Robert "Flash" Blackman's
San Antonio & Pacific Railroad (N Scale)
The SAP N scale layout construction began in 1998 and is about 80 percent complete. It is in a relatively controlled environment in my basement and has 226 turnouts and 1200 feet (370 meters) of track. It represents a model of the Southern Pacific in San Antonio around 1970-1985 and is simply a large industrial switching layout. When trains leave staging, they immediately enter Kirby or Westside (San Antonio) and travel to East Yard to be sorted. East Yard is the focal point of the layout for switching and sorting cars for later delivery to the various industries in San Antonio. After switching duties are complete, trains are made up for a return to Houston or El Paso staging.
The “Ship It!” computer program generates switchlists for switching operations on the layout. There are about 425 cars on the layout and 330 cars are moved each operating session. The East Yard (patterned after the San Antonio East Yard) is a functioning classification yard utilizing flat switching. Trains are run sequentially as extras because this allows me to operate the layout alone and to stop at any time without losing continuity of the operation. (Realistically, I never complete one operating session in a single sitting.) The dual track main line can run continuously traversing the downtown San Antonio area. I have no passenger trains or point-to-point operations.
I use a DC, cab control power system with Aristo-Craft throttles. Turnouts are manual and uncoupling is done using hand picks. I try to operate the layout weekly so that the track needs less cleaning; so far, this has worked well. Layout benchwork is patterned after Ntrak modules and is very light. I had designed the layout to be moved, but this would be very difficult to do.
I also designed the layout to have no duck unders. In lieu of this, I built a bridge that swings open to let the operators into the interior of the layout. This design was patterned after an article in Model Railroader and it works very well for me. The bridge is adjustable and needs minor adjustments every few months because of weather changes.
Scenery construction is proceeding and it should be complete in about two more generations as I find that when I start operating the layout, my other construction projects fall behind. I have tried to model specific scenes of the Southern Pacific in San Antonio in the period of 1970-1985. Some areas are fictitious, some are newer and some are older, but most are real San Antonio locations. Selected portions of the area have been left out or compressed because of space constraints, but I tried to make scenes that are recognizable to visitors.
The staging yards are in the back of the layout. They serve as dual staging in that they represent both Houston and El Paso. There is one way in and one way out so that when you enter staging, you can pick any track. This concept of a dual location was necessitated by reduced space for staging. Orphie Neathery helped me design the specifics of this part of the layout. Cadrail was used to draw the layout plan; no part of the layout has hidden tracks.
Orphie Neathery also built the numerous paper buildings on the layout. These have served me very well while I continue to scratch build the numerous buildings required for this effort. All of the buildings have been researched and represent specific buildings in the San Antonio area.