Monday, April 5, 2021


Tom Dill, retired Southern Pacific engineer, SP historian (ten books on the SP), outstanding modeler, friend, passed away Easter Sunday.  His loss hits hard and will be felt until our own demises.  


When one has been in a hobby for a while, one recognizes a few individuals who have been major inspirations for their hobby participation.  Tom Dill was such a person for me.  I first knew of Tom through his co-authorship with Ed Austin of the two foundational books on the history of the Southern Pacific in Oregon.  Tom went on to author or co-author ten books on the SP.  He wrote articles on both SP history and modeling the SP.  


Tom and Ed's books on the SP in Oregon form the foundation for my tribute to the Cascade Line in HO-scale.  Tom was always ready with his experience on the railroad and advice for modeling of it.  His photo collection continues to provide further inspiration and guidance.


I first met Tom at an SPH&TS Meet in Tucson, AZ, and immediately formed a friendship that only strengthened through the years.  Tom was one of the first railroaders and model railroaders who gathered me in and introduced me around the area when I returned to my native Oregon upon retirement.  His introductions led to many great friendships.


Tom brought his railroad in his new home into operation a bit ahead of me.  Tom focused his railroad on operations around Ashland, Oregon, a junction between the historic Shasta and Portland Divisions of the SP.  His modeling expertise was on full display in his Ashland scene and the rest of the layout as it developed.  Tom focused on operations during the transition from steam to diesel, with some operations run strictly with steam, ca, 1949, and others with mostly diesel.  The climb to Siskiyou Summit and on to connection with the later-day mainline at Black Butte, California was a territory that received early dieselization due to the steep grade and tight curves.  Still, steam lingered for service off of that steep climb over the Siskiyous, so Tom's roundhouse was always active with steam.  


Tom brought a railroader's sense of operation to his miniature empire.  We used switchlists--but had no yard clerks to keep up with the movement of cars within the very tight confines of Ashland.  Another SP "Old Head" introduced paper tabs to help with switching cars, explaining it was "car chalk."  It was unsightly--a shame with his exquisite freight car models--but it got the job done.  I felt privileged to operate with crews that were otherwise composed of SP "old heads."  


Tom was an immediate crew member when the time came to begin operations on my railroad.  He was very helpful during the first full mainline operating session in June, 2015.  His and fellow SP "old head" Rick Kang's comments that day led to my current track project at East Eugene.  As Tom put it, "Bill, you need to extend the WP Siding."  In that comment, I immediately understood something I had missed in decades of study of Ed Austin's track diagram for Eugene in their SP Oregon book.  SP had effectively created two main tracks from the RR-West switch at the depot out to Irving on the north end of the yard complex.  My original track plan necked this down to single track between the Eugene depot and the Arrival-Departure Yard.  As I have described in recent blog posts, it has taken this long for me to install and wire the track arrangement that resulted from that very insightful comment.  Sadly, Tom will never see the fruits of his inspiration. 


Tom was a regular crewmember for operations on my railroad, taking whatever assignment most needed doing.  He joked about wanting to be a helper engineer--a seemingly easy job on the full-sized railroad that becomes a high skill and attentiveness job on a model railroad.  I awarded him "Seniority Number One," but he never exercised that right.  Tom often took less experienced model railroaders under his wing, guiding them into the joys of the hobby.  He was a great mentor.  All of us benefited.



Tom Dill serves as engineer with Steve K. working the first Springfield Turn job in December, 2019.  Tom was happy with a throttle in his hand.



Tom Dill works the Oakridge Turn with John B. in October 2019.


Tom Dill takes a turn as a conductor with Doug C. as Tom introduced Doug to my RR.


Tom joined me and supported me in my quest for determining the color of the metal shed that covered the sand unloading pit and conveyor for the 1958-built ("modern") sand facilities for diesel servicing at Eugene.  That shed remain a future project, but I appreciated Tom's help in trying to find what has proven an elusive goal.  I have enough good black and white photos to model the shed, but several color schemes could apply.  It has been fun to work this problem with Tom and other SP historians.  


I hope the model railroad world understands the deep loss we sustained this weekend as Tom passed off this mortal coil.  Railroader, historian, modeler, FRIEND.


Rest In Peace, Tom.

