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Tehachapi Pass in 600sqft (N scale)

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    April, 2013
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Tehachapi Pass in 600sqft (N scale)
Posted by ChrisKLAS on Sunday, April 28, 2013 10:00 PM

Hello all,

This is my first post to these forums and, firstly, I'd like to thank everyone here for providing an invaluable resource to everyone in the hobby. I've had a great time reading back through older posts, checking out other folks' designs for inspiration, etc.

First, a little background on myself - I am 32 years old and live in Las Vegas, NV. I started modeling in HO scale around the age of 7 or 8 but got away from the hobby, outside of visiting train shows or clubs every so often, when I moved west in 2003. Fortunately, life is settling down at this point and I'm ready to dive back into the hobby (full-bore, as you'll see).

As some of you may know, we don't have basements out here in the dessicated desert, so space can be an issue. I'm fortunate enough to have the use of all three bays of a 20x30ft climate controlled (two AC units - yes, it does get really hot here!) garage.

The layout will be set in the Spring of 1994, allowing me not only to run a cool mix of power ranging from torn, tattered SP tunnel motors to gleaming new ATSF Warbonnet GEs, but also to cover the imposing hills around the Tehachapi Pass in their resplendent green that's only present for about 6 weeks every year from March to April. Manned helpers will also be a big part of the railroad since DPU power was still mostly a pipe-dream in '94.

My primary interest is heavy-duty mainline running - long(ish) trains, meets, etc. Local jobs and switching is much less of an interest, but I do still enjoy it (and know other operators will, too) so there's a much industry as I could fit prototypically between Mojave and Bakersfield, such as the produce packing plants at Magunden and the death plant (as we call it) at Monolith. To be honest, though, my interest in building this layout rests as much in the construction process as running trains; I just love creating pretty, twisting mainline running through pretty scenery and detailed city/landscape scenes. Running trains is a bonus!

The plan is to use Atlas code 55 track and turnouts with a minimum mainline curve radius of 24 inches. Minimum mainline turnout will be #10, #7 in yards and industries. The layout height ranges from 39-66" above the floor; benchwork will be L-girder and simple shelves in a few places, and will be the only aspect of the layout's construction that I will have professionally completed for me (I am acutely aware of my lack of carpentry skills, and I don't want to lose a hand, or worse). The layout is 2/3 stacked levels in places, and trackage on the attached plan is segregated by color. Track heights (above the floor) are noted on the plan in the corresponding color font. Layout will be DCC of course, with automatic block detection (resistored-wheelsets) and a fully functioning searchlight signal system (prototypical for the SP in 1994).

As with all projects, there are some drawbacks to the plan. The siding at Rowen is missing. Cliff and Woodford have been combined to make one siding (N Cliff at one end, S Woodford at the other). As much as I'd love an even longer mainline run (this one is an eyelash over 13 scale miles) and a more prototypically correct line, I couldn't find a place for everything, and S Cliff/Rowen/N Woodford are amongst the most inaccessible portions of the real pass, with little comparative notoriety as a result. I wanted to include the far more famous locations such as the horseshoe curve at Caliente, tunnel 2, Bealville, Cliff, tunnels 14-17 along hwy 58, and, of course, Walong itself.

All that said, here's the plan I've come up with so far. This will obviously be my last layout for some time, so PLEASE feel free to pick it apart, and let me hear everything I've done wrong! I'm very open to suggestions and critiques which will lead to less regrets, and more fun down the road!


Chris Kilroy
Henderson, NV

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  • From: Westcentral Pennsylvania (Johnstown)
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Posted by tgindy on Monday, April 29, 2013 12:02 PM

Jim Kelly is Model Railroader's resident N Scale columnist while sharing the recent experiences with his latest version on his personal "Tehachapi III" layout.  As you've already suggested, there's more to Tehachapi Loop than a loop, and; Jim Kelly's N Scale Insight may help:

A successful move, sort of

Adventures in code 55 track

Helixology for N scalers

Test twice, solder once

Benchwork - another layer of planning

Model makers catch up with me

Keep N scale track really clean

Better track, wheels, and couplers

Wheel quality keeps rolling

Tricks with N scale track

You can see some highlights of Tehachapi III's loop in this N Scale Insight video.

Conemaugh Road & Traction circa 1956

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Posted by Taylor 67 on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 8:04 AM

I have spent a lot of time at the loop and your track plan looks great. I only wish I had the room to do it in HO. Sometimes you have to leave certain things out of a great layout for the sake of space. Good luck on your construction process and post photos on the way. I look forward to following your progress. Bryan

  • Member since
    December, 2004
  • From: Rimrock, Arizona
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Posted by SpaceMouse on Tuesday, April 30, 2013 12:52 PM

I take it this is a railfan layout--you want to watch the trains as opposed to set cars out at industries. Through trains as opposed to locals. 


Building the Rock Ridge Railroad with the slowest construction crew west of the Pecos.

