Thursday, August 3, 2017


Each year near the anniversary of the start of construction of my SP Cascade Line, I conduct a photo survey of the railroad.  This helps me and others to see the progress made over the preceding year by comparing to previous surveys.  The official start of construction of my railroad was August 1, 2012.  August 1, satisfies my partial Swiss heritage—Swiss National Day, dating back to the original canton confederacy in 1291.  Cue William Tell! 

Last year’s railroad survey can be found at:

You can work back through previous annual surveys via that link.

Last year’s survey followed a RR-West train from Eugene to Crescent Lake.  This year, I chose to work RR-Eastbound from Crescent Lake to Eugene.  In the process of re-staging the railroad for an operating session at the end of the week, I needed to move one train down from Crescent Lake to Eugene, so that became the “lucky” one to be featured this year.  Follow along in photos and captions as I move SP7474E down the mountain grade and into Eugene.

SP7474E starts out at Crescent Lake.  Although this scene appears similar to one at the end of last year’s survey, a major change is that I am standing on the permanent operator platform for Crescent Lake instead of the step ladder that served for four and a half years.  Evidence of the platform is seen in the foreground where a shelf, car card slots and the corner of the switch control panel for Crescent Lake appear along the layout edge.

SP7474E crosses through the throat switch for the Crescent Lake reverse loop staging.  The bright blue LED indicator below the third boxcar was a recent addition to help train crews know which way the switch is set for.

SP7474E passes through Cascade Summit. RR-West (uphill) trains remove their helpers here.  Lighting is uneven this close to the ceiling. The operator platform height to the ceiling is seven feet, with the railroad five feet above the platform (two feet below the ceiling).

SP7474E works down from the summit, dynamic brakes screaming (at least in my head).  The lead locomotive has started out onto the future site of Shady Creek Trestle, one of three large steel trestles on the line.  Tunnel portal mock-ups have been planted to get me inspired to pursue scenery—soon.  My railroad will feature ten of the prototype line’s twenty tunnels.

SP7474E meets SP9232W, the BRLAT, helped by SSW9066 at West Cruzatte.  Today’s Dispatcher will catch some “flak” for delaying that pig train.  The Brooklyn (SP’s Portland, OR, Yard) to Los Angeles Trailer is a “hot” train.  This past year, I have added signature elements to the priority freight trains on the railroad—the Forwarder and Trailer trains.  This usually means auto racks and trailer-on-flat-car (TOFC) at the head end.  With those 89 ft. cars in train, SP rules call for placing the helper on the “point” (ahead of the lead locomotive). 

SP7474E swings around and over Salt Creek Trestle and into Wicopee.  The future trestle here should become a signature scene on my railroad, just as it is for the public on the prototype Cascade Line.  Oregon Highway 58, the Willamette Pass Highway, passes underneath the trestle.

SP7474E crosses Salmon Creek Trestle as it approaches Oakridge.

SP7474E rolles through the RR-East end of Oakridge.  Lots of work awaits this weekend’s operating crew!  Another RR-East is on the Oakridge siding, to the left of SP7474.  A pair of helper units is on Yard Track 1, ready to cut into the RR-West train on Yard Track 2.  The yard cross-overs were added this past year.  With these switches, helpers can be cut-in within the yard.  Previously, RR-West trains had to occupy the mainline over Salmon Creek, as their helpers were cut in at the RR-West end of the yard. 
     The crossover switches also help the Oakridge Turn (the local freight that serves Oakridge area industries) work without tying up the mainline.  The Oakridge Turn is waiting on Yard Track 3.  The Oakridge Turn comes up to Oakridge from Eugene on one day.  It switches the Pope and Talbot mill at the RR-West end of town and does most of the rest of the Oakridge switching.  It then goes off duty (prototype crews took their eight-hour rest) and returns to duty to return to Eugene.  With mainline authority through Westfir, the Oakridge Turn serves Western Lumber at Westfir—the other major lumber mill around Oakridge.

