Our Layout

The layout is of a logging railroad that might have existed somewhere along the Mendocino Coast between 1925 and 1940 when steam was still king. It’s a testament to the men who cut the giant trees; the railroads which brought the giant logs to the mill and the schooners that took the products to market from the dangerous doghole ports along the Mendocino Coast. After two and a half years of construction in the Capenter’s Barn in the yard of the CWR’s Skunk Train our layout is open to the public. The scenery still has a ways to go but we have “more than enough to put on a show”.

The main line tracks are 35 inches above floor level and the Mill and Town to Country Line are 42 inches and higher. Our model is set in the 1920 to 1940 period when steam was still king and diesel power was just entering the scene. The two main lines each of 1.7 scale miles and the logging line are all operational. Our locomotives use solar power electricity, battery power and radio control and for special days we have a collection of live steam locomotives. The curves of the main lines are large enough to handle even the largest locomotives. Become an Associate Member and you can bring your own loco and consist and run it on the layout.

It is nearly impossible to build a model railway to be prototypically accurate. Why? Well, to model the Skunk Line from Fort Bragg to Willits would require a mile and a quarter of model track in G Scale! There are model railroads with main lines of 1,200 feet but ours, like most, is constrained by available space. This means that the layout becomes a series of scenes or dioramas connected by the track.

What to put in the scenes? Our objective is to create a living history of railroads of the Redwood Coast. In each of the scenes on our layout we want to be able to depict with reasonable accuracy structures and equipment that actually existed somewhere up and down the Mendocino Coast. Hopefully visitors will be able to see, in miniature, the components of a logging operation.

The original plan for the layout was drawn to scale to enable us to order the exact amount of each type of curve and straight track needed. Like all plans it did not survive intact when it met the enemy – reality. The good news is that by and large it worked. The gooder news is that we managed to incorporate two dioramas (an incline and a switchback) that we could not make “work” in any of the 117 iterations of the plan. The bad news is that there are some of us who really, really want a flume……

In order to create a new plan of what we have actually built we asked our webmaster, Roger Thornburn, to take some pictures of the layout. Click on the photos to see them “full size”.

The Carpenter’s Barn in the Fort Bragg
Skunk Depot is the home of our layout

This first pic is of the 100 plus year old Carpenter’s barn wherein is our layout. The Barn was used to build and repair passenger and freight cars for the Union Lumber Company and its successor The California Western railroad (CWR – the Skunk Train). The entrance is on the right and we are looking from south to north. The CWR Skunk Train depot is off to our right and the Roundhouse is to our left and slightly behind us.

View along the East Wall

You have walked in the door and are perched on a high ladder looking down on the pier and toward the mill. The Main Line tracks on the lower level go out through the wall and circle the building and provide the two main line tracks in excess of 370 feet long (1.7 scale miles) each with curves ample enough to handle the largest l of G Scale locomotives..

The pier is on the right of the picture below and the mill next to it. The mill pond with slash burner at the back is in the middle. In front of the mill pond is a Howe Truss bridge and under it is the Mill pond dam. Next going left is the Fort Bragg Skunk train depot and along the (north east) wall is Main Street Fort Bragg. Click on the photos to expand them and see masses more detail.

View of the 55 feet long East Wall

The tracks from the Mill pass over Tunnel #1 as you can see below. The tracks between the Main Line and the upper level on the left are the end of the upper end of the switchback where it joins the Mill and Town to Country Line.

North East Corner
Inner East Side

Here you can see better how the switchback works (4% grade). The top end is just after the northern exit of the tunnel and the bottom end is on the lower (Main Line) level on the siding to the right of the inner Main Line. You can see the side of the Depot too.

In the next photo you are looking along the north wall. The reverse loop that circles the Depot rises as it goes along the north wall on its way to the woods. The building on the left at the back is the Roundhouse and in front of it will be the ash pit, water tower, sand storage and drying building and other “necessities” used by steam locos.

25 feet long North Wall

In this next pic you can see Noyo River Corner which separates “town” from “country”. You can see the trestles in the bottom left in place to carry the tail of switchback over the river and the Main Line round a 16 foot plus semi-circle.

North Corner

This next pic shows “the whole” vs the parts. The upper level Mill-Town-Woods line continues to climb along the inside of the West wall and the Main Line is at the bottom.

West Wall North End

In the middle of the next picture is Ten Mile River with a high trestle to carry the Mill-Town-Country reverse loop. Caspar Tunnel is to the right of Ten Mile River.

West Wall Middle

Next is a view of the west wall at the south end. Ten Mill River and a dam will be on the extreme right and the upper level Mill-Town-Woods line goes over Tunnel #2. On the extreme left you can see the lower level main line exiting through the wall so that it can travel down the outside of the west wall and around the north wall.

West Wall South End
South West Corner

Looking down on the above picture you can see the reverse loop for the upper level Mill-Town-Woods line. To the north of the loop will be the logging camp. In the top right hand (south west corner) will be a Pomo village. Point Cabrillo lighthouse will be on the south side of the gulch where the Main Line exits the building. You can see Point Cabrillo lighthouse stored up on a shelf at the top right of the photo. The shelf will house the seventh automated line high up on the west wall which will bring cut logs to the incline (70 degrees plus). The incline is the board running across the green post.

In total there is well over 1,300 feet of track.

Building the Layout

We’ve been keeping track of our work from the empty barn to the present, with many photos and a panorama of the inside of the barn. On Friday January 28th 2011 we received the keys to our new home in the Carpenter’s Barn. Our new home is over 100 years old and we are convinced it had been collecting dust and dirt since the day it was first used.

What have we accomplished to date? We have scrubbed our “old lady” from top to toe, installed fans, installed lights, built a new ADA compliant door, installed ADA compliant ramps for access, glazed the broken windows, sealed up where she leaked, added new windows and generally spruced her up. We have built the benchwork for the trains and have virtually all of the track in place. The scenery along the east and north wall are nearly complete. All of the major structures have been built or are in the throes of completion. So not good ….. but not bad either!

The North Wall of the Barn
Working Train on east side of the Barn
President Phil Miller’s Diesel in the correct colors
MIll Yard 0-4-0
Fort Bragg Depot
Fort Bragg Depot in busy


Click on the photo of the barn taken on January 28th, 2011 to see a gallery of the photos taken as we built our layout.

We’ve made a “Virtual Tour” of the inside of the barn. 108 photos were stitched to make a single photo 36,000×14,000 pixels (500 Megapixels). Special software now cuts this into over 3,000 tiles that allow faster downloads with high resolution. Click here for a virtual tour of the barn.

Click the photo left to see the slideshow

As others see us – Photographs taken by Visitors to our Layout

Lynn Prunty’s photographs

Lynn Prunty came to the layout and handed me a flash drive with 115 photos that he took on his last visit. I have picked out what I believe to be the best to share with you. The first shot is a real corker.