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  December 12 Update

Below are pictures of the construction progress for your enjoyment. Click on the thumbnails to open larger, full screen size, pictures. (Suggestion: "right click" to open the image in a new window so that you can easily toggle between it and the discription).

Here, finally, is the long awaited latest update on the construction progress on the SW&SF. The last couple of months have been difficult due to family emergencies, and progress on the layout had come to a standstill. However, progress is again being made and here are photos to prove it.

Included in this update are photos of some work being done with the fascia on the upper level sections between Redding & Douglas and Douglas & Raymond. With the fascia in place, hardshell construction can begin, after which track laying will quickly follow.

Also included in this update are the views that will be visible from the two TV monitors that are connected to the three remote cameras currently in place, and photos showing where the monitors are located. One is located in the Valley Staging panel. The other will be located in the fascia above the Chico team track.

Good news!! Dave Biondi has agreed to paint the Shasta Lake backdrop scenes that will be an important transition scene to help convey the change in geographic profile from valley to mountains. This will also be a "signature" scene to establish the local of our route. It may even include a distant, but recognizable, view of the impressive Pit River Bridge that carries the Southern Pacific's Shasta route mainline and Interstate Highway 5 over Shasta Lake.

Track and turnouts are being laid in Redding! Ten new turnouts have now been installed. Only twenty three more to go!! Several Tortoise switch motor assemblies have been assembled, a couple of dozen slide switch assemblies have been wired up, and a bunch of slide switch mounting blocks have been fabricated. These will now be installed behind the Redding fascia, wired up to the tortoises that will be hot glued into place, and the turnouts will soon be operational!

The mainline roadbed has been completed from Redding to Raymond and is ready for track as soon as the hardshell is installed. Here is a view of the roadbed approaching the Raymond area. Right in front of the camera is the summit of the section between Douglas and Raymond. It is above eye level for me, and I'm about 5'9" tall. In the distance the "new mainline" joins the "old mainline" in the distance, creating a double track approach to Raymond just to the left of the far curve (above the black object on the lower level).

This view looks back to the previous view from the Raymond area. Almost directly in the center of the photo is where the old and new mainlines diverge. The large area inside the curve is where the Draemer Crushed And Cut Stone Co. complex of tracks and buildings will be located up on a hill to the right. It will be served by a four track track loading yard located adjacent to and at a slightly higher elevation than the mainline which curves to the right. A short branchline will pass run downhill from the rock plant, through Raymond, and join the mainline a short ways to the north.

Fascia is being installed on the upper level. To date, material has been installed to just above Los Molinos. The fascia to the left of this photo, which is along the Shasta Lake area, has been installed so that it is removable. All other fascia is permanently attached. Most of this area is ready for hardshell and then track.

Here is the same area from the other end of the aisle. The sight line above the yard area is pretty good, thanks to the angled brackets installed here. Standing in the aisle, virtually everyone will have a vlear view of all track in this yard area.

More fascia has been installed around the corner and beyond the town of Douglas. Here a piece is being glued to the top of the section to create a tall mountain ridge. Tunnel #5 will be located behind this high spot on the fascia. It will separate the west end of Douglas, just out of the photo to the left, from the isolated mountain terrain that extends around the curve to the right of the photo. To the right of where the clamps are being used the track splits into the "old mainline" next to the backdrop and the "new mainline" next to the aisle.

Looking back towards Douglas the fascia is in the process of being trimmed - the section to the right is only partially cut to shape. The bottom of the fascia that has already been shaped here will be trimmed to match the section to the right. This extra two inches off the bottom will dramatically improve the sight line to the Del Norte Canning Co. building located next to the backdrop. The building can be seen below the bottom edge of the fascia.

The fascia around the large curve opposite the entrance door is still untrimmed. The profile still needs to be penciled in. There will be three tunnels on the old mainline in this view, but none on the new mainline. To the center right of the photo a large cut on the new mainline will be modeled adjacent to tunnel #8 on the old mainline. This cut will be modeled as still under construction with earth moving equipment shown in the process of removing dirt and rocks. This means that the new mainline will not be operational here. However, this will create two additional "industry" spots to service - one on each section of the mainline approaching the cut still under construction. Construction supplies and equipment for the construction work can be delivered by a local crew, providing additional switching for the crew, and headaches for the dispatcher.

Dave Biondi has agreed to paint a key backdrop scene, a view of the McCloud Arm of Lake Shasta and the opposite shore. On the layout, the ATSF mainline follows this section of the lake for a layout distance of over thirty feet as the track works it's way uphill towards McCloud, Calif. From the aisle we'll look down onto the track with the lake behind and below. The lake will extend between the track and the backdrop and continue onto the backdrop to give the appropriate appearance of width. Mountains will be painted above the lake up to the horizon. Here is a photo of the first rough profile sketching Dave has done in preparations for painting. Dave's technique is so effective that already we can get a sense of what this scene will eventually look like.

