O-Scale Layout at a Glance
You can take your own guided tour of the Cabrillo and Southwestern.
Just click on a number for layout feature details on each location.
Cabrillo and Southwestern Railway - 'The California Mission Route'
The "O" Scale Cabrillo and Southwestern Railway exhibit is a free-lance representation of a route from
San Diego to Sacramento, California. While large at 2700 sq. ft., O scale takes enormous space and
only representative scenes may be modeled. Refer to the hand-drawn
for an overall view of the O-scale layout. A computer-generated layout track plan is in progress.
Accurate points for the AutoCad drawing are obtained using laser surveying equipment. The as built
layout is surveyed using a
Nikon total station instrument
and the data entered into the computer. Once the track layer is complete, symbols for tunnel portals,
trestles, etc. are added to produce the final layout drawing.
This layout, The Cabrillo and Southwestern Railway is an O-scale model. The designers of this O-scale
layout recognized that
it takes a lot of space to operate a 1:48 scale model railroad. Compared to HO or N scale, the trains and structures are big.
There would be insufficient room to model much of a prototype road. For example, the HO scale San Diego and Arizona Eastern
model layout with 4,500 square feet of space can model 15 miles of a total railway mileage of 140 miles, enough for some major
highlights. But were the O-scale Cabrillo and Southwestern to attempt to replicate a real 140-mile road in just
2,700 square feet,
it could cover barely 5 miles. Better to establish a railroad that is a composite of the best and most interesting California
railroad scenes. As a composite, there can be models of a major passenger terminal, a large freight classification yard, a
double-tracked Main Line, a single track High Line weaving over and into the hills, and even a dual-gauge Logging road,
complete with narrow-gauge engines, a sawmill and a lake. Some electrified railway completes the composite, with city streetcars
and steeple-cab electric locomotives hauling freight. The Cabrillo and Southwestern is California's diverse railroad heritage
If you are new to O-scale please read
A brief background of O-scale.
You may also wish to learn about the historic
locomotives and rolling stock
displayed by the San Diego Model Railroad Club on the O-scale layout.
Numbers correspond to those on diagram at top of this page.
The Big City of Cabrillo As you enter the museum, the first view is of the big city, complete with a
double-track trolley line,
with the stores, factories and freight sidings. This line runs all the way out to the
and amusement park located at the end of the line. All of our trolleys draw their power from the overhead
Engine Yard Just below the big city and behind the passenger station is a major facility for servicing
steam and diesel locomotives. Engines have to be fueled, so a
has been installed. The steam engines require a lot of water, thus we see a large
in the engine terminal area. Numerous other
may be found on the layout for thirsty locomotives. The narrow, silvery structure in the front is the
sanding tower. Because
drive wheels and the rails they grip are both made of steel, the wheels tend to slip when the train starts
up, particularly if there is a heavy load. Sand, stored in the dome, is sprayed under the drive wheels to
give added traction. This feature is also useful when running uphill, or when the tracks are slippery due
to rain or snow.
Repairs and maintenance for the steam engines, as well as overnight storage, were done in the
The roundhouse often included a blacksmith for repairing broken parts. The smoke stacks or
chimneys on the top of the roundhouse allowed the smoke from the engines to escape through the roof
opening so the mechanics would not be asphyxiated. The
immediately in front of the roundhouse
was how engines turned around at the terminal so they faced in the correct direction. In particular,
steam engines were always faced forward to promote better visibility for the engineer. Diesels did not
need to be turned around as frequently at the terminal. Pairs of diesel locomotives, each with their own
cab, were often faced in opposite directions when connected together. The multiple-unit capability of
diesels, by which electrical connections between 2 or more units allowed one engineer to control several
locomotive simultaneously, permitted more efficient switching operations in this configuration. For
example, when a train arrived at its destination, the pair of diesels could uncouple, run around the cut
of cars and move the cars to their desired location in the opposite direction from the other cab. Diesels
thus saved crew time compared to steam engines.
