The Conejo & Tortuga Railroad is a free-lance garden railroad which came into existence from a mountain of dirt created when Bernie and Vicki Meister constructed a new garage adjacent to their Paso Robles home. The mountain and the animated movie “Rango” inspired the fictional town name “Dirt”, which is prominently featured both in and around the layout.

Using the materials on hand, this layout with a distinctly mid-1920’s western ghost town atmosphere has been creatively constructed since 2007. An expansion to the mainline to the silver mine crossing three arch truss bridges was completed in Spring 2022. There is always something new on the Conejo & Tortuga railroad. So, climb on board to the Town of Dirt soon!

Take a moment to rest at the station while you wait for the next train scheduled to arrive at the Town of Dirt (M.S. Edwards, image).
The regional railbus rumbles through a detailed, rural scene just outside the Town of Dirt city limits (M.S. Edwards, image).


Upon entry into the Meister’s spacious backyard, guests are greeted with sights and sounds of railroad theme artifacts, including a period train depot with a telegraph, old phones and a customized time bulletin announcing daily arrivals and departures. If you are visiting at the right time of day, you may notice prototypical railroad signal lights change in sequence with the arrival of the Amtrak Coast Starlight in the near-by Paso Robles station!

Directly across the station platform, the Town of Dirt nestled against the mountainous backdrop. A scratch-built mine gives guests some insight into the industries of the region. The mainline crosses multiple trestles as it passes through the undulating terrain. A switching and staging area is supported by a scratch built. The pivoting table operates with in a pit constructed by a family friend.

Passengers leaving the town of Dirt board the railbus (M.S. Edwards, image).
Custom-built mine adds to ghost town atmosphere (M.S. Edwards, image)

Layout Specifications

Rolling-stock on the Conejo and Tortuga Railroad is battery-powered and operated using the Revolution 2.4 GHz Train Engineer and 2.4 GHz on-board receivers. All turnouts and the turntable are hand-operated.

A combination of living and some artificial plants are used through the water-wise landscape. Plants include blue star Ceanothus pruned to be trees and rosemary. Where visible, drip irrigation is cleverly disguised as California aqueduct pipelines.

Track gauge (mm)45
Total length (ft.)270
Mainline (ft.)100
Maximum gradient (%)2.0
Minimum radius (ft.)8
Control systemRemote Battery