Another view of the outlines Dave has sketched onto the backdrop to give us an idea of where the lake and mountains will be painted. Dave will be working from a video and photos taken during a recent trip to Shasta Caverns, a cave system in the mountainside above the lake that tourists can visit. Fortunately, the view from the road and cave entrance is just about right for what would be visible from our vantage point from the aisle if the tracks being modeled actually existed. For views of the photos Dave is using, click here. Dave's outline sketches shown in this photo are based on the photos located about 2/3 down the group of photos this link will display. Look for the photos with long white objects located in an inlet. The white objects are the docks of a marina.

This is where the ATSF mainline will cross over Shasta Lake. In the photo are the two brass Overland bridges that will be positioned as seen here. To the left of the bridges the tracks will exit a tunnel through the ridge, whose edge can be seen at the immediate left of the photo. The photo enlargment at the bottom right is the same as the 1st photo on the Shasta lake photo page mentioned above. The sketches on the backdrop are patterned from the photo. Two plate girder bridges, to be positioned where the top of the photo enlargement is located, will continue carrying the track to the immediate right of the photo. An important detail that might be painted on the backdrop will be the Pit River Bridge way in the distance just above the black bridge. The real Pit River Bridge carries the SP and Hwy 5 across the lake. The hint of this bridge painted on the backdrop should effectively help set the geographical area the ATSF tracks are running through.

I'm becoming a big believer in monitoring hidden or limited visibility areas using remote cameras and fascia or panel mounted monitors. We now have three cameras hooked up to two monitors. This is a photo of the new monitor being installed for the completly hidden Richmond staging yard. The monitor will be installed into the fascia seen above it. This monitor, a Radio Shack brand security monitor, will toggle through up to four cameras. Currently only one camera is connected. This is the camera that has been used to monitor the entrance to Richmond staging yard for several years now. Since it's an infrared camera, we won't have to install lights above the yard for visibility. The camera is mounted on a Switchmaster motor case allowing it to swivel 90 degrees to view the yard and it's curved approach track. It is controlled by a new spring loaded three position rotary switch at the Chico Tower panel. New cabling had to be fabricated to match the old camera to the new monitor.

This is the view from the camera adjusted so it is facing into the yard. Swiveling the camera 90 degrees to the right will display the approach track which enters the yard from the Chico Tower area. This approach track exits the layout through the backdrop, follows the back wall, makes a 90 degree turn to the right directly in front of the camera, and enters the 30ft long staging yard along the side wall. Since the monitor can support up to four cameras, plans are to install a second camera to monitor the other end of this staging yard. Another camera will eventually be mounted in the tower building to display a scale sized tower operator's view of the tracks. This camera will swivel about 350 degrees to be able to view virtually all of the tracks around the tower building, tracks that are in the tower operator's control.

This is the panel holding the controls for three staging yards located at the east end of the layout (the panel for the Sacramento Northern staging yard is not yet installed). To the left is the panel controlling the Southern Pacific's three track staging yard. If you look carefully you can see that the center track of this yard doubles as the lower connection to the helix to the top deck. The tower operator controls the turnout from this yard to the mainline.

In the center is the Valley staging yard panel. This is two separate yards, and each can run a train at the same time. At the bottom right of this panel is the automatic power shutoff indicator lamp and the override button used when a train is 6 inches from hitting the wall at the stub end of the yard. This prevents a train from derailing due to an unexpected impact at end of track.

At the right of the photo is the monitor built into the panel that is connected to the two cameras aimed at the three yards controlled from this panel. The next two photos show the views from the two cameras. The monitor automatically toggles between the two cameras at five second intervals.

This is the view from the camera that faces into Valley staging, the main staging yard on the lower level. The wires hanging down into the view are the leads from the rails on the upper deck that still need to be connected to the main power bus wires. Also visible on the right of the view are the large numbers being installed to identify each track to aid in matching them with the panel diagram. These are simply made up on the computer, printed on card stock, cut to size, and secured to the roadbed surface. All eighteen tracks that make up these two adjacent yards will have the numbers and will be legible from the monitor. When spotting a train in the staging yard, operators will move the train over the numbers until the number is fully visible, and stop the train.

This is the view from the camera that faces into the Southern Pacific and Sacramento Northern staging yards. The four tracks on the right are on the lowest level and are the Sacramento Northern staging tracks. Just out of sight to the left of these four tracks is the lower level reverse loop. Slightly to the left of the middle of the view is the approach to the three track Southern Pacific staging yard, visible in the upper center of the view. This center track also doubles as the entrance to the helix up to the upper level. These tracks are five inches higher than the Northern Pacific staging yard tracks on the right, allowing the lower level reverse loop to be located underneath. The curving track on the left are all Valley staging tracks. All of these tracks will have the large numbers installed to identify each track to aid in matching them with the panel diagram.

Well, that's it for this update. Thanks for checking out the progress!

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