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Scale : 3.5mm (1:87th)
Gauges :HO / HOn3 / HOn30
Size : 22ft x 4ft
(25ft x 10ft inc operators space)
Period : 1900s Colorado
Operators : 4-5
Lighting : LED


From Adrian Hall

(editor of THE UK Model Shops Directory)

Bear Creek depot in the morning sunshine

Bear Creek Operating Crew

Colorado became the 38th state of the Union on the 29th December 1876, only 25 years after the first settlement was established in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains. However during the 50 years up to 1900 the area boomed thanks to silver and gold strikes around Leadville and in the Front Range, San Juan and Uncompahgre Mountains. This in turn led to boom times for both the Narrow and Standard Gauge railroads of the area, especially after the Denver & Rio Grande Railroad reached Leadville in 1880.

To say that construction of the railroads in the Rockies was difficult is a massive understatement. Indeed no other railroad construction in the Old West, even in the mountains of Washington State and Oregon, faced the hazards and difficulties of the terrain tackled by the Rio Grande in the 1870's.
Men and mules alone accounted for the mountain grades that brought the three foot iron to Alamosa and Silverton and over Marshall Pass into the Gunnison country.
All supplies and construction material had to be carried in for the railroad by mule team or trains of oxen. Railroad ties were transported lashed to the backs of burros while rails were tied to saddles and trailed along the ground.

In their ongoing pursuit of the riches of the mountains the Narrow Gauge railroads built towering structures to scale the mighty canyon walls and tunnelled relentlessly through the bluffs and outcroppings to reach the work camps. Thus by the Georgetown, Breckenridge & Leadville Railway reached Silver Plume via the Georgetown Loop in 1884 and the Manitou & Pike's Peak Railway completing the rack and pinion line to the 14, 115-foot (4, 302 m)  summit of Pikes Peak in 1890. Meanwhile the Standard Gauge roads ploughed through the valleys following the mighty rivers upstream, as typified by the Royal Gorge War between the Denver & Rio Grande Railway and the Atchison, Topeka & Santa Fe Railroad in 1879. Thus we have the setting for Bear Creek Junction!

Although a fictitious location, the layout is set in one of the many canyons typical of Colorado where mining and logging proliferated.
Here you will be able to see fragile wooden trestle bridges curving round mountains, view soaring steel trestles crossing valleys and hear the sounds of steam engines roaring out of rock faced tunnels.
With steam predominant on both the Narrow and Standard gauge tracks, the marvels of late 19th and early 20th Century motive power will parade before your very eyes. Wonder at the intricacy of the dual gauge track where the model point work had to be hand built to suit the location, and look out for the 2ft 6in gauge mine tram. Listen to the working of the lumber camps and mines in the mountains and admire the laser cut wood and scratch built model buildings and structures in their working environment.

The setting is also bounded by the wilderness of the mountain forests where you will be able to see Black Bears in their natural habitat. But a word of caution is required as these animals are wild and unpredictable, so please . . .


This layout has appeared at the following Exhibitions -
 March 2020 -  Leamington & Warwick MRS  - Royal Leamington Spa College
 October 2019 -  Farnham and District MRC  - Aldershot, Hampshire
 October 2019 -  Wigan Model Railway Exhibition  - Robin Park Leisure Centre, Loire Drive, Wigan
 September 2019 -  Blackpool & North Fylde MRC Exhibition  - Fleetwood, Lancashire. *** Best in Show, Public Vote *** Also Winner of the *** Presidents Cup ***
 June 2019 -  Liverpool Model Railway Society  - Old Christ Church, Liverpool
 March 2019 -  Keighley Model Railway Club  - Keighley, West Yorkshire. *** Best in Show, Public Vote ***
 November 2018 -  Wakefield Railway Modellers Society  - Thornes Park Athletics Stadium, Horbury Road, Wakefield, West Yorkshire
 September 2018 -  Darlington MRC  - Darlington Railway Museum
 April 2018 -  Sutton Coldfield Railway Society  - Bishop Walsh School, Sutton Coldfield
 November 2017 -  Warley Show, Nec  - The 50th warley show *** Winner of the Continental Modeller Cup for the Best Foreign Layout ***
 September 2017 -  Blackburn & East Lancs MRS  - Hyndburn Leisure Centre, Accrington
 April 2017 -  Sheffield Model Railway Enthusiasts  - Birkdale School, Oakholme Road, Sheffield
 January 2017 -  Erith Model Railway Society  - The Longfield Academy, Main Road (B260), Longfield, Kent *** Winner of the John Heath Cup for Best Scenic Layout ***
 November 2016 -  Spalding MRC  - Springfield's Exhibition Centre
 August 2016 -  Ellesmere Model Railway Club  - Ellesmere Town Hall, Willow Street, Ellesmere, Shropshire
 June 2016 -  GCR / Soar Valley MRC  - Quorn Station, Great Central Railway
 April 2016 -  Sutton Coldfield Railway Society  - Bishop Walsh School, Sutton Coldfield
 March 2016 -  Macclesfield Model Railway Exhibition  - Tytherington High School, Macclesfield
 November 2015 -  Southport Model Railway Society  - Southport, Lancashire *** Winner of Best Scenics ***
 October 2015 -  Daventry MRC  - Daventry, Northamptonshire
 September 2015 -  Soar Valley Model Railway Club  - Heart of the Midlands Model Railway Exhibition, Loughborough
 June 2015 -  Trent Valley North American Modellers - Lichfield, Staffs  - First showing.

