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.


  1. Sadly, Hull-Oakes retired their steam boiler for the primary saw in I think 2013.

    I have photos of the mill on my blog at http://blog.lostentry.org/2015/08/hull-oakes-lumber-mill-tour.html as well as a lot more detail and overview shots from 2015 that I can share if you are interested.

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