Large Scale Central


So, I have been lurking around on the forums for years, my first layout having been destroyed in a flood around 2009 and reincarnated as my wife’s flower garden. As I am now retired with a bit of time on my hands, I am starting in earnest to build the Carquinez & Alhambra Valley Railroad. I live in Martinez, California, a stop on the Transcontinental Railroad, the home of John Muir, the birthplace of Joe DiMaggio, and, strong rumor has it, the martini. As a history buff, I am loosely modeling early twentieth century Martinez (with a few liberties here and there).

My space is limited and phase one is a simple loop about 12’x30’ just to get something up. It will eventually triple in length and go up the side of a hill. I model in 1/24 scale and have been designing several structures using SketchUp and other digital tools. Included among these are the John Muir house, the original train station, the Alhambra Natural Mineral Water Co., and the 1901 Contra Costa County Courthouse and Jail. Here are some photos of the originals and one of the SU sketches. If anyone watches 13 Reasons Why on Netflix, season two will feature the modern day versions of the courthouse and jail.

Alhambra Natural Mineral Water Co

Alhambra Natural Mineral Water 1903

Welcome. Be sure to post progress pictures as you go along.

Welcome, indeed. You are in a good place.

Thanks! Like I said, I have been around for several years but have rarely posted. Looking forward to being more active.

Welcome aboard.


judging from your pics we hopefully will see a lot from you in the modeling subforum.

Thanks everyone! What intrigued me about the water company building was the white on blue sign all around the building. To create that I plan on using my daughter’s Cricut die-cutter to mask over the lettering. I didn’t even know what a Cricut was until last week when I made a bunch of 2 inch vinyl dots for my granddaughter’s Minnie Mouse push car. I will be checking out the capabilities and limitations of the cutter and would like to also be able to use the print and cut feature to create signs that could then be transferred to a styrene or PVC sheet.

I have also started creating foundations for some of the buildings out of the pink Foamular board available from Home Depot. One of the issues with foam core I have been looking at is the ability to paint it. When I created Minnie’s mouse ears and bow out of 1" and .5" inch Foamular, respectively, I had forgotten about the need to paint it with latex house paint. I used Krylon rattle cans and while there was some reaction, it wasn’t all that bad (not to mention the fact that (1) they were mouse ears, and (2) the kid is only 2 years old).

However, I really don’t want to use house paint, so I started researching and looking for alternatives. Another paint that apparently will hold up is water-based acrylic. I did a test with some Tamiya black using just a brush and there were no problems. Tomorrow I will set up the airbrush and do a more extensive test. I also need to see if a UV protective top coat will eat through the acrylic and cause damage.

The reason for doing this is that I would like to paint sidewalks directly onto the foam board. We’ll see if that is possible or whether I’ll need a plan B.

Looking forward to your progress. Always great to see new layouts being built.

depending on what one is building, sometimes it makes sense to “paint” the whole foam surface with diluted white glue, then painting or spraying with mineral based paints.

That’s a good idea. Another one being the various concrete patch materials. Mostly the foam boards will be used as the foundation for buildings that will be sitting on top of it. However, there will be other uses, as well. So, in the courthouse complex, for example, there is a border around the building, as well as an elevated walkway, that would be perfect for the foam board.

So, things are progressing here, slowly but surely. Work continues on finalizing SketchUp designs for several of the building projects. I tend to work on multiple designs and switch back and forth when I get tired of one or the other.

As for actually building stuff, my first project is the train station. The combined depot, freight, and station master residence has undergone many changes over the years (it is still standing but no longer in use) and it was difficult to come up with an accurate prototype, but here is the current version:

Still some details to add, including proper doors and windows, but it’s enough to start cutting the foamboard and taping up a mock-up of the depot. One issue that came up was that of color. A lot of prior research (and debate) has been done by the Southern Pacific HO folks. Fortunately, Tru-Color has released SP depot colors of Colonial Yellow, Trim Brown, and Moss Green. Unfortunately, my LHS was out of Colonial Yellow and was told by their distributor that it was back-ordered and wouldn’t be available until September. It was suggested by the SP folks that CNW Yellow was the best substitute, so I bought a jar of it. Then, a couple days later, I got a call that the Colonial Yellow had arrived and ran down and bought some. Turns out the CNW Yellow was pretty close but it was a little lighter and more orangish than the true SP color.

I was always taught the old axiom “measure twice, cut once” but I didn’t quite live up to that principle:

I also started practicing scribing on a piece of scrap 1/4-inch foamboard. Rather than using Sintra, I am using Komatex foamed PVC sheets, which is available from TAP Plastics a couple miles from my home. It’s cheaper than Sintra and I don’t have to pay for shipping. I tried a couple of tools I had bought specifically for this purpose, but I ended up using the red-handled punch I found lying around the house one day. No idea where it came from or how it got there. I also tried out using hack saw blades with different sized teeth. to recreate wood grain.

That’s it for now. I’d love to get feedback from y’all …

Anybody who lives in the town where Joe DiMaggio was born is A-OKAY in my book.

Good luck with the railroad and please keep us posted. Somebody will be happy to let you know right away if you do something wrong! Ha!

As an historical aside, one of the buildings I am modeling (shown below) is still standing, and for many years the corner store with the red, white and yellow sign was DiMaggio’s Fine Foods and Bakery. Legend has it that Joe owned the place and that Marilyn Monroe would hang out there, but what is probably closer to the truth is that it was run by Joe’s extended family and Marilyn was never there.

Welcome (back) to Garden Railroading. there are a bunch of Large Scalers in your area, along I680I worked on the new Martinez station many years ago, and very pleased with Amtrak ridership there. I use Tinkercad to design models to 3D print buildings, replacement parts, and things to make my modelling easier and more accurate.

