Thursday, July 12, 2018


Learning from my experiences with the other two steel trestles, I took the time to build the terrain around Shady Creek Trestle immediately after completing the trestle components.  
(  I deliberately left the trestle components loose so I could remove them for the rough work of terrain forming.  Previously, though I had removed the steel towers under the other trestles, I still had to work very carefully around and under the girders and track decks.  

Terrain construction proceeded along the path established with Noisy Creek, as both Shady Creek and Noisy Creek occupy room corners.  Profile stryofoam planks established the "ridgelines." I then carefully built up the surrounding styrofoam base around the trestle tower bases, concrete piers and abutments.  Then I began placing styrofoam planks to span between the ridges and the immediate trestle base area.

Terrain base construction around Shady Creek Trestle.

Filling in the terrain below the trestle base was a little more complicated as I needed to prepare two foot pads with removable scenery sections.  I also needed to terminate the area "drainage" into a creek that flows under the lower level track.  That project will be described in a later blog post, but for now, I simply needed to direct a gully toward the eventual creek location.  Note that Shady Creek Trestle supports the upper line in this area.  The lower line, almost two feet below, is the line climbing up out of McCredie Springs toward Wicopee.

Completed Styrofoam base for Shady Creek Trestle.  Spray Foam has been applied to cracks and holes.

With the Styrofoam planks in place, spray foam was applied to the cracks and holes that developed during the rough construction.  The completed foam shell was carved with knives and shaped with a Surform scraper.  Following clean-up with a broom and then the shop vacuum, Sculptamold was applied to the foam shell.  I held out the terrain cover for the footpad and applied Sculptamold to it the next day after the "fixed" terrain had a chance to begin setting.  

Terrain cover for one of the footpads in the Shady Creek area.  The edges are separated from the fixed terrain with waxed paper.

Finally, it was time to reinstall the trestle components and run a train over it!  I will do a bit more height adjustment with shims on the trestle, as my match of the new trestle spine to the existing roadbed was not perfect.  That was a consequence of my installation of the spine well after initial roadbed construction.  I planned for this with my trestle construction--another reason to leave the components loose until I completed the rough work in the area.   The need for adjustments to the track and roadbed were the reason I left the tunnel portals on both sides of the trestle loose. I need to get at least one operating session completed with train crews other than myself over this section before I close in those tunnels.

Step by step, my railroad is emerging from its "Plywood Pacific" appearance to one that clearly climbs through the mountains.

A WCEUY (West Colton to Eugene manifest) drifts down-grade over Shady Creek Trestle.

Saturday, June 30, 2018


Construction along my mountain climb has arrived at Shady Creek Trestle (viaduct for the civil engineers).  This is the third and final steel trestle on the line--both prototype and my model.  Prototype photos and information can be found at:
Shady Creek Trestle has both steel towers and concrete piers in contrast to the all steel tower supports of the other trestles on the line.

My Shady Creek Trestle required cutting in a new aluminum strap spine. My prior trestles (Salt Creek and Noisy Creek) had their aluminum strap spines installed during initial roadbed construction.  During my construction of the mountain grade in 2015, I modified my original plan for this area by placing the bridge/trestle track on an S-curve alignment.  The aluminum strap spine I had at that time had been rolled to a simple curve.  I modified my plan to the S-curve alignment to create a bit more space for Tunnel 8 at the RR-West end of Cruzatte, thereby creating a better visual transition between scenes.  I was careful with the S-curve to include a substantial stretch--more than a foot--of straight track between the reverse curves of the S.  This minimizes coupler alignment issues with long cars and has proven successful over the past three years of operation.  

Original construction "temporary" track for Shady Creek Trestle location.  Note the straight track gauge between the reverse curves.  This gauge is ten inches long with additional straight track beyond it before the track curves right.

Construction for this trestle began with cutting in the new aluminum spine. The original simple curve spine was reworked by my 1.5-inch scale modeler friend, Richard Croll.  The spine was built up from a pair of 1/8 by 3/4-inch aluminum straps, separated by 1/8-inch blocks.  I needed to cut slots in the spline roadbed at each end, insert the new spine and attach it with screws.

End joint for the trestle aluminum spine contained within spline roadbed.

New trestle spine installed.

