Recently I had the opportunity to visit the Pasadena Model Railroad Club, Home of the Sierra Pacific Lines, HO scale model railroad. The organization is celebrating over 75 years of model railroading as a club located in the Los Angeles, California area. The 5,000 square foot layout is one of the largest HO scale model railroads in the world with over 1,700 feet of mainline track. The layout features over 30,000 feet of rail hand spiked to wooden ties. Construction of the current layout began in 1980, with the mainline completed in 1985. The club currently has approximately 30 members that work and operate the layout. In the above photo you'll notice a young club member operating a locomotive in the large yard. It is great to see the youth enjoying the hobby!
The Sierra Pacific Lines is a freelanced model railroad that operates point to point from Alhambra on the east to Zion at the west end of the line. The layout is divided into blocks in alphabetical order and a dispatcher controls the mainline blocks remotely from a computer controlled screen located in the upper walkway around the layout. The layout uses a single track mainline so all movements must be controlled by the dispatcher. Main line trains are controlled by operators located in a gallery above the layout on one side. This arrangement allows operators to be able to see their train as it transverses the large layout. Yard and local crews operate from the isles which allow them to couple and uncouple cars. Grades on the layout can reach 2%, which requires additional helper locomotives to be added to the trains climbing the grades. All locomotives are rated on the number of "units" that it can pull so adequate power can be determined before the train leaves the yard. Operating sessions are held on the second and third Saturday of each month.
In 2015 the club began converting the layout from DC to DCC. The club members removed miles of original wire and old World War II vintage circuit control boards as they upgraded the layout. Today, the layout is operated with a Digitrax DCC system with multiple boosters. Mainline turnouts are controlled by stationary decoders and can be operated by the dispatcher or train crew operator with the dispatchers permission. While the conversion to DCC was not easy, the club now embraces and appreciates the benefits of DCC.
Joining a model railroad club is a great option for those modelers that have limited space for a layout. By joining a club, you can operate long or unique trains that never would be possible on a small home layout. Clubs also help new modelers learn from other experienced members that have particular skills in model railroading, all you have to do is ask. Each modeler brings their own unique talents to the organization and that helps make the club layout better.
More information about the Pasadena Model Railroad Club can be found on their website at www.pmrrc.org or go to Facebook.com/PasadenaModelRailroadClub. If you are ever in the Southern California area, I highly recommend stopping by to see this amazing layout. I would like to thank the club members I met for their hospitality and giving me a tour of their amazing layout.