Wednesday, March 31, 2021


As I continue to work toward a fully functioning new track arrangement at East Eugene, I am glad I scheduled this long-planned effort as a "Covid-19 Project."  This critical part of my railroad has been out of service since I began this effort in October.  The track removal and re-laying went fairly swiftly


but the wiring proved challenging 

(  As previously reported, I finally did sort through my track wiring such that I can run trains through this section.  My attention then turned to control of the nine switch machines and eventual route indication.


I fabricated a physical control panel with the same dimensions and construction as the two other panels which control track routing in this overall area. The panel face is 10 x 18 inches and is mounted on a frame built from 1x3 poplar.  The control panel frame is mounted with bottom hinges to the layout fascia and opens for electrical work on the back side of the panel.


Control panel frame fabricated and ready to be mounted with hinges to the lower fascia extension.



A coat of white paint on the hardboard panel face led to marker pen track lines and then toggle switch mounting.


A middle of the night inspiration brought into my semi-consciousness the reason for my slow progress on the control panel.  I needed to resolve spacing issues for the toggle switches and route indicator LEDs.  My overnight insight led to my recognizing that three of the routes represented cross-overs that could be route-controlled by single toggle switches.  Those are the toggle switches mounted directly in the track lines.  The left-most toggle actually controls access to an industrial siding.  The turnout for that siding has not been built and installed yet, but the toggle switch is located for that function.


The nine switch machines needed multi-strand control wires run for them.  Ugh!  Cable Pulling.  I am glad most of the cable pulling on this railroad is beyond me, but just this bit of it for this reconstruction project reminds me just how tiring and nasty that job is underneath a layout.  I finally routed the control wires and terminated them at the switch machine block on one end and control panel blocks at the other end.  Observing how I wired the LEDs for my first double slip switch last summer, I added wires for the switching pole of the indictor circuits. 


Control panel interior.  The switch panel is flopped open below and the fixed layout connections are above on the fascia hidden by the panel.  


I am now ready to begin connecting the toggle switches to the wiring blocks for the fixed layout connections out to the switch machines.  I will then tackle the LED route indicators.  Step by step, I am approaching a point where this project can become a contributor to operations on my railroad.


The control panel for the revised track at East Eugene is coming together.

Wednesday, March 17, 2021


During construction of a model railroad one occasionally (hopefully only that!) encounters a project that refuses to advance in a straight-forward manner in spite of seemingly sound construction practices.  Such has been my winter project--wiring the new track including four double slip switches at RR-East Eugene.  My previous post--now two and a half months ago--described the mechanical aspects of laying track and installing switch machines.  That post gave a hint of some of the frustrations I have experienced with this project:  tight working quarters, a shift of eyesight (cataract surgery) since original construction, and selecting and obtaining the required double slip switches.  Since then, I have experienced a model railroad "do-loop" (endless repetition of tasks with no progress).  


The earlier blog post on track laying described the addition of a second main track extending from the RR-East end of the Eugene depot trackage to the departure side of the arrival-departure yard--the reverse loop staging tracks in the "back" room.  Anticipating that I might want to add signals someday to this complex track plan, I decided I need to create two additional electrical blocks for the OS-block and new main track.  I decided not to run the full block wiring back to the Eugene electrical connection panel.  The new block bus wires extend only over the immediate area of the new track for feeder connections and then connect, for now, to the original block bus wires for these two detection block functions.


Track feeders were dropped and connected to the appropriate bus wires.  Similarly, connections were made to the switch machine terminal blocks to provide for electrically hot frogs (switching polarity).  All of this was relatively straight-forward in spite of the tight working conditions under the layout.  


I was often challenged to find the right optical help for my post-cataract surgery eyes.  Original construction of my railroad often found me removing my glasses for close work under the layout.  Presbyopia had been kind to my extreme near-sightedness, rendering good vision focus inside my arm-length without glasses.  Post-cataract surgery, with my distant vision now corrected to nearly 20/20, I now found this same viewing range required reading glasses or other magnifying lenses.  This has been a big shift for me and the source of much frustration as I need to change to the right range readers for work under the layout.  I continue to wrestle with this as old habits must be un-learned and new ones developed.


Pressing on, I finally got to the stage where I put a test loco on the track, fired up the DCC system, and tried running through the new track work.  No joy.  I had a dead short.  It took me quite a while to work through trouble shooting to locate the source of the short.  All of the wiring underneath looked good, but the short remained.  I finally isolated the new track electrically from the rest of the RR--disconnecting multiple bus wires back at the Eugene connection panel. 


