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.