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The Soda Creek Railroad is a winding and steep 5¾ miles of track from Soda Flats in the valley to Soda Springs up the mountains. The main reason for its existence is to serve the summer tourist traffic, that travel to enjoy the hot mineral springs found around the area of Soda Springs.


The number of tourists has fallen off over the years, and the company now only runs a bi-weekly railcar service between the two towns. To try and boast patronage on the railroad, the company has been advertising the many scenic wonders along the line. As an added attraction during the journey, the company makes scheduled stops at various scenic spots along the line, one of which is the beautiful Soda Creek Falls, from which the railroad derives it’s name. This promotion has increased the number of visitors using the line, and has enabled the company to refurbish and re-paint their railcar. It certainly looks grand in the companies’ corporate colors of deep purple and white. Maybe if the companies’ prospects keep on the up, they may be able to afford the badly needed over-haul of their only diesel - it's in bad need of a new paint job. I wonder how it would look in the company colors?  



A friend of mine, Ken Hughes, who built an ultra-small ‘On30’ layout inside an old TV cabinet, inspired the ‘Soda Creek Railroad’. Ken had used one length of ‘Ho’ flexible track, bent around into a circle to form the entire mainline – that’s 900 mm long! The diameter works out to be about 140 mm.


The 'SDR' has been built to ‘On30’, that’s ¼” to the foot scale and a track gauge of 16.5 mm, which is close enough to 2’6” wide. This has enabled both Ken and myself to use old ‘Ho’ wheels and couplers. The layout is 1’3” by 1’3”, which is a foot print of 1½ square feet. It features a continuous mainline run with two trains running, a trestle bridge, four large trees and a tunnel. The layout depicts the stop where passengers can alight, stretch their legs and view the beautiful Soda Creek Falls. This creek is where the railroad gets its name. 




There were two problems to solve with this layout. First – how to keep the locomotives running slow enough that they would not de-rail on the tight curve, as well as travel at the same speed so as not to catch each other. And secondly, how to get the trains around such a tight curve.


To answer the first problem. Remember the old clocks that had figures, which come out of one door and move across the clock to disappear into another door? They must run by the one motor somewhere inside the clock. This is what happens on the layout. A single 12 volt, 2 RPM ‘Switchmaster™’ motor is located at the centre of the circle of track, hidden inside the scenery. It has two brass wire arms that, through several bends, are inserted into holes in the sides of each locomotive chassis. Thus, as the motor turns, the two locomotives run around the track, taking 30 seconds to complete the circuit.         


The second problem was easier to solve. Each locomotive and the sole piece of rolling stock could have a custom built brass  chassis, with the axles set on an angle that points at the centre point of the radius  (see photo). The wheel sets are from some old ROCO™ wagons, and have very large flanges, which help keep the trains on the rails.  The brass tube between the wheel sets is where the brass wire from the motor and operating arm slides into.


The railcar started it's life as a $3.00 plastic toy tram. It sat on my "IT MUST BE HANDY FOR SOMETHING" shelf for years. I removed the plastic wheels and fitted the custom built brass under-frame seen opposite. The front of another cheap truck from a toy shop was cut and added to the front of the tram. A complete spray paint. glazing, figures, other details and dry transfer lettering transformed the toy into a decent model.       

The railroads second piece of motive power, a small deisel, came second hand from the "Big Sky Lumber Company", and has the same under frame as the railcar above.

The railroad is also the proud owner of an ore car and a caboose,seen below, both re-painted plastic toys made by 'Gnomy®', who also made the tram. Both have the custom built brass under-frames. 

Just think, an ‘O’ scale layout with a continuous run, with two trains running without one catching the other (and no DDC involved), no track or locomotive wheels to clean, and no wiring problems – train watchers heaven!

Aside from everything else, these type of micro-layouts are a good way to try out new methods, such as scenery or scratch building techniques.