* All track's been laid on both levels, and all wiring is in. The distance from the upper "Santa Cruz" staging to lower "San Jose" staging's around 120 feet, and it can easily take several minutes to run a train from end to end. The stub-ended staging yards with nearby reversing loops seem to be working well.
* I've put in and painted backdrops along most of the upper deck, and put in rough scenery around Wrights and the crossing of Los Gatos Creek.
* My big steps for the next few months will be to rework places where the track isn't quite right and put in more rough scenery.
* I finally realized the importance of templates to do consistent work. I created one for placing the screws that hold the masonite fascia to the front of the layout, and another for placing push-buttons and LEDs for the switch controls on the upper level. (All the frequently-used switches on the upper level will be motorized so they're reachable. All the lower level switches have manual switch stands, but the upper level's probably too high for many to reach. I also needed LEDs showing switch position when I realized I couldn't look down on the switches.
* The layout's been lifted two inches to clear our car's door. The new car deserved to be inside, but I'm glad we could fit both it and the layout in the garage at the same time.
* I've been building boxcars frantically. I had a fair amount of tank cars, refrigerator cars, and gondolas before I started this layout. As I've operated the layout on my own, I'm finding that there haven't been enough boxcars on the layout to imitate the heavy traffic that should be going to and from the canneries. That's mostly due to a lack of boxcars. I've been painting Accurail outside-braced boxcars and getting them out onto the railroad. (The boards on these have great wood-grain relief; a light gray wash makes the cars look like they've been out in the sun for years.) We also took a week off to rest out along the coast after some nasty work deadlines, and I spent most of the time alternately sitting in the sun reading or sitting at the kitchen table building Funaro and Camerlengo resin boxcar kits. Still more are needed, as Campbell and Los Gatos canneries aren't getting their fair share of cars.
* Our friend's son Jack (aged four) became the youngest operator on the layout as he switched boxcars around the Del Monte Plant. A month later, he was still telling his grandparents about getting to run the trains! I love DCC and the ability to just give a control to a four-year-old and let him run a train whereever he likes!
* Our friends Barbara and Lydia also got to run trains from San Jose up to Los Gatos, turn locomotives on the Vasona Junction wye, and arrange a meet at Campbell. They were annoyed they weren't allowed to play with trains when they were young.
* I still haven't had any real operating sessions with other than random guests or a friend from work. One obvious problem I've seen is that the entrance to the "U" is really narrow, and is also a common place to want to be when switching Los Gatos and Campbell. I guess those layout design rules about making sure there's space for two people to pass is true!
Here's a photo of the Wrights area. The right hand side of the picture is Los Gatos Creek; the railroad crosses the creek on a timber trestle, passes some of the remaining buildings in Wrights, then dives into the tunnel under the summit of the Santa Cruz mountains. There wasn't much left in Wrights by 1932; photos in Bruce Macgregor's third book on the railroad show a general store with some Model A's in front, a couple other sheds, and a dark and stormy feeling. I can't tell if the photo was foreshadowing the closing of the line, or if it was merely taken in winter.
The lower deck shows the bare roadbed at Campbell. The orange refrigerator car is spotted on the siding where the Hyde cannery will be.
This second photo (from a couple months ago) shows the Glenwood area on the upper shelf and Auzerias street / Del Monte cannery area on the lower shelf. Since this photo was taken, fascia has been added to the upper deck making it all look a tiny bit neater.
This photo doesn't really show how close together the decks are; in almost all cases, I've only got twelve inches at most between the lower deck and bottom of the upper deck. I'm not happy with this because it'll be harder to create scenery and switch cars, but I'm willing to suffer a bit. I'm feeling pretty confident that this layout has just the right amount of track and distance for me, and I'm willing to suffer a bit to have that sense of "going somewhere."