Rio Grande

by Mick Moignard

Mick Moignard's home layout is in Hon3. It models the 3-foot gauge operations of the Denver & Rio Grande Western and the Rio Grande Southern in HO - 1:87 or 3.5mm to the foot - scale, using 10.5mm gauge track to accurately represent the 3-foot gauge track. The layout location is imaginary, but takes inspiration for towns and scenery from places in Colorado and New Mexico, such as Cumbres Pass, Toltec Gorge, Durango, Dolores and Matterhorn, with nods to Leadville, Telluride, Ophir, Silver Plume and Georgetown; the latter two in the prototype being visited by another 3-footer, the Colorado and Southern.

The layout is in an internal room in the house, which was converted for the purpose from an integral garage. It's a point to point - storage yards to town - operation with a continuous run used as a branch line. The main line climbs most of the way round the room, on a fairly constant 2.5% grade, which makes the steam locomotives bark well. The layout operates using Digitrax DCC with all steam locomotives and Galloping Geese fitted with Soundtraxx Tsunami or Tsunami-2 sound decoders. Most of the cabooses and passenger parlour cars also have Soundtraxx Soundcar decoders in them for enhanced train sounds. Scenery is part completed, and includes scratchbuilt wooden trestle bridges to go with kit and scratchbuilt structures and rolling stock.

The layout is set in 1951, the last year of operation of the Rio Grande Southern and of the San Juan Express, the luxury passenger train that ran from Alamosa to Durango, I've tried quite hard to ensure that there are few items of rolling stock that are outside of that period, but as with all model railways, a few have crept in, such as the gas-mechanical locomotive used as a storage yard switcher, which appeared on the prototype in 1963. There are far more locos and stock items than are needed to operate the layout, but I like making locos and stock. Steam locos include several outside frame 2-8-2s of all the classes the D&RGW operated, many inside and outside frame 2-8-0s, and one solitary 4-6-0, the RGS #20, along with a complete flock of the RGS Galloping Geese.

Currently the layout is operated on an ad-hoc basis, with a more formal car-cards and TTTO (Timetable and Train Order) process in the back of my mind, or rather, waiting for time to set it all up. I've tried very hard through all the construction and development phases to concentrate on reliable and realistic operation, no derailments and at scale speeds, and have not been afraid to change things where this goal is not being met, or just to improve how it works.