  • Member since
    March, 2003
  • From: Arizona
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Posted by jlsmith7017 on Wednesday, May 01, 2013 1:01 AM


Wow, that is one very impressive track plan!  I have built two layouts based on Tehachapi over the past 25 years (in HO) and you seem to have captured most of the key features.. My one big suggestion as something else to consider is the addition of Kern Junction.  Not only is it cool seeing the Santa Fe - oops, BNSF crossing the diamond onto the joint tracks, it also gives you an interchange point with the BNSF.  I modeled an earlier era (1950's) so I included features such as a more prototypical rendition of SP's Bakersfield yard for engine movements, helper service, and icing operations and also include a branch line out to Oil City to pick up tank cars but I think most of that is no longer active in1994.

As to possible issues, if I am reading the track plan correctly, it seems that Bealville sits at 52 inches and the track at Tunnel 9 sits just above it is at 58 inches.  Only 6 inches separates the scenes. If those are on separate decks, you'll have major clearance issues at Bealville.  If on the same deck, there won't be much space separating the scenes.  Doable, but something to consider.

Keep us up to date on your thinking and progress.

- Jeff

Jeff Smith

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    June, 2012
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Posted by Burlington Northern #24 on Wednesday, May 01, 2013 5:56 PM

I'd love to see this layout as it gets built I favorited this thread. I wish I had the space you had, then mine would probably be a bit better than it is.

Which code of track are you using or planning to use?

SP&S modeler, 1960's give or take a decade or two for some equipment. 

Gary DuPrey

N scale model railroader 

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    November, 2006
  • From: huizen, 15 miles from Amsterdam
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Posted by Paulus Jas on Thursday, May 02, 2013 6:48 AM


a great start.

However I see a few issues with the separation of a couple of scenes; both vertically and horizontally.

Bealville and Walong can almost kiss each other, a radius less then 30" for the "loop" might just do it.

Vertical clearance is IMHO a problem between Monolith and Marcel. It's up you to decide about the vertical distance between levels. If 14" would do you could have Marcel at 66, Monolith at 52 and Mojave at 38. When Mojave is seen as a staging area however, you could do with a bit less. 

The Caliente peninsula only has one level, it could be used by a longer upper level route between Tehachapi(66) and Monolith(52) as well. At the same time I would replace Caliente from the bottom to the top of this peninsula.

With a bit of twisting the lowest aisle can be made much longer and wider (24"), at least to the wall at the right. 




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Posted by Schuylkill and Susquehanna on Friday, May 03, 2013 5:57 PM

Wow, that is an amazing plan.  It will take me a while to absorb it all!

The first thing that strikes me is that the rear isle is less than 3 feet wide in spots, and there will be a lot of action taking place in the isle.  Adjacent to the isle you have the layout's main yard, 3? towns, and 5 passing sidings, including The Loop.  This could be a serious problem during an operating session, with 4 or more operators plus a yardmaster trying to cram themselves into a 3 foot wide isle.  If Mojave Yard is to be used only for staging, the congestion would be considerably lessened.  Still, careful planning of the operating session would be required to keep people from tripping over each other.

The other thing that strikes me is that you have a track running along the right wall, while all the peninsulas stick out from the right wall.  This set up will have operators perhaps literally running around the peninsulas trying to keep their train in sight.  This will cause additional problems in the rear isle.  I would suggest looping the green upper track around the lower peninsula before heading back along the wall.  There is just enough room for a turnback curve at the right end of the lower peninsula, and double decks could be used along the lower side of the peninsula.  On the upper side, the higher track would have to be blended into the scene 9" above the lower track, and at the end of the peninsula, you could have the split into two decks.

That is an amazing layout plan.  Please post photos as you build the layout!



Modeling the Pennsy and loving it!

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Posted by Taylor 67 on Tuesday, May 07, 2013 12:24 PM

How do you favorite this thread?

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Posted by ChrisKLAS on Tuesday, July 23, 2013 1:18 AM

Hello all,

Just a bit of an update. Construction started three days ago and there's been a fair amount of progress (in my opinion). We've framed and anchored the false wall over the garage doors, and most of the round-the-wall support structure, with the exception of curves, is complete and in place. Just needs risers and subroadbed to start laying track. backdrop, fascia, lighting, etc. is all to come, of course.

Tomorrow we'll fill out the curves on the wall sections, then begin work on the "main" 2.5 deck peninsula in the center of the room which houses a good portion of the layout, including the famed Tehachapi loop.

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Posted by ChrisKLAS on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 2:34 AM

19 working days after the start of construction, 95% of the subroadbed is cut, about half of it on risers, and 95% of the benchwork (save for part of the Caliente peninsula, which we're using as a table until the last possible moment) is complete. I hope to have trains running, at least on parts of the railroad, in the next week - though the plan is to take the trackwork and wiring nice and slow, and to do it right the first time!

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  • From: Bradford, Ontario
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Posted by hon30critter on Wednesday, August 14, 2013 11:51 PM


WOW! Go big or go home eh! (I'm Canadian in case that wasn't obvious)

Amazing plan and amazing progress.

This is the first time I have looked at this thread. I wish I had paid attention earlier.


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    March, 2013
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Posted by docker69 on Saturday, December 12, 2015 2:42 PM

Hi Chris,

Amazing layout!

Do you offer tours? I'm from Minnesota but winter in Las Vegas.

Thanks, Jim Wright

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