After removal of the temporary track and spline roadbed and replacement with the new aluminum spine, trestle construction proceeded in the same manner as the two prior trestles:
Core components of the trestle are the bridge girders (using Central Valley girders), the steel towers (using Micro Engineering trestle towers), the underpinnings--"concrete" parts including abutments and piers, and the track deck, which includes the walkways and handrails.

Shady Creek has a bit more "concrete" work than the other two trestles.  The foundation for the RR-West steel tower is a complex structure.  One leg (the uphill-RR-West leg) is shorter than the other three.  In addition, the foundation is built as a set of retaining walls, forming a "U" shape.  All of this uses the standard 12:1 batter (vertical slope) of SP concrete work. The retaining walls on the RR-West and uphill sides stair-step down from the height needed for the short leg (uphill in both directions).  

I built the complex shape for this foundation beginning with a bottom plate and top styrene plates.  Interior legs were cut from styrene square tubing.  This is easy to cut and finish to the desired lengths, firmly fixing the desired geometry.  A final check with the basic structure allowed for final height adjustments or shims to be added.  The sides were then built up around this core, including the inside middle section which had angle cuts on both sides and itself was on an angle.  The stair-step horizontal pieces were glued in place and then the end caps.  All of this was sanded to the final shape, removing traces of the glue joints.

Foundation for the RR-West steel tower under construction.  This was a great check on the geometry of the various levels of this foundation piece.

Completed RR-West tower assembly with tower and foundation.  I needed to add 0.060-inch shims to the bottom of each tower leg to raise the tower bottom diagonal struts up off the stair-step foundation.  Such shims are useful and can be seen in real life under bridges.

The other "concrete" pieces--the abutments and the two piers--were more easily built.  The two piers have the same 12:1 batter, so I used a similar construction technique with interior legs made from styrene square tube encased with styrene sheet.

The remainder of the trestle construction followed the same techniques used for the two prior trestles cited in the blog post references listed above.  As I worked through these familiar steps, I found myself just wishing this project to be DONE.  The challenges were met and a standard design developed and applied. It was time to move on.

A final check of the bridge track alignment before building up the walkways and handrails.

Completed Shady Creek Trestle with the first train rolling over it.

Sunday, June 17, 2018


As I fill in terrain around my railroad, one scene demanded early attention--Westfir.  As seen in previous posts on the bridge at Westfir and Western Lumber, e.g.:
This layout corner scene is important to setting the location of my railroad in timber country.  Further, the bridge over the North Fork of the Willamette River leads directly into a tunnel through "THE Oak Ridge" into Oakridge.  A critical scenic transition is needed here.  

Tunnel 22, which pierces the ridge, marks the transition from the Willamette Valley into the Cascades.  It also serves as a major visual and operational block at the RR-East end of the Oakridge Yard.  The tunnel and bridge challenge my operating crews every bit as much as the prototype geography challenged SP crews.  The RR-West face of the tunnel sits almost on top of the RR-East switch at Oakridge. This complicates switching moves at this end of the yard in both model and prototype forms.

During my initial wave of terrain-forming this winter, I built up the contours of the ridge over Tunnel 22.  I did not complete the job, as I continued to struggle with the scenic treatment of the river and the log pond for Western Lumber on the Westfir side of the ridge.  Along the way, I also found my initial plan for the ridge capped it too high, leading to some too-dramatic cliff faces.  I eventually resolved both scenery issues with judicious placement of river dams and a trim to the top of the ridge.

Initial construction of ridge over Tunnel 22.  Note the nearly vertical styrafoam panels above the tunnel portal.  Also note I have not finalized the terrain reaching down to water level.

RR-West side of the ridge over Tunnel 22--the Oakridge side.  Once again, the terrain is too vertical.

The top of the ridge has been cut! 

The river and log pond proved more challenging.  I needed to convey a sense of place, but my model railroad geography was quite different from the prototype geography.  This is where the art of model railroading intervenes.  My scene is something of a mirror image of the actual scene, with the railroad curving the opposite direction.  I also needed to place Western Lumber between the railroad (outside) and the backdrop (inside).  The log pond formed by a dam on the river downstream of the railroad bridge on the prototype needed to be upriver of my modeled bridge.  My solution was to build up both the log pond and the river dam upstream of my railroad bridge and then make the best of it with terrain slopes. 

