About the Author

There were always trains in my house growing up, my dad has a large Lionel layout as well as a few boxes of old HO equipment. It wasn't until I was about 10 that I received my first N scale set, the Life-like Diesel Charger Set.

With that, my dad and I built a small layout from an Atlas track plan book. This lasted a number of years. After college, I built a shelf layout focusing primarily on a passenger station and freight yard. Some old pictures can be found here, Malpaso and Saccarra.

After that, I moved and built a small layout with plans to increase its size as space permitted. This layout is set in California in the 1930s. One half is Los Angeles, and the other is a generic central coast scene. This is the current state of things. Scenery has been roughed in, and trains are running.

These first images show the generic hillside. I wanted to model California's golden hills and old oak trees.

 The Los Angeles side is very loosely based on Figueroa Street. I wanted to capture the look of a big city street in a very small area. The structures were being designed to decrease in height as they moved down the road away from the viewer. The buildings are a mix of kits, kit bashed, and scratch built. The vehicles are mostly white metal kits from GHQ Models.

During this time I also built an On30 module set in Arizona during the 1910s. It consists of scratch built structures, handlaid track and Sonoran Desert scenery. Below is an overview.

The small station was scratch built from foam core, and took first place in the on-line structures category at the 2017 Pacific Southwest Region NMRA meet.

More shots of this module, as well as other modeling, can be found here.

In 2015 we bought a house, which pleasantly includes a small basement. I've tried to design a new layout using the existing N scale one, but the bulkiness of the previous layout doesn't leave a lot of room to move around. I wanted to use the layout as a return loop, and include another one to allow for continuous running. The plan was to model California hills, the wharf in Monterey, and to try to include the sugar factory at Spreckels. While possible, it would be too cramped for my liking.

I recently joined the Belmont Shore Railroad Club, which is home to a 25' x 90' layout. This gives me a place to run long passenger trains, without taking up my entire basement.

That brings us to today, and this new project. I grew up in Spreckels, CA, and spent a lot of time playing on the one or two box cars that were occasionally left on the team track at the former yard of the PVCRR, and at times I found myself exploring the site of the old sugar factory. I've spent a lot of time researching the PVCRR, and it looks like an interesting railroad to try to model. It runs through the California coast, includes a wharf at Moss Landing, and as initially designed, won't take up too much floor space in the basement. The biggest compromise I've come across so far, is that the railroad was narrow gauge, and I plan to model it in standard gauge. The idea behind this is that the Southern Pacific bought the railroad in 1929 and rather than abandoning the majority of the track like they did, in my plan, they converted it to standard gauge. Plus this is N scale, and narrow gauge steam seems like a very expensive and iffy endeavor. To compensate for this, I plan to use smaller freight cars, and possibly scale sized couplers. More on that later. 

I intend to keep the current N scale layout in place for the time being. Every night my son and I play trains, so that can't go anywhere.

In the meantime, I'll use this space to discuss plans, show pictures, and try to detail my progress.

Nick Lisica - lisican@gmail.com


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