Passenger Terminal This is the
main passenger station
for the big city and its architecture, mission revival style, is reminiscent of San Diego's downtown
station. This style was popular throughout the Southwest in the early part of the 20th
Century. This is a "terminal" type of station where the
do not run through but dead end at the station, with most trains backing into one of the three station loading
tracks. Most passenger trains begin or end their runs here. The front plaza of the station features an
operating water fountain,
constructed by local artist
out of a locomotive cow catcher and an engine smoke stack. In a note of whimsy,
is perched on one of the station turrets, helping to maintain law and order in the big city. Along the city
street nearest the window, note the wedding occurring at the
Note also the police officer in his
hiding behind a billboard, waiting to catch speeders. The
may slow traffic some but both vehicles and trolleys keep operating through the
Koldernhek Refridgerated Storage
keeps the produce cool and fresh whether the refrigerated car is attached
to the head of an express train, or routed into the freight yard to become part of a fast freight east.
The steam and diesel-powered main line double tracks run along the side of the station, then ducks
under it in a giant loop. This
Main Line track,
itself a loop running across the front and middle islands is superbly engineered. Trains normally "stay
to the right", yet both tracks are reverse-signaled allowing, for example, an express train to overtake
and pass a slower-moving freight train.
Main Freight Yard The heart of the freight operation is the area where each car is sorted or
"classified" by destination into one of
seven yard tracks.
The freight yard is bounded by the trolley line on one side, where the trolley company has its own right of way,
and by the Main Line on the other side where trains not needing classification can bypass the yard altogether.
Buildings in the freight yard include the
where an operator controls track switching. The yardmaster, the person in charge
of the yard, and the car clerks or carmen work here, too. There is a
car inspector's office, a
shed for the carmen
(the carmen watch for any mechanical defects) and sheds for tools and storage At the yard's East end, note the
cleverly disguising a structural support column. Near this building is a
handling all manner of goods. Freight trains can handle almost any kind
of merchandise. Note the dinosaur being carefully unloaded. Along the window area, note the rail freight
customers who are served by the trolley company. While built mainly to serve passengers, trolley companies
also owned electric freight engines to serve their customers. At the far west end of the freight yard is the
amusement park and fair grounds.
This area is served directly by the
Also at the west end of the freight yard, note the partially
belonging to The Purina Company. A hobo probably started this fire. A hobo is a migratory worker or a vagrant who
is often homeless and with little money. Hobos have long been a problem for railroads, and particularly so during
the great depression of the 1930's. Lacking funds, they would travel by riding in empty boxcars. Sometimes, to
stay warm, they would build a small fire inside the car. If the car had a wooden floor and wooden sides, as many
cars did in the 1930's, the fire could soon spread out of control.
Trespassing on railroad property or "hopping" a freight train is dangerous and illegal. Railroad
police are always on the lookout for hobos. There are fewer hobos today than there were in the 1930's.
Crossover at Saugus Junction Here the double-track Main Line intersects with the single-track,
continuous-loop High Line. The
is a small station combined with a
In front of the store is one of the High Lines'
3 passing sidings
From Saugus Junction, Eastbound High Line trains move up a significant
grade and bridge
over the Main Line. A
tunnel and a high trestle
brings the High Line back in a Westerly direction. Saugus Junction is the place where trains from the Main Line,
moving in either direction, can access the High Line.
Along the Main Line moving across the middle island, note the line passes a
cattle feed lot
with pens, then a small
church and cemetery , whose
tombstones bear the names of deceased club members, and finally, a
High Line Run As the High Line train keeps gaining altitude, it soon approaches the
co-op elevator silos.
These elevators are common on the prairies and in grain-growing areas. Local farmers bring their wheat, oats,
rye and soybeans to these elevators where chain-driven buckets lift the grain to the top of the silo. The
purposes of the co-op are several, including
- a place to keep the grain dry until ready for market,
- a place to assemble a large-enough volume to satisfy the "car load" market for grain,
- a place to create a market (establish a price) between buyers and sellers),
- a place for individual farmers (and co-op members) to raise cash or create credit, and
- a convenient place to load rail freight cars with the grain when ready for shipment to market.
A bit further up the grade, we reach Palmdale which has a passenger station, a feed mill, and
connecting track to the Mountain Line.
at Palmdale (Sefton's) receives its products (feed) by rail and stores it. Some
feed would be bagged and sold in smaller quantities to local ranchers. Some would be bagged under a
private label, with mineral and other food supplements added. Some would be bagged to the formula of
local ranchers, even grinding or adding locally-grown grains such as corn. All the grains imported by
rail to the mill would be sold in one form or another. Palmdale has a small yard with a passing track.