Once I fixed the permanent location of the dams and the height of the log pond and adjoining river, the rest of the scene came together.  I need to trim a bit of the plywood base seen alongside the backdrop in the photos above.  I also needed to trim a bit more of the plywood base around the log chain up from the pond to make that scene come together.  I chose to use the previously installed hardboard for the log pond and river at their initial heights, adjusting the dam heights accordingly. This will lead to these surfaces defining their respective water surfaces.  The logs in the log pond will need to be trimmed to half logs to represent floating logs on top of what now will be a fairly shallow "water" treatment.  That is a small price to pay for resolving this important scene.

Once the fixed elements were in place, I completed the rough terrain form and then applied Sculptamold.   After my ridgetop trimming and application of Sculptamold, I found I needed to rebuild a bit of the top of the ridge to provide a smoother contour.  This was just fine tuning of the resulting scene. With the deadline of the June 2, layout tour for the NMRA PNR Convention, I worked to flesh out this scene toward a bit more finished appearance. Work remains, but my current sawmill scene matches well to the current level of scenery formation on my railroad.

Revised ridgetop and filled-in rough terrain foam slabs at Westfir. Note the top of the ridge is a bit flat. The ridge was built back up a bit after the first Sculptamold application.

First pass at Sculptmold on the ridge between Westfir and Oakridge. Note the flat spot near the backdrop on the left side of the ridgetop.

Completed Westfir and ridge terrain.  The ridgetop is more rounded.

Western Lumber scene at Westfir coming together.

A final note about Tunnel 22.  This tunnel was bored during the true E.H. Harriman era as the Southern Pacific built up to and into Oakridge.  As such, the tunnel portal and lining conform to the "Harriman Standards" of that period, including the masonry portal and wing walls.  I purchased and stockpiled a set of these portals and wing walls years ago when castings for such were commercially available. Little did I know at the time that the pair of portals and walls I acquired would be exactly what I needed for my eventual dream layout.  Subsequent construction of the Natron Cutoff (Cascade Line) resumed in 1926 following Mr. Harriman's death, Federal Government legal action, and a 1922 US Supreme Court ruling that cleared the way for line construction.  As I noted this past winter as I cast tunnel portals for the rest of my railroad, the rest of my tunnels bear a 1926 construction date and feature a new common design and concrete construction.  My Tunnel 22 properly has the masonry portals, contrasting with the rest of the railroad.

Saturday, June 9, 2018


Moving up the line and back into a corner in my railroad room, my terrain forming efforts arrived at Noisy Creek Trestle.  The railroad exits Tunnel 10 and its rock shed, crosses the trestle and plunges back into Tunnel 9 which has a rock shed on its face as well.

I began work in the area of the trestle in what has become a standard procedure.  I located and placed terrain support styrofoam planks against the walls to outline the upper reaches of the terrain. I then began adding foam around the fixed elements of the trestle--the end abutments and within the tower pier support platforms.

Initial terrain forming around Noisy Creek Trestle. Back wall terrain styrofoam planks have been placed and the fussy work around the trestle tower support platforms and end abutments has begun.

I needed to build up the foam to the height of the tower platforms. One might recall from my previous posts on trestles that I mounted the base platforms on diagonally cut 2x4 posts to provide for height adjustments.  
The total assemblies were on the order of six inches tall.  The foam needed to come up to the top of the tower platforms and surround them.  From this base, I could build up more foam to the terrain profile needed to encase the tower leg piers or other supports.  I then began filling in the space between the wall terrain profile planks and the trestle tower platforms.

Filling the space between the wall and the trestle.  

As I completed the slope behind the trestle, I also worked on the terrain around the rock sheds on each end and on covering Tunnel 9.  Working on tunnels, I find it best to define first the terrain at the ends of the tunnel around the portals.  I then move on to create the terrain between the portals, covering the tunnel.  Note in all of this, I do the detail work first and then move on to the less critical large terrain sections.

Finally, I built up the terrain at the base of the trestle, beginning to form a water course.  This "drainage" eventually joins up to form Salt Creek on my railroad.  This is a matter of logically joining the modeled drainage into a semblance of what happens in nature.  Once the rough terrain was formed with planks of styrofoam, I filled the gaps with spray foam insulation.  Finally, I formed all of this by carving with knives and my Surform scraper.

Rough terrain base formed for Noisy Creek Trestle and Tunnel 9.  