SP7474E rounds the curve at Westfir.  Sharp eyes might see the beginning of the railroad bridge over the North Fork of the Willamette River underneath the temporary road bed beyond the lumber mill.  The lumber mill structures also are new and will be the subject of future blog posts.

SP7474E rolls through Springfield.  Two new industry structure sets appear here between the railroad and the backdrop.  The green complex is Tilbury Cement, on long-term loan from modeler Harry Bonham.  Harry wrote a two-part article in Railroad Model Craftsman around 1990, featuring plans and the construction of this model.  I am grateful to be the recipient of Harry’s work!  Tilbury Cement has long been on my “must model” list.  Further back is the site of Timber Products/Clear Fir, featured in the previous blog post.

SP7474E rolls through the mainline at the Eugene Depot.  Several new structures can be seen here, including Rubenstein’s Furniture immediately on the left, Oregon Supply beyond the depot, and Pierce Freight further back.  These have been featured in recent blog posts.  The concrete grain elevator (large white silos) for Albers is still under construction.

Journey’s end for SP7474E as it comes to a halt in the Eugene Arrival-Departure Yard.  Trains are staged for the next operating session, awaiting power and cabooses.  SP7474E’s train will become the next 01-EUKFY, a “junk” train headed to Klamath Falls with traffic headed to connections at Ogden, UT, via the Modoc Line and other traffic headed down the Shasta Route mainline toward Dunsmuir and on to the California Central Valley. 

As I look back at the previous year’s photo survey, I see most of the changes in the past year have supported operations.  Recent additions have been structures being changed from taped together kit walls to fleshed-out three dimensional buildings.

Oh yes, one more item is just peeking above the railroad in the background of the last photo—the new Dispatcher’s Panel—the black rectangle.  The panel is mounted to the Dispatcher’s desk which is on wheels.  The desk is wheeled into our exercise room for formal operating sessions.  My railroad was built for operations.  It is staged and ready for the next formal session—this weekend!

Friday, July 28, 2017


My effort to flesh out structures on my railroad tends to move around the main level, addressing whatever building or buildings I feel like working on at any given time.  Often that means I work on a structure set where I have finally thought through what I want and how to accomplish that with materials (kits or other supplies) I have on hand or can acquire quickly.  That process moved me around from Eugene to Springfield for the latest effort. 

Timber Products, also known as Clear Fir, was a door and window maker in Springfield with a pair of spurs near the depot.  They had ceased manufacturing efforts in Springfield by the 1970’s, but in my time-warping take on the industrial scene, I wanted to use those spurs for railroad shipments, including the inbound materials on the spur that extended behind the depot through Tilbury Cement.  The one photo and description of Timber Products’ Springfield facility that I had access to was pretty generic for Western Oregon industries.  I was content with “Imagineering” a set of structures to fill the space.

I used a pair of Walthers Cornerstone kits as the basis for my version of Timber Products.—two of the Planing Mill and Shed (933-3059) and one Midstate Marble Products (933-3073).  In both cases, I used some of the kit components, saving others for other projects.  I assembled the main building of the Midstate Marble Products kit pretty much as Walthers designed it.  I also used the outdoor overhead travelling crane from the kit.  Both are used as part of the materials intake portion of the industry.

Completed structures for Timber Products/Clear Fir in Springfield.  Note Tilbury Cement in the background on the same spur as the rear portion of Timber Products.

One choice I had to make was a paint scheme.  The single photo I had was black and white.  It showed a medium tone building with white trim.  Originally, I was going to go with a light olive paint for the base color—right up until I noticed the nearby Tilbury Cement already was a very similar color.  Tilbury Cement was NOT going to be repainted.  Further, Tilbury Cement is on the same spur as the materials intake for Timber Products.  I needed to distinguish the two companies.  Instead, I chose a light-medium gray for the base color, retaining white for trim. 

