Sunday, January 8, 2017


This winter is shaping up to be one impacted by snow in the Willamette Valley.  Western Oregon is a mild climate, albeit wet, but every few years produces a winter with several snowfalls.  Such is this year, with two snows locally in December and another one this first weekend of January.  I already can hear the derision from other parts of the country.  Fair enough if one plans for snow as a routine.  Such is not the case in the populous regions of Oregon, although the Columbia River Gorge weather effect is well known to residents of the Portland metro area.  Suffice to say our modest snowfall on top of frozen ground this weekend was enough to cause significant transportation difficulties. 

Anticipating bad road conditions, I had to cancel my regularly scheduled formal operating session set for Saturday, January 7, 2017.  I had twenty folk scheduled to operate coming from as far away as Eugene and Oakridge and Kalama, WA.  I owed to my crew to not force them into what would be a nasty return trip after the session.  The forecast proved correct, with snow beginning here in McMinnville in late morning.  Crewmembers from further south in the Willamette Valley reported “ice rink” conditions early in the morning.  By the time we normally would have completed the session in mid-late afternoon, a couple of inches of snow had fallen here and chain controls were posted for Interstate 5 through much of the Valley.  This was a good weekend to stay home and off the roads.

Snow comes to McMinnville in early January, 2017.

The snow cancellation was unfortunate, as earlier in the week I had a group of four regulars come out to help re-stage the railroad and clean track.  The railroad got a good cleaning as did all of the locomotive wheels.  I was beginning the re-stage process when my snow cancellation wiped out my enthusiasm for that effort.  Sigh.

Today, I responded just as the big railroad would—I called out the flanger!  The flanger in question was the one regularly assigned to Oakridge, SPMW 329.  A fine model of this flanger was imported by Albrae Models a couple of years ago.
I noted my acquisition of this model in a previous blog post:
It was time for me to pull the flanger off the plow track at the end of the Oakridge wye and take it up hill.

Gathering the flanger at Oakridge.

Taking the flanger out for a run up hill proved quite useful.  First, I found the flanger trucks needed adjustment to the spring force.  This is a common issue with brass models.  The spring force as built and delivered often is too stiff.  The solution—properly done by the owner/modeler-- is to clip rings of the spring until it just barely applies pressure to the truck bolster.  This permits the truck to rotate more easily.  I am still working on this for this model, as backing through switches still leads to some derailments.

Flanger train climbing out of Oakridge.

The second positive effect of my run up the hill was to find several track sections needing maintenance.  Some of these would have shown themselves—quite negatively—if the scheduled operation had taken place.  This is a challenge for owners of large layouts—getting a chance to operate one’s own railroad.  Often, I have to trust my operating crews to leave notes where they encounter problems—as they are asked to do.  Still, there is nothing quite like experiencing an issue oneself to draw immediate attention!

Flanger passes AMTRAK Number 14 at McCredioe Springs.  Yes, even AMTRAK can be put in the hole for snow equipment!

The low interior humidity accompanying cold weather had an impact on my benchwork.  At least one spot of rail now needs to be trimmed and spiked.  The contraction of the wood benchwork was more than the minimal rail shrinkage with slightly lower interior temperatures.  Sigh.  The maintenance must continue.

Flanger being turned on the Cascade Summit Wye.  Now would be a great time to finish installation of the switch controls to make the wye fully functional!

I hope the start of February is kinder with schedule issues and weather so I can get my railroad back into routine operation.

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