Rainier Great Western Railway & Navigation Company

The Route of the Thunderbird


Contact Us:






About Us







Michael Highsmith bestows upon the honorable John Armstrong, membership in the Puget Sound Model Railroad Engineers (1998).

Current Layout Plans:

Level 1 - Staging

Level 2 - Transition

Level 3 - Main

Level 4 - Upper
















Route Map:

            Topographical Map of King County, WA, with graphical representation of railroad mainlines.




The Home and Design of the RGW....

This Page Outlines the Design Ideals and Methods of the RGW

Train Room (Shell)  -  Train Room (Interior)  -  Layout Design

Layout Design:

You will find that our design methodology is based on the very rich tradition established by the greatest layout designer of our time, John Armstrong.  It was a sincere pleasure to meet him in April of 1998 at the PSMRE layout and a privilege to bestow upon him, honorary membership in the association during his visit (see picture at left).

Following the tradition established by Mr. Armstrong, we started the design of the railroad with our version of Givens & Druthers, an Armstrong method of finding the common ground between your ultimate railroad and your practical railroad.  As you can see from my G&D specifications, the RGW is to be a modern railroad, with large diesels as the main motive power and oversize cars being the rule rather than the exception.  In addition, the "relative emphasis" category gives you a bit of an insight into my desire that realistic operation is more important on the RGW than is scenic realism.  This means it is preferable to have unique industry and switching opportunities as opposed to long runs through areas heavy in scenery.  One of the true advantages of a building this size, and with at least two levels of track, you can ultimately have a little bit of both.

The "operating governance" section is the designer's way of saying, "these are my minimum standards".  In this section you specify the minimum radius of your curves, the maximum grade you will permit on your pike and any other specifications you want your design and ultimately your crew to build in place.  The "operating priorities" section gives you the chance to lay out in your mind how you want your railroad to look, the primary industries you desire, perhaps even those you really will design your railroad around.  In my case, that means coal.  While the coal mines in Black Diamond still operate, the coal is trucked to Ravensdale, where it is loaded on railcars.  I prefer to envision that the RGW assisted the Palmer Coke & Coal Company to remain viable through the railroad and not over-the-highway.

Very early on in my design, I decided to put to use the design tool CADRAIL.  Designed by Sandia Software, CADRAIL is a modified computer aided design program that, once learned, makes the conversion of your design from "minds-eye" to "on paper", much easier.  Sandia has done an excellent job in adding tools that assist the designer.  Tools I find especially useful are the auto-align and auto-trim features.  These tools allow you to quickly connect figures (lines, curves) together and eliminate the excess.  The creation of easements with the use of the fit to tangents tool is also very beneficial.  One of the more useful features of CADRAIL is the use of layers.  Layers allow you to design different features of the railroad on their own level, then you can select which layers to view.  I choose to put layers in categories; some examples include benchwork, electrical, mainline track, hidden staging and the like.  I even save one for text, so that I can hide it for design purposes, but show it for descriptive purposes.

Following the basic track plan described in the G&D, but since modified to be more functional, our design essentially starts in  South Seattle yard then heads south until it reaches Black River Junction just west of Renton, Washington. The RGW takes ownership of the line east of Black River.  There are two branches on the main level of the layout; the first runs through Renton, and includes the RGW-owned Renton Yard.  It heads east through rural King County, along the Cedar River, turning south at the Old Maple Valley Junction, where the CPSRR (Columbia and Puget Sound RR) actually ran south through Black Diamond to Franklin.  There is an interchange with the BNSF at Palmer Junction.  BNSF then runs back to staging along newly installed concrete ties to the helix and finally staging.  The second branch is a BNSF-owned line that heads north to Maltby, WA.  On this line, the RGW serves Boeing and Pacific Car & Foundry as well as other Renton-based industries.  There is also an excursion train that runs north to the wineries in Woodinville.

Our first design in 1996 was put together for a 14 x 25 ft basement room.  It ran through a closet and down through an enclosed single track "tunnel" in an adjoining room's closet.  The "tunnel" was enclosed so that the closet could still be used by the kids and not have the trains derail.  Once the track became visible, it ran through Black Diamond and then along the wall.  There was also a helix in the lower corner that had yet to be completed for a planned second level.

After our move to Black Diamond, we decided to redesign the layout to take advantage of the new space, while still using the basic elements of the first railroad.  Our original mainline design (July 2005) makes good use of the room, providing distinct viewing areas with the help of the backdrops.  Remember it is a work in process, branch line detail has yet to be put in and no industry trackage is designed.  Here is a quick link to our original hidden staging. 




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