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Layout Tour: The Santa Cruz Northern

December 19, 2009

WP F7A Santa Cruz Northern

For anybody who’s read the major modeling magazines since 1988, you’ve probably come across the proto-freelanced “Santa Cruz Northern” a fictional railroad joint venture between the Western Pacific and the Santa Fe. This partnership was actually quite common, so this adds to the believability of this scenario.

The thing I really enjoy most about the SCN is the way the mainline snakes up over the coast range, you can definitely get a feel for the actual locale being modeled. The railroad grade itself is far from flat as it battles constant grades up and down the pass from San Jose to Santa Cruz.
SCN Roundhouse and WP SW switcher

Super-detailed diesels that seem to represent the 1960’s-1980’s round out the collection of motive power, this is one of the highlights of the layout, surely. It’s so nice to see someone who pays attention to WP equipment by detailing it heavily to represent the actual prototype. Of course, thanks to the joint WP-ATSF venture, you see a smattering of Santa Fe equipment along with the Freelanced Santa Cruz Northern, which seems to have a mostly ALCo hodgepodge of Ex-SP equipment, which has also been detailed as per SP practice, which is pretty neat to see.
Lumber Processing Company on the SCN

There’s a good variety of industry on the layout that’s (mostly) reflective of actual industries found on the ex-SP Santa Cruz branch. Cement reigns king, and a massive cement plant dominates one peninsula of the layout. Redwood logging and lumber products are the other mainstay, with vegetable, fruit and fish canning a close third. A handful of warehouses and other line side industries round out the population of industries on the layout.
Corrugated Iron Depot Santa Cruz Northern

There are some really quite impressive railroad related structures on the layout, and they steal the show from the collection of easily recognizable kits you find on the layout. There’s a beautiful scratch built Roundhouse that I believe follows WP practices. On the other side of the layout sits a depot entirely clad in corrugated iron, which is an unusual, but most likely prototype specific building. It looks quite nice.
Warehouse District on the SCN

Anyhow, for being a 21 year old layout, it looks it’s living in an interesting contrast. It’s constantly being improved, or at least it seems so, and yet some of the scenery seems pretty dated. Some of the buildings could use replacement, most of the vehicles are unimpressive; sometimes distractingly lacking in detail, and the trees are a tad unrealistic, but overall the layout is comfortably presentable. I saw some new scenery improvements while I was there, Silflor grass is creeping slowly onto the layout and I spotted some really realistic (and cool!) looking forest undergrowth, ferns and all. I think what I saw was a layout in transition, slowly becoming a really excellent layout one modern scenery technique at a time.
Lumber Warehouse in HO scale on the SCN

He also does operating sessions 4-6 times a year, and this layout was definitely built for operation! It uses an extensive car card and waybill system to route freight, which by all observations, works quite well.  No lack of motive power or rolling stock to move around either!

If you ever get the chance to visit this layout, I really must recommend that you see it.

3 Comments leave one →
  1. August 7, 2010 12:16 am

    Jim Providenza
    What a great layout. Thanks

  2. Ron Cooper permalink
    August 7, 2011 9:50 am

    Very nice layout with equipment & structures to match.

    I too model WP & have built the North Fork bridge north of Oroville.
    I am in Australia & have recently returned from the Sacramento convention & went up past Oroville to the WP museum at Portola and also had a look at the bridge. – An amazing structure and even more amazing how they built it up there in a virtual no mans land. Even many locals did not know of its existence.


  3. James M. Lewis permalink
    October 9, 2012 12:59 pm

    Jim, really enjoyed your layout tour. Have intergrated many of your concepts into my 2’5″x17′ double decker “n” scale layout.

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