Friday, June 30, 2017


As my railroad “seasons in” (roadbed and track acclimate to my basement), I finally have cleared enough of the “critical” projects to begin working on the railroad scene.  First up is some “urban renewal” in Eugene.  From very early on in the construction process, I have had structure kit walls taped together and propped up in appropriate locations for the downtown rail customers at Eugene.  I have begun assembling those buildings into their permanent form.

The first building tackled was the Rubenstein’s Furniture store, just down from my Eugene Depot.  I began with a Walthers Hardwood Furniture kit, 933-3044.  Walthers Cornerstone structures often reflect Walthers’ Milwaukee, Wisconsin, location.  Their structures tend to reflect larger structures in older, more established cities.  My needs are more modest.  Although Portland has similar structures, most of Oregon was built in the Twentieth Century and to more modest scale.  Even for Eugene, Oregon’s second largest city, most structures were no more than three stories high.  I needed to cut down the Walthers kit from four to three stories.  I also wanted to lengthen the building, as Rubenstein’s was a major Eugene retailer—longer, not higher.  Fortunately, the column and panel architecture of the Walthers kit lent itself to cutting and splicing. 

Walthers Hardwood Furniture kit cut apart for removing one story and lengthening.

My Rubenstein’s Furniture occupies a niche corner formed by a basement wall and the backdrop spine behind Eugene.  Indeed, the large structure is intended to mitigate the visual impact of the wall corner and termination of the backdrop.  This location means none of the rear wall is visible.  I could use both long walls of the kit to form the front (visible) wall while blanking the back and rear side wall.  I used the second side wall as part of the back wall, as just a bit of daylight shows through the corner windows.

I used large sheets of Evergreen styrene to create walls and floors.  I also needed to extend the roof.  I removed the kit’s center entrance panel, intended as the main public entrance in the kit.  That still provided four window panels to add to the five panels from the other long wall of the kit.  Floor support strips provided wall stiffeners.  I chose to add floors to my structure for the visual effect.  This structure has very large windows, so various forms of view block are appropriate.  I chose the floors to provide both view blocks and building strength and alignment.

Assembly involved fitting the pieces back together and generally following Walthers intended assembly.  I installed one intermediate floor as I built the structure to provide some strength as I handled the structure for painting and window and door installation.  With windows installed, I installed the remaining floors and the blind end wall.  The roof was added and then its details.

A significant new material greatly assisted me through construction.  Noted Southern Pacific historian and modeler Tony Thompson has been singing the praises of canopy glue for some time.  Tony uses it to attach painted surfaces and dissimilar materials.  This was my first opportunity to give it a try.  I am very satisfied.  I used Pacer Industries Formula 560 glue.  This has the appearance of white glue but is much better with adhesive properties on non-porous materials such as the kit styrene.  As the name implies, it is marketed to the scale model airplane market for attaching canopies to fuselages.  It seems to be much tougher than an earlier, similar material, Microscale KrystalKlear.  It certainly holds large painted structure pieces together well. 

As I completed assembling my structure, I found I needed to raise the foundation to the same level as the track roadbed for the spur leading into the building.  A bit more cork roadbed was glued down so plate C boxcars can enter. 

Furniture structure foundation.

Though major assembly is complete, I still have a bit of detail to work on, notably the water tower.  I partially assembled the tower and gave it a generic paint job, pending a decision about signs and color or weathering scheme on this device.  I also will need to weather the building and settle it into its scene, but that awaits a more general project on the roads and ground treatments in the depot area.  For now, I literally have a cornerstone of my Eugene downtown scene.

Rubenstein’s Furniture with major assembly complete.

While I awaited glue setting on the furniture store, I tackled another building in the Eugene depot scene—Pierce Freight.  Pierce Freight was a freight forwarder, still active into the 1950’s and 60’s.  It still showed on the Southern Pacific SPINS diagram for downtown Eugene in 1977.  I chose another Walthers Cornerstone kit for my rendition of Pierce Freight—the REA Transfer Building, kit 933-3095.  This kit already fit my three-story high goal, but it needed to be longer.  It also occupies a sliver of space between its track spur and the backdrop.  I needed to both lengthen the kit and cut down its depth.  Once again, I created a blank back wall and used the former second long wall to lengthen the structure.  I chose to add two bays to the standard four bays. 

