Modern Operations – July 2019

It was a packed house last Friday when we held our monthly Operations session, with members and guests a plenty in attendance. Once trains got moving, there was nary an open space of track available as long trains and multiple section trains traversed the layout.

Everyone had fun and much freight was moved. Check out the pictures below for some railfanning shots taken during the evening.

We had a special sighting during Ops, as NS 911 (Decorated for First Responders) made a cameo pulling a run-through autorack train. Here it is passing through Silicon at speed while a local is switching the tracks.
Crews waiting around Nowheres above, while a long freight passes through Jacksonville below.
Frisco GP38-2 #695 creeps across the High Bridge at Mt. Nicholls with a trainload of gravel and covered hoppers for switching in Silicon
Western Pacific Uboats wait just outside the cover of the snowshed as an autorack train passes by just south of Mt Marvel.
More Western Pacific power waits in Nowheres as SVL’s own GP-15s pull into Nowheres with train 690, having finished their switching on the lower level.
The Hallelujah Paper Mill switcher is parked on the pulpwood lead waiting for the next shift change, when it will be back to work moving cars around the mill.
Rio Grande GP60 3155 cools its heels in Nowheres after working hard to pull a gravel train up from Jasper into the yard.

Transitional Operations – June 2019

We had our June operating session a couple weeks ago, and thought we’d post some photos of the evening. In total, about 24 trains were run by members and guests, including a bit of varnish and some commuter service. Feel free to contact us if you’d like to stop by and check us out at our next Ops on Friday, July 26th – We look forward to seeing you!


Our intrepid Engineer is working the Yardmaster in Nowheres to sort out the engine and cars he needs for his Southbound train

Northern Pacific 5138 (a Challenger) is pulling into Paso for a water stop and to let Nowheres clear up. It’s lugging 30 cars for Nowheres to break down and sort into future trains.

An NKP Berkshire is crossing right in front of McKeown coal with some hoppers for switching in Jacksonville.

Mail pays the bills, and so here both 400 (coming off the branch) and 220 (outbound to Hemet) have to wait while train 99 makes its way through Dayton Junction and on to Bakersfield.

SVL’s Pathfinder pulls into Hemet’s new station platform to ensure that proper clearances were adhered to when it was built

Hopefully the crew for 220 has a clean stack and won’t need too much power to pull cars – they forgot to use an idler, and as you can see, there’s not a whole lot of space for exhaust…

Travelers from Across the Atlantic

The great thing about the Bay Area is that we are a melting pot of cultures and interests and our members show this diversity as well. Some of our club members do enjoy running trains from their home country, and as such, bring their trains out from time to time to run on the layout, typically on the weekends or quieter periods.

Saturday was one of those days, and in passing by SVL, we had some German locomotives and wagons roaming around the layout!

June Open House

On Saturday June 8th we held the spring/summer instance of our twice yearly Open House. Trains were kept humming across the lower level loop as guests young and old ran trains, and we had a few people even try their hand at switching cars. Despite all of this action, we managed to not have too much chaos on the tracks!

Check out below for a few pictures from Open House.

Don’t worry if you missed out or your schedule couldn’t accommodate the time. Reach out to us on Facebook and/or via email and we’ll be happy to try and work with you to show you around and let you run a train. At the very least, feel free to come down to one of our monthly Ops sessions!

Modern Operations – May 2019

Last Saturday (6/1) we held our monthly Ops Session. We run Ops on Saturdays every three months, to give us a chance to have a bit more time to operate the layout and railfan at the same time (Hey, we’re train fanatics aficionados too).

We were running our Modern session, which meant that we had a lot of long trains of varying speeds coursing across the layout, including a 30 car hotshot (the Super 77/78), our 23 car Tank Train, the Coast Starlight, plus our regularly scheduled 20+ trains. As you can imagine, our Dispatcher may or may not have ended up with a few extra grey hairs as a result of keeping all of these trains in order, including a 3-way meet in Jacksonville.

At the end of it all, it was successful day – all trains ran, and good times were had by one and all (Though the highlight of our frazzled Dispatcher’s day may have been when he headed home).

Check out the pictures below for some of the highlights of the day from the layout!

Containers leaving Nowheres Yard.
Santa Fe-led “Super 78” waits at a red signal at Kaos Junction for oncoming grain train #268 to pass.
Piggybacked trailers roll through Tracy on the SVL Main Line.
Auto racks pass over the Ravine trestle.
A mix of TOFC and Double Stacks crosses the High Bridge over Ebbetts Pass on its way out of Silicon.
Nowheres Yard is always a busy place, especially during our modern operations session.

Spring cleaning leads to a step back in time

While cleaning out the garage, I came across an old membership application for the SVL from 1988, when the club was still new, modular, and operating in a pair of trailers in the Milpitas area. This was just after the six founding members had put up $600 each to buy the trailers from GE.

It’s interesting to see that in a standard Ops session, we’d run 10 trains, most of which were passenger. 30 years later, we run about 20+ trains in a given operating session, but almost exclusively freight (Hey, that’s pretty prototypical, no?). We still use DTC for our Ops sessions, but command control and touchpanels have definitely made our lives simpler for those of us operating the layout.

Regardless, it’s an interesting find from 30 years ago in the club’s history. Who knows what the next 30 years holds. Only time will tell!

PCR 2019, Sacramento

Report from the 2019 PCR convention. It was four days of model railroad activities in all scales. I attended a clinic (presentation) on the McCloud Railway (Mt. Shasta area) which closed for good in 2009. I also attended another clinic on the Quincy Railroad (now just transports lumber from a mill in Quincy 3.3 miles to the junction with the Union Pacific RR. These were interesting to understand the cycles – business, weather, competition – that a 100-year-old railroad goes through. It is a tough business – adapt or die.

I was also fortunate to be assigned to three operating sessions. The first (Phil Gulley) was in a purpose-built 30 x 50’ building with high ceilings. This provided for three levels with walk-unders. I was assigned to a switching job and to help in one of the yards. It was a lot of fun due in large part to perfectly operating track and equipment. The second layout was a Colorado narrow gauge model RR (Sacramento Model RR Historical club) and I was one of the yardmasters. The third layout (Sacramento modular club) was a large modular layout in the display hall. Although the switching puzzles were creative and complicated, the trackwork was poor and the train derailed constantly. It impressed upon me again the importance of great trackwork to the enjoyment of the hobby. I suppose modular railroads take a tough beating being transported frequently. It was tiring but a lot of fun. Here’s some photos.


The file name with each photo starts with “gulley” for Phil Gulley’s layout, “modular” for the Sacramento Valley modular club, and “ng” for the Sacto Narrow Gauge club. The last few photos are the model contest.