My Layouts - Bear Creek and South Jackson Railroad I
Switching South Jackson

Bear Creek and South Jackson #1
The 4x8 version of my railroad empire.

I recently found some video footage of the original 4x8 Bear Creek & South Jackson from 1998 and 1999.

So I uploaded it to YouTube.

The first BC&SJ railroad

BCSJ #1 trackplan

April 1997 - Sept 2000

1997 - 1998 - 1999

The Origins of the BC&SJ Railroad(s)

After moving into a new house with a huge garage my head was filled with ideas for building a railroad. I was seriously considering an On3 model of the South Pacific Coast narrow gauge in the San Francisco Bay Area and a number of HO scale plans.

One thing these plans had in common was complexity. Most of them were multi-deckers. All had a lot of track. After planning my brains out on the South Pacific Coast layout I came to the conclusion that I needed a simpler project to get my feet wet. I'd never built and even remotely finished any model railroad at all. I figured maybe I should start small.

These are pictures of that first HO layout. It was roughly 4x8 but bulged out a bit at the ends. It wasn't a flat lands layout though. I was fascinated by mountainous terrain and designed it as a twice around passing through tall mountains. There would be tunnels and bridges, creeks and a small waterfront area. It would have a single town, South Jackson, with a bunch of industries (five in South Jackson and two else where).

I built it with casters under the legs so it could be rolled around. And the facsia was birch plywood giving it a furniture-like look (at least I hoped so). I wanted to be able to move it into the family room when it was done leaving space in the garage for a bigger (and better) layout.

Related links:
My John Allen Timesaver with scenery too!
The Jallen Branchline and Bear Creek Salvage.
The BCSJ I trackplan.
A mock up of this layout I built before making sawdust.
The BCSJ II page.
The BCSJ III page.

The earliest pictures of the BC&SJ Railroad - 1997

These pictures were shot with my old Minolta using print film instead of slides. They were also shot under a horrid combination of incandescent and fluorescent lighting which explains why the color is off a bit.

In some of the pictures I used photoshop to paint out the background clutter and paint in a sky.

But they do give a general impression of the Bear Creek in the early stages of scenery. Nearly all the plaster rock castings are in place (there are well over 100 of 'em on this layout!) but the vegetation and streets are nowhere near complete and there are a number of places that are just plain plywood. Only a few buildings are in place.

Click 'em to expand 'em.

BC&SJ Layout Tour - 1998

I was still shooting with my old Minolta but I'd started using tungsten slide film and instead of the horrid room lights I began using some color balanced photo flood-lights. What a difference!

There's a difference in the scenery too. The track got ballasted and asphault road surfaces have been improved (I started using drywall compound for the roads - I smoothed it out the best I could with a putty knife, then after it dried I wiped it with a wet sponge to smooth over all the knife marks. Sometimes the spackle would crack a bit when I dried and these cracks looked great! I airbrushed the roads with grimy black.

There are a few more buildings. The Brough-Cann Glass Co. is now open for business.

I also did some experimentation with night photography using (mostly) the only layout lights. With the lens stopped down to f22 for depth of field and asa 64 slide film this was resulting in some 1/2 hour or longer exposures! But they look kind of neat (at least I think so). It was an absolute bear to scan such dark slides though - nearly impossible to keep them from getting really grainy. I also used a blue light in a couple of the night time pictures to simulate the night time sky an hour after sunset.

Progress was happening rapidly at this point. It was really exciting to see the layout come together.

Click 'em to expand 'em.

BC&SJ Layout Tour - 1999

Scenery is much more complete in these photos. South Jackson has grown a decent complement of buildings and the tunnel under the station has been timber framed (although this probably wasn't necessary as the plywood tunnel walls were already pretty stable!). And Coerner creek has been filled in will water (and a stream bed for it to flow through). Some of the buildings in South Jackson are sporting a fully detailed interior.

It was shortly after this that I decided to connect my Time Saver to the 4x8 calling it Jallen (in honor of John Allen). It attached at the top of the branch line with a U-turn module (so called because it made a 180 degree left turn when heading over to Jallen.

While all this was going on I was also starting to think about where I was going next with my modeling. I had a number of plans that incorporated the 4x8 but with its 18" radii and no really good places to tie in this was a problem. Flaw's in the 4x8's track plan were also surfacing. Having the runaround track off to the side of South Jackson made dealing with the multiple switch backs in town painful. Worse yet, the other end of the siding was on the opposite side of the backbone mountains from the control panel making it very difficult to see when a train had cleared the turnout prior to throwing it.

And I was getting a yen for longer trains and multiple train operation. Neither of these were practical. The addition of the Jallen branch helped but in the end it couldn't stop the inevitable. In mid 2000 I put the BC&SJ up for sale to make room for the BC&SJ II. It was heart breaking to see all that work go bye-bye but I had a 22x12 space in the garage crying out to be used.

Click 'em to expand 'em.

This page Copyright © 1997-2005 by Charlie Comstock