Construction was very similar to the furniture store.  The kit walls were cut and spliced as needed.  The end walls were cut to the desired depth and the roof cut to that depth. Once again, I needed to extend the roof, easily accomplished with more styrene sheet.  The original kit has skylights that would be split in the aft sections, but not at the halfway point.  The extended roof could not use the trimmed skylight pieces.  Instead, I added part of an elevator housing and a air conditioning unit on the new blank roof extension.

Freight transfer building wall sections prepared for splicing.

Rough-assembled freight transfer building

Rear view of rough-assembled freight transfer building showing floors and extended and trimmed roof.

I chose to paint this brick structure white, as that is what the one photo I have showing a piece of the building indicates.  I used Rustoleum rattle spray cans for painting both structures.  They have quite a selection of paints, likely close chemical cousins to the old Floquil line of hobby paint—owned by the same corporation.

Pierce Freight in place with major construction complete.

I am happy finally to add substance to my Eugene scene.  I will continue to flesh out the structures here and elsewhere around the layout.

Monday, June 19, 2017


As operations on my railroad mature, I have found a need to both mix up each session a little bit while also simplifying the re-staging requirement.  The key to both of these goals was to switch from the initial train line-up used since full mainline operations began to a twenty-four hour line-up from which I could select a suitable segment of the day for any given operating session. 

The initial line-up provided a good representation of traffic on the SP Cascade Line, but it had all locals running in every session.  This put great pressure on the Eugene Yard to assemble the locals.  It also left a lot of work for me after each session to do the yard work of the “next shift” to classify the trains brought back in by the local freights and organize the yard for the next operating session.  The combination of extensive “Second Shift” yard work and re-organization of trains in the two staging yards (Eugene Arrival-Departure and Crescent Lake) often took three days for me to accomplish.  The original line-up, developed by myself and SP Dispatcher veteran Rick K. served its purpose well, but it was time to move on. 

For reference, the original line-up is shown below:

SP Cascade Line Basic Line-Up

Symbol                                      Called for
01-EURVY                                 630 AM
12-EUOGY                                 930 AM
01-EUKFY                                1100 AM
02-EURVY                                 130 PM
11-EUNPY                                 300 PM
NO 11                                       on time
Symbol                                 ETA CJ (Cres.Lake)
01-WCEUE                                 600 AM
01-LABRT                                  700 AM
NO 14                                       on time
01-RVEUE                                 1000 AM
01-KFEUY                                  Noon
01-OABRT                                  230 PM
01-OGEUY                                  400 PM
01-RVEUY                                   600 PM
01-LABRF                                   830 PM

Missing from this line-up is the local service plan.  Ops sessions would begin with the Oakridge Turn at Oakridge and the First Springfield Job (serving the depot side of the mainline at Springfield) at Springfield, with both ready to begin their work.  The Eugene City Switcher would be called to duty at session start (6:00 am on the Fast Clock).  The Marcola Turn and the Second Springfield job (serves the aisle side of the mainline at Springfield) would be substantially ready in the classification yard, though cuts of cars in both the classification yard and the arrival/departure yard might contribute cars to both trains before they were prepared for departure.  This latter pair of local freights would be dispatched after the First Springfield job returned to Eugene, typically around 1:00 or 2:00 pm on the Fast Clock. 

Those five local freights led to considerable yard work on my part during re-staging.  It usually took a day to work the classification yard and another day or more to work the Eugene Arrival/Departure Yard.  Add to this reworking Crescent Lake and resetting the open load cars (flats and wood chip gondolas) and waybills out at the on-line industries.  I needed to reduce the required work!

A brief note about SP train symbols of the “modern” era (after 1965 or so):  SP train symbols included a pair of leading digits that represented either that train's position in the sequence of that train symbol in that day (most use a "01,” but Roseville trains might number four to six in a day) or a sequence number for that symbol within the month.  This was followed by two two-letter codes for the originating yard and the destination yard.  EU was Eugene, BR was the SP Brooklyn Yard in Portland, OR.  The major westbound destinations used were RV for Roseville, LA for Los Angeles, WC for West Colton, OA for Oakland, and OG for Ogden.  KF for Klamath Falls and NP for run-throughs on the UP to North Platte, NE, also appear.  Ogden, North Platte and Klamath Falls trains took traffic routed over the Modoc Line to Ogden. 

