Virtual Layout Tour

HERE IS A SHORT VIRTUAL TOUR of my 20-foot x 20-foot layout. Adobe Photoshop was used to add sky backgrounds to several photos, especially for some of the photos taken of the lower level where supports for the upper level compromised the photos.

If you were visiting in person, I would normally provide some general information on the layout at the start of your tour such as...

"The layout is multi-level layout (plans are here) with two levels in most areas but with four levels at the duck-under. All of the track, including turnouts, is hand-laid. There are about 100 structures plus a number of bridges on the layout, all of which are scratchbuilt. All of the buildings are models of real buildings which existed when the YV was in operation. The scenery and topography represent the area being modeled."

Answering one question that typically comes up, the layout was started in 1980 and finished in 2011. Unlike many layouts of this size and larger, I didn't have a group of modelers help in the construction.

Lower Level - Merced to Kittridge

Early morning
It is early morning on another soon-to-be hot August day in Merced. The lights are on in the Dispatcher’s Office and the Ticket Lobby. Eastbound Train No. 2 will arrive in a few minutes after picking up Pullman coaches at the Southern Pacific Railroad station a half-mile away. After a very brief stop, Train No. 2 will depart for El Portal.

Train 59
Over at the SP depot, westbound SP Train No. 59 was stopped to allow a switcher to remove the Pullmans destined for Yosemite National Park and add them to YV Train No. 2.

Switching Merced
No. 25 switches cars in Merced early on an August 1939 morning as the sun is just coming up. The loaded cars and many of the empties will later be taken over to the SP interchange in Merced.

Sailer watching the train
A sailor on leave standing next to the Magnus Root Beer parking lot watches YV 4-4-0 No. 22 switch a PFE reefer across Highway 99 onto the ice platform spur.

Whittaker
The late Will Whittaker is well known for the thousands of freight car photos he took. Will and railfan friend Bill Pennington made at least one trip from the San Francisco Bay Area to the YV to chase trains...this scene is a tribute to these two early railfans. Will photographs the PFE refrigerator car, while Bill stands near his car.

Prototype station
The prototype YV station faced R Street just east of Main Street. This photo of the station was taken around 1942-43 or so.

Model station
My scratchbuilt model of the Merced station. R Street runs in front of the station while a passenger train waits for passengers on the back side of the station.

Passenger train in Merced
The track side of the station at Merced with a passenger train arriving from the SP station after picking up Pullmans headed to El Portal. The freight house is left of the station.

Migrant workers
I model 1939 and this photo shows a couple of details which help reinforce that fact to visitors...a billboard for Texaco gas and, on R Street, a family of migrant workers displaced from Oklahoma has suffered another setback...a flat tire.

Prototype turntable
Looking across the prototype turntable at the Merced Roundhouse with four of the railroad's five 2-6-0s lined up inside. Note the wheelsets on a short track on the right of the photo.

Model turntable
The same general view as in the prototype photo. Resting inside the roundhouse between duties are 2-6-0s No. 29 and No. 26 and 4-4-0 No. 22 barely visible in the right stall.

Machine shop
The roundhouse is completely scratchbuilt and includes all of the machine shop and blacksmith tools which were in the prototype roundhouse. This is the machine shop with a scratchbuilt lathe, planer, power hack saw, crank shaper, radial drill, tool grinder, drill press, and other power tools, all belt-driven.

View of yards
This view of the yards at Merced looking west shows the buildings which supported the operation of the railroad. Directly to the left of the locomotive is the oil tank with the settling tank buried in the ground on the nearside of it. Behind the oil tank is the water tank while across the tracks is the Stores building where all kinds of supplies for maintaining and operating the railroad were kept. Hidden behind the water tank is the Sand House. Beyond the Stores building is the brick Oil House (where lubricants and other flammable liquids were stored). On the right in the mid-distance is the 9-stall Roundhouse and, to the left of it, the Paint House. To the left of the Paint House is the Carpenter Shop and, in the distance, the Station and Freight House.

At ATSF tower
Locomotive No. 29 is on the head end of the Merced Local today. It is shown waiting for the semaphore to drop at the ATSF interlocking plant so that it can proceed toward Merced Falls and, ultimately, El Portal. The interlocking plant is completely functional with working derails and semaphores. The pipe rods and cranks also work in sync with the derails and semaphores.

Crossing Bear Creek
No. 27 is just rattling across the AT&SF tracks and starting to cross over Bear Creek just a half-mile from the Merced station. The ducks in the creek don’t seem to be concerned with noise of the passing train while a boy spending the hot August afternoon fishing for catfish in the creek takes a minute to glance toward the commotion.

Fahrens Creek
A freight train rolls eastbound past a farm after having just crossed over Bear Creek. The eucalyptus grove near the head end of the train still exists today near Fahrens Creek; the abutments for the railroad bridge over Fahrens Creek now support a bike bridge.

Caboose 15
Caboose 15 is on the tail end of a westbound train which has just passed over Fahrens Creek.

In Merced Falls
Earlier today, the engineer of the Log Train picked up its assigned caboose and left Merced, running light to Merced Falls. There it pulled out the empty log cars spotted the previous day on the Log Spur, ran around them and then coupled back onto its caboose. It is now just crossing the County Road as it leaves Merced Falls for Bagby.

Local in Merced Falls
An hour after the departure of the Log Train from Merced Falls, the Merced Local arrives and makes its pickups and setouts. Here No. 29 carefully spots a Great Northern box car along the planing mill shipping dock.