I eventually identified the short as being within one of the new double slip switches.  Further investigation pointed to one of the two frogs shorting to one of the rails running through that frog.  I thought I might clear this by cutting new rail gaps.  No Joy.  I finally took the drastic step of removing the offending switch.  


Double-slip switch with frog short removed.  DAP adhesive caulk softens and releases when soaked with a pool of rubbing alcohol for 15-20 minutes.


Close examination of the underside of the frog revealed the source of the problem.  I am using Peco SL-U8363 code 83 double slip switches.  These feature a good mechanical design.  Peco makes these with their "unifrog" design which features a modest length frog that the user can decide to use as either a "dead" frog (no electrical connection) or a hot frog with a polarity-switching connection.  I use the latter feature.  Peco has done a very good job designing the switch so that it needs only four electrical connections:  the two stock rails and the two frogs.


Peco unifrog underside showing pass-through rail connection wires flanking the frog wire.  I have added a small bit of wire insulation to the frog wire as it passes between the other pair of bare wires.  This is a critical user installation requirement!


The photo of the underside of the Peco frog illustrates the problem and the solution.  Three bare wires are in close proximity, each potentially having an opposite polarity.  With contact between the frog wire and one of the two run-through rail connection wires, a short will develop when the frog is set to the opposite polarity.  It is very difficult to assure keeping the frog wire clear of the two run-through wires during installation, even if one knows this is a potential problem.  The solution is to add insulation on the frog wire.  I used a 1/4-inch section of insulation removed from a strand of Cat5 cable wire.  I threaded it onto the frog wire, pressed it down to the frog and then added CA glue to affix it.  


My earlier work trying to isolate the frog with additional rail gaps led to a loose rail on one end.  While I could fix this with solder and spiking the rail into position, I chose to order yet another new switch.  Once again, Yankee Dabbler ( came to my rescue by having it in stock and promptly shipping it.  Thank you!  When the new switch arrived, I added insulation on the frog wire and removed the throw-bar springs--unneeded with my use of Tortoise switch machines.


The new switch with appropriate modifications cleared that first short.  Unfortunately, as I began testing the new track-work again, I found yet another short on a previously untested routing.  This was in the double-slip switch at the other end of the group of four switches.  With experience, I quickly identified which frog was causing the problem.  Out came a second switch. I dinged up the cork roadbed quite a bit with this removal.  That prompted more delay as I had to let the alcohol-laden area dry out and then add spackle, paint and then gluing the switch to the roadbed with adhesive caulk.   Each step took frustratingly more time.  During the course of this removal, I ended up breaking solder joints for two of the feeder wires (one stock rail and one frog), so I had to repair those.  Somehow, I STILL managed to cause a frog short with the installation, so out it came--again!  


While I have been frustrated by the Peco electrical design that almost guarantees a short between the frog wire and one of the run-through rail wires, I remain satisfied with the modified product.  It has a sound mechanical design.


Just when I thought I had all faults corrected, I found I now had a dead frog for one routing.  Chasing my way back through the wiring underneath, I found I had a cold solder joint for one of the feeder connections to one of the bus wires.  Out came the resistance solder unit to fix that problem and to finally fully connect a couple of additional track feeders needed for short track sections used to connect the relatively short Peco switches in places formerly occupied by long number eight switches.  


I still need to create a new control panel for the new track arrangement.  The first panel will use toggle switches to control the switch machines backed up by LED route indicators.  Eventually, a second panel will be created that will use two-button entrance-exit (NX) control.  


Time to test the track and demonstrate that I now have two main lines in and now out of the arrival-departure yard!


A RR-East meets a RR-West, passing on the pair of tracks now connecting the Eugene depot to the arrival-departure yard.


The form of future Eugene operations.  A RR-West train departs the A-D Yard via the connection to the WP Siding in front of the depot while a RR-East enters the A-D yard from the main track at the depot and then curves left to take the arrival side of the A-D Yard.


This has been a long, frustrating, and challenging effort to provide a new traffic arrangement into and out of the Eugene Arrival-Departure Yard, aka staging.  It will be interesting to see how this plays out when we finally return to full operations with a full crew.  The track-wiring battle has been won, but the war continues.

