Sunday, August 30, 2015


The national convention of the National Model Railroad Association (NMRA) just concluded its 2015 edition in Portland, OR, August 23-30.  I have been aiming at supporting this convention and showing off my layout for it for the past three years.  This was THE BIG EVENT!!! 

When I began this blog and then actual layout construction, beginning August 1, 2012, I expected there would be another NMRA national convention in Portland sometime in my lifetime.  That probability became part of our lot selection criteria, as the formal layout tours for such events are conducted with 50 passenger tour buses.  We needed easy bus access and good street parking for such tours.  About two months after starting construction, I learned that Portland would, indeed, host another NMRA national, but that it was a scant three years in the future!  Yikes!!!  This was my one shot at presenting my layout and its design and operations ideas to a national audience.  As readers of this blog have seen, that led to very focused work and ultimate success—just in time.

I hosted three separate activities with the layout during the convention.  On Tuesday afternoon, we had the formal convention bus tours.  Two 50-passenger buses came by, filled out to capacity due to at least one of the other layouts on the tour.  My helping crew and I barely had time to grab a quick dinner before the second event.  Fifteen guys signed up for an operating session—the fourth using the full mainline.  Finally, Wednesday was the traditional day for the Layout Design Special Interest Group (LDSIG) layout tour.  As local LDSIG Convention Coordinator, I had arranged to have 17 layouts on the tour, including my own.  Following that, it was back to the convention in Portland.

The following photos represent the first set of photos from those activities.  Most of these images were shot with my camera by one of my helping crew.  A subsequent post will provide more coverage.  Meanwhile, this post marks my one hundredth post—a fitting way to reach that milestone.

Formal NMRA convention bus tour visitors arriving.

A poster and handout explained the layout concept.

Tour visitors roamed the aisles while my helping crew ran trains and answered questions.  I was stationed near the basement entrance, greeting visitors and answering questions.

The aisles could get a bit crowded, but the visitors were able to move around.

Stay tuned for a subsequent post covering the operating session.  Meanwhile, I will attempt to take a break from railroading following the intense effort to build and prepare the layout for all of this.  Three years from bare basement to functioning monster layout completely built by me, alone.  That construction effort was accompanied by doing the local coordinator work for the Layout Design and Operations Special Interest Groups.  Time for a rest!

Saturday, August 22, 2015


Proof that “Murphy’s Law” is an absolute came Saturday morning before the NMRA National Convention.  I was out in our garage, trying to fix a low temperature issue with our domestic water.  This “Sorcerer’s Apprentice” missed the instruction to turn off BOTH valves (input and output) of the water feed through our hot water flash boiler.  The result was predictable when I finally unscrewed the filter cap in the input line.  “Mr. Murphy’s Plumber’s Assistant” emerged in full force!

The spray of water at full city water system pressure got my immediate attention.  I madly tried to get the filter cap back in place, but that proved impossible against the water jet now blasting forth.  As I did a good imitation of my Dutch fore-bearers, trying to plug the dike leak, I called for help from my wife.  My plaintive pleas were not recognized until our dog did his best “Lassie” imitation, barking to alert her to my cries for help.  Yes, “Timmy had fallen down the well and needed help!” 

After unsuccessfully attempting to find the main water shut-off valve for the house, a quick call to our already-alerted plumber helped me locate the other valve I needed to turn off.  With the water flow stopped, I was able to get the cap back on the line and restore the hot water system to normal.  By the way, I was successful in getting the temperature issue resolved.

What remained was cleaning up the garage in the aftermath.  Of course (Mr. Murphy!), this was the part of the garage where all sorts of convention materials were stored, awaiting transport to the convention on Sunday.  Fortunately, it looks like minimal damage was done, though some packing boxes are now in recycling.  The most critical items were shrink-wrapped (whew!) or easily dried off.  A few back issues of Layout Design Journals suffered water damage.  Sigh.  Given the water flow, I am surprised to have come through this as well as I did. 

With a strong reminder of “Murphy’s Law,” I now head into the convention humbled, but a bit more relaxed.  I have had that brush with this constant of life.

Hot water system with flash boiler in the upper center.  The critical components are just beneath the rectangular boiler on the right underside.

Convention materials out of the danger zone, ensuring they are dry and well.

Drying a few shirts and packaging.  A soggy box is in the center, destroyed by the water flow.  Fortunately, most of the contents survived.  My layout design poster was not so fortunate, but it will be displayed along with this blog post explanation.


I held my third mainline operating session with my local crew on August 8, 2015.  Note this is just three years into solo construction.  Track is still needed for the engine facilities within the Eugene Arrival-Departure Yard (reverse loop staging) and a few more tracks in that A/D Yard, but the vast majority of the railroad has been built.

This third mainline operating session was a success, with few—minor—issues discovered.  Whew!  The railroad has come together just in time for the NMRA National Convention at the end of the month.  My layout is on the formal bus tours, will host an operating session, and is on the Layout Design Special Interest Group Tour.  I had accepted the state of the railroad this summer for the tours.  What I needed was a successful operating session.  That has been accomplished!

The Eugene Yard crew is hard at work, with Jim M., David B., and Chuck C., visible.  Bob S. is over at Springfield working the depot side of the mainline with the first Springfield Switch job.

Having worked down my priority “fix-it” list from the first two sessions, I could concentrate more on proper organization for operation for this third session.  That effort paid off handsomely as the full crew of 14 was kept busy throughout the day.  One can get a sense of that from the organized look of the Eugene Yard and in the image above and Bob S’s activity in Springfield in the photo above.  More will be evident in photos below.

