Jared Harper wanted to model a small piece of the Atchison, Topeka, and Santa Fe Railway to keep the costs of construction and equipment reasonable while providing modeling challenges and prototypical operations. After attending a Santa Fe Modelers Organization convention and obtaining much needed information, he chose to model the Alma Branch located in Kansas in May of 1943. The prototype 33 mile long branch line begins in Burlingame, Kansas and heads northwest to the town of Alma. In Burlingame, there are four industries located on a wye as well as a large grain elevator located on a separate siding. The Emporia-Topeka local picks up and drops off cars on an extension track located near the grain elevator in Burlingame providing a connection from the branch line to the rest of the Santa Fe rail network. There are wyes located in both towns at each end of the line so the steam locomotive can be turned. The Santa Fe ran a six-days-a-week mixed local train that worked the line and served the towns with passenger and freight service.
There are no fancy locomotive facilities in Burlingame, just a siding with a gondola full of coal next to the locomotive for the night watchman to shovel into the locomotive tender. The local begins its day in Burlingame switching the industries there after topping off the water tank in the locomotive tender. Next, the local works its way up the line switching the towns as necessary. Cars that need to be picked up are set out so that they can be retrieved on the return trip.
Once the local reaches Alma, the crew switches the customers there and an interchange track with the Rock Island Railroad. Next, the crew turns the locomotive on the wye and refills the water tank on the tender before departing Alma for the return trip back down the line. Stations that had facing point sidings are now switched as well as picking cars previously set out for picking up on the return trip.
The local switches the The Grange Co-op located in Harveyville, Kansas. The facility has eight spot specific door locations at the shed.
The layout is located in a 22 X 30 foot portion of Jared’s basement. Jared has done extensive research on the Alma Branch and all structures have been scratch built using prototype drawings and dimensions. Researching the prototype and interviewing crews that worked the line is one of the aspects of the hobby that Jared enjoys most.
The model railroad is operated with a three person crew, engineer, brakeman, and conductor. The crew follows the same procedures for the local as the prototype does with switching the towns along the line. It may seem extraordinary to only operate one train on a 22 X 30 foot layout, but following the prototype Alma Branch line operation provides an enjoyable 3 hour operating session. The interaction between the crew members trying to determine the most efficient way to switch the cars is all part of the fun.
Jared has built a great model railroad and one that is extremely prototypical to operate. It just goes to prove that you don’t need to run a bunch of trains to have a great operating session. I look forward to many more visits to operate on his layout. Be sure to check out my video on Jared Harper’s Alma Branch layout on my YouTube channel or clicking the link below.