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updated: October 03, 2008

HO Scale Desert Layout Project  -  4/22
Construction and track laying has begun in February 2008.
Track laying and Landscaping

Photos 304 - 404, starting 9/21/08 and ending 10/03/08

9/21/08: The correct ballast has arrived and therefore, the part under the bridge has to be prepared for landscaping and ballasting. As bridge support, I am using the 2 tunnel portals made out of plywood. I mounted strips of balsa to make a realistic portal. The retaining walls are done the same way.
9/21/08 Portal to enter the staging yard - 304 Portal for the main lines- 305
9/21/08 The portals are also the support for the bridge - 306 The main lines will enter a short tunnel - 307
9/21/08 Bridge of upper level - 308 Bridge as seen from above - 309
9/21/08 Why a bridge and not a longer tunnel? - 310 Because I need access to the switches as some are manual - 311
9/21/08 The girders are from Atlas and extended - 312 See the bridge from track level - 313
9/23/08: Afterwards, the portals have been painted in my own mixture of concrete gray. In the meantime the portals and retaining walls are mounted and glued in place. For better work space, the bridge segment has been removed. It will be mounted after the landscaping and ballasting is finished. Please note: The brown/red ballast is not correct and it will be changed to the new ballast.
9/23/08 Painted and finished portal to the staging yard - 314 Finished portal with retaining wall is mounted - 315
9/23/08 The bridge section was removed - 316 Tunnel/bridge area from above - 317
9/23/08 Nice view thru the tunnel with main line - 318 Intersection with switches for the yard - 319
9/23/08 Yard entrance and main lines to the right - 320 These switches are manual and need access - 321
9/28/08: After all, I was able to start with the correct ballast below the bridge and inside the short tunnel. My intention was to use a similar ballast called "Desert Rose" like BNSF was using for the 3rd Main Track Construction over Cajon Pass. Here are a lot of photos of the 3rd Main Track Construction:  Color Canyon Materials in Arizona is producing the correct ballast in HO scale (other grades as well) with the name "Purple Haze". It is grinded from the real rocks and should look like the original. For those who are interested in CCM's Natural Rocks for Miniature Landscaping, go to their web site: The result on the photos 322 - 339 is very satisfactory and looks like the real thing.
9/28/08 Mainline Portal - 322 The modern electrical box (4312) is made by BLM - 323
9/28/08 Looking thru the short tunnel - 324 Another view from above - 325
9/28/08 - 326 Not only ballasting but also landscaping was done at the same time as the bridge will cover the access afterwards - 327
9/28/08 To put ballast on the switches is always difficult - 328 The short tunnel will be covered - 329
9/28/08 Once the upper level is mounted, not much can be seen  - 330 The 2 tunnel portals will be used as support for the bridge - 331
9/28/08 Entrance to the yard and main lines on right side - 332 Other tunnel portal of the main line is visible here - 333
9/28/08 This short tunel will be just 52 cm (20") - 334 Looking thru the tunnel toward the staging yard - 335
9/28/08 Portal for the staging yard - 336 Looking thru the tunnel the other direction - 337
9/28/08 Yard entrance and main lines - 338 Looking from above where the bridge will be - 339
9/29/08: This is the day of the last track laying, in other words, the Golden Spike was driven. The bridge element is back in place and I was able to start with cork roadbed mounting. Afterwards, the time has come to place the last flex tracks and the circle of both main lines will be completed, today. As always, my track inspector was checking every step to be sure things are done as per contract.
9/29/08 After cork roadbed was done, track laying started - 340 The remaing track gap is approx. 2,5 m (8 ft) - 341
9/29/08 The track inspector is arriving - 342 Every corner will be checked - 343
9/29/08 Percy said, the curve looks good, but hurry up as I want to see the first train running, tonight ! !  - 344 Almost the same process like it happend in Cajon Pass on 9/26/08. See the real thing here: Cajon track construction (see photo 811) - 345
9/29/08 Cutting and realigning the track sections  - 346 The inspector takes a rest - 347
9/29/08 Main # 1 has to be adjusted - 348 Main # 2 will be connected any minute - 349
9/29/08 Both main lines are connected and complete - 350 Pins will be replaced by spikes (nails) and the Golden Spike is driven - 351
9/29/08: After the Golden Spike was driven, I was making the very first test run with an Union Pacific Train, lead by EMD DDA40X (Overland Models) and a Werner Enterprises Special Train. The first rounds worked well without any derailment. I just made pictures from the overpass area as this was the last part with track laying. You can see photos from the other parts of this layout on pages 1 - 3. I am actually glad to have my track laying completed before BNSF finished the 3rd Main Track over Cajon Pass. Take a look here: Final track realignments. The good thing on my layout - I can run trains without ballast ! !