I am discovering just how big this railroad is by its ability to absorb rolling stock and still need more.  I was able to put together and stage three 25-car freights each way—about half of my intended operation.  The trains were assembled differently based on direction of travel.  The RR-Westbounds represented loads headed up over the Cascades toward California.  As such, the pair of trains mostly forest products freely intermixed flats and boxcars.  The more general merchandise train also had appropriate cars and loads. 

The RR-Eastbound trains (downhill) were assembled as if the Roseville and Los Angeles Yards (Colton for the 1984 era of the current equipment on the layout) had classified them for return of empties to Eugene.  In an earlier era, these cars full of lumber empties were known as “XMUGs” for general freight empties (possibly to EUGene).  As such, they are very distinctive.  One train was composed entirely of boxcars, almost all SP or SSW (home road).  Another was about half home road boxcars and a long string of empty flat cars.  The third RR-East train was another general merchandise train. 

I also added AMTRAK to the mix, starting it from Crescent Lake in the morning.  Eventually, I plan to double these trains and add a hot piggyback train (LABRT northbound, BRLAT or CZLAT southbound).  Meanwhile, we had more than enough equipment to begin operating!

Visiting Californians Wayne C. and his son Kenny control a train drifting down from Cruzatte  (upper line in the rear) toward Salt Creek Trestle and Wicopee.

Ex-SP Dispatcher Rick K. discusses the finer points of dispatching with Direct Traffic Control (DTC) with Dave H. 

One of the joys I experience with this layout is attracting a great group of operators, including several former Southern Pacific operating personnel.  Dispatcher Rick K. has been particularly helpful by designing an initial operating scheme using Direct Traffic Control (DTC).  DTC was SP’s answer to dispatching by radio, replacing the old Timetable and Train Order system, which required many train order operators stationed along the railroad.  Both control systems were used in territory not controlled by Centralized Traffic Control (CTC) which SP had installed on most mainlines by the mid-1960’s.   Eventually, my railroad will have CTC installed, as the Cascade Line was upgraded to that in 1955.  I will discuss more about my DTC system in a subsequent post.

Oakridge Turn engineer Mike B. works at Oakridge while helper engineer Dave C. wraps up his return with light helpers to the engine facilities at Oakridge.

We used manned mid-train helpers for the RR-Westbounds going uphill from Oakridge to Cascade Summit.  This went very well.  I had cut back the size of my road power sets from three units to two based on earlier testing.  This added to the operations, as it now took two crewmembers, each with a throttle to guide trains uphill.  After the help was provided uphill, the helpers needed to return light to their base at Oakridge.  This added still more to the operation.  This also was a major priority of the layout design and it was gratifying to see this come into action.

Road engineer Norm A. and helper engineer Bob Y. pull a train into Cascade Summit.

Rick A. studies his DTC authority sheet as he guides a RR-West lumber drag past Westfir.

The railroad operated well and the operating system proved functional.  The railroad is ready for guest operators during the NMRA National Convention!

Friday, August 7, 2015


Each of the past two years, I have surveyed the railroad as it existed at the beginning of August.  This marks the anniversary of the start of construction on August 1, 2012.  The earlier posts are at

I am amazed each year as I look back at those prior posts at just how much I have accomplished in each year.  This year is no exception, as I pushed through the full mainline, wired it, and placed it in service.  The push has been on to be ready for the NMRA National Convention, which will be in Portland two-plus weeks from now!  Meanwhile, I needed to stage the railroad for one last operating session with my local operating crew.  Follow along as I take a lumber drag RR-West from Eugene to Crescent Lake.

SPX7480W prepares to leave the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard.  Another lumber drag and a manifest freight await their turns to head up the Cascades.  Seven of the twelve tracks for this yard are installed.  I work on this area in between higher priority tasks supporting operations.

Another view of SPX7480W as it leaves the Arrival-departure Yard.  The caboose track is in the foreground, just off the RR-East switch lead.  The blank area in the center of the picture will become the diesel servicing facilities.

SPX7480W rolling past the Eugene depot.  My classification yard is in the foreground.

SPX7480W crossing the Willamette River.

SPX7480W takes the main through Springfield.  The first Springfield Switch Job with SP3851 is ready to work the depot side of the main from the depot and Drill-1 tracks.

SPX7480W rolls through West Springfield.

SPX7480W approaches Westfir.  The grain elevator on my Marcola Brach is in the background.

SPX7480W enters East Oakridge.

SPX7480W pulls into RR-West Oakridge on yard track 3.  Waiting on track 1 is another RR-West manifest led by SP9180.  Yard track 4 has the Oakridge Turn with SP7415 waiting to start work.

A helper set led by SP7427 is pulling out of the engine facility at Oakridge.

Our train has been cut in two so the helper can cut-in at the RR-West end of Oakridge.

With helper cut-in mid-train, SPX7480W proceeds uphill, out of Oakridge.

SPX7480W rolls through McCredie Springs.

SPX7480W pulls through the site of Tunnel 20 into Wicopee.

SPX7480W crosses Salt Creek.

The helper set pulls into view and over Salt Creek.

SPX7480W pulls into Cruzatte.

SPX7480W continues the climb through Abernethy and toward the summit.

SPX7480W arrives at Cascade Summit.

The helper is cut out at the summit.

SPX7480W heads out of Cascade Summit and into Crescent Lake.

SPX7480W joins other trains staged at Crescent Lake.

The helper set, now led by SSW9053, crosses over the main and into the Beattie Spur.  It will wait there for permission from the Dispatcher to return to Oakridge.

SSW9053 and SP7427 cross Trapper Creek at the RR-East end of Cascade Summit as they head back downhill to Oakridge.