Sunday, March 26, 2017


After schedule and weather disappointments earlier this winter, I have been making up for it in the past month.  In the wake of Winterail here in Oregon and the schedule-conflicting BayRails operating event in the San Francisco Bay Area, four “Boomers” who participated in BayRails came through Western Oregon on their way home.  I was able to put together a scratch crew from among my local operators, so I could host our eastern visitors for a Wednesday evening operating session.  We had just enough operators between the four Boomers and twelve locals, though we did need to do a little operator drafting, as will be seen below in a picture.

A “Boomer” is a railroader who moves from place to place, working on different railroads.  This aptly describes my four visitors.  They travel around the country attending various model railroad operating events.  I was glad to be able to host this group of visitors under less hectic circumstances than the NMRA National Convention held two years ago in Portland.

We had a full crew at Eugene.  Yardmaster Rick A. is observing and directing his yard crews off to the left (see next photo below).  Rick K. is working the Eugene City Switcher.  Phil M. (new to the layout, but a local operator) is working the First Springfield local.

Dave H. (L) and Ken R. (R), served as the two switch crews for Eugene.  Dave is working out of the Arrival-Departure Yard as Ken looks on.

Santa Clara Tower Operator Vic N. (L) directs action in the Eugene Arrival-Departure Yard.  He coached John D. (R) so John can take on this role in subsequent sessions.  I have been trying to get crew members cross-trained this year.  A cut of cars is being pulled from an arrival track out to the Classification Yard.

Local crew member Joe B. (L) works with Boomer John R. (R) as they move the X-SP9316W through Springfield and around the Marcola area.  SP9316W is an EURVY—a Eugene to Roseville Manifest with Pacific Northwest Loads headed to the large classification yard at Roseville, CA.  That traffic can go most anywhere from Roseville.  Ken R. is in the background, working at the RR-East end of the Eugene Classification Yard.  Overhead is a WCEUE—a lumber empty train returning to Eugene from the Los Angeles area (West Colton).  Major blocks of cars for forest products is a hallmark of these trains.

Brigg F. is running that WCEUE into Cascade Summit.

John R. has gotten his train up to Westfir (below, left).  Boomer Henry F. (right rear) and Bill M. are working their train RR-West up through Wicopee.  Craig P. (left rear) serves as the helper engineer.

Boomers Jim D. (L) and Ted P (R) worked the Oakridge Turn.  This was a big train that required most of the evening to do its work.  Here they are organizing the train for more efficient switching, as it arrived at Oakridge in jumbled order—typical of local trains departing the Eugene Yard.

I got drafted into service bringing AMTRAK Number 14 down from Crescent Lake.  I am passing through Cruzatte at this point.  It is a rare event for a layout owner, particularly of a developing large railroad, to be able to operate a train during a regular session.  Although I had a couple of minor glitches earlier that I had to attend to, the crew was humming along with their work and not needing any “help” from me, so I was able to run a train!

Sunday, March 19, 2017


One of the prime events on rail enthusiasts’ calendars on the West Coast is Winterail.  This is the premier rail photography exposition in the country and has spawned a number of clones around the country.  Founded by Dave Stanley and later transitioned to Victor Neves as Producer, this event is now in its thirty-ninth year.  I attended most in its former Stockton, California, venue.  Last year, Winterail moved north to Corvallis, Oregon, when Vic moved to the mid-Willamette Valley in retirement.  Winterail’s new location uses the Corvallis High School auditorium.  See last year’s blog post about the new venue:

I will sound like a broken record, as I have long enjoyed Winterail and am an enthusiastic promoter for attendance.  Yes, Vic is a friend and member of my regular operating crew on my railroad.  Many of the “Roadies” also are friends from days gone by.  Still, my judgement of this rail photo exposition remains—a premier event on the West Coast. 

Vic and Annie Neves welcome the crowd to Winterail 2017.

Once again, we were treated to some of the finest rail photography set to music and narration.  We viewed shows featuring railroading in the West, but also other parts of the country and even steam train operations in China.  This year featured several “anthology” presentations with photography of rail subjects around the country and reaching back a generation or two.  We also were treated to several West Coast subjects, including good coverage of Burlington Northern operations in Washington state and a look back at the end of railroad log operations.

A railroadiana swap meet is a regular part of the Winterail package.  The Corvallis High cafeteria provided a good space for this, located next to the auditorium used for the photo shows.  Railroad books, photo prints, railroad timetables and various other forms of railroad related objects are the staple of the materials on display for sale. 

Railroadiana Swap Meet.

A long term vendor at this swap meet has been Joe Strapac, publisher of Shade Tree Books (  Joe is the “senior vendor” at Winterail.  He has attended every Winterail since its beginning in Stockton, CA.  Much more to the point, Joe has been writing and publishing books on Southern Pacific motive power for five decades.  His first effort was published in January, 1967, in the form of the very first Southern Pacific Motive Power Annual.  Joe established the format for reviewing and organizing a railroad’s motive power fleet.  He is the “Dean of SP Motive Power,” and through that, the Dean of all such publishing efforts for American railroads.  In many ways, Joe systematized what we were seeing trackside.  Through his efforts, we became knowledgeable observers of railroading.

