Friday, March 30, 2012


Expanding beyond published books, research resources for a prototype-themed layout should include resources located in the geographic area to be modeled.  Heading this list are local and state museums.  For the Cascade Line, the Oakridge Museum is a great place to start.  Oakridge was founded a century ago to support the railroad.  Oakridge represents the logical point to begin the steep assault upon the Cascades.  It became the steam-era helper station.

The Oakridge Museum is located at 76433 Pine Street, Oakridge, OR 97463, with a mailing address of PO Box 807, Oakridge.  The physical location is along First Street in Oakridge, just across from the former depot , offices and MOW sheds.  The museum is open Saturday: 1pm - 4pm, and Tuesday and Thursday: 9am – noon.

At the moment, the museum has an interesting collection of artifacts, including station sig ns and a speeder (under a pile of other items).  The museum recently gained additional space and has plans for improved presentation and interpretation.

A treasure in the museum is the collection of nine binders of photos documenting the railroad in and around Oakridge and up the Cascade Hill.  One must thank the original photographers for preserving this bit of history.  Equally, one encounters the research and preservation efforts of Larry Castle.  Larry has become central to the collection of material on the Cascade Line.  He sought out the photo collections around town, scanned them for further preservation and use, and provided the photo binders to the museum.  Over five hundred photographs provide us with essential images of the Oakridge helper station, construction and maintenance along the Cascade Line, and even wreck clean-up coverage.  Print copies of the photographs may be purchased from the museum.

A related treasure trove of information and photographs of the Cascade Line appears in the website established by current RR engineer, Joel Ashcroft: Southern Pacific Railroad in the Cascades of Oregon, By Joel Ashcroft:

Joel has posted a number of the photos from the Oakridge collection plus many others, gathered from SP railroaders.   In addition, he has details on the civil engineering of the line and much more.

The photos and information collected by Larry Castle, Joel Ashcroft, Tom Dill and Ed Austin represent a tremendous resource to support a prototype-based model railroad.  Thanks guys for your efforts that preserved and distributed the photographs and information of prior generations of railroaders!

Friday, March 23, 2012


An important part of layout planning is research into the railroad to be modeled and the area served.  Such research is needed for a plausible model railroad whether it is based “closely” upon a real railroad or represents a fictional “could have been”.  Allen McClelland showed us the way with his landmark Virginian and Ohio series in Railroad Model Craftsman back in the 1970’s.  More recently, Tony Koester has been pointing the way with books and magazine columns for Model Railroader.  There are many others doing such research and publicizing their results. 

Notable publications for the Southern Pacific have been the series of books on mountain routes by John Signor, covering the Shasta, Donner, Tehachapi, Beaumont, and Coast Line (Cuesta).

Turning to the specifics of “The Southern Pacific in Oregon,” we have two excellent books by that title (the second adds “Pictorial) by Ed Austin and Tom Dill, published by PFM (1987 and 1993).  The first volume covered SP lines in Oregon mile by mile (detailed, but easy reading!), while the second volume added a wealth of photos.  Tom Dill went on to doing a book for Four Ways West:  “Southern Pacific’s Colorful Shasta Route” (1996).  These books have been my constant companions over the past decade as I developed and refined my model railroad layout dreams.

Other books provide additional flavor and detail on the SP in Oregon.  “Southern Pacific Oregon Division,” by Brian Jennison and Victor Neves, Hundman Publishing, 1997, presents beautiful color photography of the post-1964 Oregon Division.  Great inspiration!  “Backwoods Railroads”, by D.C. Jesse Burkhardt, WSU Press, 1994, provides wonderful photos and text, capturing the flavor of the many Oregon branch lines, which fed forest products to the nation.  Dan Rehwalt grew up in Oakridge, the helper station at the base of the Cascade Hill.  Dan has published (Grizzly Press) several volumes of tales from his life around the railroad and growing up in Oakridge.  Of particular note are “The Hill” (2003), “Smoke and Rat Holes” (2008), “ Westsider” (2004), and “The Light at the End and Other Railroad Stories” (2003).   Oso Publishing provided “The Modoc” by Jack Bowden and Tom Dill (2002).  Together with Signor’s “Southern Pacific’s Shasta Division” (Signature Press, 2000) this pair provides perspective on the principle connections to the rest of the SP system.  Each of these contributed inspiration and valuable insight for my modeling efforts.

Though the railroad route books provide good maps, a USGS topographic map provides a more complete representation of the rail route and mountain climb.  The USGS 1:250,000 Roseburg chart, used as the background in the book illustrations encompasses the majority of the Cascade Hill climb in the upper right corner.  The SP rail route is the heavy black line.  The Heather-Wicopee-Fields-Cruzatte giant “S” shows just above the “OC” in the “Modoc” title, above.  That big “S”, with tracks stacked in sight of each other as they climb the mountain is a major feature of the grade.  It presents a useful opportunity for model railroad track planning. 

