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.

April 2019 Operations Session

Most months of the year Silicon Valley Lines has an operations session on the last Friday or Saturday of the month. The dates can be found in the sidebar on the right. Today’s session was well attended, both Yard Masters and Dispatch had their hands full. Over the course of 3 hours we ran all scheduled trains, plus a few additional passenger trains.

Train crews communicate with Dispatch using FRS radios to get clearances. The Yard Masters are called using a telephone located at yard limits. A few photos from the session are below.