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Discussion Starter · #1 ·

There isn't much like the excitement of shopping for a new house, and visualizing how your new garden railroad might work in this back yard or that. But I don't know anybody who's approached the task more methodically than Ben and Theresa Shell. As they say in the program to the 2014 West Coast Regional Meet, "We started planning our railroad in 2010 before we closed escrow on our first house by drawing potential track plans over scaled satellite views of each house we considered."

Those plans resulted in the Pacific Inland Express, a 1/29 scale main-line layout with wide sweeping curves to guide long trains from the 'transitional' era of main line railroading, when the last and largest steam engines were struggling (and failing) to maintain their dominance over the new diesel engines. The long trains almost demand a CinemaScopic perspective, so that is what SWMTP tried to provide with these pictures. We'll start by following this unit train of P.F.E. reefers as it circles a raised vegetable garden, complete with hopeful tomato cages.

Tucked into a corner is this waterfall. It feeds a short 'river' which parallels the tracks for a while.

Young Xavier Shell is fascinated by all the passing trains; as frankly, am I! There are at least three long trains here, operating at a pretty good clip and with very tight spacing. What sort of control system is being used here?

The answer is tucked neatly in the palm of Ben Shell's hand. His iPhone is connected (via Wi-Fi, I think) to a computer running the JMRI (Java Model Railroad Interface) DCC control system.

Ben was kind enough to let me play with it for a few minutes, and I was impressed. Intuitively clear and with a much quicker response than I expected. Ben said that the chief complaint he'd heard had been the lack of tactile feedback; but I gotta' tell you that within just a few moments, my other senses easily made up for that deficit. This system is a winner, and I can imagine using it for just about anything but live steam.

It's time for more of SWMTP's montages: Straight out of an Edgar Rice Burroughs novel, a train passes some curious dinosaurs; passing the river; around the garden bed.

Over the river and through what I'll call "Twin Peaks"; passing through a fence...

...to run along the back of the backyard swimming pool, and through another fence..

Under a foot bridge and across a dry wash...

...where it circumnavigates a loop around a quiet, almost hidden part of the yard.

The Shells say they still have mountains to build and tunnels to make. But until then, this will do very nicely indeed. (And as I prepare to post this, I see that Ben has posted a wonderfully comprehensive build log at ""Building the Pacific Inland Express" (["http://forums.mylargescale.com/16-track-trestles-bridges-roadbed/37954-building-pacific-inland-express.html")
Go read it -- it'll answer a lot of questions.)


The first thing you'll notice as you enter Bob and Mary Dean's front courtyard is this incredible 'duck-under' metal bridge. As you can see, it seems to be the entry-way to an inviting G-scale world.

But before you go in, stop a second and glance down. To your right, the Gee Whiz magic starts here with this planter right outside the Dean's front window. This truck farm includes cows, pigs, a hay barn, bee hives, and even a produce stand.

And to your left, a small G-scale lake; clearly a resort, with parked cars, a playground under G-scale shade, even a ranger station with the current fire danger rating prominently displayed. The water level is kind of low, as it is all across the state nowadays.

Okay, now you can 'duck under' the bridge. The Deans have transformed their side yard into a narrow canyon -- it has very much of a 'Colorado Gorge' feel to it. And it's full of surprising detail, from a pumpkin patch to a miner panning for gold, a high-line derailment and a cool mountain lake frozen in time.

As we continue down the 'canyon,' we come to the second of the DE&N's marvelous 'duck-under' bridges. Normally, you'd see trains passing both on the high line and the low-line; unfortunately, it was a very hot day, and by the time of our visit all of the DE&N's battery-powered engines had decided to go on strike.

The tracks turn under a shady lattice in the backyard and head towards an entire town built on an elevated foundation.

There's a lot going on in town. The building supply is preparing to ship siding and shingles to the new house under construction...

Kids are playing around the corner from the park where an Art Fair is drawing strollers from all directions.

The house (upper left) with the truck and sports car parked in front of the garage is modeled after the Dean's own home. G scale shingles to match their recently re-roofed house are coming soon.

Under that new roof, the G gauge magic continues in the Dean's full-scale attic! A new project for those days when it's too dang wet or too dang hot (like today!) outside --

The work on this 25' X 42" space is just beginning, but the vision is already apparent.

Sections of the attic layout are being built in modular fashion, and some of the modules are on wheeled carts. This design allows easy access and more storage. Here, Mary Dean shows us one of the carts that's currently being used to move rolling stock and tools around.

An example of some of Bob's great rock work -

And it's off to Colorado for the DE&N. And maybe us, for the convention next year? Will we see you in Denver in 2015?

And that's it for our visit to the West Coast 2014 Regional Meet. Thanks for bearing with us through all of these threads; hope they provided something of interest. And our great thanks to all the folks in Sacramento. We renewed friendships with old friends... and made new ones. If you haven't gone to a convention yet, try it! You'll like it...


-Gary and Carla (She Who Must Take Pictures)

· Premium Member
6,091 Posts
Thanks to both of you, great pics and back story.

· Registered
220 Posts
Thank you for the great coverage of our layout, as well as all the layouts open during the tour! I was especially anticipating this final post with our layout and the Dean's, and it was worth the wait!

The Dean's are close friends, and have helped a LOT with our layout. It probably helps that we live about 300 feet apart (as the crow flies), but it seems like Bob has helped almost everyone else in the club too! I first met them and saw their layout in 2003, and was really impressed. Their outdoor layout hasn't been running much until recently, as they've been under construction with their upstairs addition. So I'm really happy to see it running again. (Well, sort of. It's too bad the batteries were acting up. I guess that's Murphy's Law though. We experienced that back in April when our DCC system was acting up.) And they've continued adding details too, such as new trees, and more buildings.

By the way, you've just named one of our mountains. Twin Peaks it is! Now I still need a name for the other mountain where the waterfall starts, but I'm sure a name will come up at some point.

· Old Senior Member
1,543 Posts
Just found this. Not sure how we missed it... Very nice work Ben S.. and on Bob D. when we first joined the Club way back when... after a few yrs in the club, we have Bob Dean and Joel Harrison help us install our auto Swing Bridge in our koi pond that took a few days to get it working right.

Bob D. layout you may have to ware a hard hat thro. lol. Nice rock work there on his layout.. .
Great photos guys.. Noel & Jane.
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