Thursday, December 31, 2020


As we moved into the Fall and Winter, I faced a period of shut-down on my railroad.  Poor weather precludes using our back patio as a safe gathering place and relief valve where masks can be removed while maintaining distance.  With a long period without operating sessions, I can tackle larger projects that would otherwise disrupt the railroad.  Such is the case with the long-planned rework of the track arrangement at the RR-East end of the Eugene Depot aimed at extending a second track from the depot into the arrival-departure yard.


The Eugene Depot track rework was suggested to me by two of my retired SP railroaders at the first full operating session back in June 2015.  In a flash, their comments revealed to me the importance of two tracks running the full length of the Eugene yard complex, something I had missed in well over a decade of staring at the yard track diagram drawn by Ed Austin in his and Tom Dill's The Southern Pacific in Oregon, Pacific Fast Mail, Edmonds, Washington, 1987.  Two tracks with suitable cross-overs kept the terminal fluid from the RR-West switch at the depot north to Irving at the RR-East end of the Eugene Yard.  I planned and built my railroad to neck back down to a single main track at the RR-East end of the depot before arriving at the throat switch for my reverse loop staging which serves as the arrival-departure yard.


While I recognized the need to "extend the WP Siding" as Tom Dill so simply put it, the solution required complex track-work.  Whatever I did needed to fit within tight geometry created by the original track plan and construction.  I very quickly settled on a plan involving double slip switches.  I already had a short section of two tracks around the reverse loop throat switch, but I needed to deal with track and switches that were part of the Eugene Depot complex.  


My initial plan would use FastTracks turnout construction fixtures just as most of the simple turnouts on my railroad have.  I eventually discovered that my intended use of Number 8 double slips to replace existing simple Number 8s that were in the mainline tracks in this area would not work.  That size double slip is a lot more complex than simply multiple sets of points and frogs.  When I understood that, I began looking at commercial double slip switches.  I finally settled on Peco SL-U8363 #6 Double Slip switches.  As I worked with these sharper crossing-angle (#6 vs #8 frogs), I found my original track-laying was sufficiently imprecise to adapt to the Number 6 frog angle.  My "prototype" (first use) installation was with a single double slip switch installed into the departure end of the arrival-departure yard.  That was documented this summer in my post:

That installation established access to all twelve A-D Yard tracks instead of the original design which accessed only the outer five tracks.  


The three small group gatherings and operating sessions I held this summer tested that initial double slip switch installation.  That was a critical milestone.  I long ago learned that one cannot proof read one's own writing nor properly test a new creation such as track-work.  With that test successfully passed, it was time to schedule the actual track installation.


The actual track re-work proceeded fairly quickly in October following my third and last small group session.  I removed the old track and switch machines and cleaned up the roadbed, including filling throw-bar slots.  Five switches came out, including one that access a future industrial area.  The new track went in fairly smoothly although I had undercounted the number of double slip switches I needed.  They were out of stock at the usual suppliers, but a quick internet search yielded one from Yankee Dabbler:  Their service was excellent.  I also found I was running out of Code 83 track and was able to obtain a bundle of the required Micro Engineering flex track from a favorite Portland hobby shop, Hobby Smith:  In both cases, I paid for express shipping as I already removed the old track.  My railroad was un-runnable!


Revised track for the RR-East end of the Eugene Depot.  The track on the left in the foreground was added, extending the WP Siding which is the track closest to the depot, seen in the distance.  Common to SP practice, the official mainline track is at least one track over from the depot.  I need to add the passenger platform and walk-overs at the depot.  Also seen is the now straight-through track path from the pair of "City Yard" tracks (to the right of the WP Siding and Main) that accesses the to-be-developed industrial area in the lower left.


With the track arranged and throw-bar slots cut, I moved on to installing Tortoise (by Circuitron) switch machines.  "Murphy's Law" was in full force as I discovered two of the throw-bar slots were alongside bench-work stringers.  I had very little margin to work with as the switch positions were fixed by the tracks they connected to.  Fortunately, I was able to cut the throw-bar slots just beyond the underlying stringers by careful selection of which throw-bar hole I would use.  I bent an additional jog in the throw rods for those two switch machines, providing a little more room for the machines away from the bench-work stringers.  