Narrow gauge town of Cripple Creek This
was founded during the heyday of copper, silver and
lead mining. These extractive industries required a rail line to haul the raw material to facilities
such as smelters where the pure product could be separated from the impurities. Some of the
were located in rugged country where it was cheaper to build a narrow-gauge railroad than one of standard
gauge. Still, the standard gauge was more economical where it was feasible, thus
operate into Cripple Creek. Because the narrow gauge engines were isolated from the main engine terminal, a
small engine terminal
was established here. Cripple Creek is the beginning of the Mountain Line
that moves upgrade through Grass Lake to Montrose at the top of the layout. When viewing the
of Cripple Creek from the window, note how the Main Street apparently moves around a corner of a hill and
on up into the mountains.
The sawmill at Grass Lake As the dual-gauge track moves upgrade from Cripple Creek, it soon approaches the
Grass Lake passenger station.
This area is dominated by a
Logs are received from Montrose, hauled down the hill via standard-gauge, or narrow-gauge or electric train
where the logs are dumped into the lake on a special trestle. Subsequently the log rounds are hoisted up
into the sawmill
where they are cut into boards. The sawmill also produces another useful product, sawdust, used
in the manufacture of plywood and particleboard. Near the sawmill, the cut boards are dried and planed into
finished commercial sizes. The finished product is then bundled and shipped by rail to market. The wood chips
moves out by rail to mills that use it in the manufacture of lumber by-products.
Once the sawmill was established, the electric railway owners were emboldened to string wire up to
the logging town of Montrose and down to the sawmill. The electric railway owners also wanted a piece of
the action hauling finished lumber and wood chips from Grass Lake into the big city. Thus they constructed
an electrified connection from Grass Lake to the fair grounds where a link was established with the city
line. The steam and diesel trains were to enjoy no monopoly here! Alas, maintenance of an electrified railway
proved too much, and the company fell onto hard times and the wire was eventually pulled out.
Back Storage Yard (High Line Run) At Palmdale, after shedding its branch to Grass Lake and the Mountain
Line, our High Line loops back on itself and moves to the lower mountains on the
Enroute to the High Line summit under the town of Montrose, trains work upgrade, picking their way over
high trestles and gorges.
In addition to the very visible High Line, this back storage area literally has a hidden set of lower
tracks (accessible to members only) and is used for layovers, storage and for adding or removing engines to
the layout. This back
is accessed from the Main Line at the west end. Two continuous main-line loops make it possible to run through
trains via this route.
The Mountain Line The
is a point-to-point railroad with reversing loops for both narrow
and standard gauge trains at Montrose and Cripple Creek. Its primary purpose is to bring
from Montrose and the surrounding area down to the sawmill at Grass Lake. It also brings in provisions for
The Mountain Town of Montrose This is the
on the layout. Both standard gauge trains and
electric trains can operate from the big city to the lofty Montrose, gaining almost 9 feet in elevation in
the process. The standard gauge and the electric trains operate from the big city via separate right of
ways as far as Grass Lake Junction. From here, they share the Mountain Line track up the hill
Bascule Bridges In the nineteenth century, railway civil engineers had little problem crossing waterways.
They knew how to build wooden bridges and even some gracefully arched stone bridges. But what if the waterway
was navigable? This usually called for a movable bridge. Movable railway bridges are of three types,
(1) swing, (2) lift, and (3) bascule. The railway bascule bridge (in French, bascule means a seesaw) usually
has but one leaf that contains the track. On one end of the leaf, a gear engages the leaf and literally rolls
the leaf upward on a rack and pinion. The stress on the gear is minimized by a huge counterweight (a steel box
filled with concrete). The counterweight sits atop the structure on the side opposite the leaf to be raised.
When the bascule leaf is fully raised, river traffic has clear passage.
The Cabrillo and Southwestern uses two bascule bridges.
near the passenger station, crosses a smaller navigable waterway. The other is an
enormous bascule bridge
which sits at the west end of the engine terminal. This bridge is double tracked and is required to move the
main line from the front island to the center island over a wide and deep waterway (operator aisle).
Other views of this bridge convey the
and imposing size when viewed from
Trolley car storage Miscellaneous parts are stored in this area, as well as access to loops
connecting the hidden back storage yard.
Equipment storage area Club locomotives and rolling stock are kept in this general area when not
in use. Members also may lease locker space in this area and under the hidden storage yard for their
Tool storage. The San Diego Model Railroad Club stores the table saw beneath the narrow gauge town with
access via a door in the exterior of the layout. Other construction materials may also be stored as needed.
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