Saturday, March 31, 2018


The major project for me this Spring for my railroad is fleshing out three-dimensional scenery elements.  The first such effort dealt with the Summit Tunnel, Tunnel 3.  ( )  Continuing downhill, the next tunnel on my railroad is Tunnel 5, including its rock shed on the RR-West end.  As with the Summit Tunnel, Tunnel 5 occupies another corner of the alcove space of my main layout room. 

I began the scenery shell over Tunnel 5 in much the same fashion as the Summit Tunnel.  I attached support plates to the inside of the fascia contour and to the wall.  I then spanned the gap with four-inch wide plates of pink insulation foam, cutting these into triangular pieces to work around the corner.

Forming the corner mountain shell for Tunnel 5 and its Rock Shed.

Having turned the corner, I built the rest of the shell for the tunnel and rock shed with more planks of pink insulation foam.  Arriving at the portals, I shifted to stacking vertical planks of foam cut to the desired terrain contour.  I used this technique to fill in the wall gap between the portals for Tunnels 3 and 5 and then extending further downhill from the RR-East portal of Tunnel 5.  The foreground between the track roadbed and the fascia was filled with horizontal foam planks with vertical contour planks used on top of that where needed.  I also added foam blocks on top of both the “fan-shape” above the Tunnel 5 Rock Shed and on the ridge over the top of Tunnel 5.  This helps break up the flat areas and provided a base for rock outcroppings.

Tunnel 5 rough terrain shell.  Note the large foam blocks above the rock shed “fan” on the left and on top of the ridge for the tunnel (area above the vacuum cleaner).  Also note the use of both horizontal and vertical foam planks to form the terrain along the wall to the right from the tunnel portal.

I experimented with spray insulation foam to add to the rock outcropping blocks and to suggest more rock outcroppings along the walls.  With a new material and application method (spray cans of insulating foam), I had a learning curve.  I found the foam came out of the spray nozzle as about a one-inch diameter extrusion that I needed to apply to the desired locations.  I snaked this around the rock outcropping areas.  I also used the spray foam to fill several gaps between foam planks I had left.  I then discovered the spray foam continued to expand for several minutes after the initial application.  This left much bigger “snakes” of foam. 

As I noted in my discussion of the Summit Tunnel terrain base forming, one becomes a sculptor, removing material that was intentionally (or unintentionally with the spray foam!) “overbuilt.”  In the case of the spray foam, I removed a lot of material.  In some cases, perhaps 10-15% of the spray foam initially applied remained after carving and then scraping.  The pink foam was installed to be close to the desired contour.  The spray foam needed to be carved back with a knife to get the rough size and shape desired.  In both cases, the final shaping was done with a Stanley Surform scrapper—a very handy tool!

Terrain shell carved and shaped.  The tunnel portals and track have blue tape applied for protection, particularly during the spray foam process.

The final step in forming the base scenery shell was the application of Sculptamold .  Once again, I mixed Sculptamold with paint for color within this covering.  In addition to my base tan color, I also used gray paint for areas that will show rock outcroppings.  Much like frosting a cake, I lathered this onto the foam base with a spatula.  I am not yet confident in my rock carving technique, so I intend adding plaster rock castings to the scenery base for the rock outcroppings.  Meanwhile, I have another tunnel and stretch of wall with the scenery base installed.

The EUOAY led by SP9183 emerges from Tunnel 5 and its rock shed as it nears the summit of the Cascades.

The EUOAY and SP9183 approach the RR-East portal of the Summit Tunnel.

The helper set for the EUOAY approaches the RR-East portal of Tunnel 5.

Sunday, March 18, 2018


Continuing a very full month of model railroading and rail activity, this has been Winterail Weekend in Oregon.  Winterail celebrated its Fortieth Anniversary Show on Saturday, March 17, at Corvallis High School.  Winterail is the original rail photography combined with music and narration show that has spawned clones elsewhere.  It remains the premier West Coast rail photography event, even with its move north from Stockton, CA, three years ago.  The change of venue reduced attendance—no longer close to the California population centers, but numbers have been climbing and all are impressed by the Corvallis High School facilities.  Those facilities were built around ten years ago—long after I graduated from CHS.  Over four hundred people attended this year’s Winterail.