At this point I should note why this project has taken so long.  After all, I rapidly installed many more switches and switch machines in short time during my original layout construction.  First, I am five or six years older than I was then.  It is remarkable what the impact has been on my flexibility in that time.  This was compounded by needing to work in very tight quarters.  That photo above of the track-work should give a hint.  The backdrop is the basement wall.  Another factor that took a while to recognize its impact was the cataract eye surgery I had a year ago.  When I did the major layout construction, my nearly life-long near-sightedness led to my removing glasses for under-layout wiring and finding everything within arm-reach was in focus.  Now I need reading glasses or other vision aids in that range.  It took a while to find the right focal correction for this work underneath.


Sitting on the floor, working on layout wiring for the new track.  I am wearing the 2.0 diopter correction glasses I eventually found were required for this work.


This project has drawn out for a very long time, totally consuming my focus and whatever energy I could muster throughout the Fall.  The next major step involves running cables back from the nine switch machines in the current installation to a new control panel that muct be designed and built.  Eventually, the panel will be converted to route-control push-buttons, but the toggle switches plus LED route indicators I pioneered on the first double slip switch installation will have to suffice for a while.

Tuesday, October 20, 2020


As I worked on a nearby track project at the RR-East end of Eugene, I kept bumping over a loose track intended for the scale house at Eugene.  It was past time to deal with this simple project!


Railroads charge for most freight on a weight basis.  They negotiate various methods of computing or providing the shipment weight with many customers, but some loads simply need to be weighed.  Most railroad yards of any significance have a scale track.  The scale can be used to determine the empty weight of cars just shopped and to weigh loaded cars as needed.  Fairbanks Morse was a major scale manufacturer and their scales often used standardized plans for the scale house.  


A few years ago, Walthers produced a kit for a pair of track scales, 933-3199.  This kit provides a pair of scale houses and representations of two types of track scales and coverings.  The scale house is a simple assembly job.  I spent more time painting than assembly.  I chose the older style scale covering which was used with a dedicated scale track.  The other base features track stand-offs on a "concrete" base intended for closely parallel tracks (about a foot between centerlines) for the scale track and its by-pass.  Similarly, the scale houses include one with a peaked roof which I used and one with a flatter roof.


Scale house installed at the RR-East end of my Eugene classification yard.


My scale installation at the RR-East end of my Eugene classification yard includes a straight run-around track and a separate scale track.  That latter track was left loose for the past five years as I needed to decide which scale base to use.  After years of thinking I would use the concrete base with stand-offs, I finally realized I already made that choice when I laid out the separate scale track.  With that settled, it was easy to proceed--at last!


The scale track is the curved track on the far right in this view of the RR-East end of my Eugene Classification Yard.


I quickly assembled the scale house with a peaked roof and then set about painting it into standard Southern Pacific company structure colors.  As with my recent effort with the Eugene freight house, I used TruColor paint.  I first used white paint for the window mullions.  The windows were masked and I applied Tamiya fine surface primer.  Next came TruColor TCP-153 SP Colonial Yellow paint.  The roof was painted my variation of Moss Green, wherein I lighten the TruColor TCP-154  with white paint at about a 4:1 ratio.  Finally, I masked and painted the window and door trim.  I used TruColor TCP-163 for the light brown trim.  Although I used a fresh bottle and was able to spray the brown trim this time, touch up (almost always needed for trim!) proved difficult as some of the trim brown paint flaked off of the yellow paint underneath.  After two serious tries with the TruColor SP Depot Trim Brown, I am about ready to give up any further attempts with this paint for the trim.  


A Cotton Belt lumber boxcar= is getting weighed at the new scale house installation.


The track scales feature "wood" planks surrounded by concrete curbing.  I began with a couple of spray paint overcoats I use for wood loading docks.  I then used multiple washes with thinned acrylic paint in tan, gray, "railroad tie brown," and black.  As usual with this sort of wood planking effect, multiple washes are needed to achieve the desired finish.  I will now add some car card tags to designate cars to be weighed as they pass through the Eugene Yard.


Scale house and scale coverings.  


The scale house is finally done.  The track has been installed permanently--no more loose track getting caught by sleeves or simply knocked out of place.  The scale house clearly indicates the function of the track immediately in front of it, so I should no longer find the yard crew parking the RR-East switcher on the scale track!  As I noted, this was a simple project that waited all too long for completion.  

