THE LAST CHANCE AND FAIRPLAY RAILROAD
I had been previously attempting to generally model a 1:20.3 narrow gauge steam era railroad, with an emphasis on Colorado lines (RGS, C&S, D&RGW). Grades are steep (2-4%) and engines struggle at many points on the line.
Construction of the Lastchance & Fairplay began in the spring of 2012 to have a simple loop with a reversing loop to link Charlie Hannema’s line. We started with a track from one property to the other, with a reversing loop at each end. Unfortunately, after a major earthquake, stream shifting and accidents, the line to Hannema town fell into disrepair. The line was torn up to pay for the medical bills for the owners.
In the Hendel county, the early immigrant residents discovered a rare mineral (Unobtainium) near Strawberry Hill. With the large natural resources in the area, the town of Lastchance sprung up. In order to build the railroad to Strawberry hill, massive clearing of the natural vegetation occurred. As with most Colorado mining operations, the native strawberries were mostly cleared for mining operations. After mining a good deal of the minerals, the mining tailings have replaced any vegetation and it is now just a barren hill. We were hoping for a grant from the EPA to return the land to the original state.
The town of Lastchance has grown over the years with Mr. R. Murdock investing in a newspaper for the town and Mr. Wm. Weatherman providing metrological services. Mr. Bob Small built most of the town buildings, but all the residents say that they are too cramped and small. Since he is only 4’8”, he had no idea that there were big people. Craftsmen of European descent constructed the other buildings around the town. As you will see, most of the contractors had no standards for the building dimensions. The town has most services needed by the residents and the local celebrity bear. Recently, several buildings were replaced with additional funds from the mining operations. The old stone station was replaced by a freight station and a new passenger station was built on the main line. Farmer Bubba Caleb built a new barn when the winter storms destroyed his old one. His kids have grown up (but his wife is still producing) and have built a car barn to store their autos and hot rods. A massive hailstorm in 2018 caused millions in damages and a lot of the residents were severely injured. FEMA came to the rescue and some FEMA people have remained to savor the good life in Lastchance and Fairplay.
With the planned increase in traffic, the old line to the hill was not able to take the new leased engines, so an additional loop was created to handle the traffic. A new cut has been made through Jackson Hill and the old track provides a second loop for multiple operations. Also a spur to the mine waste processing operation (garage) was built. Since there were a lot of settlers of recent European descent, they were dismayed by the lack of quality passenger facilities and with the help of the government funded a new passenger service using a Rhätische Bahn Allegra to serve the community. In 2020, with the FEMA money and economic stimulus, they convinced the Swiss Rhätische Bahn to add more passenger service to our mountainous landscape.
Currently we have approximately 250 feet of track, mostly code 332 and some code 250. With a large K-27, we have kept the curves as large as possible. Other motive power consists of Bachman 2-8-0, C-19 and an aging 4-6-0, with a railbus, a rail truck and LGB electric engines. We are using DCC with both track and battery power with NCE, QSI and Airwire systems. Since there are a fair number of turnouts in remote locations, we use the DCC track power to control them. We have replaced a lot of the original landscaping of shrubs and grasses with low ground covers and plants, so the trains could be seen. We still have a lot of work to do on the south and north areas.