With the terrain base formed, it was time to apply Sculptamold.  With this activity I finally arrived at a task where an extra pair of hands would be a big help.  Calling on John B. for help, I attacked covering the foam with Sculptamold. I originally thought the two access hatches I created on both ends of the trestle would be used to come up from underneath. I certainly used them this way during trestle construction.  I now understand these hatches also need replacement coverings as footpads.  I needed to climb up onto the layout to get access to the back corner of the Noisy Creek scene.  That was a tight spot under the ceiling and above the railroad, but one does what one needs to do.

I am applying Sculptamold to the rough terrain behind Noisy Creek Trestle. This was a very tight spot!  One wears "paint clothes" for this task!

Although I have yet to create and install the scenery plugs for my access hatches on each end of the trestle, the scene with terrain formed and covered is coming together.  I was happy to add a photo of the "completed" scene to my layout design and construction presentation given just a few days later at the NMRA Pacific Northwest Region Convention in Portland.

Completed base terrain for Noisy Creek Trestle.  This view replicates a railfan view from above Tunnel 9.

Sunday, May 27, 2018


My march up Salt Creek canyon filling in the basic landforms arrived at Tunnel 10.  This tunnel has rock sheds on both ends, with the RR-West face opening out on Noisy Creek Trestle.  Working RR-West from Tunnel 12, I created a rock wall face base on one side with the other side falling off toward the creek.  I will return to this area with rock molds.  My terrain covering the tunnel has a very steep fall-off into the creek forced by the proximity to my Wicopee siding which loops inward--toward the wall and the Tunnel 10 track, pinching the terrain near Tunnel 10.  I will need to apply more rock work to this area, as I wanted to retain the creek down in what became a gorge.

RR-East approach to Tunnel 10.  The gray slope above the track will become a rock face with rock molds applied. Similarly, the steep gray terrain slope on the left forms part of a gorge.  Wicopee siding and main show in the lower left corner, forming a very narrow strip between Wicopee below and Tunnel 10 on the upper line.  The track connects behind the camera via Salt Creek Trestle.

Working with tunnels, I first establish the terrain line along the wall (backdrop).  Next, as with Tunnel 10, I establish any support system in front of (closer to the aisle) for the terrain.  I then find it best to establish the terrain at the portals.  Finally, I fill in the terrain over the rest of the tunnel.  For tunnel 10, I needed to create the gorge with its steep slope and the RR-East approach with a much shallower slope. Geologists will be amused by my terrain shaping, but this is part of the art of model railroading--creating an effect or appearance rather than fully modeling actual terrain.  Consider that as the art of compromise.  It must fit within hard physical boundaries with the railroad taking priority.

Creating the terrain for Tunnel 10.  A terrain profile slab of foam has been attached to the wall (backdrop). A front terrain form (support panel) has been installed in front  of the tunnel.  Slopes for the tunnel portals and rock shed extensions have been installed.  Finally, the ridge terrain is taking shape with panels spanning between the rear (wall) terrain form and the front support.

Once the rough terrain shape was formed with pink foam panels, notable gaps were filled with spray foam insulation.  All of this was then shaped using knives and a Surform scraper. A couple of treks through the kitchen section of our local Goodwill store netted some good tools for terrain forming.

Tunnel 10 and RR-East approach terrain formed and spray foam insulation applied to cracks and joints.

Tunnel 10 terrain shell formed and shaped.  I added a knob to the steep panel face forming the tunnel side of the gorge.  This helps break up the expanse.

Finally, I spent three and a half hours mixing and applying Sculptamold to the foam shell.  This session covered the Tunnel 10 terrain and completed the lower section of the Salt Creek canyon leading to Salt Creek Trestle.  As with prior terrain forming, I mix latex house paint in with the Sculptamold so there is a base color for any chips or dings.  It also provides immediate color without the "snow effect" of the basic white Sculptamold.  I used a tan color for earthen areas and a gray for areas representing rocks.

Completed base terrain for Tunnel 10.  The gap below the track and rock shed on the left will become a scenery access hatch.

Saturday, May 19, 2018


Continuing to fill in the terrain around Salt Creek Canyon, the next major element was the ridge penetrated by Tunnel 12.  On my railroad, this is the first major tunnel RR-West of the Salt Creek Trestle and the first of two located high on the wall opposite Wicopee and the turn-back lobe formed by the trestle.  This is a large ridge, helping to fill the large space created by a track plan with a 42-inch radius turn-back lobe.