Overall Plan View:
Bear Creek Plan View
Overview video:
  Cab Ride:
  Triple Header:

SCRS 2018

For the layouts second appearance at the Sutton Coldfield show on the 50th Anniversary year of the club I completed the detailing of the Mining camp in Copper Gulch. Here I added Silver and Gold mines to the existing Copper mine. On the Sunday afternoon we also took the opportunity to operate a narrow gauge triple header across the narrow gauge lines of all three levels of the layout. The consist comprised BC&CGRR Loco #81 in the lead with DRGW #347 as the second engine, followed by 8 reefers, 6 stock cars and BC&CGRR Loco #74 as the rear helper, with the Caboose bringing up the rear in accordance with correct DRGW practice. The reason this was so impressive is that it had to climb several grades ranging from 2.5% to 4%, crossing all 10 bridges (including the 10ft of the high line bridge), and travelled across the entire length of the layout three times, a distance of nearly 100ft. A YouTube video of this can be viewed at the top of this page.

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Warley 2017

We made an appearance at the 50th Warley exhibition in November 2017 and was extremely pleased to be voted Winner of the Continental Modeller Cup for the Best Continental Layout by members of the public.

Blackburn 2017

Here are pictures from the Blackburn Show in September 2017.
Note the emphasis on photographs of the Narrow Gauge elements of the layout including the brand new logging camp complete with Sierra West craftsman kit buildings.

Narrow Gauge at the depot
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Southport 2015
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Southport 2015

For the last outing for 2015 in November we headed North to Southport, Merseyside. A very popular show and one that I always wanted to attend with my first Bear Creek layout.
Fortunately when Tony Kuivala, the Exhibition Manager of the Southport MRS, heard of my second layout he had no hesitation with an invite.
This generosity was amply rewarded as the layout was voted as 'Best Scenics' of the show.

Loughborough 2015

The second outing was at the Loughborough show in July where there was a slight challenge with the lighting. I don't have any yet and the photographs here are with the Sun shining directly onto the front of the layout in the morning and the back in the late afternoon.
As you can see the light of the morning sunshine spectacularly brought out the texture of the rocks highlighting the depth and shadow.
In the afternoon the direct sunlight washed out the backscene making it actually look even more realistic as can be seen in the photo of the Aspens. With the backscene being images printed onto the back of perspex sheet, I am currently working on a way to replicate this in model form.

Loughborough 2015
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TVNAM 2015
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TVNAM 2015

The layouts first outing was at the Trent Valley North American Modellers show in 2015 in Armitage, near Lichfield.
As with any first showing there were a few hiccups but nothing that wasn't overcome and an excellent if very busy show was had by all.


Although planning had started in 2009, construction only began in 2011 with the initial woodwork.

The first structures that needed building were the end towers (photo 3) which contain the baseboards for transportation and storage. They are on wheels for ease of movement to and from storage at home, and for loading and offloading from the van that is needed for transportation to exhibition venues. On top of these are the main end baseboards that contain the return loops (photo 4).

The baseboards themselves are all constructed in what is essentially a box with 6mm marine ply sides, 3mm marine ply top, interior cross pieces and side profile boards. Built on top of this, again from 3mm ply, are the structures for the 2nd and 3rd levels. The exception to this is the 3rd level on the central four boards which are of box girder construction held between the end profile boards (photo 5 & 6).

Initial construction
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Track Laying
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Track Laying

Track laying took place in 2011 / 2012.

The majority of the track is from Micro Engineering including all the HOn3 narrow gauge. Most of the turnouts are hand built (photos #1 & #2) with just one of the dual gauge and one of the standard gauge points being recovered from my original Bear Creek layout.

A couple of interesting turnouts are on the layout which do not have any switch blades. These are divergent points where the heel track is dual gauge but the output tracks are standard gauge and narrow gauge respectively. One of these can just be seen in the distance in photo #3 just in front of the Stamping Mill, and in detail in photo #4.
There was a minor issue with these turnouts when they were installed in that, how do you change the polarity of the live frog when there is no switch. The answer was to use a Ram Valley hex frog juicer.


