Above: In 1955 locomotive #489 (2-8-2) and freight cars enter the west end of the snowshed on the summit of Marshall Pass in Saguache County, Colorado. The train is the last to travel the Marshall Pass route. This photo shows snow fences and snow drifts on the mountains slope in the Sawatch Range, smoke above the locomotive and a portion of caboose 0574.

The Benchwork

The freestanding open grid modular benchwork is complete and leveled.

  1. The Mountain Pass Bench height is 37″, open grid with a ruling Grade of 3.4%, and an average grade of 2.6%.
  2. Staging will leave Salida and drop under Buxton to the Heilx under Sargents.
  3. Logging will leave the sawmill, climb up Marshal Pass, and continue up and around the wall back over the top of the sawmill.

The Track Plan

Already, I have had many comments on how the mountain run over the pass has tracks in the back of the benchwork that are lower than those in the front, and I would like to comment on that. While it is a fundamental rule to keep tracks in the back higher, rules were meant to be broken. This goes for my unconventional bench heights as well. While I understand the standards and principles the NMRA strives for, model railroading is not a one-size-fits-all hobby! I may not be well-versed in prototypical operations, but I know Colorado’s Landscape better than most.

I have spent 30 years on horseback and bicycle, hunting and riding old logging roads, trails, and ranges, exploring mines, rivers, mountains, and the like. And I can tell you without a shadow of a doubt that the Rockies are not flat and don’t go up on one side and down the other. When on a ridge, you can see three or four mountain ranges in the distance, and they are not all at the same height. Some height, some low, and the railroad meandered through the saddles and valleys to find the easiest path. I intend to represent that view when you look at “my” mountain run.

While listening to seasoned advice is extremely important, not all advice is presented with your vision in mind. So ask questions, educate your advisers as best as possible, and remember it is your railroad, and it’s ok to think out of the box, especially when modeling the “Center Piece” of your layout.

Some specs:

  • First and foremost, the highest peak/track is 53″, which is 10″ below my eyesight. I am 5′ 7″ and will always be looking downward with a view of all levels.
  • I can easily reach all tracks should I have a derailment or need to perform repairs.
  • The highest grade is 3.4%, with an average of 2.6%
  • The minimum clearance is 2.5″ under the bridge out of Buxton. 
  • From Salida to Sargents, the pass is 6,100 scale feet long.
  • Marshall Pass is actually not a tunnel but a wooden/metal snowshed. I will model the snowshed with the front-facing wall removed to view the trains passing through.

Photos of Marshall Pass

Professionally colored by: Chris Sgaraglino