San Luis Bay – Nn3 modelling from Hawaii




18th April 2020

Reading Time

2 minutes

On a MUCH smaller scale (Nn3) I have been binge-building here in Hawaii. Or, rather “re-building” a diorama built on a 6’8” x 2’-8” door in the late 1980’s by the late Ken Westcott and architect Andrew Merriam for the San Luis Obispo Historical Museum. It was a static diorama of the 1890’s wharf in San Luis Bay as it appeared in the 1920’s. As the last custodian of this diorama – The San Luis Obispo Railroad Museum ( ) – now has a well-done HO scale version of this scene, they gave this diorama to me a couple of years ago. This diorama will be the anchor section of a sectional layout I am building in the spare bedroom of our new home here in Paradise.

The wharf was served by the narrow-gauge Pacific Coast Railway, and Ken and Andrew used Nelson Gray Nn3 rolling stock and a white-metal static locomotive from Gold Rush models for equipment, and strip styrene for the rails. The backscene was a well-done painting of the cliffs behind the harbor. I removed the backscene when I shipped the diorama to Hawaii in December, and will create a new 3D representation of the cliffs so I can include a model of the lighthouse I built in the 1970’s on the top of the cliff.

Since we have been staying home under island-wide stay-at-home orders, I have re-laid all the track with Code 40 rail spiked down to the wood decking. (with some “staged” Nn3 equipment for now in the photo).  I built the turnouts using Fast Tracks jigs. The switch machines will be Czech-made MTB switch machines purchased from Model Railroad Control Systems ( I have only installed and tested the operation of one of these on the wharf so far in developing a way to throw the points from below the water line. Now that I have worked that out, I have seven more to install, then the controls recessed into the edge of the door (which will eventually be painted black.).

Tom K


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