Sacramento Southern in N Scale: Conclusion and Bonus

Sacramento Southern in N Scale: Conclusion and Bonus

Part 1 – Introduction:

Part 2 – Prototype Study:

Part 3 – Designing Layout:

Part 4: Track Planning:

Part 5: Google Earth Survey:

Locomotives and Rolling Stock

One of the biggest advantage of selecting a museum/excursion railroad is the freedom of locomotives and rolling stock selection. CSRM’s Master Railroad Equipment Roster can be found in their website ( and a quick look at that list will tell you that they have an astonishing collection of railroad equipment from across the era. Though the majority of the contribution came from Southern Pacific, Central Pacific and ATSF Railroads, a fair number of items are also received from other railroads across the US, but primarily from the West coast. Though not all items are in running condition (the list provides details of which items are operational and which are not), artistic liberty can be taken to showcase all those equipment in running condition in the layout. So, ranging from a tiny and inexpensive Life-Like 0-6-0 saddle tank locomotive that depicts the famous Granite Rock No. 10 that runs regularly to haul the excursion trains, to the ‘giant’ Intermountain Cab Forward (which in real life is nothing but a static exhibit at the museum) can be operated on the layout. Many of the popular ATSF Baldwin locomotives are popular models in N scale that will readily fit to the layout in both running and static condition. And going back to the ‘artistic license’ including locomotives that are not there in the CSRM’s real roster can be easily included as the additional ‘achievement’ of the 1:160 version of the museum. Focusing on the real museum’s lack of collection of Union Pacific equipment, may be its N Scale version can ‘acquire’ the likes of the Big-Boy, the Challenger, FEF-3 etc. and all of them can be operated simultaneously. Given this is a museum layout, it is not necessary to hook up any rolling stock to the locomotive, but even when attaching the cars, no particular attention needs to be paid about doing mix-and-match. There are a plenty of passenger coaches to choose from – starting from various types of 1920’s Pullman coaches to 1950’s luxurious Budd Lounge and Diner cars. Some of these rolling stocks can be painted in the Sacramento Southern paint scheme to bring the feel of the modern-day era, and one can even take the real-life museum’s route to convert old Gondolas to excursion cars and easily bring an added layer of authenticity to the layout. Among the diesel movers the choice is even more – multiple specimen of GM’s F series, ALCO’s RS series and a bunch of switchers like GE 44-ton, 25-ton, GM SW8 can be included in the roster. Basically, this can be a typical ‘collector’s layout’ where ‘anything goes,’ but without violating the spirit of the prototype – best of both worlds, really!

Some Final Words

Now, this is not a simple build – this might be someone’s ‘lifetime project’ depending on the level of detail one desires to achieve. Modeling such intricate waterside structures can be extremely time consuming especially in N Scale. So, depending on the appetite, one can definitely consider taking help of the modern technology instead of deciding to build everything from scratch – laser-cut strip woods are very common nowadays, etched brass components should do nicely for the truss design of the bridge and many of the waterside and building details. It might be beneficial to look at kitbashing for some of the buildings (though it will require heavy kitbashing) and keeping an eye out for suitable wooden fine scale/craftsman kit might help. For someone skilled with 3D design might consider getting some of the smaller pieces 3D printed to balance time vs. money. Overall, irrespective of the approach taken, this is definitely not a beginner level project and require long term financial and time commitment – this is a serious build. I just wanted to mention this because it will be a shame for someone to start with a project as rewarding as this without understanding the depth of it, and then running into difficulties mid-way. But for the N scale bravehearts out there, this is a potential masterpiece!

Bonus Content – Destination Baths!

Though the layout as described is quite a handful for most modeler and many will be more than happy to handle the movement of the traffic ‘off-stage’ in a staging section, it might make sense to just include that destination as a part of the layout as well. As mentioned before, the train runs 3 miles South to Baths – a small station with 2 passing sidings. So, for those who are interested and have the luxury of space can consider modeling Baths as well. Just like light dessert after a heavy meal, Baths is so unremarkable and simple that it is a perfect companion to the highly detailed and eventful Old Sacramento section. As seen in Figure 31, you can see the tracks at Baths sandwiched between the West Side Freeway and the Sacramento river.

