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Today, The Highgrove Branch Filed for Abandonment.

August 6, 2009

The Abandoned Warehouse Terminal at Midland

Today, the Highgrove branchline of the fabled Mission Valley & Pacific Railway was approved for abandonment, and after a final train pulled the last cars out of the yard, a layout that has lasted 4 years and traveled 40 miles has been seperated into 10 modules and dismantled.

The severed modules

Like a jolt of some strike-slip fault not unlike the mighty San Andreas, the modules cracked apart revealing the foamcore “earth” . Thus severing the railroad’s mainline, uprooting trees and leaving destruction in it’s path.

Building a layout is a rewarding exercise in the classic sense, and of course every modeling magazine will tell you that. However despite this they don’t seem to tell you so many of the more bittersweet moments of model building. You will rarely if ever finish a layout, and I’d say that barely very few of those reach a state of noticeable completion. As is the case with the Highgrove division.

It’s not so much the actual visual completion either. My original concept was to accurately model the AT&SF’s San Jacinto branch layout, but this wasn’t realistically possible using the fun, but inaccurate trackplan in the 1980 model railroader article featuring the real branch line, which is located near Riverside, Calif, in the southern California “Inland Empire”.

With more research and plenty of trackside photos graciously e-mailed to me in the last few years I eventually gave up on that strict prototype view since my trackplan would require expensive revision to even get a remote resemblance to the rather mundane track layout found on the San Jacinto branch.

The buildings on the real San Jacinto Branch were appealing, the trackside industries modelgenic, the old former California Southern Ry. Victorian depots fanciful and ornate, but I didn’t have the time or will to scratchbuild them. Thus further deviation into the realm of kits.

The scenery along the actual line was…boring. No actual rivers, flat land, and farm fields and tract homes. Although Lance Manheim would probably have tackled it with remarkable finesse, I learned that I enjoy a little bit more flavor to my layouts. Not to the point of characture, but not so minimalist as to fall asleep while operating the layout.

In this time I was also hopelessly influenced by my local East Bay Area railroad scene, many excursions out to Alameda Island to take photos of the remnants of the ABL fired my desire for water features and street running. I also have always had an active interest in the Southern Pacific’s Coast Line around San Luis Obispo, and my river module represents the Salinas river to an extent further unfocused me from my original layout goals.

As for construction techniques, the Modular system is unbeatable, but for my next layout I need to follow some standards to ensure reliable operation. All of my layouts have had less than operable trackwork for some reason, which leads to frustration 9 out of 10 times. I’m seriously considering building a FREEMO-style layout using their standards, that way I can take a portion of my layout to shows and such.

Using decomposed granite as a earth surface not only worked really well for my layout, it also looked great. I’m seriously considering using it again for my next layout. It also made an excellent, realistic layer of dirt to then add a layer of foilage atop. I so think I’ll experiment more with this static grass stuff though in the future.

From an operational standpoint, it’s a remarkably nice layout to switch and operate. If my track were bulletproof it would have easily been a very impressive layout. Atlas switches pretty much killed any operating fun I had, unfortunately. Their crude frogs seemed to be my worst enemy when it came to operating rolling stock.

It was a fun ride, but not as satisfying a layout as I’d hoped. It’s room-filling 9X12 size was impressive, but since it didn’t operate without a derailment every 5 minutes I’m glad I can move on to a more interesting, new layout concept.

So sit back and watch as another layout develops before your eyes in the next year or two. If you want to check out the layout some more, click on the “HO Layout” catagory found in this post, and see it from start to it’s bitter end.

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One Comment leave one →
  1. August 6, 2009 4:17 pm

    While I’m sure you feel a twinge of sadness at the demise, everyone whose blog I read regularly who have done the same thing seems satisfied with their decision. And going FreeMo with your standards sounds like a great start.

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