I used the Walthers Planing Mill building as the basis for the second structure of the Timber Products complex.  The Walthers kit builds a two-story structure.  Befitting Western Oregon, I wanted a single-story structure, albeit longer.  The solution was to cut down a pair of the kit building sides and splice them together.  Along the way, I added freight doors and modified a pair of the windows for the loading dock area.  The board and batten siding provided convenient guides and disguises for the splice joints.

Walthers Planing Mill kit sides cut apart, pending reassembly as the structure I wanted.

Kit-bashed mill structure in the foreground.  I used the spare pair of upper end pieces to provide additional roof support.  Conventional assembly of Midstate Marble Products structure is in the rear.

A major challenge was splicing the corrugated roofing for the longer structure.  The corrugations provide both a natural cutting guide and a splicing challenge.  In the end, I found it better to cut from the underside, using a combination square to guide the cut.  Although I used a razor saw for some of the cuts, I also found a scribing action with the reverse edge of an Xacto blade was very effective and efficient with the soft plastic Walthers has these kits molded in.  My NWSL TrueSander was an important tool for cleaning up the cuts. 

When I spliced the roof sections, I found I still had distortions at the splice joints.  The solution to this was weathering to help disguise the joint.  Much of the corrugated iron siding in Walthers structures does not provide the texture relief of panel edges.  Real corrugated iron siding and roofing comes in panels that are applied with a slight overlap of a ridge and valley.  Older (weathered) corrugated siding and roofing displays these overlaps by rust streaks and an accumulation of grime. 

Although I have tediously weathered such rust and grime effects with paint in past efforts, I decided to try something much simpler.  I experimented using Primsacolor pencils.  This puts color onto the corrugation ridges instead of the valleys where nature puts it.  Nonetheless, from typical viewing distances of more than a couple of feet, the effect is the same—alternating strips of “natural” metal and rust or grime. 

Use of the pencils was very easy, quick and controllable.  I used a strip of ¼ inch wide Evergreen strip to guide me to the next panel line.  The panel line was done with a light umber (PC 941) pencil.  This was followed by shading of the lower portion of a panel with the same pencil.  Lighter, more recent rust effects were done above this base using a burnt ochre (PC 943) pencil.  The entire process went very quickly, even on large corrugation areas.

Weathering Timber Products corrugated roof sections in process.  Note that the splice joint near the middle of both panels nearly disappears.

A quick note on the rest of the process.  I found I could use Rustoleum rattle can spray paint for the base coat. I sprayed aluminum and then did a light misting with an “Aged Gray Chalk” spray.  This latter spray does not completely cover the aluminum base.  Indeed, it is useful to introduce streaking with this very light spray coat. The objective was to dull down the aluminum base coat, but leave enough of the reflective glint to give the illusion of galvanized metal.  After this treatment dried, I sprayed Testors Dulcote .  Once this dried, I began the weathering process with the Primsacolor pencils.  A final coat of Dulcote sealed the surface.

The roof panels were attached to their respective structures with Pacer Formula 560 canopy glue.  This has become my favorite adhesive for joining dissimilar materials or, as in this case, painted surfaces.  Though this glue looks like white glue, it is very good for these uses.  It dries clear—hence its use by aircraft modelers to attach clear canopies.  It has a modest-length working and setting time—slow enough to position parts, but fast enough to satisfy a desire for instant gratification.  That slower setting feature, contrasting to CA adhesives, was very important to getting roof sections into position on the core structure and joined at the ridge line.

Another view of the core structures for Timber Products/Clear Fir.

I still am working with where to place the chip bins (the dark green structures alongside both mill buildings in the photos).  Once I have settled on the overall scene, I will install the piping for wood chips. 

Another element needed for this scene was a pair of loading docks.  Both were simply built using Evergreen styrene strip and V-groove siding.  In both cases, I found I could quickly paint them using Rustoleum tan camouflage spray paint and another light misting use of the Chalked Aged Gray.  Later on, I applied additional weathering to the front loading dock using both an acrylic weathering cream and an alcohol and paint wash. 

For now, the major pieces are in place, filling a big empty space in my Springfield scene.