Mystic Mountain Railroad


The MMRR is a back country shortline loosely set in the early 1900’s -- although the discerning eye may catch a few items from a later period. Some of the GRR convention cars are from a more recent time. The structures are a mix of kits, pre-fab, and scratch- built. Notice the workers repairing the water tower at Providence and the combination water and coal tower made from an old tender at North End. There are some custom-built structures as well:

  • the roundhouse, turntable, station, and coal/water tower at North End yard,
  • the ore processing plant (cast concrete) at Outaluck,
  • the ACME Manufacturing (Acrylic),
  • the wharf and Mercury Canning Co. (Acrylic, PVC, and recycled political signs) at North End,
  • the Sawmill complex (Acrylic, metal, more recycled political signs.

I enjoy adding details and kit bashing commercial structures. Notice the workers repairing the water tower at Providence and the track crew completing a spur at Red River. The building "halves" at Union Junction are made from commercial kits.
The buildings are all lit for night time operation using LEDs and Christmas tree lights - five 2.5 volt lights run on a 12 volt Malibu transformer works very nicely. For a three dollar 50-light string you can light 10 buildings. Some bridges are commercial and some I’ve built myself, notably the custom, curved lift bridges connecting to the mountain division at Union Junction. The 1 1/2-turn helix under Mystic Mountain is a story – and a six-month construction project - in itself.Recent track plan updates now put a 1 1/2 turn helix and two return loops inside Mystic Mountain.


The Mystic Mountain Railroad was started in December 1999, 18 months after we bought this house. When we moved in, this yard was just flat, bare dirt. We spent from 12/98 to 12/99 planning, putting in electrical and plumbing lines, building the raised planters, labyrinth, walkways, lighting, waterfall, creek, and pond. It took nearly 100 yards of material to fill these - P.S. driving a Bobcat is fun! The wall consists of 1800 stacking blocks with 1:1 RR ties in the back. The labyrinth is 7,000 hand-laid pavers. Plants are mostly drip watered. We did everything, except the concrete and flagstone walkways, ourselves. It took about a year to build the yard and planters and another year to put in the main railroad with some plantings and structures. Since “completion”, plants and structures and six spurs were added. The train room was added in a kitchen remodel in the summer of 2001. In 2003-2004 the Mountain Division was created doubling the amount of track. The Mountain Division included (until 2014) a complex, double track, four-turn helix to gain the needed elevation to create a scene with deep canyons and high bridges. Changes (improvements?) are constantly being added and ongoing maintenance keeps me pretty busy.  In 2013-2014 the helix was extensively revised to reduce the amount of track that wasn't visible. It is now a loop-to-loop track plan with a return loop and the top and another at the bottom. Loop switches are thrown automatically by magnet on each engine and caboose.


The MMRR has about 1200’ of Llagas Creek code 250 Nickel Silver track resting on crushed granite or “fines”. This makes it easy to re-level and re-grade the track as the ground settles (since I was unwilling to wait a few seasons for the new soil in the raised planters to settle before starting RR construction). The minimum radius is 5’ at the loop at Providence. Other loops have 6-7’ radius. Mainline grade is 2.5% or less (except for a 4-4.5% grade in the Mountain Division, a helper district; the grade up to the train room is about 4%. Three long passing sidings at South Providence yard allow for same-direction passing or reverse-direction meets. South Providence yard also has two spurs for car storage during operations. An extra siding near Providence provides enclosed storage for 3 trains. The yard in the Mountain Division has dual passing sidings. A turntable allows turning engines for point-to-point operation with Providence. Many spurs provide opportunity for freight movement operations for various industries. The railroad can be configured as two independent loops for continuous running or as point-to-point with a wye in the middle for operating sessions. A new town - Costa - was added in 2018 with several industries for switching operations. 


I operate battery-powered, radio controlled trains using Aritocraft Revolution and Train Engineer. I use 18.5V Li-Ion batteries since they can be swapped quickly and recharged in 60-90 minutes. The batteries are good for 1.5 - 4 hours run time. Trains have SoundTraxx sound systems, MyLocoSound, or Revolution sound. 

Points of interest

The rock cliffs are cast in rubber and aluminum foil molds using resin, or white cement (I like white cement the best). The rocks are then painted with many washes of acrylic (artist) paints. Some have been in the sun over 6 years with little fading.

 The waterfall and creek (as well as the pond) are lined with a thick rubber liner to prevent water loss. Algae growth is a constant problem. The water lilies and fish help, but the direct sunlight and warmth of the water favor the algae. A timer runs the small fountain in the pond in the morning and the evening for several hours which includes an ultraviolet sterilizer to reduce the algae growth (or so it says in the books). The fish are 26 cent Goldfish. With the Raccoons and birds we get here, I can replace the fish as needed without going broke. 

The track crew is finishing up installation of a spur at Red River Resort which will be used for freight to and from the resort. The mine at Outaluck is cast concrete. The most recent additions are the Acme manufacturing plant (“Everything for the wily coyote”), the wharf and Mercury Cannery at North End yard, and the sawmill complex. A logging camp was built at North End. I have sound effects in several of the buildings.

The two lift bridges allow me to get wheel barrows and other equipment behind the railroad should that be necessary. After seeing how much it was going to cost to have these 6' curved bridges built for me, I decided to get a welder and build my own. Cost about the same but I had more fun. 

 Unique problems solved

The nearly straight run along the back is about 100’ long. The expansion between cold winters and hot summer days is nearly 1”. I used a couple of Hillman expansion track sections to accommodate the expansion/contraction with temperature. 

 The black-tailed or mule deer up here are plentiful, voracious, and not much afraid of us. They were eating some of my RR plantings but also damaging bridges and track from standing on it and walking through the RR. I installed several "Scarecrow" motion-sensing sprinklers 6 years ago. These kept the deer out of the yard for awhile, but no longer. In 2013 I installed a 7.5' deer fence and began a major year-long  renovation project.

Deer Damage


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