Thursday, May 22, 2014


This past weekend was consumed by the 2014 edition of the Espee in Oregon meets.  Organized by notable railfan and modeler Rod Loder, these meets have been a great place to meet with rail buffs of similar interest (the Southern Pacific in Oregon!!!).  This year’s meet focused on the Tillamook Branch and the northern end of the Westside Line (Newberg, McMinnville, Forest Grove).  The meet featured a train excursion on Thursday, a paper mill tour and layout tours on Friday, and an all-day meet with informative presentations on Saturday. 

Thursday’s excursion was conducted by the Oregon Coast Scenic Railroad using Tillamook Branch tracks from Garibaldi to Salmonberry.  The Tillamook Branch is isolated from the U.S. rail system by a washout east of Salmonberry.  Salmonberry is significant as being the furthest point north on the historic Southern Pacific.  Thursday’s excursion began and ended at Garibaldi, on the Oregon Coast, a welcome relief from the Spring heat (90 degrees!) experienced in Northwest Oregon this past week.  Ride along via the following pictures and captions:

Excursion power was provided by the McCloud No. 25.

The train was prepared for boarding at Garibaldi.  Our “Fearless Leader,” Rod Loder is in the orange shirt.

The photo line prepares for a photo run-by through the bridge over the Nehalem River near Mohler.

The photo run-by over the Nehalem River near Mohler.

Riding up the Nehalem River Canyon gave a sense of what passenger specials to the Coast were like “back in the day.”  By mid-morning it was shirt-sleeve weather.

Photo run-by at Salmonberry.

Salmonberry is at the junction of the Salmonberry River meeting the Nehalem River.  The furthest point north on the SP is behind the train.

Our excursion met regular OCSR service at Wheeler.  The GP9 was painted by the Port of Tillamook Bay Railroad into a fanciful cow paint scheme in honor of the dairy farming of Tillamook County.  Think CHEESE!

Friday morning we met in Newberg for a tour of the SPFT paper mill.  This is the former Publishers Paper, now reorganized in the rapidly changing paper business.  The Plant Manager and his staff gave us an outstanding tour, beginning with a great briefing on the paper business and the functions of the Newberg plant.

SPFT Newberg still produces newsprint, though that business is declining world-wide as printed newspapers decline.  SPFT remains competitive, still supplying major customers in Los Angeles and Denver, among others.  Newsprint uses pulp from recycled paper and new pulp, extracted from a blend of wood chips using a thermal-mechanical process.  Drying heat and power are supplied from a boiler that burns recycled wood, notably old railroad ties. 

Rail ties arrive in “trash” containers on flatcars and are ground up for fuel.  Building material trash also provides fuel.

Heat for the boiler burns at 1700 degrees Kelvin, hot enough to destroy nasty chemicals like creosote, which becomes just more fuel.

Recycled paper comes into the plant in bundles which need to be further separated with other than paper removed, and then pulped and de-inked.

Part of the foreign object separation includes a centrifugal separator. 

Paper machine #6.  The recycled paper pulp is mixed with the fresh wood pulp into a slurry that flows onto papermaking racks that feed the paper machine.

The paper is formed by gradually squeezing the water out of the pulp slurry, fusing the pulp fibers into paper.  This involves many passes through paper press rollers.

Water squeezed out and drying heat applied, the pulp slurry that began the process emerges as newsprint.

Shipping is via both rail and truck.

Rail service is provided by the Portland and Western.  The old Publishers Paper had its own in-plant railroad, including a pair of locomotives.  They would interchange cars up the hill (away from the Willamette River) with the Southern Pacific.  Today, SPFT finds it cost effective to contract with P&W to provide switching service.

Friday afternoon and evening were devoted to layout tours.  My SP Cascade Line featured prominently on the tour and I hosted two dozen visitors.  Two layouts were open Friday evening.  I took in Rick Ernest’s SP&S layout.  Rick models—very well!—in n-scale. 

Wishram on Rick Ernest’s SP&S layout.

Drano Lake (east of Cooks in the Columbia River Gorge) above and Camas, WA, below, on Rick Ernest’s SP&S layout.

Saturday featured a number of good presentations as we gathered in Forest Grove.  The morning featured several picture presentations on the Tillamook Branch and SP railroading in the Northwest corner of Oregon.  The afternoon featured a number of model railroad topics and a videotaped interview with a former SP station agent.  The evening presentation by Lloyd Palmer, with significant input by Paul Clock (“Punk Rotten and Nasty, the Saga of the Pacific Railway and Navigation Co,”) traced the history of the Tillamook Branch. 

This was an outstanding Espee in Oregon Meet.  Thanks Rod and your assisting staff!

Wednesday, May 14, 2014


My HO scale SP Cascade Line is designed to be an operating model railroad.  This means it will have an operating plan of various trains aimed at particular destinations to efficiently move (freight) traffic.  It also means an objective means of guiding individual car movements.  I will use the time-proven car card and waybill system, first introduced to the hobby in 1960 by Doug Smith.  I will use my own car card and waybill formats which share dimensions with commercial systems.  The car card, printed on heavy stock, is roughly 2x4 inches with a fold up pocket flap on the bottom for the waybill.

Use of the car card and waybill system requires installation of car card pockets (boxes) around the railroad.  Car card sorting needs to be provided for, as well.  Failure on this last point leads to crew members sorting car cards on the layout surface—ugly!  With the wide operator aisle between Eugene and Springfield on the layout, I chose to provide fascia-mounted shelves for card sorting, holding throttles, and coffee mugs.  The car card boxes mount on top of the shelf, but below all the switch control knobs.

Eugene fascia shelf and car card boxes before painting.

The car card boxes follow a design developed by Rob Spangler and shown in several of his forum posts at Model Railroad Hobbyist.   (   My first version of the box used 1x3 MDF molding for the front, 1/8 inch hardboard for a back, 1x2 for the end blocks and ½ x 2 (1-1/2 inch actual) separators.  The 1x3 front molding provides ample horizontal top surface for a pocket label, per Rob Spangler’s idea.  The card pockets are 2-1/2 inch wide to accommodate potential use of trading card plastic sleeves for the car card function in the future.  For now, the pockets simply are “generous.”  After I built my first couple of these boxes, I realized I could use thinner material for the separators, so my “definitive” design uses ¼ inch poplar for this function.  I also reduced the depth of the box by cutting down the end blocks and separators with a table saw to get 1 inch depth.  All of this is glued together with carpenter glue.  Since the boxes are protected by the shelves below them, the glue assembly should be sufficient.

Original car card box design in foreground.  Final design in background.

I added a ¼ inch square basswood strip at the front of the shelf in front of the car card boxes.  This provides a convenient leaning rest for sorting car cards.  Note in the photo above that I spaced apart nearby car card boxes by at least the length of an NCE PowerPro throttle.  The fascia shelves should be quite handy for holding throttles and other operating gear.  Two boxes were used in the middle of the Eugene depot and classification yard area rather than one longer box.  This will help separate the functions of the classification yard (long box on the left) and the depot tracks (short box on the right). 

Car card boxes and operating equipment shelves at Eugene.

The nearly complete installation at Eugene is illustrated in the last photo, above.  This should help with the next trial operating session!