An important track feature needed for the Oakridge Yard was noted as soon as we started operation on the full mainline of my SP Cascade Line last year. With my original track arrangement, helpers had to be cut into RR-West trains at the RR-West end of Oakridge. This tied up the entire yard throat, yard tracks, and the Salmon Creek block—the next operating block RR-West of Oakridge. One of my retired SP engineer operators was serving as a helper engineer, and noted: “ Hey Bill, weren’t there crossovers in the yard?”
I laid out my Oakridge Yard using a track diagram from Austin and Dill’s “Southern Pacific in Oregon” book (PFM, 1987). The same diagram also appeared in the meet booklet for the Espee in Oregon Meet held in Oakridge in about 2005. Both diagrams ended at the Crestview Street overpass—roughly halfway into the yard, but encompassing the depot and engine facilities, including the wye. I failed to study closely the map on the aforementioned Oakridge Meet booklet which confirmed the crossovers RR-East of the Crestview Street overpass (off the diagram). Operations logic should have alerted me to the need, as well.
The operational need has been compelling. Adding the missing crossover switches has been on my short list of high priority track projects. Not only do the mid-train helpers need the crossovers, but the Oakridge Turn could use them to good advantage as well. I needed a couple of months’ break from operations to do this task, something created by my schedule conflicts this Fall.
The revised Oakridge track schematic shows the function of the crossovers. RR-West trains can use the Pope and Talbot spur as a switch lead to help clear space for the helpers. This lead is regularly used by the Oakridge Turn for similar work. This will be a busy track, but it will relieve the mainline. Indeed, I will post a new special operating instruction for the next operating session instructing all RR-West freights to enter the Oakridge Yard and not use the Oakridge mainline or siding unless ordered to do so by the Dispatcher.
Revised Oakridge track schematic.
I assembled a half dozen new switches, including one curved switch, to fit into the yard. The first photo shows the switch tie blanks laid on top of the existing tracks.
New switch tie blanks laid on top of original Oakridge track.
Having laid out the proposed locations of the switches, I drilled pilot holes for the throw rod activation slot. I stuffed each of these with a piece of wire to indicate the proposed switch point locations underneath the layout. This revealed a couple of modest position adjustments to avoid layout support joists and legs. I had to accept that a couple of the switch machines would be located immediately above a main bench-work L-girder.
Proposed switch throwbar locations indicated by wire stuffed into pilot holes.
With the switch throwbar slots located, I removed existing track segments. This was simply done by flooding the track with alcohol, which softened the Dap 231 adhesive caulk used to attach the track. A putty knife was used to pry up the track, salvaging most of it. The throwbar slots were drilled and enlarged with a router. The new switches and connecting track segments were then laid to restore the tracks. This was followed by switch machine installation. Wring for the switches and switch machines was done and the track placed in service.
Tight quarters under the layout for a couple of the switch machines.
New crossovers installed at Oakridge.
Crossovers in use. A helper set is crossing over to couple to the rear of a train on Yard-2. The Oakridge Turn is sitting on Yard-4, waiting for the through freight to clear out of town.