For me as someone who's already confessed to be a model railroader partially as an outlet for the frustrated architect within, the lack of attractive buildings is a bit annoying. If I was trying to build models of attractive 1930's buildings, I'd build a model of downtown San Francisco, or of Sutro Baths, or some Greene and Greene houses in Pasadena.
There's always modeling Fourth Street in San Jose back in the early 1930's when freight trains ran past nice victorian residences, but that's still an outlier.
Vasona Junction, where the Mayfield Cutoff from Palo Alto and Los Altos hit the former South Pacific Coast mainline from San Jose to Los Gatos. Vasona Junction wasn't much in the 1930's, or even the 1950's - a barren, empty place in the middle of prune orchards where two railroad lines came together. Even now, it's not much more than a cluster of tilt-up warehouse buildings next to the 85 freeway. There was so little there, why would I even model it?
Well, there's a bunch of reasons.
- That's what the Santa Clara Valley was like - a rural area covered with orchards and with occasional roads connecting the various farms. The scene is a nice reminder of what's in between all the other scenes I model.
- It's a somewhat interesting location operationally with its wye and signals, and a train order book hidden in a shack next to the tracks. The wye is also handy for the model railroad as a place to turn trains that end in Los Gatos.
- Even with its plain look, there were still interesting details, and there's the challenge of making this wide spot along Winchester Road into a scene worth displaying on the model railroad.
- First of all, Winchester Road (leading from Santa Clara, past Sarah Winchester's strange Victorian house, and straight to Santa Cruz Avenue in Los Gatos) parallels the track from Campbell to Vasona Junction. At Vasona Junction, the wye crosses Winchester Road twice, pulling the railroad and scenery together.
- There's also the ubiquitous orchards lining both sides of the road, power poles and railroad signalling poles paralleling the road with weeds and bushes covering the space between the poles.
- At the actual junction, assorted signals, crossing signals for Winchester Road, and station signs fill the otherwise empty scene.
- Because Vasona Junction was a real junction, the railroad needed a train register book to help train crews know whether a conflicting train had gone by. The train register booth appears in many photos as the only structure visible in the area.
The Vasona Junction shot is from the 1950's, and was taken from History Los Gatos's web site.