Sacramento Northern belt line

Discussion in 'Track Planning' started by jetrock, Jan 18, 2008.

  1. jetrock

    jetrock Member


    Givens and Druthers

    Sacramento Northern: Sacramento Belt Line
    Scale: HO
    Gauge: Standard. Code 100 Peco turnouts, minimum radius 15" mainline/12" other
    Prototype: Former traction line turned diesel freight line

    Era: 1953-1966, plans to backdate to 1945-1953 (with trolley overhead!) someday
    Region: Sacramento, CA and environs
    Railroad: Sacramento Northern, with some WP and CCT


    11'x25' basement room with one door and one window. Ceiling is 6'6" high, unfinished.

    Governing Rolling Stock: Boxcars and refrigerator cars.

    Relative Emphasis: Industrial switching between yards on either end of town. Interchange between Southern Pacific and Western Pacific. Service to local canneries and other agricultural products industries. No through trains. Most traffic is agricultural products being brought in from farming areas for processing, and then outbound for distribution to distant markets.

    Scenic realism
    (Note: Even though the emphasis is on track and operation, it's closely modeled on the prototype. Scenery is primarily urban.)
    Mainline Running

    Operation Priorities:

    1. Local Freight Operations
    2. Interchange
    3. Passenger operations (fan trips only, no regular passenger service.)

    Typical operating Crew: __1 or 2__ Eye Level (Owner) _64__In.

    A little background: I used to post here quite a bit but have been gone for a while--I got so much into prototype research that I wrote two photo-books on the history of Sacramento, a handful of articles on local traction history, volunteered at a local railroad museum, and went back to college to get my master's degree. I have been working on this plan (and layout) for several years, and have built part of it (the north wall, which is "up" in the diagram.) I originally designed it for my old 8'x18' garage, but have relocated to a house with a "ground floor basement" room of 11x25 feet. The layout is sectional (but not modular) and sits on brackets 48" from the floor, designed to be removed without too much hair-pulling.

    The layout is closely based on the prototype, using as many original sources as I can find, including one former SN engineer. The SN "Belt Line" was originally built as a compromise with the city of Sacramento: the original Northern Electric interurban railroad could run its passenger trains and local streetcars through downtown Sacramento, but freight trains had to run around the perimeter of the city limits, often referred to as "going around Cape Horn." This belt line ran through the middle of city streets, and originally shared much of its length with local streetcars and on some stretches with Central California Traction interurbans. As the city grew beyond its original boundaries, the areas adjacent to the Belt Line became a mix of residential and industrial neighborhoods.

    The belt line used electric steeplecabs and box motors for switching until 1953. Part of the line (a stretch with no industrial spurs, through residential areas) was abandoned and trackage rights secured over the Western Pacific to bridge the gap. Diesel switchers, first introduced in the 1940s, took over for the steeplecabs. Operation continued until 1966, when in-street trackage was abandoned and trackage rights via Southern Pacific allowed access to remaining industries.

    I realize that my track planning violates many sacred tenets of track planning like not having the mainline run parallel to the table and not having streets meet the table at a 90 degree angle, but since downtown Sacramento has gridded streets and the SN followed the street it was unavoidable--and doing it this way reinforces the look of the prototype. I have spoken to one former engineer and scrounge relentlessly for photographs and diagrams.

    Operation was kind of unusual: even though Sacramento was technically in the middle of a 180-mile short line from Oakland, CA to Chico, CA, trains did not generally run through town. Southbound trains stopped at Haggin Yard, and cars were handled by the local switching crews. Through traffic was carried by the switchers around the perimeter of town and across the Tower Bridge (middle south in the track plan) to Westgate Yard in West Sacramento, where it was assembled into new trains headed south towards Oakland. Thus, even though I eventually want a loop around the room, all trains will be switching jobs that begin and end at a yard.

    However, I'm considering making one end of the yard Haggin and the other end Westgate--the current yard capacity is 42 cars if the main isn't blocked, which is plenty for a layout this size, so rather than model two yards I'll have one yard with ends on either side of town.

    Readers may note that the lower left corner (West Sacramento) looks a little plain. I haven't finished designing this yet, and was still arguing with myself over whether to model one yard or two. I think I'm going to make this another industrial area, the one that was once along the West Sacramento waterfront, which served a rice mill and had a wye leading to the Woodland Branch of the SN. It will be similar to the other dense-track switching areas on the layout.

    Between West Sacramento and North Sacramento is the one door into the room (which opens out) which will feature a swing-out gate for room access. I plan on modeling a trestle (a common feature on the floodier parts of the SN mainline, which was much of it) on the swing-out gate.

    One other point: At several places, the track runs off the edge of the shelf. These are interchanges, mostly with Western Pacific (SN was owned by WP, and had three interchanges with the SN in Sacramento) and one with Southern Pacific. These points will allow "cassettes" to add and remove cars to/from the layout, to simulate interchange traffic, which actually constituted as much traffic on the SN as local switching.

    And yes, the idea is that I'll eventually put up trolley wire and start running electrics. But the first phase is building the rest of the layout, then installing poles and wire. And first I have to finish grad school, and write more books, and (insert lame excuse here)...

    Comments, criticisms, etcetera?
  2. CCT70

    CCT70 Member

    I'm really looking forward to seeing this layout evolve. Anything I can do to help, let me know, I'm right down the road in Stockton and model the WP and CCT.

    I really think you have a winner here. Are you going to model the actual Tower Bridge? If so, what are your plans for that?
  3. jetrock

    jetrock Member

    Well, "model" is perhaps a bit current plan is to take one of my photos of the bridge (taken before the recent modification of the bridge) and blow it up to poster size (grayscale, so the bridge would be its original silver-gray instead of yellow), mount it on foamcore, cut out any "sky," then mount that in front of the track that passes in front of the window. Actually modeling the Tower Bridge would be an...interesting...challenge, I'd have to severely compress it since it is 737 feet long and the window opening is only about 30" wide!

Share This Page