Larry Gant mentions in his article about his Gn15 layout on page 20 that he wanted to add a hotel called “The Big Stone Mountain Lodge” to his layout so he could haul visitors in little 15-inch gauge passenger cars to his lodge. He also wanted to have the fun of adding a swimming pool, flowerbeds, buildings of log and stone, and cribbed walls to his layout.
I share Larry’s interest in railroads and hotels, and have two large hotels on my layout. The oldest is the Tahoe Inn, and my newest is a Civil War era hotel that I call “the DeWitt Clinton House.” Both hotels have detailed grounds around them. In addition to some 50 period-figures, the DeWitt Clinton House has a lawn, a large oak tree with a bench around its trunk, and several flower-lined paths for strollers. There is also a detailed blacksmith shop, a garage full of wagons and carriages, and an O scale Edwin P. Alexander model of the DeWitt Clinton steam locomotive on a plinth.
I built my Tahoe Inn about 30 years ago. It is a large building some 40 inches long. I based it on the Tahoe Tavern that once overlooked Lake Tahoe, and was served by the 3-foot gauge Lake Tahoe Railway & Transportation Company Railroad. In the 1920s you could cross San Francisco Bay on a ferry to the Southern Pacific’s Oakland Mole, board a Pullman car, go to sleep, and arrive the next morning in Truckee, Calif. You then transferred to a LTR&T train, rode down its right-of-way along the Truckee River to the rear of the Tahoe Tavern. There you would alight from the train, and stroll into the hotel on a redwood walkway while your luggage was transferred to your room. For many years, the Tahoe Tavern was a world-class hotel with movie stars, sports figures, and other VIPs staying there.
My Tahoe Inn has an extensive park-like area surrounding it. I have had great fun over the years adding a putting green with golfers, a croquet pitch with hoops, wickets and figures with mallets, and a horseshoe pitch with O scale horseshoes. There are even “bathing beauties” on a beach, swimmers floating in inner tubes, watchers on benches near the beach, a hot dog stand, a couple having a picnic, a photographer recording a family’s vacation memories, a shooting party in the woods, a row of rail fans taking photos of the trains as they pass by, a stable for renting horses, and a fire circle where songs, and tall tales can often be heard around a roaring fire.
In spite of all of these attractions, I always wanted to add a 15-inch gauge park railway to my hotel scene. Some of those hotel guests may have needed just one more thing to do. I pondered about building this little railway for many years; it was only recently that it dawned on me how I could weave a railway in an irregular circle around my hotel’s park-like gardens. All I had to do was remove a few benches, and add a decked trestle over the end of my water scene. However, reaching into this finished scene would be difficult. I built it more than 30 years ago, and I am not as dexterous as I was then. How was I going to reach into the scene to line up rail ends in their joiners?
My answer was to buy five 3-foot lengths of PECO Crazy Track from Walthers. I already had several turnouts. This track is 9 mm gauge, designed for 4 mm scale models. That makes its gauge about 30 scale inches in 4 mm scale, or around 15 inches in O scale – perfect!
When my track arrived, I drilled holes in its ties for track pins about every 12 inches. But soon realized that I would not be able to see these holes when tacking the track in place on my layout – almost 6 feet away. So, I put a dot of white paint on each tie with a hole. Brilliant!
Next, I took a tip from the late Jim Vail, and soldered rail joiners to the ends of three sections of track, making them one 9-foot-long piece with no kinks. That’s how Jim produced such smooth track on his layout. Then I picked up the 9-foot-long piece of track. It behaved like a wriggling snake as I carried it across my layout room, and threaded it into place. After tacking it down, I connected the track’s two ends to a turnout on the deck of the trestle right in front of me – at the edge of the layout – nice and easy to reach.
I ran a spur from the turnout on the trestle to a corrugated sheet metal lean-to engine shed at the rear of the Tahoe Inn. Then I spray-painted my new track, cleaned the paint off the top of the rails, hooked up a power supply, and ran my first locomotive around the loop. I had no trouble choosing a locomotive since I had received a little red 0-4-2T from Bachmann with a Thomas the Tank Engine face on its smoke box front. She was perfect, runs smoothly, and seldom stalls. So, I plan to find some way to fit an O scale driver into her cab – or behind it. I have added a little passenger depot to my park-like area, so I will also need some passenger cars. And, Oh! The corrugated engine shed is also in place, housing my little locomotive.
All great fun!
—Bob Brown, Editor