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We've recently moved and I've gained a L Shaped area of our finished basement for a shelf layout. Approximately, 9' x 10', and since I model in N, that's pretty stinkin' sizable!
So as I work on my CFNR fleet of GP15s and two SD9s, I've been poking around at an area that would make sense to model for switching ops. I often visited Petaluma as a kid where my Uncle (a model railroaders and foamer), and my Grandparents lived at the time. I was too young to really grasp what the crews were doing there, so I don't recall if there was enough local stuff to keep a one man crew busy (lone wolf modeler).
My fondest memories are of Petaluma, but we railfanned much of the line (back when it was SP), and lots of time in American Canyon, Suisun, Shellville, and Willits.
Anyone have any suggestions? I'd love for it to be kind of dual era, so I could back date it to SP.
I'm not familiar enough with what kind of operations the CFNR did in Petaluma. There were industries and interchange with the P&SR in the era I model (1958) but things may have been quite different in the 90s etc.
From what little I know, much of the operations remained the same over the line between the SP and CFNR eras - just differences in total tonnage and number of trains. Depending on where you're modeling, many locations didn't change that much, especially anywhere outside city limits. Change the motive power, rolling stock, and whatever cars are on the roads, and you're easily able to go forward or back 20+ years.
The locations you mention are all good focal points for your layout - if you don't mind point-to-point operations, your 'L' design works very well. For instance, you have natural end-points at Willits and American Canyon (or Suisun). The leg of the wye at Schellville works nicely as your corner - you can even model the old Sonoma Branch heading off into the trees. On the Willits/Schellville side, you could have Petaluma in the middle - at minimum, thats one or more grain elevators plus a passing siding of your choice either in-town (Hopper Street) or outside (Park Siding to the north or Burdell to the south). You could probably throw Shamrock in there with a barge/truck transfer lot. As for the other side, I'm not too familiar, but you could have pipe loads or scrap coming from Napa Pipe if you model a junction with that branch.
Operations-wise, there's quite a bit you could do - have a local work the industries in Petaluma and Suisun, then you have at least two regular trains - full lumber from Willits heading south, and empties from Suisun/American Canyon headed back north. Your two trains meet in Petaluma, potentially swap crews, then continue on to their destination. Most of the line was single-track, which will actually work out well.
Please do keep us updated on your progress, and best of luck!
Really need to just hash this out in my head. The corner lends itself nicely to Schellville or American Canyon's wye, which is why I keep leaning that way. I also have access via a hole in the wall to some hidden staging if I want it.....maybe at a later date, when the wife gets this wrapped around her head!
Not sure I can fit all three towns in there, but if I design this right for expansion down the road.....mu ha ha ha!
I would definitely keep Petaluma on the radar, but I don't think there's enough action in Schellville other than trains coming and going. But the two together would be interesting. Willits is great, but in the CN era it's a dead end.
I think Petaluma is in.....It'd probably take up one wall though, so what to do on the other that makes sense.....and keeps me busy.
Oh the humanity of trying to take two sections of a railroad you want to model and compress....it's not fair, I need a 100x100 basement! :)
I'm kind of thinking Petaluma along one wall, Schellville along the corner, then the Brazos Bridge with a return loop. A point to point, kind of.....Although that puts the Petaluma depot facing the wall, and that would be ashame.