Tuesday, August 29, 2017


Structure construction progress has moved around to Westfir and its major sawmill—historically, Western Lumber Co.  Western Lumber predates the completion of the Southern Pacific’s Natron Cutoff—the Cascade Line.  Established at Westfir in 1923, Western Lumber Co. was built to tap into the vast timber resources found on the west slope of the Cascades.  It had its own logging railroad, but depended upon the SP for transportation of its products.  Western Lumber built on a site alongside the North Fork of the Willamette River, just over the ridge from Oakridge. Oakridge was the end of track for the SP at the time, but that would soon change, as SP’s legal difficulties (attempted break-up by the Federal Government) were resolved and the Natron Cutoff was given a green light for completion.  Indeed, Western Lumber Co. got the contract for clearing timber from the new railroad right of way.

I chose as a base for my version of Western Lumber the Walthers “Mountain Lumber Company Sawmill” kit (933-3058) and outbuildings (933-3144).  These structure kits are based upon the Hull Oakes mill in Alpine, OR.  The Hull Oakes mill was steam-powered for its primary band saw during a tour in 2008, but electrification had taken over by 2013.  This is an historic sawmill filling an important niche market of being capable of cutting old growth and similar large-sized logs.  The Walthers kits provide a decent rendition of many features typical of western sawmills.

An important additional resource for me was a book published by Western Scale Models:  “Modeling a Steam Powered Sawmill.”  Published in 2010, this spiral bound book draws from efforts documenting three such mills (Hull Oakes here in Oregon and two mills in British Columbia) on the West Coast.  I do not know if this excellent book remains in print, but refer those interested to Western Scale Models, P.O. Box 1760, Richland, WA 99352.

Excellent resource for typical steam-powered sawmill layout. 

Example drawing from the steam-powered sawmill book illustrating construction of the Hull Oakes mill.

Typical of my use of Walthers kits, I chose to expand and modify the basic kit components.  Inspired by the Hull Oakes layout, I added to the length of the main building and the awning for the green chain (the roof perpendicular to the main roof).  Armed with the drawings from the sawmill book, I also decided to add roof trusses and the siding truss for the opening for the green chain.  These were simply represented using Evergreen styrene dimensional shapes and rods.

Side wall splices for Walthers sawmill kit expansion.

Roof splices for main sawmill.

Simple assembly jig for roof trusses.

Main sawmill structure components.  Three roof trusses have their vertical rods.  The other four trusses are awaiting delivery of more styrene rod.  Note the side truss for the space over the green chain.

Assembly of the modified Walthers kit components was relatively straight-forward, though this remains a work in process.  The basic walls were prepared and then given coats of base paint.  I chose to model the exterior walls as weathered wood—a common treatment for mills in Oregon.  Several layers of paint washes using acrylic paints yielded my desired effect which can be seen in the pictures of the semi-completed structures.  Similarly, the roof panels were spliced and painted.  The corrugated roofs received my rust treatment that began with colored pencils, just as I had done on the main structure for Clear Fir at Springfield.  (https://espeecascades.blogspot.com/2017/07/industrial-development-1.html)  I added to this effect with AIM weathering powders.

Rust weathering with AIM powders underway for the canopy over the lumber loading dock.

Individual components were assembled into the structures for the sawmill and supporting functions such as the boiler house, chipper, and log de-barker.  I am working still on the structures and scenic arrangement.  One key task for the future is configuring the log chain down to a mill pond alongside the river.  Expect a future post on this effort.  For now, I am filling the space for Western Lumber with representative structures and developing that scene.

View of Western Lumber Co. at Westfir with the main sawmill and the canopy over the lumber loading area.  Other scene elements can be seen in the background including the truss bridge for the railroad crossing of the North Fork of the Willamette River and a tunnel portal mock-up for the tunnel through the ridge into Oakridge.

Another view of the sawmill structures for Western Lumber.

Thursday, August 3, 2017


Each year near the anniversary of the start of construction of my SP Cascade Line, I conduct a photo survey of the railroad.  This helps me and others to see the progress made over the preceding year by comparing to previous surveys.  The official start of construction of my railroad was August 1, 2012.  August 1, satisfies my partial Swiss heritage—Swiss National Day, dating back to the original canton confederacy in 1291.  Cue William Tell! 

Last year’s railroad survey can be found at:

You can work back through previous annual surveys via that link.

Last year’s survey followed a RR-West train from Eugene to Crescent Lake.  This year, I chose to work RR-Eastbound from Crescent Lake to Eugene.  In the process of re-staging the railroad for an operating session at the end of the week, I needed to move one train down from Crescent Lake to Eugene, so that became the “lucky” one to be featured this year.  Follow along in photos and captions as I move SP7474E down the mountain grade and into Eugene.

