Sunday, May 31, 2020


Long-time "Trains Magazine" columnist, journalist and railroad author Fred Frailey retired this year from his regular column in Trains.  His column was the first item I would seek out to read in each new issue of "Trains."  Easing the pain of his loss to rail enthusiasts is his recently published Last Train to Texas.  Fred collects in this book a number of his notable columns for "Trains" and a couple of articles.

I have long been a fan of Fred Frailey's writings and observations on railroading.  He brings a classic journalist's eye for a story together with an enthusiasm for railroading-the industry and the people-that I found particularly perceptive.  He has a keen eye for detail and well-developed "BS Filter" that I find hits closer to the mark of truth than most writers. Over the years, he cultivated ties to men who became leaders of the industry that gave him access to decisions that form the modern North American rail net.

The forty-six chapters are arranged in three thematic groupings:  Running the Railroads, Travels Around Trains, and Kicking the Trains Down the Tracks.  The first grouping on "Running the Trains" profiles a number of rail industry leaders, often pointing out positive attributes of men otherwise reviled by rail workers or railfans.  The second grouping on "Travels Around Trains" documents a number of Fred's own travels, either by rail or car-to chase and photograph trains.  

The final section titled "Kicking the Trains Down the Tracks" is a collection of his perceptive journalism reflecting upon events and management choices that continue to shape railroading.  The final chapter of this section and the book covers the traffic meltdown in Texas that took place soon after the Union Pacific acquired the Southern Pacific in 1996.  This longer article contrasts Fred's observations against official UP pronouncements during the traffic meltdown that nearly brought all UP traffic to a standstill.  This chapter represents some of the best of Fred's writing.

I have long enjoyed Fred's writing in "Trains," first as articles and then as a regular columnist.  His 1991 "Blue Streak Merchandise" book published by Kalmbach sits proudly-and well-read-on my bookshelf.  It will be joined now by Fred's latest work which gave me a great collection of his past work for bedtime reading.  Last Train to Texas is a wonderful send-off for Fred as he enters a well-deserved retirement.  His writing will be missed in the current tense, but some of the best of his body of work is now bound between hard covers in a convenient collection.

Published by Indiana University Press and available through booksellers, Last Train to Texas belongs in rail enthusiasts' libraries--certainly for those who want to understand how we got to where we are today in railroading.

Tuesday, May 19, 2020


Continuing my development of Rosboro Lumber in Springfield, I turned to two structure complexes geographically west of the main loading sheds.  Along the tracks, the first of these features multiple roof peaks.  Looking at the satellite view, I see the distinct shape of a mill building surrounded by the multi-peak shed along the tracks and other sheds around it.  Further west is a pair of bow-roof structures. 

Rosboro Lumber looking geographic west from the large loading sheds.  A multi-peaked roof warehouse or loading shed is in the center while a pair of bow-roofed structures loom in the background, further along the track.

Both of these structure complexes on the western side of the Rosboro Lumber facility lend themselves to simple modeling with foam-core construction overlaid by printed cardstock texture.  My previous post on the large bow-roof loading shed describes my construction technique.  That post also contains a link to the first post of this series.  

The multi-peaked roof structure needed to fit within the start of the curve that forms the turn-back loop at the end of my Springfield peninsula.  Although the curvature was not great where I needed to place this structure, it still presented a challenge.  I needed to break the front wall along the track mid-way to take up a slightly different face angle.  That posed the challenge of what to do with the roof peaks and valleys.  After experimenting with a couple of layouts, I selected keeping the roof peaks and valleys parallel and adjusting for the two different face angles by trimming the roof ends appropriately.

Laying out the multi-peak roof structure and mill building.  At this point, I have the trackside multi-peak structure laid out and the main mill building behind it.  A side shed is plotted on the geographic east end facing the main loading sheds.  The satellite view was a big help in laying out this complex.

Mocking up and test fitting the main structure walls for the multi-peak roof structure and main mill building.

Laminating the siding to the multi-peak roof building.  End vents were cut into the siding near two of the roof peaks, per my prototype photos. 

As I built up this warehouse and mill complex, I recognized I needed to add more structures around the mill.  Lacking photo coverage on that side of the structure, I had to "guestimate" what they might look like, inspired by the satellite view.

Additional structures surround the central mill building.  The pair of bow-roof structures loom in the background.

