Saturday, October 12, 2013


The Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society (SPH&TS: held its annual convention in Fresno, CA, this year.  This has been a major annual event for my railroad hobby for over two decades now.  I sat on the fence about attending this one (What’s in Fresno? –grin), but ultimately decided it was the people connections at this event that now draw me to it.  I am glad I chose to attend!  Convention Chair Chuck Harmon and his crew put on a fine event with informative clinic presentations, an interesting railroad trek in the area (more below), and “the usual” convention activities. 

The convention began with a trip out to the Hillcrest & Wahtoke 15” gauge railroad in Reedly, CA.  (  Over a mile of 15” gauge track winding through the remnants of a Christmas tree farm serves as the venue for this steam railroad.  Owners Sean and Melissa Bautista have built upon their railroad interest to provide a great local attraction and the shop to support it.  That shop now provides support to other large “ride-on/in” railroads, including a major entertainment and theme park empire.  Melissa was ever the gracious and informative hostess, making this a happy surprise for the convention.

Hillcrest & Wahtoke Railroad, Reedly, CA.

A fine set of clinics were presented on Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  Highlights for me included Mike Bording describing his initial duties as an Assistant Trainmaster at SP’s Fresno Yard, Joe Dale Morris providing a trip description up the Friant (Clovis) Branch, Tony Thompson on PFE Operations, and Dick Harley on modeling PFE steel ice reefers.  Dick has inspired me with PFE modeling tips through the years and was one of the first to provide me a technique for analyzing a car fleet for the most significant car classes—the ones that “need” to be modeled first.  Rob Leachman presented a double-length clinic on the UP/SP/PFE Salad Bowl Express/Fresh From the West service of the 1970’s.  Rob was part of the UP team that analyzed the traffic and proposed a service solution to resist the shift of the valuable produce trade from train to truck.  Though my SP Cascade Line is focused on the forest products industry, I remain mindful of the significance of Pacific Fruit Express operations to the SP’s bottom line. 

I “stole” time Friday evening to take in a couple of local model railroad layouts.  The first was the Fresno O Scale Group, located in a light industry warehouse.  Hosted by John Ford, Dave Meyers and Jay Criswell, the group has created a great O-scale empire which they populated with mostly Southern Pacific equipment for our convention. 

Fresno O Scale Group Layout.

Sugar Beet train on the Fresno O Scale Group layout.

A pleasant surprise on this layout was a model of the Tilbury Cement reload that used to stand behind the Springfield, OR, depot.  I’ve been staring at the plans and modeling articles on this facility written by Harry Bonham in 1996 issues of “Railroad Model Craftsman.”  Ever since taking photos of the real facility in 1975, I’ve had an interest in modeling it.  It will appear in its rightful space in Springfield on my layout.

Tilbury Cement reload model by Overland Models on the Fresno O Scale Group layout.

Our second layout visit saw Boyd Cline’s HOn3 Rio Grande narrow gauge layout.  Common to many narrow gauge layouts, Boyd exhibited good modeling as he shoe-horned his layout into a typical bedroom.

Boyd Cline and layout.  <Sorry for the picture movement in low light.>

During the SPH&TS convention, I renewed friendships, made new friends, and made important contacts for future efforts on my SP Cascade Line.  I’m glad I made the trek to Fresno!  Next year’s convention returns to San Luis Obispo, CA.  We’re eager to attend!

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