As seen in the May/June 2005 Gazette!

The line that never was... built in our imagination. For the story of the real line see Lennart Elg's great web page about the YSL's history courtesy of the Pacific Narrow gauge site. Another page on the same site by Mark Stevens Francis also is very good.


Our group first started talking about building an On30 layout for showing at the 2004 National Narrow Gauge Convention in December, 2002. We settled on modeling a generic 30” gauge railroad, based on the several 30” gauge railroads in California. Most of the sections are inspired by the Yosemite Short Line. This line was started in 1905 but work stopped in the spring of 1906, immediately following the San Francisco earthquake and fire. The line was never finished, service never started and the 8 miles of completed track was removed by 1915.

It's more of a great line to freelance than to build as a prototype. Our version is based on the absence of the San Francisco earthquake, which means the financing was not lost and that the real line went on for 30-40 years until they stopped logging in Yosemite and all weather roads were built. This didn't happen until the 40s!

Most of our YSL equipment is based on the shorty cars that were originally proposed with additional cars based on extra traffic for the mines and other extra businesses that we added.

The YSL was organized to tap into the lucrative Yosemite tourist trade, the several mines located south of the Sierra Railway in Tuolumne County and the rich timberlands near Crane Flat (owned at the time by the General Manager of the Sierra). A lumber mill was planed for Buck Meadows, near Groveland. When work was stopped, the line had 2 small Porters with two additional Porters on order. All of these were transferred to the Empire City Rwy, a 30” gauge railroad higher in the Sierra in Tuolumne County and owned by the Standard Lumber Co. At the time the same men controlled both the Sierra and Standard. Standard added a 5th Porter and purchased two used 3’ gauge Shays, which they re-gauged to 30”. The YSL also had 30” gauge flat cars and both passenger and general freight cars on the drawing board. One flat car remains today and is now at Railtown 1897 SHP in Jamestown. This car had worked on the Empire City Rwy. with the Porters following the closure of the YSL. When the Empire City Railway ceased operation in 1913, the 30’ gauge equipment then found its way to several other locations: These included the Molino Timber Company in the Loma Prieta area of Santa Cruz, the Johnson & Pollock Lumber Company in Siskiyou County north of Mt. Shasta and the Sloat Lumber Company in the Feather River area of Plumas County.

Our layout was designed to be sectional but not modular – every section is needed to operate the layout and sections only mate one way. It goes from about 49" to 65" above the floor and has curves and bridges crossing section edges and other shady things not normally allowed for modular interfaces. A modular group could do this as well but it would take some serious planning and would be less flexible than normal modules. The basic framework was designed by member Jim Long and is made mostly of door skins and blue insulation foam. Our standard was the Bachmann 2-6-0 had to be able to operate everywhere on the mainline that loops the layout and on the branch line that extends to the logging area. Since we are not modular it was not felt necessary to have other standards. Sizes of the sections are all 24” deep but vary in length from 44” to 72” and group members have either one or two sections. The various lengths were set by members ability to store and transport their sections. Each member selected a theme for their section(s) and a track plan was developed. Track is Micro Engineering set on California Roadbed Co. “Homabed” and turnouts are by Railway Engineering. Basic work on the sections was done as a group but structures and most scenery are the work of individual owners. We attempted to unify the look of the layout by trying to do all track and scenery at the joints between two sections while they were connected together. The group regularly met to join parts of the layout and work on common projects (wiring, lighting, track work, fascia, scenery). Group member Dave Biondi painted all the backdrops.