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Central Pacific Shonash Branch Track Plan.

Central Pacific's Shonash Branch

On30 19th Century Railroading

Track Plan At A Glance

Layout Theme: Branchline
Layout Type: Permanent Layout
Size: 4'x12'
Scale: O Scale (30" Narrow Gauge)
Era: 1885
Track: Code 83
Turnouts: No. 5
Min. Radius: 22"

Article by: Jim Spavins
Published: November 3, 2015

A few weeks back was Back to the Future day - the day in the movie Back to the Future II that the lead characters - Marty McFly and Doc Brown - go to in the future.  It was tough to miss all of the media coverage of the day which, naturally, spurred me to watch one of my favorite childhood trilogies again. 

The three movies are a lot of fun and as a rail enthusiast, the third movie in the series centers around a grand rail themed finale.  The movie shows the same rail line in two eras - the first in 1885 and the second in 1985.  From a model railroad perspective, I began to think about what kind of model railroad could be designed around the scenes in the movies.  Amazingly, several others have had this thought and an individual in Ohio built a 7'x8' layout with scenes from the movie which you can check out on his website at www.hillvalleymodelrr.com.

During my sketching over the last week, I developed two trackplans - one for 1885 and one for 1985.  The 1885 plan, shown here, is based upon what would be the world's oldest model railroad - the one Doc Brown built in September 1885 and showed off in the movie.  In the movie, the layout which Doc built was, like most model railroads, still under construction.  This plan shows how that movie model railroad might be expanded into a completed layout.  The general idea of the plan is a 4'x12' layout (two 4'x6' sections) featuring scenes on the fictional Shonash Branch. 

Given the popularity and abundance of On30 models today, I decided to complete the design for this scale and gauge.  In the movie, everything is standard gauge but just something about narrow gauge railroading and the west seems to feel more 1885 than trying to make this layout in standard gauge.  Plus, the curves and siding lengths can be a bit smaller - allowing the ability to pack a bit more railroading and more detailing into a smaller space.

The trackplan shown here is a loop with one side of the railroad featuring scenes from the town of Hill Valley, CA, and an interchange with the outside world.  On the other side of the layout is the meandering Shonash Branch.  A couple sidings and small industries dot this otherwise sparse northern California landscape.  A backdrop cuts through the middle of the layout separating the two main scenes.  A simple operating session could be setup with the weekday local working the various places along the branchline.

Next week, we will head into the future and look at how the old Shonash Branch morphed into the Hill Valley Industrial Railroad in 1985. To be continued...

For Track Plan Tuesday's, I am digitizing all of my old track planning notebooks and sharing the designs here on the website.  To see all the plans, visit the track plan home page at: jimspavins.com/jimstrackplans.