This is an operating railroad, not a model railroad. Jack set out to build a narrow gauge railroad with the rails set 7 1/2" apart. This is unlike the commonly found "live steam" track in that, the railroad uses 8 and 12 pound rail and switches, and does not form a loop. This railroad was built for hauling materials on the property and is operated more like a prototype.
Most of the equipment is built to 3 3/4" scale and patterned after the Maine Two Footers. This is 1/3 scale of the prototype. The locomotives, cabooses and coach are scale plus some extra height, to allow real scale people (like you and me) to be able to ride inside. The steam engines are all coal fired. All rolling stock has working hand brakes and these are used (needed) for various places we setout cars.
The railroad is built on 29 acres of mostly sandy, tree covered hills, in Michigan. Most of the railroad is on a grade with the mainline as steep as 5.2% and curves of 75-foot minimal radius where necessary. The branches have switchbacks with even steeper grades to change elevation rapidly. The track does not form a loop and the two end points of the main line are separated by 90 feet vertically. We have about 5400 feet of main line track down at this time and hope to have about 6000+ feet when it is complete. The main line is 12 lb. steel rail on 3 x 3 oak ties about 22"-24" long. Sidings and the beginning of most spurs is 8 lb. steel rail with the rest of the spur track laid with 2" C-channel to save on the rare 8 lb. rail.
The mainline has stations with sidings and may include one or more spurs for loading and unloading freight (See Map page). We have Timetable and Train Order (TT & TO) operating sessions a couple times a year where we run passenger trains and freight trains together to keep that heritage alive. All participants are expected to know and follow the railroad's operating rules!
We use the railroad to haul wood from the forests to a mill site in Phelps to be cut and split for firewood, and then it is hauled to the woodshed or the roundhouse. We had a gravel pit at Jack's Pit where we got ballast and fill from that was hauled on the railroad to where needed. It has been closed and a new one opened on the CB&E branch. We haul stone to the front of our property to build a rock fence like you see in Maine. The winter is our busy season as we can run snow plow trains to keep the line open and then haul wood to the woodshed as it needs a supply of wood to keep the heat on. We also collect wood for the mill site and deliver it for future processing.
A turntable was placed in service in 2008 at Clear Lake. Grading is being worked on for the West end of the main line, where the station called Ridgeview, with a turntable, is planned. A large trestle stands in the way of completing to there. A small turntable has been placed at the end of the existing track to turn Bus #3 so it doesn't need to back all the way back to Phelps to turn. A nice improvement for the driver!
We have three branch lines. The first one built was to Woodshill off the main at Woodshill Jct. It provides access to the woodshed. This branch ends with the spur on a up slope for holding the cars while switching. The second completed branch was out of Kat Jct. and is called the CB&E (Calhoun, Barry & Eaton) branch. It has two switchbacks with steep grades over 7%, our gravel pit and loading areas for wood. It ends at Old George with a spur track on a down grade for switching around cars. Gravity and working hand brakes is our best friend when switching cars.
The third branch begins at Jack's Pit and is called the Bauerton branch. It extends through the middle of the property and gives access to the forested areas near the large trestle. The Bauerton branch has a grade above 7% and a switchback. So far, there is no spurs on it but maybe down the road it might get one or two. The engineer must keep careful control of his train on the grades on this railroad and its branch lines! It is easy to get going too fast and lose control if you aren't alert!
The Sandy Ridge & Clear Lake Railway is not a model railroad, and is not like the common ride-on, live steam tracks. This is a working railroad built to about 1/3 size the equipment ran on the Maine Two Foot gauge railroads. The trains are operated on schedule during days the railroad is run and they run year round, which can require snow plow extras in the Winter. The SR&CL was built and operates for a reason.