Model Railroading 101: DTC

A great introduction to operations with DTC featuring Silicon Valley Lines. John from TSG Multimedia attended one of our sessions last year and put together this great episode of Model Railroading 101. Enjoy!

If you enjoy operating a railroad in a relaxed club atmosphere, come and join us at one of our future operating sessions.

Virtual Club Life

When the COVID-19 Shelter-in-Place restrictions hit the SF Bay Area and pretty much everyone was required to stay home, we quickly realized that the club won’t be able to function as normal for a while. However, the club membership is still around, and we like to hang out with each other on Friday evenings working on the railroad.

Weekly Club Meeting

So we moved to the next best thing: hanging out together online, while working on the railroad, and kept meeting regularly. In some weeks we have a presentation, a tour of a member’s home layout, or other pre-planned program. Other weeks are more laid back, and members talk about model railroad news, explore local railroad resources together, work on projects and share results as the meeting is going on, etc.

At one of these meetings we started discussing that it might be fun to do a remote operating session. Start of with something simple: Set up a train on a home layout, write out a switch list, the layout owner runs the train, but the online group is acting as conductor and directs the moves the engineer is supposed to make. We decided to try it first with Bernhard’s Welztalbahn railroad.

Remote Ops on Bernhard’s Welztalbahn

It turns out, this was a very enjoyable experience, not only for the engineer, but for the group, too. Of course, some friendly banter and joking contributed to the fun, too.

In fact, we had so much fun, that we did it again this week on Bill’s San Arbo railroad, which also was a big success.

Remote Ops on Bill’s San Arbo Railroad

We are planning to do more such sessions in the future.

Even though we can’t be at the club for now, we are having fun.


Those Weeds Grow Fast

At Silicon Valley Lines the layout is always changing in some way. Hemet is only a few years old and has come a long way. Silicon is another area under construction, it has had quite a lot going on for a long time but its been lacking the details.

About a year ago Silicon was selected as the group project space and progress has been mainly planning. Progress has been going steady at the north end of Silicon with the Mount Nickols. This has been balanced by the work going on in the south by Ravine.

This stretch of land was Homasote Central and recently started getting some scenery. First the rocks get a test fit.


After that some sculptamold gets added and the rocks set into it. After some paints and washes with some ground foam sprinkled on top the rocks get painted. A dry brushing of a light gray brings out the rocks highlights.


Once everything is dry the next step is static grass, a rather shocking way to charge the scenery up a notch.


Everything can be left to dry or if you short on time you can move onto the next step and add small brush etc.



A hour or two of work goes a long way to making a empty area seem alive. It has some more work but at this point it is presentable.

This post was originally started in February 2020 but then the world changed and the remaining work for this area has been put on hold.

Time for Inventory

Once a year, Silicon Valley Lines does an inventory of all rolling stock to ensure that we know which cars are present on the layout and the actual location of each car is consistent with where the computer thinks it is. With 1300 cars on the layout this is a lot of work for our train master, so a few folks helped out.

How can it be that cars are not where they are supposed to be, you ask? Simple. We’re all humans. We make mistakes. We take an extra car on a train we’re not supposed to. We forget to take all cars we’re supposed to. Sometimes a planned train doesn’t run as scheduled for a variety of reasons. For operating layouts using computer-based paperwork, this drift between reality and what the computer thinks is quite common. Here are all the cars I found in Nowheres and Jasper Jct that didn’t belong.  This is quite a bit more than expected. We determined that one of the freights from Nowheres to Bakersfield must not have run in a recent session.

By the way, layouts using car cards & waybills have similar problems where due to human error the pairing between car card and car is lost, resulting in cars without a card, or cards without a car. On small layouts this is usually resolved easily and quickly, but ends up being just as much of a challenge on large layouts, and owners usually have a system to keep things in sync.