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Home / How To / Large Scale Layouts / Freelance Colorado narrow-gauge branch line

Freelance Colorado narrow-gauge branch line

By Bruce Longwell | November 13, 2022

This 1:24 scale railway is compact and has a gorgeous garden

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Freelance Colorado narrow-gauge branch line: model steam train approaches buildings

Freelance Colorado narrow-gauge branch line

The railway at a glance

Name: Miller Creek & Moss Rock Railway

Size of railroad: 30′ x 40′, approximately

Scale: 1:24

Gauge: 45mm (no. 1)

Era: Pre-WWII

Theme: Freelance Colorado narrow-gauge branch line

Age: 6 years

Motive power: NiMH-battery-operated Delton Consolidation

Length of mainline: 130′, (approximately)

Maximum gradient: 3.5%

Type of track: Micro Engineering, code 250 nickel-silver rail strung on ME ties, BK #4 turnouts on cedar ties

Minimum radius: 4 1/2′

Structures: All scratchbuilt

Control system: RCS remote control, Soundtraxx Sierra sound

 

garden railway scene with steam engine

The author blended two distinct qualities in his Moss Rock Depot. The architecture is similar to the Rio Grande Southern’s, but with cut red sandstone, which resembles the Denver & Rio Grande Western depot at Glenwood Springs, Colorado. This mature garden displays varying levels of growth, from lichen on the rocks and fully covered ground to trees with stout trunks. Photo by Bruce Longwell

garden railway scene with steam engine
model steam engine on bridge in garden railway

Peggy Sue approaches bridge No. 2 in Miller Creek Canyon. The old mill and water wheel are in the foreground. The handcrafted brass water wheel turned freely under water power for three years. This year, however, it groaned, in need of a tune-up. Lower left, the yellow, five-petaled flowers amid the five-leaflet leaves are creeping cinquefoil. Photo by Bruce Longwell

 

model steam engine on bridge in garden railway
 close up of model steam engine on track

Engine No. 39 is a battery-powered Delton C-16 Consolidation with SoundTraxx Sierra sound. The NiMH batteries, installed by Battery Back-Shop [this company is since gone out of business —Ed.], will pull a short freight around the line for up to two hours before recharging. Photo by Bruce Longwell

 close up of model steam engine on track
ariel view of small garden railwayv

An overview of the MC&MRRy. The line takes up approximately one third of the author’s relatively small backyard. Because of this, extra attention was put into plantings and rock lines so the finished product would enhance the overall landscape and not overpower it. Repetition of groundcover and boulders into the full-scale section ties the yard together, while the pond (upper right) is shared as a natural transition. Photo by Bruce Longwell

ariel view of small garden railwayv
model steam engine on track near cribbing

The Highline, just past Miller Creek. The author built the cribbing using Gorilla Glue to affix the logs and rubble to a piece of plywood that was heavily soaked in a water-based preservative. This enabled the glue to bond where an oil-based product would not have worked. Thyme flowers have been pruned to prevent obscuring the artistic structure. Photo by Bruce Longwell

model steam engine on track near cribbing
 model train in garden railway scene

Bridge No. 3 is an eight-foot curved trestle on the upper loop. Falling stones (left) call attention to the base of the structure while flowers (right) blend it into the hillside. Photo by Bruce Longwell

 model train in garden railway scene
close up of model buildings with steam train in the distance
Main Street in Moss Rock, Colorado. All structures were scratchbuilt by the author. Correct plant choice and elevation give us the Rocky Mountain-town feel. Photo by Bruce Longwell
close up of model buildings with steam train in the distance
Freelance Colorado narrow-gauge branch line: model steam train approaches buildings

The little freight building was the last structure built for the MC&MRRy. The author finished this just before RailFest 2006 in order to conceal two garden spotlights that shine out the back of the building onto the depot and water tower. Bringing nightlights to the railroad for evening viewing was a last-minute idea that turned out quite well. Elfin thyme, one of the handiest micro groundcovers, must still be clipped, as shown (lower left), to prevent its climbing up walls, track and cribbing. Photo by Bruce Longwell

Freelance Colorado narrow-gauge branch line: model steam train approaches buildings
Model train next to mine on garden railway

The mine complex is one of only two structures that age naturally with each Colorado winter—the other is the old mill. All other buildings are kept in the garage most of the time, but can be set up in a matter of minutes. The theme of aging is mirrored in nature by the weathered wood of a bygone bush to the right of the mill. Photo by Bruce Longwell

Model train next to mine on garden railway

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