9/29/08 It is Monday evening, 19.30 h and the first trains are rolling  - 352
9/29/08 UP was running a short freight special and Werner Enterprises made it soon after - 353
9/29/08 This view will be gone once the tunnel is closed - 354 The WE AMD-103 is coming out of the tunnel - 355
9/29/08 UP on top and WE below - 356 Nice view under the bridge - 357
9/29/08 Flats loaded with WE trailers - 358 Main # 1 and # 2 are currently blocked - 359
9/29/08 After all, the inspector moved and test runs could be done - 360 WE is coming on Main # 1 - 361
9/29/08 Overview of Bridge / Tunnel area - 362 The staging yard is just at the right side behind the retaining wall - 363
9/29/08 View from track level - 364 The final frame for today - 365
9/30/08: Last Friday, Reto Frick came to finish the last wooden work. He made the rounded cover of the inside corner. Once again, a great job that could not be done any better. I painted the boards white and it looks nice. My layout does not only cover the tracks for the trains, but also streets for cars and trucks. As there is not much clearance between the tracks and the outer end of the layout, the road is parallel and on the same level as the tracks. To get an idea how it will look one day, I put cars and trucks on the unfinished highway.
9/30/08 The triangle of the underframe is covered by a curved board - 366 Small pieces of boards are glued under the roadbed to carry the street - 367
9/30/08 The inspector is coming for a check up - 368 Weight test of the new street is done by the inspector himself - 369
9/30/08 This street is going uphill on a 1,5 % grade - 370 Looking downhill - 371
9/30/08 Busy street - 372 Heavy traffic - 373
9/30/08 Are there maybe some Railfans on the road? - 374 The last part of the street will be going down towards the tunnel area - 375
9/30/08 Imagine the landscaping and a RR-X-ing will be built over the lower level and the street will go under the upper level - 376
9/30/08 Werner Enterprises with a Van, Bus and Truck - 377 The schoolbus is going to San Bernardino - 378
9/30/08 Looking from outside - 379 Overview from the middle - 380
9/30/08 As seen from the inside - 381 and from the right side - 382
10/02/08: We are now in Office 1 to work on the part between the bridges. As already mentioned, streets are also important. I was using styrofoam which was glued between the segments. Afterwards, the styro was sanded down to street level. I am not sure yet, what cover I will use for the street surface.
10/02/08 The gaps beetween the wall and the track are closed - 383 Inspector Percy makes a final check up round - 384
10/02/08 3 segments will be filled with styrofoam - 385 Styro is in place and ready to be sanded / carved to street level - 386
10/02/08 First test run for cars and trucks on the new street - 387 On the left side will be a RR-X-ing - 388
10/02/08 The street level does not always follow the track level like on Pelle Soeborg's "the Higway West of Daneville" - 389
10/02/08 Inspired by Pelle Soeborg's Daneville Layout - take a look on his web site: - 390
10/02/08 Transition point from the combined bridge - 391 Still a lot of work for landscaping and ballasting everything - 392
10/02/08 See the proposed RR-X-ing in the background - 393 The schoolbus is coming back from San Bernardino - 394
10/02/08 VIP's are on the road with 2 Cadillac Escalades - 395 RR-X-ing will be in front and Werner Ent. is coming against us - 396
10/03/08: The short tunnel is closed and covered. I used gray cardboard inside to have an almost realistic view when you look thru the tunnel. Between the tunnel and the front I put styrofoam pieces in diff. height to make it look like a step. The styro will be sanded / carved to create a street going downhill. This road will connect the lower and the upper level. So, we will have a continous street system on this layout.
10/03/08 Gray cardboard will simulate the tunnel walls - 397 The top will give a slopy landscaping - 398
10/03/08 This space to the right will become a street - 399 Only the first piece of styro for the street is in place - 400
10/03/08 Our supervisor found a new platform to sit - 401 Once again, he has to check the construction - 402
10/03/08 Styro steps from above - 403 and from below. Thru sanding the street, I will get a steady grade 404

Continued on page 5 - click here

updated: October 03, 2008

Technical Data of my Layout:
Size: 4,5 x 6,5 m (13,5 x 19,5 feet), Era: Modern, Location: Southern California in the Mojave Desert (Cajon Pass), Layout Style: unconventional, in house along the walls, 2 swing up bridges, 1 lift out bridge, double track, min. radius 104 cm (41 inch), max. grade 1,5 %, Track: Atlas flextrack code 100, Turnouts: Peco code 100, Power: conventional DC with electrical feeders every 2 m, Mainline: 32 m (96 feet), Height: 93 cm (36,5 inch)
Overview of the layout (each square is 0,5 m)


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