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My Largescale exploits

Mainly comprising "The Kelpie Canyon & Ridgway Railroad" (KCRR)


This was my main effort during a relatively brief excursion into Large Scale models. The railroad was freelance and the ideas for it developed over some years. As a result some of the premises were a little mixed.

I got into American railroading in 1997, about 6 months after changing to garden railway modelling in 'G' scale. Before that I modelled British trains of the 1950-1990 era in N gauge, indoors. Initially I muddled around in 'G' with European and British ideas, but then settled on the USA and more standard gauge than narrow - a bit more #1 than G.

Like many others I would like to portray railroading in places like Cajon or Tehachapi, but making and keeping anything remotely like a desert in a garden in the damp UK climate would be hard work. So to make my life a little easier I decided to 'locate' the KCRR in the NE USA. I plumped for the New York state and Pennsylvania area, in the general vicinity of the Lehigh Valley, as this has a rich variety of railroad material to draw on and is fairly green in terms of plant life.

The purported KCRR started from a connection with a major railroad and a waterway. It then ran up Kelpie Canyon - a somewhat rugged area requiring the use of a number of long tunnels and bridges. (Like many small railroads this level of construction work left the original company bankrupt.) At the head of the canyon the tracks reached Ridgway. (There is actually a Ridgway in this area of Pennsylvania - the name is borrowed, but other similarities were coincidental.)
From Ridgway the line found its way down the far side of the hills to connect with another major railroad in the valley. Total line length would be 50 to 100 miles.

The summary: a short-line, regional at a push, connecting with class 1 railroads and a waterway. Time-frame, second generation diesel and later, or 1960 onwards, but with the odd steamer still appearing.

The pictures in this section were taken with a snapshot camera before I had any visions of a website. As a result the prints had to be scanned into the computer and the results are less than good.

The Road

The track had to be fitted into existing space in the garden - established plants were off-limits - and as I wanted some grades to work with I imported 22 tons of fill to make a mountain. The line looped around and through this mound to squeeze about 140 feet of run into an L-shaped area about 20 by 30 feet across. Two 10 foot tunnels and a 12 foot length of bridge were traversed while climbing 2 feet vertically. Ruling grade was 2 - 2.5%. The rails were mostly at ground level, so the roadbed was concrete to allow the track to be walked on (accidentally) without damage.
The line was end to end, but provision was made to put a reverse loop in at each end in due course (though it never happened).

In 1999, just after building the tunnels and starting to lay the roadbed, my company relocated to about 45 miles away. We planned to follow them in 2002, so I carried on building the basic RR but with allowance for removing it to a new house in the future. This also moved my focus somewhat more toward modelling than gardening, since the models are more moveable.
To allow for the move and some other factors, I made some changes to my original plan:
- Most of the trackbed was made from precast reinforced concrete sections set into the ground. These were cast in straight, 4 foot radius and 6 foot radius types. This process added significantly to construction time due to the work involved in the casting.
- I changed to onboard battery power.

Following my first and only club open day in May 2001 the railway was lifted and the 'mountain' removed in preparation for the planned move in 2002. In October 2001 the company announced yet another reorganisation, and in December 2001 we decided not to move house after all! I could have screamed - but it would have been a waste of breath.

Rolling stock

Motive power was a KC U30-B (converted Aristocraft U25-B), a Lehigh Valley GP38-2 and a steam switcher (converted Lehmann Porter) for yard work. You can see the U30-B and 'Porter' in the picture areas.
The 'Porter' and U-boat were converted to battery with radio-control and sound. The conversion of the U30-B from U25-B featured in an article in Garden Railways magazine of February 2002.

Freight cars were mainly Bachmann kits and secondhand items. The only passenger vehicle was a Combine as this was primarily a freight road.

I standardized on Kadee 'G' couplings from day one, as I was keen to operate the trains, not just watch them run round.

The Future

What with potential house moves, my ever changing train desires, job uncertainties, restrictions on modelling industry in the 'pretty' garden, security and cost - I reluctantly decided to leave Large Scale. Hence all of my LS equipment has been sold. But I like this scale and the outdoor setting, so if I ever win the lottery I will retire, buy a big chunk of land, and build a huge #1 layout.

The sheer affordability of HO is attractive, and the size is a reasonable compromise between seeable and fittable (it is the most popular scale, so it must be right in some ways). I am now building a modular type of layout to allow for any future house moves starting with a steelworks on three 4x2 modules. So this site is becoming mainly HO.

Copyright Mike Sheridan, 2003-4