Saturday, June 27, 2015


Rounding out the primary construction tasks for the mountain grade, I spent a week building the operator platform alongside Wicopee and Cruzatte.  This platform is set at 18 inches above the main floor.  With the climbing railroad and two levels of track, the platform height is a compromise.  The best platform to track heights occur around Wicopee siding and the RR-East end of Cruzatte.  The RR-West end of Cruzatte is high above the platform, such that even I (standing at 6 ft 4 in) resort to stools.  The grade climbing up from McCredie Springs in this same area is about belt height.  Compromises. 

I used the same design and construction that I used for the Cascade Summit platform.  A series of low bents were built using 2x4s and plywood sheathing.  Joists were made from 2x4, with three used for the three feet width of the platform.  Diagonal braces keep everything solid, avoiding the Sacramento Northern Arcade trestle collapse.  Floor underlayment ¾ inch plywood caps the 2x4 joists.  Finally, the top of the platform was sheathed with 1/8 inch tempered hardboard.  2x4 handrail posts support handrails formed from an L-girder made with a 1x2 capped by a 1x3.  All of this makes for a very solid platform and handrail system.

Operator platform for the mountain grade under construction.

Operator platform sheathed with plywood at the Wicopee end.

Completed operator platform for the mountain grade seen from the RR-West end of Cruzatte.  The two-step stool will be handy for viewing (or working on) the west switch of Cruzatte.

RR-East end of Wicopee on the lower level.

RR-West end of Wicopee with the Salt Creek Trestle span in the distance.

I am rapidly closing in on the last of the major “sawdust projects” before the NMRA National Convention.  More importantly, my operating crew now has proper access to the mountain grade.

Monday, June 22, 2015


After placing the cart before the horse with the first full mainline operation ( ), I tackled providing proper switch controls for the turnouts on the mountain grade.  That first operation was scheduled within an operating weekend agreement among layout owners in the greater Portland area.  We share many of the same crew-members.  I needed to schedule an early June operation or wait until July or August. 

Until I can spend the time connecting switch machines to the interfaces to a computer and then developing the controlling computer code, my power switches will be controlled via the local (“hand throw”) control toggle switches mounted in the layout fascia.  This created two tasks: attaching the fascia and wiring the toggle switches.  I followed the same pattern developed on the core of the layout.  A hardboard fascia is mounted (glued) to a plywood support face.  Most of the fascia extends from near track level down to cover the bottom of the L-girder layout supports.  Most of my fascia is 9 to 12 inches high.  I install backing plates behind the plywood support face where I will install switch control toggles or the throw rod for manual controls (using Blue Point switch machines).  I drill the 1/4 inch mounting hole through the entire assembly.  Then I remove the backing plates and drill a 2-1/2 inch hole in the fasica to provide a control recess.  After a quick coat of paint on the edges of the hole and the backing plate, the plate is re-installed and the switch control installed.

Switch control toggle switch installed in fascia recess.

I began with the pair of basic sidings on the mountain grade—Wicopee and Cruzatte.  This also involved a high fascia piece spanning between the lower track climbing toward Wicopee and the upper siding and future train order station location at Cruzatte.  The lower line will be in Tunnel 20 under this overhanging section of Cruzatte.   Though not needed for mounting switch controls, I also installed a curved section of fascia for the big curve (more than 90 degrees) in my Wicopee siding. 

Mountain siding fascia with tall panel spanning between the lower line with Tunnel 20 and Cruzatte on the upper line.

Fascia for Wicopee siding curving around the the RR-West end on the right.  The backing plate for the Wicopee RR-West switches has not yet been re-installed.

At Cascade Summit, I chose to use only a modest height fascia to maximize light flowing underneath for operations on the initial part of the grade coming up out of Oakridge.  Most of my fascia is painted a dark green—it fits with western Oregon.  For Cascade Summit and other parts of the upper deck, I use a gray paint that I find less distracting when viewed with the sky back drop of the lower level.  The gray also may suggest the rock formations that are more prevalent at higher elevations.

Cascade Summit fascia installed and painted.

The final area to receive fascia at this time is at McCredie Springs.  The fascia has been installed and I now am working on the switch control recesses.  The fascia is continuous from RR-West Wicopee to RR-East McCredie Springs.  All of Cascade Summit has fascia up to the drop for Cascade Creek at the RR-East end.  My next operating session will be much easier for all now that the switches have proper controls.

McCredie Springs fascia installed.

Saturday, June 6, 2015


D-Day (June 6) was the day battle was joined between gravity and trains on my HO scale SP Cascade Line.  The full mainline was placed in service, albeit with crude turnout control.  A dozen operators showed up to give the completed mainline grade and staging tracks their first test. 

All of the time spent over the past two months under the layout paid off as the basic track wiring performed well and the trains rolled.  The initial “Smoke Test” earlier in the week resulted in---NO smoke!  Even more, crossing between power districts for the four new boosters added to the layout went flawlessly the first time.  There were no out-of-phase boundaries as I successfully maintained the wiring pattern for all boosters. 

The railroad remains un-signaled (“dark” territory) so a Direct Traffic Control (DTC) system was employed per Southern Pacific practice in the 1980’s.  Former Dispatcher for the SP, Rick Kang helped adapt the system to my HO scale railroad and performed the first Dispatcher duties.  The system worked well.  It was a joy to see meets between opposing trains develop on the mountain grade.  All of us got a rush seeing this happen even with bare plywood or spline roadbed and no scenery.  Our minds filled in the blanks. 

Herewith some photos from the day.

The Eugene yard is busy with road and yard crews.

David B. brings a train to a halt in the upper staging yard at Crescent Lake.  Dispatcher Rick Kang is busy at his desk down below.

Dave H. brings a train upgrade through McCredie Springs.

Later on, Dave brings his train out of Wicopee and around the loop at Salt Creek trestle.  I am eager to build this signature scene.

A meet takes place high up at Cruzatte.  The planned operator platform is needed!

Conductor Bob S. watches as Engineer Dave C. bring their RR-East train past the RR-West train in the siding at Cruzatte.

Conductor Rick A. calls the Dispatcher with an OS report while David B. and John B. await further clearance.  Down below, Robert Y. guides a train over Salmon Creek and starts up-grade, RR-westbound. 

Although the railroad has a few rough edges, and much work yet to go, it passed this first test of something approaching full operations.  Whew!