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Today, the Tidewater Division of the Mission Valley & Pacific Filed for Abandonment.

January 2, 2011

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 Tidewater division, and the Highgrove division that makes up a majority of this new endeavour.

It’s not so much the actual visual completion either. My original concept was to accurately model a collection of California vignettes, such as the abandoned hamlet at Drawbridge, California and the nearby town of Alviso. I also wanted to see if modeling the C&H sugar plant at Crockett, California was viable. As it turns out, it really isn’t unless you devote an entire layout to just that industry.

With more research and plenty of trackside photos graciously e-mailed to me in the last few months 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 were I think the thing that drove the most nails into the proverbial coffin, I had a bunch of kits and scratchbuilt buildings left over from the Highgrove division layout that I wanted to incorporate, but I could NEVER seem to get a majority of them to fit into a scene together in a pleasant and realistic enough way to commit to building them in place and laying roads and scenery down.

The scenery along the actual line was spectacular, and as such would have required MUCH more space to model with any hope of accuracy or any sense of scale, unfortunately sweeping vistas of reed grass and salt ponds really don’t lend them to the sharp curves and tight quarters of my layout concept. That was a huge disappointment as my salt pond idea “evaporated” almost overnight due to a shortage of materials, then to a shortage of space, and after some time, will to even proceed with the idea. I just kind of stared at the caricature that looked more like a mud puddle than thousands of acres of surreal other-worldly salt ponds.

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 more bay and oceanic than shallow marsh 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. I suppose the Salinas river left over from the Highgrove dicision coming out SO well was also a sticking point…did I really want to change this really beautiful scene, or even worse, dismantle it? NO! So I paid the price of recycling an old module…poor trackwork, the same I experienced with the last layout.

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. After all the basic lessons learned from this layout, I can FINALLY move on and make a more smoothly operating layout that I can finally enjoy operating…what a novel thought.

I AM in the process of 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. I finally got to test some on my layout, and aside from needing to buy more for color variety, it is a really excellent way to do scenery and obviously the BEST way to model grass.

From an operational standpoint, it was 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. I had some neat concepts in this layout I seriously intend to use on others, I experimented with having an interchange and engine terminal, and a completely separate industrial switching shortline managing a large freight depot, it was a great operational concept that never saw the light of day.

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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2 Comments leave one →
  1. Paul permalink
    January 3, 2011 6:40 pm

    Sorry to see your layout go, I used to have derailment problems until I built my own switches, I have started to use the fast track line of products and can highly recommend them.

    • January 3, 2011 11:35 pm

      I agree, fast tracks is a boon to our hobby, It’s great to see someone step up to the plate and make it easier to do one of the most daunting modeling operations out there.

      I went with PECO #8 switches for my next pair of modules, of which my next post will feature. Those are pretty bulletproof, as I already tested out a #6 on my previous layout with excellent results.

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