The real GC&SF was chartered in 1873 to connect the wharves on Galveston Island with the Texas interior. By the mid 1880s the GC&SF was a dominant railroad in Texas and its owners were looking for ways to expand its operations. At the same time, the Atchison Topeka and Santa Fe (AT&SF) was trying to expand its operations into Texas. The AT&SF could not operate in Texas in its own right because Texas state law required all railroads that operated within Texas to have their main office in Texas. In response to a proposal from the GC&SF shareholders, the AT&SF acquired the GC&SF in 1886. From then, until the Texas law was changed in the mid 1960s, the GC&SF operated as a subsidiary of the AT&SF. In 1887, under the terms of the merger agreement, the GC&SF extended its rail line from Fort Worth, Texas to connect with the AT&SF at Purcell, Indian Territory (Oklahoma). This layout represents a portion of that extension. (For more information about the real GC&SF look here.)
The layout was originally built for DC/cab-control operation, and was converted to Digitrax wireless DCC in late 2010. The track plan provides for continuous running, but during operating sessions trains are run ‘point-to-point’ between the two six-track staging yards which represent all points to the north (such as Oklahoma City, Newton and Chicago), and all points south (Houston, Dallas, Galveston). Additional trains are also run to and from three single-ended tracks which represent Santa Fe branchlines to Lindsay and to Ringling, and the SLSF (Frisco) line from Ardmore to Hugo.
The operating system uses car-cards and waybills, and timetable operation using a fast-time clock. A full operating session runs for 3 hours using a 6:1 fast-time clock ratio, and requires at least 7 operators.
Trains operated on the layout are loosely based on the actual passenger and freight trains that operated in 1960, although I’ve used modeler’s licence for operating interest. I have not been able to find out much about local freight traffic in the area during 1960, so I’ve again used modeler’s licence. I do know that the area generated significant business for the (real) Santa Fe. For example, during the late 1950s the Dolese Brothers limestone quarry at Big Canyon shipped upwards of 80 car loads of crushed rock each day.
The current GC&SF timetable schedules the following trains for operation during a full 3-hour session (representing one 18 hour 'day'):
- 6 through passenger trains, including the Texas Chief, the Kansas Cityan and the Chicagoan;
- 4 through freight trains, which set out and pick up cars at Pauls Valley and Ardmore;
- 6 ‘extra’ freight trains, representing the movement of livestock, grain and oil;
- 4 local freight trains, moving cars between the yards at Ardmore and Pauls Valley, and the modeled industries;
- 4 branchline mixed trains, to and from Lindsay and Ringling;
- plus 2 Frisco/SLSF mixed trains between Ardmore and Hugo.
Provision for continuous running, but operated ‘point to point’ for operating sessions.
3 stub-ended branchline tracks.
2 tracks on continuous run.
A full session lasts 3 hours using a 6:1 fast-time ratio.