SP7474E starts out at Crescent Lake.  Although this scene appears similar to one at the end of last year’s survey, a major change is that I am standing on the permanent operator platform for Crescent Lake instead of the step ladder that served for four and a half years.  Evidence of the platform is seen in the foreground where a shelf, car card slots and the corner of the switch control panel for Crescent Lake appear along the layout edge.

SP7474E crosses through the throat switch for the Crescent Lake reverse loop staging.  The bright blue LED indicator below the third boxcar was a recent addition to help train crews know which way the switch is set for.

SP7474E passes through Cascade Summit. RR-West (uphill) trains remove their helpers here.  Lighting is uneven this close to the ceiling. The operator platform height to the ceiling is seven feet, with the railroad five feet above the platform (two feet below the ceiling).

SP7474E works down from the summit, dynamic brakes screaming (at least in my head).  The lead locomotive has started out onto the future site of Shady Creek Trestle, one of three large steel trestles on the line.  Tunnel portal mock-ups have been planted to get me inspired to pursue scenery—soon.  My railroad will feature ten of the prototype line’s twenty tunnels.

SP7474E meets SP9232W, the BRLAT, helped by SSW9066 at West Cruzatte.  Today’s Dispatcher will catch some “flak” for delaying that pig train.  The Brooklyn (SP’s Portland, OR, Yard) to Los Angeles Trailer is a “hot” train.  This past year, I have added signature elements to the priority freight trains on the railroad—the Forwarder and Trailer trains.  This usually means auto racks and trailer-on-flat-car (TOFC) at the head end.  With those 89 ft. cars in train, SP rules call for placing the helper on the “point” (ahead of the lead locomotive). 

SP7474E swings around and over Salt Creek Trestle and into Wicopee.  The future trestle here should become a signature scene on my railroad, just as it is for the public on the prototype Cascade Line.  Oregon Highway 58, the Willamette Pass Highway, passes underneath the trestle.

SP7474E crosses Salmon Creek Trestle as it approaches Oakridge.

SP7474E rolles through the RR-East end of Oakridge.  Lots of work awaits this weekend’s operating crew!  Another RR-East is on the Oakridge siding, to the left of SP7474.  A pair of helper units is on Yard Track 1, ready to cut into the RR-West train on Yard Track 2.  The yard cross-overs were added this past year.  With these switches, helpers can be cut-in within the yard.  Previously, RR-West trains had to occupy the mainline over Salmon Creek, as their helpers were cut in at the RR-West end of the yard. 
     The crossover switches also help the Oakridge Turn (the local freight that serves Oakridge area industries) work without tying up the mainline.  The Oakridge Turn is waiting on Yard Track 3.  The Oakridge Turn comes up to Oakridge from Eugene on one day.  It switches the Pope and Talbot mill at the RR-West end of town and does most of the rest of the Oakridge switching.  It then goes off duty (prototype crews took their eight-hour rest) and returns to duty to return to Eugene.  With mainline authority through Westfir, the Oakridge Turn serves Western Lumber at Westfir—the other major lumber mill around Oakridge.

SP7474E rounds the curve at Westfir.  Sharp eyes might see the beginning of the railroad bridge over the North Fork of the Willamette River underneath the temporary road bed beyond the lumber mill.  The lumber mill structures also are new and will be the subject of future blog posts.

SP7474E rolls through Springfield.  Two new industry structure sets appear here between the railroad and the backdrop.  The green complex is Tilbury Cement, on long-term loan from modeler Harry Bonham.  Harry wrote a two-part article in Railroad Model Craftsman around 1990, featuring plans and the construction of this model.  I am grateful to be the recipient of Harry’s work!  Tilbury Cement has long been on my “must model” list.  Further back is the site of Timber Products/Clear Fir, featured in the previous blog post.

SP7474E rolls through the mainline at the Eugene Depot.  Several new structures can be seen here, including Rubenstein’s Furniture immediately on the left, Oregon Supply beyond the depot, and Pierce Freight further back.  These have been featured in recent blog posts.  The concrete grain elevator (large white silos) for Albers is still under construction.

Journey’s end for SP7474E as it comes to a halt in the Eugene Arrival-Departure Yard.  Trains are staged for the next operating session, awaiting power and cabooses.  SP7474E’s train will become the next 01-EUKFY, a “junk” train headed to Klamath Falls with traffic headed to connections at Ogden, UT, via the Modoc Line and other traffic headed down the Shasta Route mainline toward Dunsmuir and on to the California Central Valley. 

As I look back at the previous year’s photo survey, I see most of the changes in the past year have supported operations.  Recent additions have been structures being changed from taped together kit walls to fleshed-out three dimensional buildings.

Oh yes, one more item is just peeking above the railroad in the background of the last photo—the new Dispatcher’s Panel—the black rectangle.  The panel is mounted to the Dispatcher’s desk which is on wheels.  The desk is wheeled into our exercise room for formal operating sessions.  My railroad was built for operations.  It is staged and ready for the next formal session—this weekend!