Sunday, March 11, 2018


With my railroad operating and being fleshed out and the NMRA National Convention (PDX2015) behind me, I find I can take a bit of time to travel to regional operating events.  Such was the case this past weekend as I joined roughly eighty “Boomer” operators who converged on the Puget Sound area for the 2018 edition of SoundRail.  Based in Bellevue, just across Lake Washington from Seattle, we spread out to operate layouts from Whidbey Island on the north to Olympia in the south.  Two dozen layouts were offered up for operations over the three-day event. 

Kudos to the organizing committee for this event!  Having done their jobs for the PDX2015 NMRA Convention and then helping launch our own regional event last year, I have a fair idea what it takes, though they had a much larger event to work.  As a participant, this one seemed nearly glitch-free, though I well understand the anxiety and frustration likely concealed behind the smiling faces as the committee dealt with the inevitable changes and demands.

I was fortunate in my three layout assignments.  I drew Burr Stewart’s “Burrlington” Northern  operation on Thursday.  Burr models Puget Sound operations of the Burlington Northern in 1973.  At that time, the BN merger was still relatively new, so the motive power was a rainbow of color and most of the railroad infrastructure of the two primary Puget Sound area railroads of the BN (Great Northern and Northern Pacific) was in place yet.  Add to that mix the presence of both the Union Pacific and Milwaukee Road.  Burr has built a railroad with multiple yard operations and the movement of traffic among them and then off to the rest of the national rail network.

Boomer operators gather to operate on Burr Stewart’s BN railroad.  The social aspect is a big part of these operating events.  The Boomers shown here came from all over the country and even internationally.  Note the seawall along the tracks in the lower left of the photo.  The seawall and bluffs are a prominent feature of the former Great Northern line north of Settle along Puget Sound.

Balmer Yard was the principal GN yard in Seattle.  Lines radiated north and south from here.

The Dispatcher (Andy D.) at work with Former SP Dispatcher Rick K. looking over his shoulder.  Note the large number of yards on the track schematic panel in front of him.

Rick K. (right) leaves the Dispatcher's desk while Mark S. (center) is studying work at Stacey Yard.  Everett Bayside Yard is behind him in this aisle.  I held down that yard job for the morning half of the session.

Thursday evening, we had a number of layouts available for tour.  Given a late dinner, Seattle area traffic and a lingering storm, I was able to join a carpool that got off to only one, that of Bill Sornsin, who chaired SoundRail.  Bill is building a large layout featuring the Great Northern in the 1950’s, extending from Seattle north and then east through Cascade Tunnel to Wenatchee.  Bill and I have compared notes and techniques for large layouts in the past, so I really wanted to see his developing empire.

Bill Sornsin and Jim B. at Bill’s model of Seattle’s King Street Station.

On Friday, I joined a large carpool to trek up to Whidbey Island to operate Jack Tingstad’s Cloud City and Western.  As with several of the SoundRail layouts, Jack’s layout has been featured in magazines including a 2011 article in Model Rail Hobbyist.  Jack’s railroad features Colorado railroading in the 1910s.

Jack Tingstad explaining a layout feature to Tom S. around his Glenwood Springs scene.

Mines are a major feature of Jack’s layout.  Rob H. is checking out the scene which includes scenery that reaches nearly from the floor to the ceiling here.

Cloud City has the major locomotive facility on Jack’s railroad and is the entry and exit point from the main layout room.

We returned from Whidbey Island in time to grab some much-needed rest before the SoundRail banquet, held Friday night.  One spends most of a day operating on one’s feet.  Add in early hour departures, such as needed to get up to Whidbey Island, and rest becomes most welcome!

Saturday, I operated on Scott Buckley’s Tehama Valley Railroad in Olympia—the opposite end of the geographic spread of layouts for SoundRail.  This was a fortunate location for me, as I could launch easily to return home from Olympia.  I had escaped Puget Sound traffic at that point. 

Scott’s Tehama Valley represents a fictional shortline in the upper Sacramento Valley of Northern California.  Scott has captured well the look of towns in the area and the era before Interstate Highways.  Scott runs light steam locos and takes inspiration from the Sierra Railroad.

Colusa Junction on the Tehama Valley.  Though the scene is developing yet, it already captures major elements of the rural Sacramento Valley.

Butte Slough Trestle on the Tehama Valley.  Such trestle crossings of waterways were common in California’s Central Valley.

Walnut Grove on the Tehama Valley.  Scott has captured the look and layout of agricultural towns and their industries.

Opposite direction view of Walnut Grove.  This just screams “California Central Valley” to me from both pictures and my own memories of driving through this region when I was a kid.

Scott Buckley on the right, SoundRail Registrar Greg W. in the foreground.  One of the other crews made up of Adam P. and Bernie K. are in the background.  The Tehama Valley is very much still under construction, but the operation had four crews busy all day.

I very much enjoyed the SoundRail event.  It combined good model railroad operations with experienced Boomer crews (many of us were new to the specific layouts we operated on), and plenty of social interaction among model railroad operator peers.  I was able to connect faces with names of folk I have corresponded with over the internet for some time.  It was great to meet them in person!  Once again, kudos to the SoundRail crew and the layout owners.  They put on a great event!

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