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Robert Bowdidge

Southern Pacific Vasona Branch, HO

Robert's SP Vasona Branch layout is being offered as part of a "Two-Fer" with Jim Dias' Western Pacific on Friday. These are small (4 operators) layouts about 20 minutes apart. Jim and Robert will host 2-3 hour op sessions at each layout. Given that these layouts are both gems, we expect all slots to be sold out in the first round, so do not be surprised if you don't draw this package.

Robert will also be open as a 4 hour stand-alone session on Sunday. He is close to SJC, if you need to catch an early evening flight!

The Vasona Branch layout models the Santa Clara Valley - now Silicon Valley - in the early 1930's. "I aim to reproduce actual track arrangements, buildings, and scenes along the prototype San Jose - Los Gatos - Santa Cruz branch. I've used Sanborn fire insurance maps, railroad valuation maps, and historic photos to recreate lineside buildings and scenes, and researched the local fruit industry to help me understand the operation of the industries and likely traffic."

The layout is a two-deck 10' by 14' HO layout in half of a two car garage, arranged as a point-to-point layout with staging yards on each end. Track is complete, most rough scenery is in, and some finished scenery is done. Operations is heavily skewed towards switching, with two-man local switch jobs handling the canneries, packing houses, and other industries along the line. Occasional commute trains keep the crews watching the 2-1 fast clock. Some trains also make the scenic run over the hill to Santa Cruz.

Layout control is via EasyDCC wired throttles. Motive power are the small steam engines seen on the actual branch. Most locomotives are sound-equipped, and crews are encouraged to use the whistle and bell prototypically. Much of the layout runs in "yard limits", but automatic block signals and informal timetable and train order dispatching controls the track over the hill as on the prototype. Switching is done from computer-generated switch lists.

The Vasona branch runs a 4 hour session; 4 operators are needed for the two crews.

More information on the layout can be found at: and in my blog on the historic research and modelbuilding progress at

Schedule Notes: The SP Vasona Branch will be the last session ending about 4:00 PM. The SP Vasona Branch is about 8 miles from San Jose International Airport.

If you love the Santa Cruz Mountains and the former South Pacific Coast, also check out Jim Providenza's Santa Cruz Northern.

Modified 3/02/2024