Figure-31: Tracks at Baths sandwiched between Westside Frwy and the Sacramento River. Notice the 4 old rolling stock from the museum’s collection.

Now, I feel for a scene like this 24-inch-deep benchwork is an overkill – yes it can include the West Side Freeway and the Sacramento River in that width, and those who are willing can surely take that route, but as I mentioned before, this is supposed to be a light build, so I decided to keep the depth of the layout 16 inches while the length of the layout came to 7.5 feet based on my Google scale method. Figure 32 shows the track plan and the top view of the real location side by side for comparison. Note that 2560-inch Google Earth scale which is equivalent to 16 inches in N Scale. The layout is divided in two sections – one 4 feet long, another 3.5 feet, as denoted by the red line. Notice that the entrance/exit to Old Sacramento has a slightly different orientation than the prototype, this is because the track matches the orientation of the Old Sacramento Layout exit near the Tower Bridge. Scenery in this part of the layout is simple and refreshing – wide open and lots of trees, a long bicycle trail and a barbed wire fence, that’s it. Picture 9 shows the are looking from the train on my way back to Old Sacramento during the excursion ride. The photo shows the Baths nameplate in a distance and the nature of the barbed wire fence.

Figure-32: Scale comparison with Prototype – Baths.
Picture-9: View of the West Side Freeway from Baths on way back to Old Sacramento (Looking North). Notice the flat car in the siding, the wire fence and the Baths name plate in distance.

Note that if this section sits right beside the Old Sacramento section, it might be worthwhile looking at options to include a two-sided backdrop running across the joint to separate the two scenes. Figure 33 shows a construction idea where both modules/sections have its own individual backdrop and view block (A preference for a wall mounted, portable shelf layout that can double up as a show layout) – note that the backdrop is curved in each corner, including at the transition of the view block. Given there is no opportunity to use tunnel portals at the entry/exit of the sections, large trees, bushes and other large items can be used in the foreground of the entrance/exit to disguise the ‘hole-in-the-sky’ appearance of the backdrop.

Figure-33: Joining Old Sacramento and Baths – View blocks, curved backdrop corner, and most importantly large objects to cover the ‘hole in the sky’ in the backdrop are some of the important techniques to use both sections together.

For those who have space to create an around the room layout and want to model the whole 3-mile journey, there are some more subtle but interesting locale along the route as well. I am not going to design any layout section for those, but the methods applied above can be easily used to incorporate these sections in a layout. In Figure 34 you see the line passing underneath the I-80 viaduct on the left and beside the Sacramento Marina on the right. You can also see the Storage tanks of the Chevron Terminal spread on both sides of the track. In this photo Old Sacramento is towards left and Baths is towards right. Going further North (towards Old Sacramento) you spot a small passing siding beside a junk yard as seen in Figure 35. Both these scenes can be incorporated in an around-the-room layout using the methods described above. Of course, change in orientation at the corners will have to factored in, however, it should not be much of a problem since we are talking about just a single line running through the area. Using Google Earth, one can survey the whole stretch of the railroad to find other point of interest as well and employ the techniques described in this article to transform them into a N Scale layout plan.

Figure-34: Other points of interest 1: line passing underneath I-80 and beside Sacramento Marina.
Figure-35: Other points of interest 2: A passing siding in front of a junk yard between Tower Bridge and I-80 viaduct. Notice the two locomotives and a flat car in the siding that can contribute to the scene very nicely.

If you have tagged along for the whole of this 6-part blog /article series, then THANK YOU! I will really apprecaite to know if you found this article interesting, so comment below with your thoughts. In addition, if you decide to build this layout, I will be really interested to see how it turns out, so please send me a note.

Leave a Reply