PC&N Standards


The Pacific Coast and Northern will be a perimeter layout that snakes around three separate areas in my man cave,  It is designed primarily as a point-to-point layout.  However, continuous running will be available in the upper level section via a bridge (Russian River Bridge) that spans a doorway.

The PC&N is an HOn3 layout.  That means structures and rolling stock are HO scale but the track is narrow gauge, rails are 36″ apart.  The gauge mirrors the North Pacific Coast prototype had rails 36″ apart.  This gauge and scale were chosen for the following reasons.

  • This is a freelance railroad and deviations from prototypes can be more easily justified.  Space constraints and a certain amount of invented history cause this to be a freelance railroad.
  • Availability of engines and rolling stock in HOn3 is very limited except in brass, which is very expensive.  By necessity I will need to run some engines that never ran on the prototype.
  • HOn3 track is about 2/3 the width of HO.  Because the scale is HO, there is a wide assortment of structures,

The exception is the mining area which will also be HOn3.  The mining district was actually 2′ narrow gauge.

Running two gauges also raises the issue of providing facilities for loads to be transferred from rolling stock with one wheel gauge to another.  Keep in mind that there is already an interchange issue with 3′ narrow gauge to standard gauge in San Francisco. But because I’m not modeling San Francisco, and I’m converting the Magnesite spur to 3′, I won’t need to deal with the interchange issue.

The layout will be built on two levels although the levels will be 18″ apart.  The two levels will be connected with a helix.


The base benchwork will be 24″ deep and standard counter height, roughly 30″.  The second level will be a shelf layout, at roughly the 42″ level.  It will be 16″ wide.  The layout is designed to be point-to-point running from Sausalito to Cazadero.   There will be a significant number of bridges and trestles spanning ravines and rivers,

Track and Turnouts

Narrow gauge track tended to have wider spacing between ties and longer ties than standard gauge.  After investigating alternatives, I’ve initially decided to go with a combination of Micro Engineering and Shinohara Code 70 track.

Track Standards

The PC&N will adhere to the following track standards.

  • No less than 3″ between track centers for parallel track.
  • Minimum curve radius of 22″ on the main line and 18″ in yards.
  • Minimum turnout – #4
  • No less than 3 1/4″ between track centers on curves.
  • Maximum grade – 3%
  • Minimum vertical clearance – 6″


This will be a DCC layout.

  • DCC – Using a NCE Procab –  The system will use radio throttles.


Turnout operation will be controlled by Caboose Industry manual ground throws.  Rods running through brass tube will be used when the turnouts are too far from the inside layout edge and in yards.

Train Operation

Main line engines will have DCC decoders installed.  Some will have digital sound.  Engineers will communicate with their engines and trains using walk around CABs.


The prototype had no block signaling.  Initially signaling will not be implemented on this layout.


The layout itself will have overhead lighting.  It is anticipated most structures will have LED lighting.  Control over lighting remains to be determined.

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