Monday, August 29, 2016


My regular formal operating sessions adhere to a schedule agreement among Portland metro area operating layouts wherein I usually occupy the first Saturday of the month.  Most of the layouts involved draw key crew members from the same pool of operators, so the schedule agreement is important.  My “First Saturday” schedule means I lose several months to holidays like the Fourth of July or the upcoming Labor Day weekend.  Indeed, this Fall has so many conflicts on the First Saturdays that I will only schedule one more formal operating session before the end of the year.
In spite of my slot in the formal operating rotation, other operating session opportunities arise.  I built and continue to build my layout for operations, so I am open to alternative groups.  Such was the case in mid-August, when a group of other model railroad operators from the vibrant N-scale community around Portland came out to run my railroad.  Five of my regular operators joined in to fill key operating positions (Dispatcher, Eugene Yardmaster, Santa Clara Tower and a pair of helpers).  This turned out to be an ideal mix.  Eleven visitors and my five regulars ran the railroad through a full operating session.  The road crews were single man, but we used a more casual dispatching style so the lack of a conductor was not a burden.  There were a lot of happy faces at the end of the session, not least of which was mine!
I took only a few photos, seen below.  We were having too much fun!

 Kent W. and Jerry G. work the first Springfield local.  Regular crewmember Chuck C. works as the Eugene Yardmaster while David W. works the Eugene City Switcher.

Bob. S. (on the ladder) is getting set to come out of Crescent Lake with the 01-WCEUE.  This is the first empty lumber train coming up from the Los Angeles (West Colton Yard) area.  Below, Curtis K. and Tony S. confer about their train out of Eugene.

Scott B. and Randy S. work the Oakridge Turn.

The operation was a success in spite of happening on one of the hottest days this year in Western Oregon.  Special thanks go to my regulars, John B, Chuck, C, Dick K, Pete J, and Bill M. who supported this additional operating session.  They provided their experience to keep the railroad running.  The visiting group were good operators who were able to pick up the basic operating scheme and run with it.  I look forward to hosting more such groups.

Monday, August 15, 2016


On the anniversary of my official start of construction on August 1, I try to do a photo tour of the railroad to document the previous year’s accomplishments.  Last year’s tour can be found at:
The big construction push was completed just in time last year for the NMRA National Convention in Portland.  This past year has seen consolidation of that effort plus development of the operating scheme.  The result is modest visual impact but a major impact upon regular operations.  Follow along with a RR-West freight from Eugene to Cascade Summit and on into Crescent Lake (upper staging).

SP X-9320 pulls out of the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard.  The recently activated caboose track is closer to the aisle.  The new engine facility is in the distance.

Our westbound freight winds its way through the Eugene Depot area. 

Crossing the Willamette River.

SP X-9320 pulls through Springfield on the mainline.  The First Springfield Local is on the depot and drill track, ready to start work.

Swinging around the Marcola district.  A cut of cars waits on the Weyerhaeuser Interchange and cars are spotted at Neste Resins (the white tank cars) and the grain elevator.

Continuing on toward Westfir.  It is always nice to observe a train snaking along what should be the North Fork of the Willamette River.

Rounding the curve at Westfir.  It is past time for me to get some basic structures built!

Entering Oakridge.  The Oakridge Turn (near track) and another freight wait in the Oakridge Yard.

Our helper is waiting at the West end of Oakridge.

Cutting in the helper.

Reassembling the train with mid-train help.

Climbing out of Oakridge through Pryor.  I was controlling this train with separate throttles for road power and helper—two-fisted control!

Passing through McCredie Springs.

Crossing Salt Creek Trestle, having climbed through Wicopee.

Climbing through Cruzatte.  The line up out of McCredie Springs and into Wicopee is below.

Crossing Trapper Creek and entering Cascade Summit.

Cutting out the helper at the summit.

SP X-9320W arrives in Crescent Lake.

The light helper, SP 8882, heads RR-East and back down to Oakridge.

