Torn Between Two Lovers is a free Model Railroad Discussion Forum and photo gallery. We cover all scales and sizes of model railroads. Whether you're a master model railroader or just getting started, you'll find something of interest here.


Fun Lover
Pardon me if you read this over there. There's a different point of view here that I value.

First of all, I've had it. Although, I think I have a well-designed plan for a 4x8, my decision to go with EZ track has finally gotten the better of me. I look at what I have to do to make it what I want and basically I have to re-frame the structure. Re-wire it. Pull the bridge and re-landscape for a wooden trestle. That and monkey together the track-work or replace it. All of the work will be pointless if I can't get the danged track-work running as smoothly as it was when I first laid it.

So I'm ready to scrap the Rock Ridge and Train City and move on.

So here's the dilemma. I have the room to build a basement empire. So what period do I pick? I like the 1880's fantasy that I have created. There is no location of the Rock Ridge and Train City. It is kinda sorta in the California Central Valley foothills but to my knowledge, there is no area anywhere striated red rock and lush oak forests collide in the Southern Pacific Empire. But I can live with that. It allows me a certain whimsy that I was not really going to express in the Redwood Empire.

But I really like the horse-drawn wagons and riders. I like the idea of sound on the layout, but that limits me to MDC products. In fact, my two best runners are my silent MDC 2-6-0's. Now they have out the sound 4-4-0's (but for some reason decided that SP wasn't worth the effort.) And they are coming out with an SP 2-6-0 sound engines in May.

Plus I have over 100 pieces of rolling stock with metal wheels and Kadees. And buildings, and figures and wagons. And I really like the mini old-time steam. And as I said before, the Old West fantasy–my other hobby is Cowboy Action Shooting. I've figured out how to model this era.

On the other hand, I've been planning the Redwood Empire for about a year and a half. The original plan called for finishing the Rock Ridge and Train City so I could run trains while I built the Redwood Empire. Then I would build the first two phases of the Redwood Empire dismantling the small layout when I finished the first two phases. The first two phases are point to point, and I've determined I need at least some point of continuous running.

If I went this route, I'd basically be starting over with motive power. Sure I have a Bachman Shay, and my son's 2-8-0 is only ten years too modern for this time period (as opposed to 40 for the other period.) But the main motive power for the California Western during this period was 2-6-2 side tankers. They were Baldwin's so I can't bash them off of the Proto 0-6-0, so my best choices now are either the Mantua kit or the Bachman Plus (with smoke.) I would basically be building every engine–re-motoring and bashing the exterior, and fitting a sound decoder (plenty of room in the tanks, I hope.)

This would be very time consuming–but I had planned to have the working RR&TC to take off the edge.

Once I got to Phase 3, where I join with the NWP at the Willits yard, I have a lot more leeway. I can use the Bachman 4-4-0's and the 4-6-0's. The 4-6-0's were pretty widely used by the NWP at that time. And I would have continuous running.

Some of the buildings and rolling stock would work fine. And pretty much all the craftsman kits will work in either time period. But many of the buildings and all of the figures won't really work. There is also a shortage of vehicles in the 1917 era. Jordon makes a 1914 convertible and a fire truck. That's all I know of.

The upside is seeing these little side tankers running through a forest of 30-36 inch redwoods would be spectacular and something I've dreamed about creating. Just about every aspect of this project will be scratch building and kit bashing from the trees to the saw mill to the logging camps to the cutting areas.

The path of least resistance is converting the whole basement to Old West. But ultimately, the Redwood empire would be the better layout operationally with a couple nice yards, an interchange and three staging yards. I was planning set up inviting people in for ops sessions.

There is a sort of compromise, in that I could build an Old West version of the Interchange and use douglas fir and ponderosa pines...

Donner Party of 12, your table is ready.


Diesel Detail Freak
Chip, a minor idea, your layout does not have to be one continuous prototype scene, it can skip around a little. If you model the "old west" you can "skip" a portion of an area, to get to the redwoods. However, it seems no matter what you choose, you'll be kitbashing allot, maybe you need to co completely freelance, and make your own RR that ran through the redwoods and was set in the old west?


Find an article about Paul Scole's layout. He has divided it into regions to give the sense of distance. It has been featured in many magazines.

The best way to seperate areas is with a scenery divider backdrop.

Just a thought


Fun Lover
Nice Harold. Lot of good fodder. I will be using floor to ceiling walls to divide the scenes.


I'm not opposed to kitbashing. There will be a lot more bashing in the 1917 era than if I stick to SP in the 1880's. I have a lot of stuff--maybe 30 craftsman kits that will work quite well. There are also a lot of plastic kit houses availible on eBay for that time period.


It also seems to me that at least some of the layout could be generic, and allow you to operate both eras.

Trees, for example, don't look much different no matter what year it is. Some of the "old west" building would also look OK in a later era, especially if you dropped in some newer structures.

So my suggestion is to start off with an old west theme, using what you have. I'd convert your favorite existing engines to sound, it's not difficult, and certainly won't cost more than buying new engines would.

Start with that, and build a small section of the layout, with a mind to eventually having several scenes, maybe one old west town, one forest area, and one Redwood Empire. The trains could share the center area, and the two specific scenes would be exclusively that era.

So one day you run old west trains. Using lighting, you emphasize the old west town and the forest, while the Redwood section is dark, and used only for staging and/or turning trains.

Next time you run, you do the opposite. Or possibly you run for a couple months on one theme, swap out a few structures and scene elements, then run for a few months on the other theme.


Fun Lover
Thanks Bob.

You know I've been thinking. The type of area that I've been modeling with the Old West is very similar to the topography between Willits and Ukiah. I could build what I call phase 3 first and like you said, just have a couple buildings to swap out. Northern California was still pretty rugged back in 1917.

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