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The old "Oakland Antioch & Eastern" was the name for one of SIX layouts incorporated into the old Emeryville, CA headquarters of the Eastbay Model Engineers Society.  It was one of the largest O-scale trolley lines in the United States.  Covering most of a 130 x 75 foot room...

In my younger days, I was one of the members who tried to operate and maintain the inner workings of this O-traction empire for all to enjoy !


First off, a few general comments:


"The Oakland,Antioch & Eastern RR as I personally remember it, was an O-scale Trolley line that dominated the headquarters of the Eastbay Model Engineers Society for some 40+ years.  The OA&E trolley line had several hundred feet of track that replicated the routes of the actual OA&E // Sacramento Northern Railroad. As you came thru the main entrance to the building, thru a mockup of a full size caboose, the first thing to greet you was "Antioch Yard" which contained a carbarn, a reverse loop, and several stub sidings. Antioch was also the main interlocking control point for dictating who had the right-of-way over the steel truss bridge over the Sacramento River: the OA&E cars or the mainline steam & diesel trains of the Santa Fe Western. North of Antioch, the mainline was single track over the rolling hills of Solano and Yolo counties, thru Vale, until arrival in street trackage at "Westgate Junction" which comprised a double slip switch arrangement. Westgate and Sacramento were located on the OA&E layout's "North End". All trackage thru Sacramento city limits was street running, comprised of THREE tracks. Westgate Junction also controlled the "Woodland Branch" which also contained the "Conaway Wye".. North of the Sacramento City Limits, the track continued on toward Chico, which had a reversing loop, and a large carbarn and switching yard at Mulberry (SN's main shops). South of Antioch, the double track mainline of the OA&E crossed the Sacramento River over the shared truss bridge and ran along the front of the layout room and commenced climbing a very large trestle, which curved around over the top of the Santa Fe Western's "Richmond Yard" and headed toward "Concord" . By the way, after leaving Antioch and crossing the river as previously indicated, there was a turnout where a single track line of the Pittsburg Branch took off. It ran along the back of the SFW's Richmond Yard, under the OA&E trestle, in front of the SFW's Richmond Roundhouse, and curved around a very tight reversing loop (built by yours-truly) with cars stopping in Pittsburg. At "Concord", the double track OA&E mainline went thru several tunnels and Coast Mountain ranges and curved around and swung downward under itself to terminate at 40th & Shafter and the Oakland Yards. At "Concord", there were turnouts that allowed the Motorman to use the 'Concord Loop' and return trains to "Antioch Yard" without going to "Oakland".
The entire trolley line was powered by a DUAL +/- 18 volt, DC power supply system. The trolley overhead wire used for actual power distribution was both Single-span and Catenary-type. Most of the old, original trolley overhead contact wire was Phosphor bronze "fishing cable" ; a miniature, "braided" piece of material that if handled correctly, hung very realistically. It was 24-gauge in size and was manufactured by the Hackensack Cable Co. of Hackensack, NJ. The downside of this stuff was that if it developed a flaw in the braid and a little piece unraveled, it would dewire your trolley pole and snag your pantograph and rip that item right off your car. That is why small dress snaps were used on the 'Pans'-- so they wouldn't get ruined. In later years, as maintenance dictated, the ONLY wire we used was 24-gauge Phosphor Bronze or Nickel Silver "solid-type".... No more braided snag problems. Multiple Motormen could operate the layout. There were control positions at "Oakland Yard", "Concord", "Antioch Yard", "North Tower" (Sacramento), and "Mulberry" . It was fun to operate and maintain. I'll always have fond memories of my involvement with EBMES and the OA&E trolley line so many years ago! It was a pity the whole place had to be torn down.
We even had a pocket timetable printed up. We even used to place Destination Boards on the front of the cars on small hooks. Gung-Ho, weren't we ?? 
The NEW layouts for Eastbay Model Engineers Society are in Richmond, CA. Everything is basically brand new.. The old layouts couldn't really be saved, although I'm not sure about the huge lengthy OA&E trestle--it was spectacular.
More info following, regarding the "North End" and the famous "North Tower" operation, soon ...
Bye for now..


PHOTO 1.  "Yours Truly (KRK) acting as Motorman in 'Antioch Yard' (the division point with the two rail boys..  (circa-1970) ...


The third map is the overall O-scale room with the OA&E trolley lines indicated by the cross-hatched track line...


North Tower

North Tower, which primarily controlled the Northern half of the huge O-scale “OA&E” trolley layout at EASTBAY was quite something to behold.  It was designed and built by the late Robert Briggs of Kensington, CA (Berkeley) whose wife “Doras” is a ‘Station Host’ for AMTRAK at the Emeryville station location.
Let’s go back in time and learn, from a variety of individuals, their personal recollections of “North Tower” at the old HALLECK Street location in Emeryville, CA……

From Ken Harrison (former President, SPH&TS):

Probably before Ken (Shattock)'s time, there was an attempt to make the O-scale “OA&E” trolley line “ North End” a 3rd rail operation, except in the cities. In fact,“Paul Icanberry” had such an operation on his own layout in his Park Ave. (Alameda) house. All of Icanberry's "North End" cars were set up with spring loaded and insulated third rail shoes.