Wednesday, August 10, 2016


My railroad is settling into a regular operating pattern—at least when my slot in the area operating layout rotation does not conflict with holiday weekends.  Nineteen folk showed up to operate my railroad this past weekend.  Even with that many operators, most road freights “made do” with single man crews.  We prefer two operators for train crews so that both ends of a train can be observed.  Dispatcher communications handled by a conductor is important with the verbal (over the radio) operating system employed.  With a single person “crew”, one has to handle both throttle and radio.  No one was complaining, though!

This session marked significant development of my “Santa Clara Tower” operator position.  This operator controls the traffic in and out of the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard (lower level reverse loop staging).  The tower aspect of the job involves control of the many switches in this bottleneck area between the Eugene depot and classification yard and the arrival/departure (A/D) yard and engine facility.  The intent is that all road freights and Amtrak originate or arrive into the A/D yard.  This procedure is new to much of my operating crew, so it will take some time to fully accomplish.  Meanwhile, the “Santa Clara Tower” position worked well.

Vic N. surveys the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard as part of his Santa Clara Tower duties.  Behind him, Rodger C. is getting ready for his train.

A note on the Santa Clara Tower:  I spent a great deal of time (off-hours) early in my working career in the San Francisco Bay Area photographing rail action “in the shadow of” the Southern Pacific’s Santa Clara, California, tower.  When friend Bruce Barney (ALW Lines: ) released a kit for this tower, I just “had” to get one.  I took note of the complex switch-work in the bottleneck area between the two major Eugene yard areas and realized I needed a tower operator here.  Though SP had few towers in Oregon, this location cried out for one.  As to name, the Santa Clara district of Eugene is on the north side of Eugene—very near to the SP yard.  Model RR Rule Number One applies here—It is MY railroad!  <wink>

The introduction of the computer-printed waybills ( has the impact of better car distribution.  Staging is beginning to fall into patterns I expected when designing the railroad.  A significant challenge involves staging the “XMUGs”—empty lumber cars returning to Eugene.  Several trains full of lumber box cars and flat cars need to return to Eugene from California marshalling points and the Ogden Gateway.  Conversely, the trains departing Eugene for those major reclassification points tend to be more mixed.  I was happy with the setup process for the trains at Eugene and for cars needed for the local freights, also from Eugene.  Staging for the ninth mainline operating session found a couple of XMUGs at Crescent Lake, so this session went well.  As I restage now after the session, I find I need to flesh out the car fleet a bit (cars are on-hand) to create the desired traffic.

My staging efforts for Eugene paid off, as the operating crew always had plenty to do AND we had lots of traffic on the mainline.  Indeed, this was the first mainline operating session that actually ran all of the trains on my standard line-up—over a dozen trains.  Usually, the crew tires out by the latter trains.

Here are more photos from this successful session.

As usual, the Eugene classification yard crew was busy throughout.  Mike B. ran the East Switcher.  Dave H, behind him, is working the Eugene City Switcher.  David B. (red shirt in distance) ran the West Switcher.  Beyond them on the other side of the aisle, Mike L. and Jim M. are working the first Springfield local.  This local switches the industries on the depot side of the mainline.

Bruce M. and Bob S. work the Oakridge Turn.

Dick K. gets clearance from the Dispatcher, while Steve C. awaits clearance to begin the trek RR-East downhill from Cascade Summit.

A helper is cut in at the RR-East end of Oakridge.  I need to work with crews to not do this, as the location of the end of the trains through a tunnel and over the bridge at Westfir.  Though compressed in distance on my model railroad, this would pose  a similar problem at the full-sized Oakridge.  Conductor Rick A. is getting asphyxiated in that to-be-built tunnel, while helper engineer Bob Y. breaths clear air out in the yard.  I need to add cross-overs in the Oakridge yard to assist this move without “endangering” the rear end crew! 

Bill M. watches the slack action closely as he helps a train uphill through Cruzatte.

My railroad has come to life sufficiently to simulate conditions on the real Cascade Line.  My operating crew faces problems similar to those encountered on the big railroad and they employ many of the same solutions.