Thanks, Dick. Funny, just the other day I came across my copy of the program booklet for WCRM 2014. Some amazing layouts in Sacramento Valley and I suspect we crossed paths then. I’ve been a member of BAGRS for a number of years and, yes, I am lucky to be surrounded by so many talented friends, not to mention vendors such as Garden Railroad Supply Co. and Just Trains.

Kudos on having worked on the new Amtrak facility. It’s a wonderful station. Hard to believe it’s now 16 years old.

As for modeling software, I have an Adobe Creative Cloud subscription, which gives me access to all of their products. I was hoping to be able to use it but, alas, Adobe has never really been much into CAD and the 3D tools for Photoshop and Illustrator weren’t a whole lot of help unless you purchase an expensive Illustrator plugin. So I looked at SketchUp, Blender, and Tinkercad, and pretty much ended up with the free version of SketchUp. I used to have educator access to the full version of SU and to Autodesk products, as well. If I were still working, I would still have those licenses, but, of course, I wouldn’t have the time to use them!

Hello Gregory from a fellow BAGR in the South Bay. I know two BAGRS guys in your neck o’ the woods who live across the freeway from one another - both of whom I hope to do business with soon.

Good luck on the Carquinez & Alhambra Valley Railroad. Use to commute back and forth over the Benicia bridge across the Carquinez Straits near the old moth ball fleet. There’s a lot of history there - Benicia was the Capitol of California at one time. Also clearly remember the Santa Fe diesels going over the Alhambra trestle in Martinez back in the 60’s and 70’s. Now the BNSF and Amtrak ride over it. Last time I saw it, the 100+ year old bridge was rusted and in badly need of maintenance. Hate to see that old trestle deteriorate and fall with one of those heavy trains going over it!

  • Mike

Welcome and ‘oh boy!’ quite ambitious me thinks!

I think you misread the Alhambra Water pic. I see a tall door just beyond the awning roof, where the barrels came out and you show box built into the deck. The back wall is flat all the way across. You can see the door frame parallels the left post and rises above roof line. The inner line is not a box corner, but the other door frame.

Took me a while to see it too.


John I think you are right, after looking several times, The part he thinks is a wall coming out from the main building is the shadow of the awning, not a wall its self, so the awning and the “porch” go all the way to where the barrells sit. looks like there will be a lot of nice buildings on this layout. Goood luck Gregory and welcome

Hmmm, see what I have gotten myself into? You guys may be right. Until recently, this was the only useful photo of the building that I had come across (it burned down in the 1920s or 30s). The reason I thought there was a small area jutting out from the main wall was the vertical line intersecting the handlebars of the bike and some of the other lines of the siding that looked like they were at an angle from the rest. I also assumed the darker areas next to the barrels was a door that was partially obscured by whatever it was that was jutting out from the wall (why I didn’t include the door I don’t recall):

Recently, however, I found a 1904 advertising pamphlet from Alhambra Water made electronically available from the Yale University library. It contained the following photo sans awning:

That would seem to confirm the lack of the area jutting out that I had, BUT, there are a couple other discrepancies between the two photos. Aside from the second sign above the building, there are six windows on the side of the building and seven in the other photo, and the window on the far left of the front is also missing.

I’m not sure what’s going on here or when the remodeling of the building took place. I had tried to contact the Martinez Historical Society director but didn’t get a response. Now, I’m really intrigued and will look deeper. Anyone else care to weigh in?


So here is an update on progress, and a question I could use everyone’s help on.

First, the update. Work is continuing on the train station. The exterior walls with doors and windows have been cut out of PVC foamboard and the freight depot scribed and primed with Tamiya grey Surface Primer. The freight deck and ramp has also been cut out.

I have also been experimenting with the Cricut die cutter on a few things. In the last month or so, there have been a couple articles in Garden Railways and one of the RR forums on creating strips of shingles. Here is my Cricut version. I created the vector pattern in Adobe Illustrator and then imported the resulting .svg file into Cricut’s software. The strips were printed on 1/32 basswood and are 1 inch by however long I need them. The one shown below . My main concern at this point is how well and how long the basswood will hold up outside. It will be UV-protected and all that, so we’ll see.

I have also tried, without as much luck, to cut .040 styrene strips. Both the basswood shingles and the styrene strips are not cut all the way through but scored and then have to be separated from the stock (hence the hanging chads in the shingle gaps). I cut several widths of the strips, from .250 down to .125 (or perhaps even smaller – I can’t remember). The machine was able to score the strips but the strips had a tendency to curl when I separated them out.

The first photo shows the way in which the multiple strips are assembled for printing/scoring, and the second photo has, I believe, .156 strips of .040, with a commercial product on top and my strip on the bottom.

And, just for kicks, here are a couple photos of the layout where everything will eventually go. The layout is in extremely rough form at this point. I threw some track up and I have set a few cars out for reference along with a couple of kits I have built. Eventually, the layout will expand out in three directions (four, if I can convince the wife that she doesn’t really need a back lawn but don’t hold your breath on that one).

Okay, here’s where I need some help. Here is the latest iteration of the SketchUp file. The colors are standard Southern Pacific colors for that era. The brownish band around the lower portion of the building is not the same as the trim that goes around the doors and windows, et al. but is supposed to be a “dark yellow.” I’m still working on figuring out exactly what “dark yellow” looks like, but what the railroad was mix the paint with sand to give it more texture and some greater protection from people, baggage carts, horse carriages, and the like.

My question is: what’s the best way to model the sandy texture? Because they sell prototype Southern Pacific colors, I will be using Tru-Color, which the manufacturer describes as an “acrylic solvent based” paint.

That’s all for now. Thanks!!!