An Overview of the Gibraltar Branch

I haven’t made an update in a while, so now I’ll give a brief overview of the Gibraltar Branch as I have it envisioned.

The Gibraltar Branch, opened in 1890, starts just south of Carpinteria at Carpinteria Junction (MP 383.2 on the Coast Line, MP 0.0 of the branch), in the Real World (in future I’ll be abbreviating that as “RW”) roughly at Wave. A 10′ x 12′ telegraph office is located here, which was retired in 1940 and used as a shed ever since.

At MP 1.8 is Cate, where passenger trains stopped until 1932, when Carpinteria’s local bus service was extended to Cate and Petrolia. The 7′ x 9′ shelter shed still stands, in use as a bus stop. A siding starts here, running as a ‘second track’ to just past Petrolia – which has been described in a previous post.

Heading east from Petrolia we reach Jameson Lake at MP 18.5. The town was established in 1881 as an orcharding settlement, and a modified CS #16 depot was built when the line was opened in 1890. The freight house is 25′ x 60′, and there is a 24′ extension shelter on the waiting room end, and a full-length gable roof. The lake itself was created with the construction of Juncal Dam in 1916, and a resort was opened on the lake in 1918, which made for a significant boost for passenger traffic. Passenger service ceased in the 1950s; by 1966, only lemons and grapefruit were shipped by rail from here.

At Jameson Lake, the line turns north, and at MP 23.3 is the town of Agua Caliente. This was settled by Hungarian settlers in 1883 and known as Heviz until 1930, when the town’s Hungarian name was simply translated to Spanish. There is a CS #26 depot here (passenger and baggage section only) and a separate 60′ x 12′ freight house, as well as a section house. Agricultural products – navel oranges and walnuts – are the primary commodity shipped out from here in 1966, though a few small local light industries make shipments through the freight house. The Santa Ynez River is channelised inside the town limits.

At MP 27.0 we reach the village of Santa Isabel. There is a CS #11 depot here; grapes and lemons are shipped from here.

The branch ends at the town of Gibraltar (MP 31.5). Established in 1872, the town managed to grow and industrialise some, and by 1966 reached a population of 7500, and has some modern industry besides agriculture – notably Turlough and Rose Drainage & Irrigation Service which, aside from installing and maintaining the irrigation systems of many of the orchards and farms in the area, manufactures said equipment too; there’s also a bulk oil dealer, and possibly another small industry that receives/ships in boxcars. There is a water tower and a turntable here, and an ice stand for icing reefers. The line was surveyed as far north as Santa Ynez via Paradise and Windsor (see the map I posted previously), and grading work was started, but the construction was abandoned with only 2 miles graded west of the town.

So, that’s a brief summary of the line, and none of this is really set in stone yet. But in my experience in building alternate-history worlds, I’ve found it helpful to start with a ‘global’ overview, and then work out the details from there; I’ll post more of that as time passes.

An Overview of the Gibraltar Branch


It’s been almost a month since my last update… apologies for that. I think, though, that I’ve got an acceptable excuse – last Tuesday I went for the second surgery on my thumb, and in the couple weeks previous to that the pain was getting steadily worse. It still hurts, of course, but hopefully from here it’ll just get better, not worse again.

The next few weeks will be pretty busy for me, as I suppose the holidays are for everyone, so I can’t promise I’ll make an update before next year. If not, I hope you all have a lovely Christmas, and all my best wishes for the New Year.


Petrolia, Part 1

As mentioned, my ‘layout’ will represent a fictitious branch of the SP. Per the long-term plan, the layout will represent Carpinteria and several fictitious locations; in addition to Carpinteria Junction, the branch runs through several towns and villages: Petrolia, Jameson Lake, Agua Caliente, Santa Isabel and Gibraltar. Since these are all fictitious locations, I have carte blanche to design them as I please. By extension, this also means that I’m free to develop their history as I see fit, and since developing alternate histories is an interest of mine, this is a pleasant way to tie two of my hobbies together.

The first module I will build will represent a portion of the village of Petrolia. Established in 1888 as a residential district for the workers on the oil field that was opened there in 1886, it is at milepost 2.4 of the Gibraltar Branch, 4.4 miles in total from Carpinteria station. Petrolia never had a passenger station, as passenger trains instead stopped at Cate, just over half a mile from Petrolia towards Carpinteria, where there was a 7′ x 9′ shelter shed. Passenger service to Cate was discontinued in 1932 after Petrolia was added to the service area of Carpinteria’s local bus service. The SP did have a depot there, however, consisting of a 10′ x 12′ freight shed on a 16′ x 20′ platform.

Two industries were served by rail at Petrolia – The Hille Oil Company, and the Hartnell Grape Company. Hartnell’s has a loading house on a siding opposite the depot, from where the grapes harvested from Hartnell’s vineyards in the area are shipped out in reefers. But the primary customer is, of course, the Hille Oil Company. Hille’s has a siding which receives tank cars, shipping out the crude oil extracted on the field. The small freight shed was SP’s depot here until 1931, when general freight service at this station was discontinued. The freight depot was bought jointly by Hille Oil and Hartnell Grape in 1931, to use as a receiving platform for occasional non-standard deliveries. In 1943 a second track was put in at the Hille’s siding with a dedicated freight house of their own; Hartnell’s then bought Hille’s share of the former SP freight house, and it continues to be in use by Hartnell’s.