Joe just completed his twenty-second and final volume in his Southern Pacific Historic Diesels” series, the successor to his earlier nearly annual motive power reviews.  This monumental series documented every model of diesel locomotive purchased by the Southern Pacific.  Though the last volume on passenger hood units was a bit bittersweet; just as the ending of the Southern Pacific was as an independent corporation.  The information was there for the reader to take in and enjoy good railfan photography, as well.  I was very glad to directly meet with Joe this year and congratulate him on his efforts.  He has been very influential in my rail hobby, so I wanted him to know, yet again, just how much I appreciate his efforts.

I congratulate Joe Strapac (left) upon completion of his Southern Pacific Historic Diesels series of books.

I wish Joe well on whatever he chooses to do, now that he has completed this monumental series and its predecessors.  I continue to refer to his many books regularly.  They occupy my most used shelf of railroad books, resting alongside Guy Dunscomb’s “Century of Southern Pacific Steam Locomotives” which did the same organizing and photo presentation for SP’s steam locomotives.  I am glad to have met and known both of these scholars who laid the foundation for me and many other rail enthusiasts.

Monday, March 6, 2017


The winter of 2017 will go down in the weather record books as a hard winter in the Willamette Valley.  Where we might experience a couple of snow storms a winter, we have now had five with measurable snow that sticks and two more snow events where it did not stick.  Our normally mild and soggy climate has been colder this year.  I posted about an early January storm that forced cancellation of my regular operating session that month:
The current storm (it is snowing as I write this) has dumped modest snow.  Fortunately, it happened after I held two operating sessions this past week.

Early March 2017 snow.

Even the daffodils felt the impact of the snow.

The first of the two operating sessions this past week was held on Tuesday evening.  A health event for one of the regular hosts of our mid-Valley operating group provided me an opportunity to invite that group up to operate my railroad.  I have long sought to host this group for a session.  I would rather not have the reason for the schedule opening, though.  Nonetheless, the dozen guys who came were provided a chance to experience my SP Cascade Line.  The photos and captions tell the story.

As usual, the Eugene yard and depot were active.  Rick K. (left) runs the Eugene City Switcher, while yardmaster Pete J. (right) confers with his RR-West switcher.

The rest of the Eugene crew works the classification yard.  Gene N. (near) ran the RR-East switcher.  Chuck C. (far) ran the RR-West switcher.  Victor N. (with hat) ran the Santa Clara Tower position which supervises and coordinates activities in the Eugene Arrival/Departure yard.

Mike L. did the First Springfield Turn.  He is reassembling his train using the House track behind the depot area.

Gary N. controls his RR-West (uphill) train at Wicopee, assisted by helper engineer Scot B.  In the background, helper engineer Craig P. brings his light helper set down through Cruzatte.  Ralph J. (left) watches the action as he awaits a helper for his train down at Oakridge.

Out on the mainline, Gary N. pilots his train into Cascade Summit while helper engineer Scot B. watches the slack point for the two power sets on this RR-West train.

John B. Dispatched both this mid-week ops session and the later Saturday session.

The second operating session of the past week was held on Saturday, my normal position in our North Oregon operating rotation.  Health and other issues trimmed this crew to only a dozen, but all were experienced operators.  That allowed most trains to run with single man crews.  In spite of the reduced manpower, we ran most of the train line-up and all of the locals did their work.

Mike B. runs the First Springfield Turn.  Yardmaster Rick A, Switcher Scott B, and Eugene City Switcher Mike L. work the Eugene area.  Rick and Scott performed yeoman service at Eugene, accomplishing what normally takes four crewmen to do.

A WCEUE (empties from the Los Angeles area to Eugene) slips into Cascade Summit overhead, while Greg P. and Buzz A. run their train toward Roseville on the Eugene depot main below.

Steve C. brings the KFEUY down hill into Wicopee.  The block of cement cars are a clear indicator of this Klamath Falls train.  Those cars have come from Gray Rocks, north of Redding, California, and are destined for Tilbury Cement in Springfield.

Steve C. with his KFEUY train meets Rodger C. and helper engineer Norm A. at McCredie Springs with a RR-West train.

Rodger C. brings the LABRT around the curve at the end of the Springfield-Marcola peninsula.  This was the first time the LABRT actually had trailer flats in the train!.  Sorry about the background “horns” Roger.  This image of a signature train was just too important to not post it.  Roger is a prince of a fellow and does not deserve those “horns.”

I have developed a re-staging plan that passed the test of getting the railroad ready in there days for the next operating session.  I am working on some operating scheme changes (expansion of the train line-up to a full twenty-four hour operation) that should trim that re-staging effort further.  Contributing to the re-staging effort is the re-configuration of trains at Crescent Lake to reflect their appearance (blocked by car types) for RR-East movement.  That effort pays off by my easy identification of trains on the line based on car types in train (e.g., the LABRT) or by the obvious blocking of a train (e.g., the WCEUE).  This is a signature look I have sought for my trains and railroad.