Wintereail begins with a railroadiana sales event that occupies the school cafeteria.  Increasingly, I find myself browsing the tables, but mostly catching up with friends—both from my old days in California and now my new Oregon friends.  All of this has come a long way, as I recall attending one of the first Winterails in the Sacramento or Stockton area and many since in Stockton. 

Winterail 2018 Railroadiana Show/Sales preceding the photo presentations.  Southern Pacific Historical and Technical Society Vice President Scott Inman (right, dark ball cap) is selling SPH&TS books, including the latest by Bob Morris (left, gray and maroon cap).

After noon, the formal Winterail presentations began with an outstanding show on the Apache Railway—a survivor through 100 years.  That set the keynote for subsequent presentations, generally of western railroading, but some East Coast  material snuck in.  I immediately recognized the coal yards at Newport News, VA, from my Army service there.  That was part of a presentation that dealt with both East and West Coast subjects.  Producers Vic and Annie Neves gathered a great line-up of presenters and their work for this Fortieth Anniversary show.  Congratulations and thanks to all who produce, create and support this great rail event!

Producers Annie and Vic Neves take the stage to introduce Winterail 2018.  Sorry for the low light photography here.  The presentations were FAR better than my poor attempt here to convey the beautiful facility now used for Winterail.

Taking advantage of folk travelling to Winterail, I hosted a group of my California (including one now from Arizona) friends for an operating session on my SP Cascade Line on Friday.  Two years in the making, the timing worked this year to make possible such a session.  Seven “Boomer” operators joined fourteen of my regular local crew for a good, fun, operating session.  I chose to pick up where we left off at the end of the regularly scheduled operating session two weeks ago, rather than construct a special train line-up.  Still, the visiting operators got a good sense of operations on my railroad. 

The session began with three trains out on the railroad, left over from prior sessions.  Amtrak No. 14, the northbound Coast Starlight, was added to this mix at the clock start.  Eventually, both directions of the Oakridge Turn were run and the first Springfield local was sent out to do their work.  Historically, the Oakridge Turn would depart RR-Westbound from Eugene and proceed to Oakridge where it did most of the local switching work.  After an eight-hour rest period, it would return to Eugene via Westfir, switching the sawmill there.  My outbound Oakridge Turn had worked in a previous session, so it was prepared to return to Eugene via Westfir for this session.  It needed to await the passage of Amtrak No. 14 before it could leave Oakridge.  From that beginning, we kept the Boomers busy all day, running about an hour later than a typical operating session.  I think everyone was having fun!

Conductor Don M. and Engineer Pete H. guide Amtrak No. 14 past Westfir.

With Amtrak No. 14 past them, Engineer Jim B. and Conductor Tom D. (back showing) guide the returning (RR-Eastbound) Oakridge Turn into Westfir to switch the sawmill.  Up in the mountains behind them, Pat L-T controls his RR-Westbound up-grade, while Helper Engineer Joe B. watches and controls the slack action with his mid-train helper locomotives.

Tom D. and Don M. control another freight RR-Westbound uphill out of McCredie Springs.

Action at Salt Creek Trestle commands even more attention now that the trestle structure has been completed.

John B. guides another train down-grade over Salt Creek Trestle.  In the background are Jim B, Pete H, Don M, and Dave S.

Early in the session, Yardmaster Rick A, is organizing the work while West Switcher Seth N. talks with the crew of the soon-to-depart First Springfield local freight job.  Dave H. has his back to the camera and Bill M. is observing the Eugene Yard. 

Dispatcher Dave H. issues block authority to a train crew.

The steel Dispatcher Panel and magnetic tags provide a graphical way for Dispatchers to keep track of the action.

A layout owner’s job is never done.  I am dating new batteries to go into a throttle.

Several other local operating layouts also took advantage of Winterail to host sessions for visiting model railroad operators this weekend.  There are many good reasons to join us next year for Winterail 2019!