Good afternoon Z world! I wanted to let anyone that's interested know about my new blog, where I plan to detail the research, development, and construction of a new layout focused on the Tehachapi Loop. If you're interested, you can check it out here. Thanks, and I hope everyone is doing well.
However, feel the Tehachapi Loop is so over done and so plain. Since you're still in the research stage might I suggest you look into the Williams Loop in Northern California on the UP ( former WP) line.
Thanks for the suggestion Mark. I looked into the Williams Loop, and while interesting from a scenery perspective, it doesn't host the variety of traffic Tehachapi does, nor does it have a similar track arrangement that would be interesting from an automation perspective. If I focused on UP-only, and had a layout targeting the Feather River Canyon, sure, it'd be interesting. The UP's Mojave sub carries a LOT of traffic, and BNSF actually uses the Tehachapi more than UP (some estimates are 3:1 BNSF:UP through the Loop) via trackage rights. Also, UP sends a lot (maybe all?) of its intermodal traffic via the Donner Pass Route, not through Feather River Canyon, mostly due to clearance issues in tunnels...with the new AZL MAXI-Is, I definitely want to highlight intermodal traffic in addition to manifests. Also Tehachapi has three different webcams on YouTube that cover the loop and approaches both east and west..so there's much more "live" material to work with.
Actually the traffic is much more varied than you think. The BNSF line into Northern California is only the old Santa Fe Line, running from Bakersfield through Stockton to Emeryville. It misses a number of key cities and doesn't make it to the all important Port of Oakland terminal. UP has two routes through the Sierra Nevada and favors the other one through Donner Pass. So they rent capacity through the Feather River to BNSF and gives BNSF access to a number of refinery customers and ultimately Oakland. In fact since this agreement has started I haven't seen a single train west of Stockton on the BNSF line.
May I suggest searching for videos : BNSF trains Sacramento (BNSF can't get to Sacramento on it own tracks) to see what type of trains BNSF runs through the Williams Loop. I can't say for certain since I haven' been down south, but I understand much of their traffic from the Tehachapi has been rerouted through Williams.
Nice, it will be neat to see this done in Z. I'm sure it's been done/tried in Z before but I've never seen it so I'll definitely be following closely. I will say that the automation part is going to likely be a lot tougher than you think, but again I'll be on the sidelines watching.
I'm working on a small layout at the moment, but I have plans to build a fairly large Z layout based on BNSF in Texas in a couple more years when the nest is empty. (empty-ish...they tend to come back especially during global pandemics but they may have to share part of a room with a model railroad.) Like you, I intend to make signals a big part of the ops. I do like the test layout idea...if you have a ReStore (supporting Habitat for Humanity) they always have hollow core doors for cheap.
sven: Yes, in my first blog post I link to Svein's work...really great stuff. I emailed him a couple years back about using his plan as the basis for a layout, and he very graciously gave me permission. Tehachapi *has* been done a lot...and I'm not trying to be a groundbreaker at all...I really just like that loop, its odd shape, the serpentine approaches, the topology, terrain, and vegetation. Plus the Chief Engineer, William Hood, was from my hometown in New Hampshire.
dazed: Automation for sure WILL be a huge challenge. That's why the test layout. I was contemplating it last night, and I might even do a pre test layout test layout...just one loop with a long siding and one staging track (so essentially opposed sidings,) just to get the very basics of how all the digitrax components work together with the computer. I'm watching the Train Controller series by "rudysmodelrailway" on YouTube, which is great, but doesn't cover the hardware side, only the very basics of the software side so far.
markm: Thanks for the suggestions. I might give them a look. In my blog post, when I mentioned I was doing research, I should have been more specific. The research I need to do is into the hardware/software/integration to make the automation work -- I'm pretty much set on Tehachapi. This isn't going to be a modular or sectional layout that will be shown, and I doubt I'll ever have any "operators" over to work it. This is really me finally deciding to push aside other hobbies/interests and focus on a project that's been tumbling around in my head for years.
Hopefully someone else finds some enjoyment or learns something with me along the way. Another goal of this project is to document lessons learned as I go, and hopefully leave a digital "how-to" of sorts.