The size of the ridge and the depth of the scene demanded access hatches. The ridge is flanked by a pair of formal access hatches.  These eventually will have hatch covers mounted on sliding rails to allow easy access for clearing derailments and maintenance.  As I worked in this area, I also found it desirable to provide additional removable hatch sections that will permit working on the scenery on the top of the ridge and then coming down from the ridge into the creek canyon.  I eventually plan on covering the hatch edges as I work down with final ground cover, but for now, the edges show up as ugly scars in the terrain.

I used the same basic terrain construction for the ridge as the previous efforts for Tunnels 3 and 5.  Basic scenery formers were applied to the wall and at scenery break points.  The intervening terrain was formed from four-inch-wide planks of pink insulating foam.  The difference for this ridge is that it is formed on one permanent section against the wall and two sections on the removable scenery hatches.  

Terrain for the Tunnel 12 ridge has just begun being formed between the tunnel portals and the two permanent access hatches on the right.

The second section of the Tunnel 12 ridge has been formed between the two permanent access hatches.  Spray foam insulation has been applied to gaps between foam planks and to help form rock outcroppings.  Formers for the lowest portion of the ridge are in place on top of the lower scenery hatch.

The terrain has been filled in with pink foam slabs and shaped.

Final base terrain applied for the Tunnel 12 ridge and Salt Creek below it.

A massive effort with Sculptamold application covered over the pink foam for most of the area created by the Salt Creek Trestle turn-back lobe.  I try not to leave the terrain in the "pink foam snow storm" appearance for long.  Regular operating sessions plus the up-coming NMRA Pacific Northwest Region Convention in Portland serve as incentive to move this process along.

An OGEUY (Ogden to Eugene manifest freight) drifts down grade out of Tunnel 12 and onto Salt Creek Trestle.  Scenes like this keep me moving ahead on converting my railroad from a "Plywood Pacific" into something more recognizable as the SP in the Cascades.

Thursday, May 10, 2018


Joining the railroad along Salt Creek is the Willamette Pass Highway, Oregon Hwy 58.  Salt Creek Trestle spans both the creek and Hwy 58, providing easy access for viewing railroad action on that trestle.  The highway is an important part of the scene.  

One challenge faced by my model scene is that I compressed out of the scene many miles of creek and highway.  While I planned for the highway to pass under the trestle, I needed to have it disappear from the scene.  The prototype Hwy 58 passes through a tunnel further up the pass.  Having my model highway plunge into a tunnel would be a good way to disguise its exit from the overall scene.

I laid out my Hwy 58 on a broad curve that sweeps under the trestle and then curves off to disappear into the tunnel under the roadbed for Wicopee. Viewing from the edge of the layout, this makes for a sweeping left curve.  I laid out the curve on cardboard and cut that to represent the highway--about 25 HO-scale feet wide.  This was then transferred to hardboard and cut out as the initial form of the highway. 

Highway 58 route laid out.  The Salt Creek Trestle towers were removed for scenery work around the piers seen in the upper portion of the photo.

As I worked with the highway scene, I needed to have it rise a bit from Salt Creek Trestle, just as the prototype highway climbs toward the pass. I formed the initial road grade using the insulating foam used for terrain formation.  Some of this needed to be sliced to thinner profile and then smoothed to make a good road grade base.  I then added a subroadbed of hardboard that I could sculpt into the terrain using Sculptamold.  The "final" highway (hardboard) could lay on top of this allowing removal for further highway pavement treatment.

Rough highway grade.

Slicing the insulating foam to the desired thickness.  A belt sander was used to further smooth and shape this road grade.

Once the highway was prepared, I built the tunnel.  I used blocks of three-inch thick insulating foam to form the tunnel.  Laying out the tunnel arch with a pen, I cut out the desired shape using a bandsaw.  I created a cut stone face to the tunnel portal by drawing it onto the foam with a pencil.  The pencil embossed the foam. I painted the tunnel interior gray and then added a thin  mixture of Sculptamold to the portal.  I needed to go over my "stone" embossing so it would show through this thin covering.

Highway 58 tunnel segments joined.  The portal has been embossed using a pencil to form the cut stones used on the prototype Highway 58 tunnel.

Highway 58 tunnel fit into the terrain. Spray insulating foam was used to fill cracks and form rock outcroppings around this area.  Most of the white spray foam seen here was trimmed back before the Sculptamold was applied.  The hardboard highway subroadbed can be seen in the foreground.

Highway 58 tunnel installed within the terrain.

With Highway 58 installed, I can move on to other parts of the Salt Creek scene.