Monday, October 5, 2020


As we enter the seventh month dealing with the worldwide Pandemic (and longer since it first entered humans), we gradually are learning how to conduct limited activities while maintaining health safety.  A casualty of the initial wave of societal shut-down was the portion of the model railroad hobby devoted to routine operations.  That activity necessarily involves several people in close proximity--conditions ripe for virus spread.  Still, we are social animals so a way needed to be found to interact in a safe fashion.  

 Model railroad technical activities moved to computer on-line meetings.  Some of these have been quite well organized and conducted, others demonstrated a need to learn and improve.  For the operating part of the hobby, though, we needed to find a different solution.  Some have found ways to engage on-line, using internet connections.  I chose not go that route, staying with my conventional radio throttles.  


What developed in my area over the summer has been a series of outdoor gatherings for "Show and Tell."  My version of this spent an hour or two on my back patio showing off the fruits of model work done during the shut-down and general discussion--all done with distance protocols observed augmented by face-masks.  We then entered my basement layout space (well ventilated) for limited operations.  My first couple of such sessions had very small groups of four or five of us.  My latest session had a larger group of eight.


As with my initial small group sessions, we began on the back patio for "Show and Tell" and general discussion.  This is an important part of the social side of the hobby.  Other than eating or drinking, all remained masked, with distance always maintained.  We then entered the basement to operate the railroad.  Masks were required at all times when indoors and distance maintained as much as possible.


Operations return to my railroad as we continue to deal with community health guidelines.  It was great to see traffic rolling over Salt Creek Trestle again!


I designed my railroad with ample people space.  In particular, the main operating aisle between Eugene and Springfield is six to eight feet wide.  Other aisles are three feet wide or broader, with careful thought about the people flow.  Indeed, the aisle between the Oakridge-Westfir area and the main mountain sidings is six feet wide, but separated into two three feet wide aisles, with one of those on a platform.  This helps my operating crew maintain distance as they go about working their trains.


Another aspect of my layout design was that I planned for "satisfying" operations by a crew of only six. My normal full crew is 16-20, but a small crew of six can perform samples of all operating functions.  I never imagined that a health scare would force me to test that design aspect, but here it is.


My first two limited operating sessions sampled some of the operating roles, with yard operations, local freight operations and some mainline running conducted.  Those sessions worked the initial trains of a "standard" lineup similar to former full sessions.  The latest session worked much more of that line-up.  We worked about half of the trains on the line-up over a two-hour period.  


My limited sessions all use single-man crews, in contrast to my normal use of two-man crews on all of the locals and some of the through freights. Road crewmen used two throttles when they inserted the mid-train helpers to climb to Cascade Summit.  Most helper locomotive sets were returned to Oakridge on the point of the next RR-East train.  The yard crew was thinned out to just a Eugene Yardmaster and a Santa Clara Tower operator.  Both of these functions usually use additional crew members in more congested operations.  None of my sessions have used a Dispatcher--so far--but that will change as I gain experience with planning for limited operations and recruit ten-man crews.  Current Oregon State health guidelines cap indoor "social" activities at ten, so I will plan operations around that crew size.


Craig P. has tucked a light helper set into the house track at McCredie Springs as a following RR-East trains is about to meet a RR-West working uphill.


So far, my yard crews have kept up with classification requirements and other switching work on the railroad.  The reduced number of road crews helps relieve pressure on the yard activity.  The yard crews have been able to support the local freights with one or two originating in each of the small group sessions.  


Rick A. works the Eugene classification yard (left) while Dave H. works the Springfield-B local on the other side of this major operating aisle.


Mark K. organizes his train and the work for the Oakridge Turn. The Oakridge Turn has had at least some work done in each of the three small group sessions held so far.


While the classification yard and locals did their work, trains ran over the full mainline.  With three crewmen available in the most recent session, quite a bit of traffic was moved.  The crews used "smoke signals" to coordinate their moves, planning their meets by quick conversation.  A key aspect of this was that all crewmembers are experienced with my railroad and knew where possible meet locations were, how long it usually took to move between sidings, and the normal use of those sidings. 


Craig L. brings his RR-East train downhill past Eagle Creek and toward a meet at McCredie Springs.


Rodger C. added a mid-train helper at Oakridge and is now working his train uphill in the "Pryor" area and past Montieth (Rooster) Rock.  He will meet the RR-eastbound light helpers and the RR-East road freight at McCredie Springs, just around the corner.