The reason for the 18 volts was the fact that all the modelers used big K&D motors with ENORMOUS flywheels in their cars, and the motors were insulated for that voltage. I once (in 1964) borrowed one of Icanberry's SN cars and took it with me to several eastern O scale trolley meets, including the New Haven club. When I put up the pole,the car would hardly move. New Haven was the only place that could step
up its voltage to 18 vdc, which they did ONLY after making certain that ALL trolley poles (there were no pans, as I recall) were down, lest somehow that extra 6 volts would leak into the Wagner trucks that they were all using and fry them. Needless to say (which I will now say), Paul's car showed them how smoothly a well engineered flywheel drive could work.

Ultimately, the O scale mainline layout was redesigned and a progressive cab control system was installed, and it became more attractive to a membership that in growing older and smaller had a harder and harder time even SEEING the trolley wire, much less keeping it in repair.
Ultimately, the North End was placed out of service, so as to
concentrate resources on the South End. Nevertheless, Shattock and I both can remember operating the North End.   “North Tower” was something remarkable.

Shattock is right… All of the old members he has been naming were some dynamite people and modelers. What a place to have been.

From John Bishop:

The North End was in operation when I was there in the late 70's (Antioch, Sacramento, to Mulberry), although it may have been that Kirby and I and (I think) Chet McMillan reopened it. I can recall doing a fair amount of work on the wire and some feeders in that area. I recall that that part of the
line was signaled and I recall working on the signals. I do recall some kind of a cut-off line that went, if I remember right, from Mulberry back to Oakland, not via Antioch. That was not being used when I got there, but I remember working on it and after a time it was running too, although not
used much. Or am I mixing lines up?   North Tower --straining my memory I recall it. It was not being used by the time I got there. It was kind of derelict and mysterious and sad.
Kirby probably told me the story behind it. Bob Briggs does ring a bell. I think I talked with Kirby about fixing it, but my ambitions tended to run ahead of my talents, especially compared to the real pros, because I really knew nothing about serious model railroading before I came into the club. I think I remember there was some good reason to leave it alone, possibly because fooling with North Tower might mess things up elsewhere. Or possibly there were still people there who did not like it. I think parts of it may have still worked and parts did not. It’s been too long.
I recall that the North End had occupancy detection, and you could hear relays clicking as the trains ran. Besides that, different scraps of memories keep coming back -- I think I remember occupancy lights blinking somewhere -- but I am not sure whether I am imagining the memory.

I suppose there will never be another layout like that !!! 

From Ken Shattock (KRK) :

"North Tower" was an elevated control cab built against the wall at the North end of the room. It was built by Bob Briggs. It was unique in that all North End and Mulberry trackage was indicated on the Model Board along with Track Occupancy lights. These would light and indicate the positions of cars on the OA&E on the North End.. The
cab was equipped with pull down window shades. Bob Briggs said he enjoyed pulling down the shades and "running blind" just by observing the lights. Bob Briggs was an electrical genius-- many years before, he had super detailed wiring that he installed to accomplish almost everything you wanted to do on the OA&E.. Control circuits, signals, towers, remote operating positions, portable control panels such as
for "Concord" that could be plugged into a large amphenol jack at Antioch and operate the Concord Loop from there if you were short handed for running a show for the public.. He had everything precicely drawn out in detail in books (hundreds of pages) and color coded with color pens and pencils..  He was amazing !!
Meanwhile, back on the big “OA&E” trolley layout, things were NOT going so well…

Unfortunately there were some members that had their own ideas and it came down to the point that someone would come down on a Friday night and get a little "Too Happy" with diaganol pliers and cut stuff out and make changes and eliminations without consulting Bob.. As you can imagine, after putting up with this for probably too long, Bob and his wife Doras QUIT the club and never came back. Too bad-- he was very clever in what he did!
Doras Briggs is the “Station Host” for AMTRAK at the Emeryville, CA location…  She is still an “Honorary Member” of EBMES for her many years of artistic skills put forth in building scenery on the old Halleck Street O-scale layouts.  Her “card” is worn very badly but she still proudly carries it after all these many years,  On July 4th 2009, Doras will be “91” …

The next time you travel by train and happen to stop at Emeryville and time permits, look Doras up and say hello.  If you have a question about the days on Halleck Street, go ahead and ask her.  My wife and I know her personally and I know for a fact that with that little gleam in her eye, she will think back to her wonderful memories of EASTBAY and answer your questions.

What is truly amazing to this story is the fact that after so many, many years of being away from the Club,  Doras Briggs is back in EMERYVILLE.














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