Pacific Desert Lines Models Pictures

PDL Routes

Layout Facts

Significant Models

Computerized Operations

Layout Plan (GIF)

General Information

Proto Type Photo's

Friday Nights at the Club


General Information

Pacific Desert Lines is one of the largest N-Scale permanent layouts in the world. It is the home Railroad of the San Diego Society of N Scale (SDSoNS). The PDL operates from San Diego, CA to El Centro, CA. with connections to the ATSF in San Diego and the SP in El Centro. The track plan is based on a route surveyed by the San Diego and Arizona Eastern in 1855. This route was based on the SD & AE staying entirely in the US, even though there were better grades in adjoining valleys in Mexico. This route was not used, and the present San Diego & Arizona Eastern trackage does go in and out of Mexico, following a survey made in 1906.

The PDL road colors are Maroon and Gray, used on all types of locomotives - switchers, freight, and passenger, and on all passenger equipment. Freight equipment is standard boxcar red, with white lettering. Cabooses are Maroon. White striping on passenger engines is borrowed from the NYC "lightning stripes".

The locomotive roster varies, as club members can paint their own engines in the club scheme, but the club currently has E-8/9, SD-7/9s, U-30C, U-25B, C30-7, DASH 9 and SD40-2's that usually stay on the layout and are run by the computer for the public. Leased or 'borrowed' locomotive power shows up from all types of lines, but mainly from the ATSF, SP, and UP.

Steam has long vanished from the PDL officially, but club members have an array of locomotives that may be running on weekends, so there is no telling what you might see operating. The time frame set for the layout is early twenties to the present, but primarily focusing on the early sixties to the present.


Here is a GIF version of the layout

Pacific Desert Lines Routes

The PDL operates from a large (200 scale feet) yard at National City, and extends West to the San Diego Depot ATSF interchange. The PDL has local switching of the San Diego Harbor and interchanges with the ATSF at the SD Depot. The layout continues along the ATSF Coast Route past Torrey Pines and through Oceanside to a staging yard at Los Angeles.

To the East, the PDL extends into Dulzura, Cottonwood, over the crest of the mountains at HiPass, down through Carriso Gorge to Coyote Wells (branch line interchange) and Plaster City (USG Gypsum Plant and narrow gage interchange). The eastern route ends at El Centro, CA with another large yard. The SP mainline continues on from El Centro to a staging yard and through connections at Yuma.

The layout can also be operated in a loop, as there are connections in Yuma to use the SP trackage to Los Angeles. The mainline makes a scale ten mile long journey, which takes at least 20 minutes to loop around on the layout.

An additional branch line extends into the East County to service farming and other industries. The interchange yard is at Coyote Wells.

Factual Information

Significant Models on the Layout

San Diego Santa Fe Depot - Modeled by 'Pete' Peters from the actual architectural plans and is completely to scale. Details are abundant, including custom made decals for the tile work on the twin domes at the depot entrance. The interior is lit, and some rooms have been super detailed. The depot was the Model Railroader Magazine "Model of the Month" in the January, 1990 issue.

Goat Canyon - Carriso Gorge - The San Diego Model Railroad Club, another club-exhibitor at the SDMRM, models in HO and their layout depicts the SD & AE line as it actually was built. We decided to do the 'what if' condition of the unused survey route. Parts of our layouts coincide, and as a result, the museum now has two versions of the Goat Canyon Trestle. The HO model is shown from below, looking up the canyon.

The N scale version built by Rick Blanchard, looks down the canyon from above the trestle.  He designed the Goat Canyon area of the PDL layout for maximum viewing of the trains as they pass by. This puts the trestle a foot away from the viewing window. Almost a half a scale mile away, the trains continue out of (or come into) the canyon view. The canyon extends to the floor and is correctly scaled for the 700 foot change in elevation as Goat Canyon empties into Carriso Gorge.

Upper Campo Creek Viaduct - Modeled by Mike Reading, this trestle is a shortened version of the steel trestle that spans Campo Creek and Highway 94 near Campo, CA.

Manzanita (Bottineau) Area - This area of the layout is on the branch line, and is being modeled after scenes in North Dakota (weatherized to fit Southern California). The town of Manzanita/Bottineau contains many scratch built structures and details by Norm Wright, one of the club's premier modelers.

Computerized Operation

The layout has been computerized by Joe Cesare using the Bruce Chubb C/MRI interface system and software Joe wrote from scratch. The program is written in Object Pascal and runs on the club PC (I don't know what kind - they all look the same to me). Joe installed all of the hardware, wiring, and connections to the block power and turnout relays. Several trains can run completely unattended, including meets, or an operator can control the entire computerized portion of the layout from the computer with keys or a mouse. A special interface panel lets an operator add or drop trains in the National City yards from the National City control panel.

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Monday, 08 January 2018


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