MR water tank
Looking at the steel water tank at Merced Falls opposite the two-story station. The planing mill is in the background while a group of local kids has a game of baseball underway behind the water tank. The gray pipe above carries sawdust from the planing mill to the fireboxes of the five steam boilers in the basement of the lumber mill. The white, asbestos-wrapped pipe is a steam pipe which runs to the steam kiln used to dry high-quality sugar pine lumber.

Coming out of Tunnel 1
A log train rolls downgrade out of Tunnel 1, headed for Merced Falls. The Virtual Tour of the YV web page uses Bing maps to trace the YV. This link to the west portal of Tunnel 1 shows a rock fill just outside Tunnel 1 on the prototype and the rocks along the side of the tunnel portal, all as captured on the model.

Middle Level - Bagby to El Portal

Bridge 47A
An eastbound Local freight crosses Bridge 47A, the Bagby Bridge, over the Merced River. It will arrive in Bagby in a few minutes and stop to take water before continuing on toward El Portal.

Inside the Store
The driver of the Ford pickup is inside the Bagby Store getting a cold soda before continuing on his way. On the far side of the railroad tracks, Highway 49 climbs the hillside toward Coulterville. Details in this scene, including the free-standing Flying A gas sign and gas pump as well as the period Highway 49 traffic sign, were all modeled based on prototype period photos of this area. The truck has a 1939 California license plate.

28 arriving in Bagby
No. 28 is on the head of the Merced Local today and has just arrived in Bagby with its unique twin water tanks. The station is just out of the photo on the left.

Picking up empties in Emory
The daily Rock Train has arrived in Emory after running light from El Portal with just its caboose. Emory is the location of the Yosemite Portland Cement Company limestone quarry operation. The crew of the 23 have left the caboose on the main and backed into the storage bunker siding to pick up some loaded hopper cars (called "rock cars" on the YV). After getting those loaded rock cars, it will pull out and then back onto its caboose. After a brake check, it will depart for Bagby.

Meet in Bagby
The eastbound Log Train has arrived at Bagby and, after taking water, pulled forward to the clearance point for the siding. Since it is superior by direction, it stayed on the main line. Ten minutes later, the westbound Rock Train pulls in for their meet.

Rock cars headed to Emory
A train of empty ore cars approaches Emory from the west. The two-story building at Emory in front of the train still exists today and can be seen from Highway 140 on the opposite side of the Merced River.

Fox Creek
A shortened version of the trestle over Fox Creek. The unique concrete piers with different heights was most likely the result of repairs due to dry rot in the bottoms of the bents. The damaged portions of the bents were simply cut off and the piers formed to match the bottoms of the new sills on the cut-off bents.

Approach Fox Creek
A log train rolls downhill in the Merced River canyon approaching the Fox Creek trestle. The dry stone retaining wall next to the bridge is typical of ones built up and down the canyon. Many of these retaining walls still exist today. It was modeled using individual pieces of kitty litter glued to the hard-shell scenery.

Leaving Incline
The westbound Log Train has just left Incline with an empty UTLX “Van Dyke” tank car coupled behind the engine and a line of loaded log cars in tow. Jenkins Hill is just around the curve beyond the trestle.

Local leaving Incline
The El Portal Local leaves Incline as the sun starts to set in the canyon. The Local will continue working westward, picking up loads and empties and won't tie up until after midnight. The log car coupled to the engine was picked up at Incline loaded with one of the "Cats" now used in the woods to move logs to a truck reload. It will be taken to Merced for repairs.

Coming into Incline
No. 28 arrives in Incline with a trainload of empty log cars.

Westbound through Incline
It is a hot, August day at Incline as a Local rolls by some loaded log cars.

Bottom of the incline
A loaded log car comes down the incline at Incline. A wire rope is attached to the end of the car to lower it down the incline. The prototype incline was 8,300' long and provided a way to get harvested logs out of the woods west of Yosemite National Park and down to Incline where they will be moved to the lumber mill at Merced Falls.

At Moss Canyon
The fireman gets ready to pull down the water spout at the tank at Moss Canyon. The Moss Canyon wye is visible in the background.

Looking east at El Portal
Looking east at the yards at El Portal. The building on the right was called the Government Warehouse and was located where the El Portal post office stands today. The white structure partially visible on the left was the office and residence of the manager of the Standard Oil bulk oil plant. It is now a NPS administration building. In the background is the El Portal station and train shed. Note the working derails on the the sidings left of the main track. The El Portal yards also had derails here.

Working the yard at El Portal
Locomotive No. 28 works the yard at El Portal. The grey building in the background is one of the three railroad cottages which still exist in El Portal today although they have all been extensively remodeled. Melvin "Jakie" Williams and his family lived in this particular cottage in 1939. Jakie was an engineer for the YV.

Moving a flat car
Locomotive No. 25 pulls a YV flat car loaded with a state roads department Fresno scrapper out of the Auto Loading track at El Portal. The El Portal Inn is the building in the background.

El Portal station
The scratchbuilt station at El Portal. The actual station, built in 1908, featured a rustic design using cedar bark and pine branches. The branches and bark details were modeled with individual pieces of styrene.

Upper Level - Camp 17

Camp 17
The logging area worked by the Yosemite Sugar Pine Lumber Company in 1939 (near current-day Highway 120) is called Camp 17 and is 77" off the floor. It features many of the typical logging activities of the period including this truck reload area where logs were transferred from trucks to railroad log cars.