Santa Fe’s Raton Pass: Model Railroad: Feature Packed

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Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad is small compared to many others, but it is packed with features usually only found on much larger layouts.

Here is an overview of the special features:

Photo Backdrop: As we mentioned last week, the railroad has a custom photo-realistic backdrop which is 3-feet tall and 45-feet long. This backdrop greatly enhances the realism of the overall scenes.


Under Layout Storage: 350 Cubic Feet of storage underneath the layout, provides plenty of room to organize extra equipment and supplies. Stored items are hidden from view behind black skirting.


DCC: The latest Digitrax DCC equipment which includes; DCS-240 Command Station, DB-210 Booster, PS201E 20 AMP Power Supply, 2ea. DT-402 Throttles and Wi-Fi Throttle network for smartphone and iPad throttle control. The Wi-Fi throttles are very handy. The touch-screen on your iPad or smartphone provides very easy control of the locomotives and in a format that almost everyone is familiar with. Everything that can be done on a conventional throttle can be done on the Wi-Fi throttle except programming. The greatest benefit I think is no cord to deal with as you follow your train around the layout.

Track Lighting: Overhead lighting is 100% LED Lithonia Light Bars with dimmer adjustable flood fixtures. This allows us to simulate night operations and early morning and evening low light. Daylight bulbs were installed that provide true colors of the scenery and rolling stock, making you feel like you are in real sunlight.


Three Percent Grades: The 3% ruling grade between Raton and Trinidad has been a 4real eye opener. We expected that since HO scale freight and passenger cars are so light, helpers on the grade would be more of a cosmetic enhancement rather than a necessity. We soon found however that when the cars are weighted to NMRA standards according to their length, a string of cars in a train gets heavy. An average car weighs about 5oz. so a train of 24 cars will have a total weight of 7.5lbs. or more. Each HO scale diesel locomotive adds about of pound of weight to the train. The locomotives must not only be able to pull the weight of the cars up the grade but their own weight as well. A train with three six-axle diesel locomotives, 24 cars and a caboose will tip the scale at about 11.5lbs. We have found that the average diesel locomotive will only pull 6-8 freight cars. Now you can see that the three diesel locomotives assigned to this train are necessary.

We have also learned that there are a lot of in-train forces to deal with. The placement of helper engines in the train assigned to go over the pass makes a lot of difference. All the engines on the front of the train works well unless you have lighter weight cars towards the front. Going around curves with this type of load puts a lot of pull on the lighter cars and this sometimes causes the train to string-line. Helpers on the rear of the train is good but also can cause derailments due to in train forces if too much power is applied to the rear or front locomotive. Mid-train helpers are probably the best option because in-train forces are more naturally balanced. But no matter where you put the extra power it must be managed and controlled properly, or you will have problems.

Wye: A Wye track is perfect for turning equipment around. Roundhouse turntables are great for turning locomotive around, but a Wye will turn the whole train. Most layouts the size of Santa Fe’s Raton Pass don’t have a Wye because they take up too much room. On this layout however, we were able to fit the wye into the mainline and yard lead tracks which saved a lot of space. A turntable takes a lot of room too and therefore we prefer a Wye for turning trains and locomotives on a point to point layout.


Mainline: Our mainline has 36-inch minimum curves that are super-elevated. The 36-inch curves allow us to operate all types of locomotives except for some of the largest 2-10-4 5000 Class steam engines. The super-elevated curves are not necessary on a model railroad mainline, but they sure do make the trains look good.

Walk Around or Rolling Chair: On Santa Fe’s Raton Pass we have the option of operating the layout from a standing or seated position. The lowest height of the benchwork is 40-inches, the highest is 47 ½-inches. When standing by the layout you have a helicopter type view of the scenery and trains. Seated in one of our adjustable height rolling task chairs you are mostly eye-level, except on the high end where the trains are slightly above eye level. Both views are very enjoyable and when your legs get tired its nice to be able to sit down awhile and still have a great view of the railroad. A handicap person would have no trouble operating this railroad.


Raton, NM and Trinidad, CO: The towns of Raton and Trinidad are represented on the layout. There wasn’t enough room to feature the entire town, so we built the railyard portion of each town. This arrangement provides us with a small classification yard in each town along with some industries to service.

Operating Sessions: Operating sessions on Santa Fe’s Raton Pass model railroad consists of crews in each town making pickup and setout at the local industries and building the next train that is scheduled to depart for the opposite town.

Switch lists are provided to the crews in each town showing which cars are to be placed or picked up. Each car is assigned to an industry and must be spotted at the correct location on different days. When a car is to be sent to an industry in the opposite town, it is added to the scheduled train leaving for that destination.

Timetable and Operating Rules: The movement of cars and trains on the layout is governed by Timetable and Operating Rules. The operating rules and timetable were adopted from the real documents used in the area by the Santa Fe Railway. We now have over sixty operating rules governing operations on the layout.


Hey! While you’re here why don’t you consider giving us a helping hand? 

Ways to Donate:

  1. GoFundMe Campaign for Colorado & Southern Coach 535.

Colorado & Southern Coach 535 an important piece of history from the early 20th Century that is worthy of restoration and preservaton.  It was built by the American Car & Foundry Company in 1905 Company for the Colorado & Southern Railway. We must get it inside to do a complete restoration to original condition and to protect the car from the elements.”

To donate to Colorado & Southern Coach 535 – click here.

  1. Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad.

The Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad is about much more than merely having fun with scale trains. The model railroad provides the Society with a testing and proving ground for the donated model railroad equipment in the Dean Collection and other collections we may acquire in the future.

To donate to Santa Fe’s Raton Pass Model Railroad – click here.

  1. Become a Member.

You can become a member of the Railroad Artifact Preservation Society for only $20.00 a year. Join the hundreds of RAPS members around the world.

To Purchase a RAPS Membership – click here.

  1. Visit our Store.

The Raps Store has many items not found elsewhere for the railroad enthusiast. Check out our unique books, videos, caps and other items.

To Visit the RAPS Store – click here.

The RAPS is a 501C3 Non-Profit Corporation.

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