cabs, trucks, whatever a frugal narrow gauge could re-purpose.

This was the locomotive that was sitting inside the roundhouse. An ultimate narrow gauge kitbash, it was made from:

-One Athearn GE U30C truck

-One high hood from an RS-11

-Scratch-built/Kit-bashed frame

-The cab and half of the hood structure is from a ERTL metal Thomas The Tank Engine “Diesel” (A BR 06 0-6-0 side rod diesel locomotive) A model of the prototype:

I suppose it has to me the TTE metal version so it has the narrow gauge proportions.

The Coaling tower is based on the DRGW prototype at Chama, New Mexico. The DRGW stock car  in the foreground looks like it has seen a hard life.

Next tot he roundhouse is the machine shop, which features a richly (and hard to photograph) detailed interior, which is lighted with the same grain of wheat bulbs. The MDC tank car was converted from the HO standard gauge model.


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