The scenery base was built up using styrofoam and expanding foam filler.

The foam filler is excellent for creating that random effect as it expands massively, although it can be rather wasteful. This was then covered with a hard shell coating of sculptamold, white glue and powder colours. As can be seen in photo's #2 & #3.
Glued on top of this, using the ubiquitous 50/50 pva water mix, are various types of scatter material, including some specially imported from the USA. And added on top of that are all the trees and shrubs, see photo's #4 & #5.
In photo #5 you can also see the rocks duly installed and after they had the base colouring added. I have to plead guilty to a shortcut here in that the rocks are a product called Rubber Rocks from Cripplebush Valley Models. This was by far the quickest (if expensive) way to create the large number of rocks required on the layout. The greatest benefit of using this product though was a guarantee of getting the correct shape of rocks for the area of Colorado modelled, photo's #6 & #7.
And then came the trees, hundred's of them. Fortunately all of the trees were recovered from my first Bear Creek layout but there was certainly not enough, so I added at least another 800. Most of the trees are proprietary but the large specimen trees in the right foreground by the engine shed and all the background aspens are from Jacqui at Ceynix Railway Trees. Photo's #8 & #9.

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Bridge Construction
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Bridge Construction

One of the pre-requisites of the design of this layout was to include a number of bridges.
The original design was for 12 but the final number is a mere 10.

The construction of these varies between hand built wooden trestle bridges, kit bashed tall steel viaducts and ordinary plastic kits.
Starting on the high line at the left there is Bridge #1 which is a Campbell Scale Models craftsman kit that was first used on my original Bear Creek layout. This is a thru timber bridge at a scale 70' in length constructed with scale timber. Photo #2
The next three bridges in sequence are all Micro Engineering tall steel viaduct kits. The first two are across narrow canyons but had to be kit bashed with plastic girder section as they needed to span the base level double tracks, photo's #3 & #4. The third tall viaduct is probably the main feature of the layout as it is just over 570 scale feet in length. As it is right at the front of the layout it has been designed to be a scenic barrier forcing you to look beyond at the rest of the left hand half of the layout thus hugely increasing the effect of depth, photo's #5 to #8.
The high line then crosses a further tall steel viaduct which spans the left side of town and the depot before meeting a set of stone abutments which are also the base for the next bridge which is a standard truss bridge kit, photo #9.
Lastly along the high line there is my favourite construction project, the curved wooden trestle. Originally I designed this to be a standard trestle all the way through, including where it spans the two tracks on the second level. But this just didn't look right as the bents had to be at an angle. Then I came across plans for a timber deck truss bridge that would be a perfect fit between the other lateral trestle bents. See photo's #10 to #12 and the image on the right.


Many of the buildings on the layout are what is known in the US as Craftsman kits. With these what you receive in the box are a set of plans and scale lengths of wood. So you are effectively creating the structure as you would a real building, plank by plank.

I must admit that after completing the tall steel viaducts and the wooden trestle bridges these were quite straightforward and a pleasure to build. Within the town on the north, railroad, side of the street there are from left to right, the Yard Office, the Equipment Warehouse, the Hotel and the Dry Goods Store all from Sierra West. Followed by Wicked Wandas and the Welding Services shop from Bar Mills. On the south side of the street there are the First Aid station (Sierra West), followed by the Ginger Beer factory and a short row of 3 completely scratch built buildings, the Railroad Ticket Office, the General Store and the Bath House.
All these buildings were completed in about 8 months between August 2014 and March 2015.

Away from the town on the left hand side of the layout there is the Sampling Mill which was scratch built from plans in the September 2009 Narrow Gauge and Shortline Gazette. In front of which is a resin building of Wyatt Lumber & Coal Co duly painted and weathered. To the right of this are the stock yards and next to that is the Bear Creek Produce Association building with the Ice House and platform behind. The former of these is from Campbell Scale Models and the later has been kitbashed for the location from a Walthers plastic kit.

Still to be completed as I write this in Dec 2015, are the detailed lumber camp which currently just has some basic buildings from Bear Creek 1, and the mining camp. As usual for kits, these are on the shelf, filed under pending.

Main Street
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Pete the Prospector
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Throughout the development of the layout I am always pondering on how to detail the scenes. Sometimes this is inspired by items seen in books and others by figures appropriate to the setting.
Thus here we have images of the local sawmill, the yard office, the bunny sanctuary and the various characters around the layout.


Bear Creek Junction


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All pictures and text are copyright Adrian Hall unless otherwise stated.
All rights reserved and no copying is allowed without the express permission of the copyright holders.

This page last updated on
5 August, 2020