Rodger C. is picking up another through train from the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard.  In the background, Santa Clara Tower Operator Scott B. is working with locomotives in the engine facility.


It was great to see my railroad return to some semblance of operations.  While I did the primary re-staging for the first session in early August, the most recent session required a very thorough scrub of the rails to clean them.  Disuse and possible film haze left on the rails from recent forest fire smoke left the railroad in poor electrical contact condition. The larger crew of the most recent session points to a way to exercise the railroad while maintaining health safety protocols.  This may well be the way we enjoy this aspect of the model railroad hobby for some time.  The sparkling eyes behind masked faces (couldn't see the smiles) clearly indicates this crew is ready for more!



Wednesday, September 30, 2020


I struggled over the past couple of months to add to my model of the Neste Resins (Chembond) wood chemicals plant.  Previous posts are at:

Even my usual discipline, including list making and a semi-regular blog posting schedule could not lift me out of a funk.  I clearly needed a break and likely a change of focus.  More on that at the bottom of this post, but for now I at last can report adding a couple more elements to this facility.


First up was a long warehouse or processing building near the covered loading building.  I selected a Pikestuff Prefab warehouse, 541-0004, for this structure.  With only a few doors and windows required, I made quick work of this building.


Warehouse or processing building for Neste Resins.


The second addition was loading racks for tanks cars.  I used the same Walthers kit for Borden Chemical at the other end of the Springfield complex.  The Walthers kit is for Four Modern Loading Racks, 933-4037.  A word of caution--this kit contains some small parts that likely will go flying at an inopportune moment, never to be seen again.  Fortunately, I had sprues for a spare rack so I could replace the missing parts.  


Neste Resins tank car loading racks.


The other structure I wished to add to my Neste Resins facility was one of two office buildings along the public perimeter of the facility.  The desired structure needed to be two stories high and roughly square.  I chose another Pikestuff building, the Modern 2 Story Office Building, 541-5002 for my model.  This retained the "family" appearance of the same steel siding and roofing used throughout the facility.  This structure proved my undoing.


Every once in a while, a project takes a nasty turn and stalls all progress.  Such was the case with this structure.  I hit a proverbial wall--a simulated steel soft plastic wall.  I needed to cut nineteen windows and three doors into the walls.  The soft plastic used by Pikestuff tends to fold back in behind the knife blade when making a cut.  Harder plastic is easier to cut than this material.  Over the past two months I would sit down to cut window openings, making three or four passes each direction in each cut.  After a frustrating and tiring session, I would look at my efforts and not detect any progress.  After a while, I just stopped trying.  Instead of working on another project, I just let it all sit. 


I have seen this phenomena off and on in the past.  I know that the cure is some new project to get me excited again.  That solution failed me for the past two months.  Perhaps the intense work on structures over the past six months led to project fatigue.  The lack of direct interaction with model railroad peers and hosting operating sessions certainly contributed.  Whatever, I just kept beating myself up by trying to cut those window openings.


Facing a month with no blog posts, I finally dug in and completed the required cuts and shaping of the window openings early this week.  I quickly moved on to assemble the walls.  Each wall consists of two pieces and those needed to be assembled into the basic box. When I looked at the resulting wall assembly the next morning, I immediately detected a fatal flaw.  The end walls were a different height than the side walls!  With the walls firmly joined, there was no hope for salvaging the project.  


The mismatched wall height issue was a new experience for me using Pikestuff materials.  All previous kits joined at the corners well.  A look at the inside walls reveals all wall sections have a score line at the same height above the base--about four scale feet up.  Clearly, these walls are meant to be part of the same system.  The tops do not match.  I laid out all of my window openings from the bottom of the walls, so even if I could have separated the corner joints, I would not have been able to salvage more than half of the walls--take your pick.  


Interior of my Pikestuff 2 Story Office Building.  Note the scribe line about four scale feet up from the bottom on both end and side walls.  Also note the height mismatch at the top of the corner.


I had other issues with my construction, so it is best to walk away from this construction attempt.  I may take a cue from the prototype to totally scratch-build the structure walls and roofs with different siding, roofing and roof pitch.  The other office complex to be built uses similar siding--what appears to be vertical grooved plywood panels.  I will report on what I build at some later date.  For now, I need to let this project go dormant and move on to something that returns excitement to my hobby activity.


Abandoned Pikestuff office building now serving as a placeholder.