The final part of the train symbol for my purposes was a single letter code for the type of train.  Most trains were code “Y” for general mixed freight.  “T” and “F” codes were for Trailer or Forwarder trains—both with higher priority.  The “E” code was for full trains of empties—the former “XMUG” (empties to Eugene in an earlier symbol formulation) trains sent north from Roseville or the Los Angeles area (LA—Taylor Yard or WC--West Colton). These were solid trains of lumber empties sent back to Eugene for reload.  Retired LA Division Conductor Pat Bray notes a nightly train out of Taylor Yard composed of just flat cars as one of these “XMUGs.” 

SP train symbol history and development is more extensively documented on John Carr’s website:

Armed with John Carr’s SP train symbol compilation and significant input from my SP Dispatcher expert Rick K, I developed a twenty-four hour line-up.  This allows me to stop an operating session at an arbitrary time point and pick up from that point at the next session.  This immediately cast the Eugene Classification Yard re-staging work into a different light, as I could leave most of the yard alone, perhaps only reviewing waybills “in play” in that yard as I moved on to the Arrival/Departure Yard.  The twenty-four hour line-up also provided target call times for each of the local freights.  This spaced them out over the full day such that a given session might be working with only two or three of them.  The work during an ops session could look a lot more like a real railroad operating around the clock.

I applied my own editing to the information I got from my experts.  Part of this was a matter of ensuring an appropriate mix of train symbols over the course of a typical operating session duration of eight to ten fast clock hours.  I still make adjustments for a given session based on experience with ops sessions so far.  I also make adjustments for the expected crew size.

My current twenty-four hour line-up looks like:

RR-West from Eugene

Time at EUG
BR  Time
1201 a
600 p
Former TOFC Special
On duty 1230 am at Oakridge for return to Eugene
100 a
100 a
Carr lists Portland call as 1 am
200 a
1159 p
Carr notes TOFC plus other traffic
230 a
Via RSV and WC some TOFC
City Switcher goes on duty
330 a
Former EUHOY
400 a
First Springfield Turn
530 a
645 a
730 a
Carr lists an EURVW at 400 am
930 a
Could be anytime plus or minus
AMTK No. 14
1028 am Departure for Portland
1130 a
Carr has one at 1 pm  --delete????
200 p
Eastbound to Oakridge
300 p
400 p
Ogden to UP
430 p
Marcola Turn
500 p
530 p
Second Springfield Turn
615 p
AMTK No. 11
642 pm departure at Eugene Depot
730 p
900 p
City of Industry  (EULAY)
1005 p
Via Roseville and Ogden
1100 p
1130 p
600 p
Another Roseville train-

RR-East from Crescent Lake

Time at CJ
1215 a
1230 a
On Duty at Oakridge for return to EUG
100 a
200 a
300 a
500 a
630 a
815 a
AMTK No 14
1028 am at Eugene
900 a
1100 a
100 p
230 p
410 p
600 p
700 p
800 p
930 p
1030 p
1130 p

We have used this line-up for three regular operating sessions. It has been a great success for work in the Eugene Yard.  Spreading the local freight departures throughout the day allows the yardmaster to better manage the work—balancing it better for the size of the classification yard.  Critically, my re-staging effort has become far more manageable. 

I re-staged the entire railroad in one day for the June 3, session.  That effort began at Crescent Lake where the required “XMUGs”  (“Empty” symbol) trains were built first, followed by working with each of the other general manifest and priority trains as needed.  I then shifted to surveying the Eugene Classification Yard for the inbound (to the RR) traffic and identified additional traffic (waybills) that were needed for the locals.  Most of these needed cars were empties for loading on my RR, so their waybills could be assigned to a recently-arrived train of empties in the A-D Yard.  The yard crew would need to pull that car block into the classification yard for work there.  Finally, most of the outbound (RR-West) trains were prepared. In some cases, this might include leaving sufficient space in a forming train to handle RR-West cars currently in the Classification Yard.  

Moving to an around-the-clock operations model for my railroad has accomplished my goals for that shift.  My re-staging effort is acceptable.  The yard crew is a lot happier.  They now can accomplish their work without feeling they are always under a tight time limit.  The road crews still have plenty of work.  The reduced number of local freights worked during a session seems to match well with the number of operators who really want to do that work.  I now have a good tool—a master plan—with which to construct line-ups for any given operating session.