Although 1966 might be a bit early for it, I went ahead and drew a SPINS diagram for Petrolia:


SPINS Zone 33 - 1 - Petrolia

The Zone number may well change yet if I find out what the Zone number for Santa Barbara was, but that’s a minor detail; the important point of making this drawing (and those for the other locations, as I get to them) is for the eventual day when operations will happen.

The Petrolia trackage will be built over four TT-Tracks-standard-sized modules with an extra ‘ear’ for the oil siding. Since the TT-Tracks standards specify for double-track mainline, only the two central modules and the ear will be usable at shows. I’ve laid the track out temporarily to verify positionings and such; the next step will be to build the module segments.

Petrolia, Part 1

And here I go…

This blog is going to be my attempt to document my misadventures in trying to model the Southern Pacific in TT scale (1:120). I say “attempt to document”, because I can’t guarantee that I’ll update with any regularity, or that it’ll even be *worth* reading, but I think it might at least be entertaining, if one finds entertainment in schadenfreude.

So, a bit of background to describe a bit my ideas and concept for what I’m intending to do.

First, the purely technical. As a renter, I see little reason to build a “traditional” permanent layout, so from the first moment that I decided to build a layout, I knew that I would be taking a modular approach to construction. What took me a while was deciding what module standard to use; eventually I decided to go with the TT-Tracks standard as developed by Bill Dixon and other members of the TT-Nut forum. Although for most of my modules I’ll likely be modifying the standards to suit my needs, the first section I’m going to build will adhere to the standard in terms of dimension and the use of Tillig bedding track for making the connections (the rest of the track for this section will be laid mostly with Kuehn track and a hand-laid siding). Some care will have to be taken at the spots where the Tillig bedding track joins up with the Kuehn track, as Tillig uses Code 83 rail, whilst the Kuehn uses code 70, but this shouldn’t be too difficult a problem to solve. The primary reason I decided to build this first module like this is to allow me to take this to shows to connect these modules up with others’ modules.

The rest of my modules will diverge from standards in several ways, primarily in dimension where needed, the fact that the branchline that I’ll be modelling is single-track, and the fact that I intend to hand-lay everything else with Code 55 rail. For some time I did entertain the idea of building to Proto:120, but that would preclude the possibility of using my modules at shows with others (not to mention the cost of getting P:120 wheels cut, and other related expenses). So, for the time being, for this project at least, I’m going to stick to the established standards.

Now for the more interesting part – setting, era and suchlike.

I’ll freely admit that I’ve vacillated a great deal before finally settling on the SP’s Coast Line, having explored numerous other possibilities – the Milwaukee’s branch in Lynden, WA; the Pere Marquette’s line through Michigan’s thumb via Bad Axe; the Canada Southern, CN and C&O around Sarnia, Ontario; the BC Hydro Railway’s Central Park branch; and, drawn a bit by vanity, the Pennsy and B&O in Xenia, Ohio (because the idea of modelling a town I share a name with appealed to my ego). In the end, though, three major factors ended up contributing to my decision:

One, the sort of equipment appearing or planned for release in TT scale – this also figures into my decision to settle on 1966;

Two, the fact that there are several other TT scalers who model the SP, which should make it possible to collaborate on producing or causing to be produced various SP models of common interest, such as cabooses and structures (though admittedly, the Pennsy would also have enabled this, if to a lesser degree, as there seems to be fewer PRR modellers than there are SP fans in our little community); had I decided to go with one of the other options, I’d be alone in modelling that subject, and I’d thus not have this possibility of sharing effort.

And third, a personal connection: all told, I spent a good five years of my youth in Carpinteria, just south of Santa Barbara, having split the years from 1984 to 1994 between my father in Vancouver and my mother in California. Many a summer day I spent on the beach seeing trains on the Coast Line whether I wanted to or not, and so the scarlet and grey became tied into my childhood as much as burgers from The Spot and White Spot, Vancouver Canucks hockey games and LA Dodgers baseball games, and all sorts of fun with friends on the beaches around Carp and the forests in North Vancouver. Thus, once the SP became an obviously attractive candidate for a railway to model, the decision for a location came without needing a second thought.

Carpinteria a given, naturally my first thought was to model the Coast Line itself between Santa Barbara and Ventura. Being single track and quite linear, this would be an eminently modelable line; alas, the space that I have available to me, and the unlikelihood of ever having a place where I have both sufficient space and permanence (i.e., I’ll probably never own a house), made it seem unlikely that I could do justice to a representation of that segment of the line in such a way as to still have a layout that would be interesting to operate.

So the next thought was the Ojai branch. This is an interesting little branch with reefer and tank car traffic that also would lend itself well to modelling, but with what from my point of view was a downside – since it starts out at Ventura, it’d be too far away to include Carpinteria. Well, the train of thought then moved on to the next idea: model the Ojai branch, but taking a liberty, and having it branch off from Carpinteria. But then it occurred to me that if I’m going to be “adjusting history” anyways, I may as well take it a step further, and just create a fictitious branch that starts at Carpinteria. This would also allow me to indulge in another hobby I quite enjoy – alternate histories and world-building.

That was quite a long-winded way to get to my point: the plan for my modular layout is to model a fictitious branch of the SP’s Ventura Sub in 1966.

In future posts, aside from actual modelling stuff, I’ll describe the ‘world’ in more detail, not just the “present day in 1966” situation, but also bits of history that I have worked out or will work out for the locations on the layout, and not just those locations, but some others in the area that are necessary for everything to fit together and make some semblance of sense.

But for now, just a little teaser to illustrate the region in the form of a road map (the branch line runs from Carpinteria to Gibraltar via Jameson Lake, Agua Caliente and Santa Isabel.



And here I go…