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Thursday, December 28, 2006

Up To Standards!

Merry Christmas all! I hope Santa was good to you. I must have been a good boy because that jolly ol’ elf brought me some of these automobile models by Ricko Ricko. These 1/87th “accurate scale model for adult collector” are superb! I am just thrilled by these. They are finely crafted and detailed and are definitely up to my railroads standards. The one pictured above is the 1935 “Horsh 851 Pullman”. And the $15.98 price tag is worth it to me especially since they are ready to go right out of the box. No assembly required (It’s a Christmas miracle)! These autos sharing the road with the streetcars are going to make for some wonderful traffic. Yessir, wonderful traffic!

Saturday, December 23, 2006


Here is a scene I would like to try to duplicate on the layout. It’s a historic photo of San Diego Electric #1 in front of the Backesto Block building on the opening day of the SDERy. The Backesto building still exists today and has been beautifully restored! So I’ll be able to take some measurements for the construction of the model. San Diego Electric #1 on the other hand....

Historical reenactment of this scene on the layout seems perfectly feasible to me. It could be built on the corner of 1890s and 1900s street. Notice how the trolley is rounding the corner instead of passing straight through the intersection, so that’s another plus. The stumbling block is the trolley itself. I would have to build that myself. But if I ever succeed at recreating this scene, oh what a happy day that will be, yessir, oh what a happy day!

Saturday, December 09, 2006

Simulating Girder Rail.

The prototype street railways use what’s known as girder rail to create the flangeway through the pavement. Here are cross section illustrations of standard “T” rail on the left, and girder rail on the right.

My plan is to simulate girder rail simply by laying two rails side-by-side to create the flangeways.

Thursday, November 30, 2006

Get Smart

Girder rail, tight curves and sharp turnouts are typical with city trackage but not at all with commercially available model track. So it looks like I’m going to have to learn how to handlay all this myself. Fortunately for me, my local hobbyshop offered classes on hand laying track and turnouts for 5 bucks, so I jumped at the chance! Here is my graduation project.

Saturday, November 18, 2006

A Slice of Life

Big announcement: I don’t know what I’m doing! I’ve never built anything like this before. Do I build the streets first and then the sidewalks? Or vice versa? How do I create the flangeways in the pavement? Not to mention the nagging questions of whether the streets and sidewalks are wide enough. What’s a fellah to do?

So I built this little test piece. Took a scrap piece of wood, laid some rail, paved in the streets and sidewalks, experimented with sidewalk and concrete colors. Added a wooden pole with some piano wire for overhead then added city details (streetlamp and phone booth.). Cool.

This has been a helpful little exercise. Yessir, a helpful little exercise!

Friday, November 10, 2006

The Future Site of San Dollar, Ca.

That’s what I’m calling the city, San Dollar. Not quite San Diego, but close enough.

Well, I procured a piece of 3/8” real-estate. Cut it to 4’ x 4’, then drew the track plan, streets and sidewalks.

Now I’m getting an idea how big everything looks. I’m concerned that the remaining real estate for the buildings isn’t enough. The streets seem to be too narrow to accommodate automobile traffic as well. But if I widen the streets, the building real estate shrinks, and enlarging the real estate causes the streets to narrow! So, I’m trying to find the right balance. Further experimentation is required... Yessir, further experimintation!

Monday, October 23, 2006


The Grand Poobah of model railroading, John Allen, built a 4 x 6 H.O. layout that eventually became the centerpiece of a basement empire. I have designed this layout so it too could be incorporated into a large layout. Problem is, I haven’t decided on the era as of yet. So I hit upon the idea that each street could represent a different decade. Then when the empire is designed, this little layout could be modified where needed to fit in.
In the meantime, It will be kind of fun to have each street a different era, showcasing the style and architecture of that decade. With 6 streets, the entire reign of the trolley can be represented (1890s to the 1940s) and the trolleys acting like little time machines, entering different decades with each corner they turn, you know, like a Hollywood backlot. Yessir, A Hollywood backlot!

Tuesday, October 03, 2006

Artist Concept Illustration

This illustration more accurately reflects the final design (The width of the streets and real estate). Recognize San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter buildings? I’m pretty excited about this, it looks like it was lifted right out of a city!

Monday, September 25, 2006

Layout at a Glance and Concept Sketch

This is a concept sketch that I did to get an idea how the trolley layout would look. I wasn’t sure if it would look good because it has such an unusual track plan. I think it looks pretty cool, so I’ve proceeded with the final design.

Here are the stats for the trolley layout:

Layout at a glance:

Scale: H.O. (1:87.1)
Size: 4’-6” x 4’-6”
Theme: freelance, based on the San Diego Electric Ry.
Period: 1890s, 1900s, 1910s, 1920s, 1930s, 1940s.
Locale: freelance, San Diego’s Gaslamp Quarter.
Layout style: Tabletop.
Layout height:52”.
Benchwork: Grid.
Roadbed: Plywood.
Track: Handlaid code 80.
Minimum radius: 7”.
Maximum grade: none (level).
Scenery: Hydrocal (streets and sidewalks).
Control: Automated!

Saturday, September 23, 2006

Greetings Citizens!
Who in the world is Dan D Sparks you ask? Why... that would be me! Railroad Barron, Trolley Magnate, Transportation Tycoon, Stock market Mogul, and all around Spiffy Guy!

Currently I have two empires under construction and one in the planning stages. The first is a trolley empire. Though currently it covers only four square city blocks, it is designed to really move the populace quickly and efficiently. And it is easily expandable in any direction on the compass. Exciting expansions are now being developed by my shrewd planning dept.

The second empire is a transcontinental affair. Not only will it connect the East with the West, like that Central Pacific/Union Pacific ordeal, but also the North with the South, further developing and uniting this grand country of ours. No real estate has been procured yet, but engineers are out surveying possible routes, and equipment is being stockpiled so that when the construction begins, it will proceed with earnest!

The third empire exists only on paper as all my time and resources are consumed by the first two projects. Only when they reach fruition will construction begin on the third. But none the less, it will prove to be as exciting as the first two, if not more!

So stay tuned! As I will post the progress of these empires here and hopefully it’ll be a heck of a ride! Yessir, A heck of a ride!