ABOUT the layout.
Two of MRL SD45s and an SD40x provide the brute force to haul a heavy coal drag up the east slope. Three more big 45s, are cut in 30 cars back and another trio lean into the last car to get the train up to Blossburg. The pushers are not as lucky as this freshly painted head end power; The pushers wear a thick coating of grime from repeated shoves through the smokey Mullan Tunnel. The train has just taken the siding for a meet at Austin.

We are modelling the line west out of Helena all the way to Missoula, in N-scale. This layout is intended to be a realistic depiction of the scenery and operations of a specific railroad in mid-summer of 1995. This was the peak of mixed-paint MRL engines, and the 1st Blue paint scheme, right before the BNSF merger. (No "Lions head" logo yet, not that I don't like it.) So lots of trains might have SP, CNW, Suzy-Q, or even Family Lines units in among the MRL blue units. It also pre-dates the BNSF merger so there are lots of "Cascade Green" engines, LMXs, cabless booster GEs, the Oakways, and it was the first summer of the new SD70MAC units on coal drags. Also the operations over the line were busy at the time.

Here we see a pair of GEs on a short empty coal drag, slogging up the west slope from Elliston MT. This part of the line follows a stream up the valley to the continental divide, through rolling hills. (Actually the above 2 photos were taken on Mark Bridgwater's Feather River Route layout. He let me run my trains around. What a nice guy. Looks like Montana though!)

The highlight of the layout will of course be the mainline, westward grade up Mullan Pass, complete with all of the scenic highlights in operational order, and although scaled down, the "selective compression" of the scenes is to be minimal, so the operations will feel realistically similar to running the real grade. The multi-deck layout will occupy a 20 x 30' room and staging yards will be in another 8' x 15' room. Operators will run trains from their proper crew change at either Helena or Missoula to the other end, having never had to see the staging yards themselves. Total layout area is 720 sq. feet.

The 3rd sub runs between Helena and Missoula MT.

We will model the following:

Coming out of staging (From under Interstate 15 we see the west end of Helena Yards, Helena Junction up through Tobin to Birdseye then the tracks disapear for a bit.

We pick up again at East Austin coming out of the narrows and continue up through Austin and the Iron Ridge to Weed. Continuing up to Greenhorn trestle we follow the line through Skyline siding and trestle and up the ridge to the tunnel. Coming back into view again at Blossburg, out of the Tunnel, (now on the upper deck) we run down into the meadows west of the summit siding. Appearing again, coming out of the lower canyon we follow through Elliston. We skip Avon, ("The siding is out of service for a tie gang!" but a bit of the scene at Avon will be modelled in the staging room for the enjoyment of the staging operator, watching the passing trains on the hidden section between Elliston and Garrison.). Picking up again from the at Garrison, we follow through the yard and junction with the line to Butte, and continue to the tunnel west of Garrison. (The line to Butte is not modelled but there is interchange and staging for the line.) We skip Phosphate and Jens ("Another track gang has that siding out of service too.") and come in at Drummond, We pick up again in the canyon at Bearmouth with the split siding there, then we skip down to the siding and tunnels at Nimrod. Skipping Clinton ("Signalling department is replacing a relay for that siding",) we pick up at the siding and spur to the lumbermills at Drummond, then skip to the tracks coming out of the canyon from East Missoula and follow in to the east end of the yards and the crew change at Missoula just west of the classic station. The switch at the end of the double track at East Missoula will not be modelled. The double track can be used as the yard drill track. Mainline crossovers at the station / crew change point will act as the start of the single track to Bonner. Tracks drop out of sight into staging by passing under the pedestrian bridge near the station.
The trackplans are now posted. The pages are very LARGE. The best screen size for viewing is 1024 x 768 pixels.


The design is for an around the walls / penninsula style, so the operators walk around with their trains and have minimal sight of the rest of the layout. The decks will be connected with the main grade between Tobin and Blossburg, which means that trains will run with helpers just like the real railroad! Mileage and locations skipped between scenes will be accomplished with sections of hidden trackage intentionally added to increase time run between modelled portions of the line.

Layout control is DCC with the NCE system installed. There will be radio control as well as tethered throttles. Trackwork is being done with Atlas code 55 track and switches as well as some Peco where needed. Eventually we will have signalling as well, but for starters the 3rd sub will be run with track warrants. Construction update PHOTOS to come soon!

Scenery is being modelled based off of a large inventory of reference photos for specific locations, that will be kept in files under the benchwork AT those locations on the layout. (Thanks to Mark B. for that great idea) We have tons of videos and photos from the 1995 summer to base the models on too.

One of the great things about railfanning the MRL through the 90's was the plethora of "fallen flag" paint jobs from the railroads that MRL got thier power from. Here we see an ex- Susquehanna SD45 and two MRL units decending the grade at Tobin. Favorites among the railfans might be the fleet of ex-Southern Pacific SD45s.
The SP units included the 'bloody nose" gray units, that were all patched over and filthy, as well as the patched over but more colorful "Kodachrome", failed merger units. Here we see one of each, on a dingy day that matches the gray paint of the lead unit. The eastbound mixed freight is the Garrison Turn on its way back to Helena after a day of switching.
Although this picture is actually on Bozeman Pass, at Muir, the scenery is like Mullan Pass in many ways. This is a 5 unit helper set returning to the bottom of the grade for another shove. The SD-45-2 is accompanied by several classic SD45 and SD40x models. They had pushed a heavy grain train west from Livingston. 1997
MORE pictures to come soon.
PLEASE feel free to get in touch to head out trackside or to come visit for train night.
Legal Mumbo Jumbo...

This site is NOT part of the official MONTANA RAIL LINK railroad, or associated with the company or its sites. Montana Rail Link takes no responsibility for the contents or maintenance of this or any other fan sites.

This site is posted for entertainment and informational purposes only and makes no claims or offers to anyone, nor can the persons responsible for this or any other site be held accountable in any way for any actions legal or otherwise, regarding this site, the Montana Rail Link railroad, the BNSF railroad or any properties trackside or otherwise, or any activities or occurences that may happen in regards to the railroads or this site or any of the events associated with this club or site. In other words, be careful in life, and take responsibility for YOUR OWN actions. We are here to have fun, not babysit you.

The THIRD SUB CLUB and this site are maintained by IRON HORSE AMERICA - Video / Media, a producer of the finest railroad subject video programs available. IHA has several Montana programs in the works including a few on MRL and the Mullan Pass route. NO actions legal or otherwise can be brought fourth against or in regards to any activities of Iron Horse America, in any way, in regards to this site, the railroads, or any associated properties of the railroads or bordering the railroad properties.

Copyright all materials within: Iron Horse America - Video / Media. 1993-2007

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UPPER Deck Trackplan.