The FCFL is a shelf layout in a finished basement, with reverse loops and staging yards hidden in adjacent unfinished rooms. The north/south leg of the L-shaped layout is approximately 25 feet long by 10 inches wide; the east/west leg is about 14 feet long and 16 inches wide.
Here is my amateurish sketch of the layout (yes I know there is software for this but I’m a pencil-and-paper guy mostly):
Here’s how the layout looks to an engineer:
(That’s Natalie MacMaster on the fiddle – buy her amazing music here!)
The FCFL’s eastern terminus is Milwaukee, WI. To the west, the railroad serves San Diego and Mexico. The layout represents the Four Corners Division, serving stations to the north and east at Durango, CO and Gallup, NM. Traffic from the Great Lakes and Midwest funnels through Durango, while a branch from Gallup serves New Mexico and Texas. To the south and west are Globe, AZ and Phoenix, where freight is mustered to and from Mexico and San Diego, respectively.
I intentionally limited industry in favor of longer mainline runs. I am adding operational interest by modeling several industries at Flagstaff, which is an addition in one of the staging areas.
Today we will follow train DSPP10, a through freight from Durango to Phoenix. At the point is FCFL 2012, an EMD SD70ACe, wearing 10th Anniversary livery. All three locos are Kato with TCS decoders.
Our train enters the layout via Tunnel 11 from Northeast Staging, then charges across the towering Benjamin-Henry Bridge over the river by the same name:
Just west of the river, the mainline reaches its highest point, about 58 inches above the floor. This is the western boundary of Many Lost Ways National Park:
After a trip through Tunnel 12, we begin our descent into Salvation Point, passing Midtown Construction Materials. This lumberyard produces a steady stream of loaded centerbeam flats:
As the grade levels out, we reach Salvation Point Yard. Here the Four Corners Division’s local trains are sorted and assembled, and locomotives receive service:
Salvation Point is not only an important location for the railroad, it is also a haven for vacationers bound for Many Lost Ways. Amtrak’s Badger State serves the station here, and travelers can walk from there to the famous Hotel Delsman. Historic steam pulls a daily train to the remote trailheads of the park.
Our train disappears behind Hotel Delsman and begins a hidden descent into the Benjamin-Henry Canyon:
Exiting Tunnel 14, the mainline passes an abandoned logging road that has become a favorite trailhead for hikers:
The exit of Tunnel 15 reminds crews that they are heading into rugged country:
After passing through Tunnel 16, we find Red Earth Co-op. Farmers in this remote region take a harrowing route to deliver their grain. The Co-op generates plenty of covered hopper traffic:
The trestle at Bunny’s Wash is a favorite destination for hikers and railfans:
Arriving at Herbst Junction, we meet Four Corners 1986, a USRA Light Mikado (Kato) pulling the daily tourist shuttle between Salvation Point and Many Lost Ways. Herbst Junction is the jumping off point for backcountry adventure, but is usually the farthest point vehicle-based visitors are willing to go. The Navajo turqoise jewelry stand does a brisk business here:
Herbst Junction is where trains from Globe join the mainline to Salvation Point. A branchline to Flagstaff also ties in here, which utilizes the longest and deepest tunnel on the railroad. It requires a headhouse for ventilation:
After Herbst Junction, we once again cross the river. It is the height of summer, and the Benjamin-Henry River is a hotbed of recreation:
At last we reach Tunnel 16, where our train enters Southwest Staging. The crew will hand the train over to the West Coast Division at Phoenix, which will deliver our freight to points west, including San Diego: