Sarasota's Premier Model Railroad and Hobby Store

Gulf Coast Model Railroad & Hobby Shop
3222 Clark Road
Sarasota, FL 34231  map

Store Hours:
Mon - Fri: 10am - 6pm
Saturday: 10am - 5pm
Sunday: Closed

Staff Layout Photos

This page features model railroad layouts built by our staff. Click below to view a given layout.

The Bodega Bay   |   The Bug Line   |   The Railroads of the PB&J

The Bodega Bay R.R. & Navigation Co.

The young man leaned against the bow railing of an old wooden lumber schooner and stared at the island-like mass of land that rose out of the sea before him. "It looks like a cake" he thought; "A cake with green icing". This is how John Bell Simpson first saw Bodega Bay, California. It was late summer, 1886; he was twenty years old. To the left, an old pier badly in need of repair jutted out into the flat water. It was the only sign of man. It was to this pier that the schooner tied up, John Bell Simpson stepped off, and here he stayed until his death in 1940.

Bodega Bay The Land
The community of Bodega Bay was actually located at the end of a narrow peninsula on the north end of namesake Bodega Bay, California. Rocky bluffs and steep hills topped with coastal redwoods were the dominant feature of the landscape. Viewed from a certain perspective it actually did look like a cake.
Bodega Bay The People and Buildings
When Simpson arrived, Bodega Bay was nothing more than a pier and a few small shacks. But Simpson had a vision, he would build a town, a resort where the San Francisco elite could hide away. It would be a place where they could experience the beauty and wonders of northern California. A relative back east staked Simpson the funds to buy out the small, failing lumber company and its land holdings and he began working on his dream.

First, Simpson built a small narrow-gauge line up to the redwoods. He formed the "Simpson Logging and Sawmill Company", logging just enough redwoods to further fund his dream. Next, he had a standard-gauge line built east to connect with the Southern Pacific Railroad and the outside world. He bought an old lumber schooner to move boards down the coast. He called his new empire "The Bodega Bay Railroad and Navigation Company". It was 1889 and he was on his way to building his dream.

Bodega Bay After a trip back east to meet with his investor, Simpson returned and built the Taj Hotel. He was inspired by a book he had seen while back east, it was a book on Roman architecture illustrating the use of great stone columns and arches. Unfortunately he had little cash, but he had lots of wood and so the Taj was built complete with Roman columns and arches---all in redwood.

Bodega Bay never really took off. A few wealthy patrons vacationed there but without beaches, boardwalks or other attractions, business never climbed above a trickle. A couple of men's clubs came to hunt or hike but mostly they spent their time at the Taj's bar. And so eventually the town of Bodega Bay became home to a collection of characters well-suited to life at the end of a finger of land that dipped into the Pacific Ocean. Let's meet some of them.

Bodega Bay Lee & Li Chang
Husband and wife, or brother and sister; nobody ever really knew. In 1900 they built Chang's General Merchandise& Laundry and later a restaurant. They did quite well considering neither ever spoke much English.

Bodega Bay Minnie Billie
A Choctaw Indian from Mississippi. She was rumored to have run away from her husband and seven children. She started the Dancing Rabbit Mine. She Claimed to be mining Opals although no-one ever saw any. She eventually left town still owing a lot of money to the Scotia Supply Company.

Bodega Bay Mose Crindle's Scotia Supply
Purveyor of mining and lumbering equipment and supplies. Mose, a widower, came west after his wife died. He was a gentle, generous man who gave everyone credit. It was his eventual undoing. He closed in 1930 when he went bankrupt. He had IOU's from the locals totaling over $30,000.

Bodega Bay Red's Redwood Furniture
No one ever knew where Red was from. He liked it that way. He built fine furniture that he sold down south in the cities. He sold a lot of furniture but wasted most of his money at the Taj's bar. He was said to have had a long running affair with Minnie Billy before she disappeared.

Bodega Bay The Belly Brothers
The Belly brothers came on the schooner with J.B. Simpson. In 1888 they built the fish packing plant that clung to the bluffs on the bay. In 1912 they added an addition to store the fish meal they produced. They were frequent companions of Red's at the Taj, to the very loud objections of their wives, both of whom eventually left them.

Bodega Bay Captain Jack
A seafaring man, Captain Jack first came to Bodega Bay in 1905. He had spent his whole life at sea, mostly in the south pacific. On a subsequent visit in 1908 he discovered an ancient totem pole grove near a place called Otter Cove by the locals. He convinced J.B. Simpson to lease him the land and he built a very unusual "A frame" home like the huts he had lived in in the south pacific. He sent for his wife, a native of the Solomon Islands, and settled down. They had a peaceful life together until her death in 1924; Jack stayed on. Every afternoon he walked the tracks to Lee Chang's Cafe for supper and then walked back to sit among the totem poles and watch the sunset. He went to be with his wife in 1933.

Bodega Bay The Redwood Station and Overlook
In 1928 the town banded together and built the station and overlook to encourage the tourists to come see beautiful Bodega Bay. Unfortunately the crash of 1929 killed any hope of making money on tourism. The buildings languished and fell into disrepair.

Bodega Bay John Bell Simpson
Though he never became very wealthy or saw his dream become completely true, Simpson had a happy life. He married and had several children. The children went back east to college and never returned to stay in Bodega Bay. Simpson and his wife kept the town alive until his death in 1940. His wife closed the Taj Hotel in 1942 and moved to Tennessee to live with her son and grandchildren. The town died after she left. The fish were depleted and the usable timber was gone. Except for ten acres around the station and lookout, Bodega's resources were gone.The rails were scrapped for the war effort and the sea eventually claimed the buildings on the bluffs. The rest of the town rotted away in the winds and fog of the Pacific coast. In the late sixties the state of California turned the redwood grove and the totem poles at Otter Cove into a state park. Eventually an old hippie named Larry became caretaker. He's still there.

Bodega Bay Jan Webber, 1933 - 2010
is the creator of the Bodega Bay Railroad and the tale of its history and people you just read. Jan was a professor of art at Mississippi State University for twenty-five years; he retired in 1993 after having attained the position of department head. After a thirty year hiatus he started modeling again. The Bodega Bay was his third layout in eight years. Sadly, Jan passed away in April of 2010 after a thankfully brief battle with complications of pneumonia.

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Gulf Coast Model Railroad & Hobby Shop is Sarasota's premier model train and railroad accessory store. We specialize in HO and N scale locomotives, buildings, rolling stock, track, scenery supplies, scratchbuilding supplies, and model railroad accessories. We also buy and sell model railroad equipment, provide train appraisals, repair model railroad equipment and offer consignment services.
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