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Tehachapi, Cajon, and More!

Large HO layout captures railfan scenes

No matter how much space you start with for a model railroad layout you always wish you had a little more. Even if that space is a full floor of a commercial office building!


The original concept was for an HO model railroad featuring California's famed Tehachapi Loop and some nearby scenes. This is a favorite railfanning location for the client and with about 1700 square feet of useable space, I had no trouble creating a conceptual sketch comprising a spectacular version of Walong (The Loop), Caliente, Mojave Yard, a couple of connecting scenes, and space for staging.


The client liked the original sketch, but felt that he just couldn’t live without some other favorite scenes. Soon he added Cajon Pass, some Arizona desert, even a patch of snowbound Canada to the "must have" list. And all of this with a 38" minimum radius, #10 turnouts for mainline sidings, and #8s elsewhere. Yikes!

Tehachapi Cajon model railroad layout HO
Santa Fe lead units cross abovetheir train on the Tehachapi Loop.

Click images for larger views or click here to read about my accidental railfan trip to Tehachapi

Click image for a larger labeled Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) view in a new window

Even in a space this large, there was no easy way to make these very different scenes flow smoothly from one to the next. So instead, I elected to try to isolate the scenes visually from one another as much as possible, even though trains would be passing directly between widely separated geographies. There was no call for industry switching or more urban scenes, but I tried to leave a little room for future development, even if just a spot here and there.


You may read much more about my "Best of the West" design in the April/June 2009 issue of Model-Railroad-Hobbyist media-zine, always free for download on the web!


The resulting layout has been optimized to include as many favorite railfan scenes as possible, at the cost of linear walkaround aisles in some places and virtually any traditional switching trackage. While the single-minded model railfan focus is an unorthodox approach, it does make for an appealing sampler of some of the West's most famous mainline locales.


But it doesn't require a space like this to capture the atmospere of real-life scenes. Just contact me and we can work together on a layout design that captures the atmosphere of your favorite railfan locale in the space you have available.

More-prototypical Tehachapi layout


Some have asked about the version of the layout that focused exclusively on the Tehachapi area. Although that approach was never developed completely, here is the conceptual sketch showing how it might have come together.


Click image for a larger labeled Adobe Acrobat (.pdf) view in a new window

A major focus in this version is the Loop, but with attention given to the two great sweeping curves that lead into the Loop proper. Marcel is also a key element here. I find it fascinating the way the curves at Marcel begin relatively gently at the timetable East end, but then become much tighter approaching Tunnel 12 (now bypassed and collapsed). The multiple passing sidings here really accentuate the curves.

Since I grew up about 30 miles from Mojave, it would have been neat to develop the town itself a little more, including some of the businesses along the highway (if only as flats). But the client's desire to add more favorite railfanning scenes from other areas in the final design reduced the scope of Mojave and the other Tehachapi elements.

Note that one scene was not developed ("TBD Scene"). This might have become the client's snowy Canadian rail scene or some other locale.

This design was not finished, so note that there are access, aisleway and some other issues left unresolved. You can see that a few elements of this conceptual sketch (such as the Caliente horseshoe) made it into the final design. And it's interesting to compare the two approaches in the same space.

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