“Railroad paper” in the form of employee timetables, track diagrams, station plats, SPINS diagrams, and Sanborn insurance maps provide important clues as to how the railroad organized itself for its transportation job. 

Additional, important information on the Cascade Line was found on the internet, in regional meets, museums and from personal connections with railroaders and others.  These sources are sufficiently important that they will be addressed in a future post.

Thursday, March 15, 2012


The Southern Pacific Cascade Line seeks to capture major features of the SP mainline in Oregon:  the Cascade Hill climb, major forest products industry, and a smattering of other industry in the Willamette Valley.  The resulting layout plan reflects those priorities with highest emphasis (and space devoted) to “the Hill.”  Doing justice to the mountain mainline left no room for other features of the SP in Oregon, including the coastal branches or the original Siskiyou Line.  The mainline “bug” bit me early in life and remains the core inspiration for modeling.

Southern Pacific’s Oregon mainline was dominated by the 44 miles of 1.8% grade from the help station of Oakridge to Cascade Summit, along Odell Lake.  This was the longest sustained mountain climb on a railroad renowned for tough mountain climbs (Donner, Tehachapi, Beaumont, Cuesta).  In the days of steam power, SP’s signature cab forward ACs were standard power on the Hill.  They were supplanted by hoards of “covered wagon” F-7 diesel-electrics and SD-9 “cadillacs” before yielding to even larger six-axle EMD locomotives: SD-40s and SD-45s of straight, “flare” and “tunnel” configurations.  The deep thrum-thrum of heavy power in “Run 8” (maximum throttle) echoing off forested mountain walls left a lasting impression of heavy duty railroading.

The following images, captured in September, 1973, capture the essence of the scene as SP X-9132-West climbs out of Heather to cross the Slat Creek Trestle and Highway 58, lifting another drag of forest products toward California markets.

As the lead power disappears uphill toward Wicopee, the mid train helper storms into view.

My HO scale SP Cascade Line seeks to provide a stage for recreating such scenes, serving as a tribute to the land and the people of Oregon and the SP.

The prototype Cascade Line was completed in 1926, spanning the then-existing gap between Oakridge above the Willamette Valley and Kirk on the east side of the Cascades, north of Klamath Falls.  This “Natron Cutoff” replaced the original Oregon mainline of the Siskiyou Line.  The new line reduced total distance, climb, gradient and curvature, providing the SP with a line better suited to the heavy forest products traffic that developed with the improved transportation.  The line between Eugene and Crescent Lake formed the Springfield Subdivision of the Portland Division of the SP.  With the 1964 reorganization into the Oregon Division, this section of railroad became the Cascade Subdivision.

My HO scale model railroad concentrates on the Springfield Subdivision between Eugene and Crescent Lake.  The layout schematic below shows the emphasis of station selections focused on the mountain grade between Oakridge and Cascade Summit. 

Stations were selected based on operational significance and are roughly evenly spaced up the Hill:

Oakridge: steam era helper station

McCredie Springs: Maintenance of Way base

Wicopee: major water stop and still the site of an operating water plug

Cruzatte: wheel cooling stop for downhill steam trains

Cascade Summit: top of the mountain grade

Wyes are used for turning locomotives at Oakridge and Cascade Summit. 

In addition to the helper locomotive facilities at Oakridge, two large lumber mills were served:  Pope and Talbot, just geographic east of town and Western Lumber at Westfir, just geographic west of town.

Springfield has long served as a major forest products industry hub and will do so on the model railroad.

Eugene provides a concentration of forest products, agricultural and other industries and served as a major operating hub for the Southern Pacific once the Natron Cutoff was completed.   Eugene provided major yard facilities for sorting freight and originating trains.  A difficult design challenge for the layout plan was to capture features of the historic Eugene RR facilities while keeping it within the layout space available and its function with respect to the rest of the model railroad.  A future post will describe many of those design choices.

Wednesday, March 14, 2012


Welcome to my world in miniature!  This blog seeks to document the trials and tribulations of constructing and operating my dream model railroad.

I was blessed with the resources to retire, move back to my native Oregon, and build our dream house.  Our house has a full walkout (daylight) basement, most of which is available for the dream model railroad.  The basement features a large clear-span space with a single support column.  Most of the ceiling is 9'-6" high, with a slight dip for the main house support beam seen below.

Main Basement Room
A "back room" is connected via a passageway under the stairs.

Passageway Beneath Stairs

Basement Back Room

House mechanical and heating systems are located in the garage and on the upper floor, such that no "pesky" water heaters, etc., intrude upon the layout space.

Subsequent blog entries will describe the layout design concept , decisions and ultimate plan.  The basement floor should be sealed this summer, after which construction may begin.  For now, WELCOME!