Rio Grande Southern (Oregon) – Garden Railway


Here is my future garden railway. It will be somewhat loosely based on the Rio Grande Southern line, built by Otto Mears. The section depicted will be from Vance Junction (at the top) to Lizard Head Pass (at the bottom). The top of the map is at our carport, and the bottom is the upper patio. I may have to adjust grades somewhat to get the correct elevation. The plan assumes 9-10 feet of rise from Vance Junction to Lizard Head Pass, which requires 3 to 3.5% grades. (In railroad terminology, a 1% grade rises 1 foot for 100 lineal feet of track.)

The railroad will have about 600 feet of track when complete, which is about 2 1/2 scale miles – rather long for a model railroad. At a scale speed of 25 m.p.h. it will take about six minutes to go from one end to the other.

RGS-Phase-1The light hatch are visitor-friendly pathways leading into the interior. The darker hatch indicates retaining walls. My goal is to have the path about 2-3 feet below the lowest track, so you don’t have to get on your knees to see the details. This will allow access for maintenance and for visitors to go into the railroad to see the details.

To make the project manageable, construction will be done in 3 phases. Phase 1 will be the storage unit, Vance Junction and Ames. This is the lowest level of the railroad. Phase 1 has 2 bridges of the many that will be in the finished railway.


RGS-Phase-2 Phase 2 will change the Ames section from a return loop to a siding leading to the famed Ophir Loop. This section of the RGS ran a mile up a canyon along Yellow Mountain, looped 180 degrees and returned along the same slope of the Yellow Mountain, at a much higher elevation. These two tracks were called the Low Line and the High Line, respectively. This plan will have a 4′ vertical separation between the beginning of the Butterfly trestle and the Bridge 46-E, the last bridge (modeled) on the High Line.

The High Line ran along the top of a rocky formation called the Ophir Needles, using cuts and bridges to make this passage. This phase will add five new bridges. The RGS had even more than that along the High Line!

RGS-Phase-3Phase 3 completes the railway, changing the return loop at Matterhorn into a siding, and extending the line to the top level at Lizard Head Pass. The small yard there is alongside our patio, at the south end.

There is only one additional bridge in this phase. Bridge 51A at Trout Lake is the only bridge from the RGS that is still standing. There is also a water tower there, which will eventually be modeled.

Here is the output from my designer showing the track, bridges and components in the final railway:

Track: 74.9 ft.
#6 Left: 2
#6 Right: 1
Track: 49.5 ft.
#5 Left: 2
Track: 153.2 ft.
Bridge 43A: 6.0 ft.
Butterfly: 13.6 ft.
TOTAL: 19.6 ft.
#6 Left: 3
Track: 17.8 ft.
Track: 154.9 ft.
Bridge 45A: 7.1 ft.
Bridge 45B: 3.7 ft.
Bridge 46B: 3.0 ft.
Bridge 46C: 5.0 ft.
Bridge 46D: 10.0 ft.
Bridge 46E: 3.7 ft.
TOTAL: 32.4 ft.
#6 Right: 2
8’/6′ Right: 1
Track: 89.9 ft.
Bridge 51A: 5.8 ft.
TOTAL: 5.8 ft.
#6 Left: 2
Lizard Head:
Track: 105.2 ft.
#3 Wye: 1
#6 Left: 2
#6 Right: 1

TOTAL: 645.4 ft.

Storage Unit

I will have a storage unit located at the back of the carport, so trains can be run directly out of or into storage. There will be power there, so the locomotive batteries can be recharged. The projection at the right is to be a fold-up 6-foot workbench. The whole unit will have two roll-up steel doors to lock it up tight.

Storage-Frame  Storage unit framing

Storage-Sheathed  Storage unit exterior

Storage-Interior  Storage unit interior

I have been playing with Trimble SketchUp 3D modeling software. This helps a lot to get a feel for what a planned construction will look like before cutting wood and building it. (I can also use it to build models to be 3D “printed” by Shapeways.) Here is an example of one of the bridges on the plan, bridge 46-C in the Ophir Loop.

Bridge 46-C-sm  Bridge 46-C