The pair of bow-roofed sheds were built the same as my first such shed, although their interiors could be much simpler.  I had very little photo coverage of these sheds, so I took a simple approach to build them fully enclosed.  I did leave the main mill-side doors open on the ends, though.  Although my prototype photos indicate an additional bowing of the roof toward one end, as well as side to side, I chose to keep my models simple with the single main arch of the roof.

Rosboro Lumber looking geographic east.  The bow-roof sheds are in the foreground, followed by the multi-peaked structure and mill building and then the large loading sheds around the curve on my layout.

Multi-peaked roof structure along the main loading spur for Rosboro Lumber Co.

I have lots of detail to add to these structures, but for now the space is filling in nicely.  This end of the Springfield area is no longer bare plywood!

Tuesday, May 12, 2020


With formal operating sessions cancelled this Spring I determined I could get some model railroad operating done on my layout by documenting regular operating jobs on my railroad.  First up is a favorite job--the Oakridge Turn.  This job originates at Eugene and runs to Oakridge where it performs much of its work.  After organizing the train for efficient switching, the Turn performs local switching in Oakridge and services the Pope and Talbot lumber mill on the geographic east end of town.  Historically the crew lays off for eight hours rest.  On my railroad this often is simulated by waiting until the next operating session to resume work.  Returning to duty at Oakridge, the Turn job completes switching in Oakridge by serving Standard Oil, which must be switched using mainline authority on the railroad east end of town.  With that authority still in effect, the train begins its return to Eugene via Westfir where it switches Western Lumber with its now-trailing point spurs.  Follow me in pictures as I work the Oakridge Turn.

I have just gone on duty at Eugene.  My train is on the Eugene City Yard Track-2, a common location for made-up local trains.  I am checking the car cards and waybills, acquainting myself with the make-up of the train and already thinking about how I will reorganize it in Oakridge.

With mainline authority to Oakridge, I made a fast run, just squeezing into town against a priority RR-eastbound with auto racks over on the mainline.

The Oakridge Turn rolls into yard track 4.  Oakridge Tracks 3 and 4 are habitually used by the Turn, leaving yard tracks 1 and 2 for use by railroad-west-bounds getting their helpers cut-in.  We see that priority RR-East on the main with its auto racks up front.  A RR-West is on Track 2 and its helper set is on Track 1, waiting to cut ito the middle of that RR-West train..

Our first order of business is to reorganize our train for efficient switching.  I began by building the return portion of the train on Track 3, beginning with a tank car billed to Standard Oil.  Next will be cars in correct order for the two spur tracks at Western Lumber in Westfir.  

I use the Pope and Talbot spurs as a switch lead.  I moved most of the loads on P&T-1 over to P&T-2 to get the most space for my long switch moves between Oakridge Tracks 3 and 4.  

Continuing with my train reorganization, I have created a block of cars for the engine facility (oil and sand) and rock for the maintenance of way troops.  At this point, most of the Pope and Talbot cars are on Track 4.  I am grouping the cars destined for the house track, also.

Gathering the cars for the House Track in correct order, I got Dispatcher authority for use of the mainline block RR-West of town.  I use it to access the House Track.

I pulled the outbound cars from the House Track, setting them over onto Track 3.  Note the 65 feet long mill gondola I pulled from Lane Electric on the end of Track 3.  A fresh 65-ft. gondola and a box car have been spotted on the House Track for Lane Electric as well as a boxcar delivered to the depot.

Returning to the Oakridge Yard, I release my mainline authority back to the Dispatcher.  I then complete setting out the new cars at Pope and Talbot with the wood chip gondolas in back on P&T-2 and flats and boxcars for lumber on P&T-1.  Note the flat cars are on the RR-East end of the spur, closest to Oakridge Yard, per standard instructions conveyed by the freight agent from Pope and Talbot.

Using the cross-overs between Tracks 3 and 4, just beyond my locomotives and cars, I have organized the cars for company service in Oakridge.  The two covered hoppers with sand are on the RR-East end of my locomotives, while the rock hoppers and company oil tank are trailing my power.

Working the switching puzzle at the RR-East end of town, I have successfully delivered the company oil tank and rock hoppers.  As an alternative, I might have used the wye to work around to this end of town.  The engine house foreman was friendly today, so I used the engine terminal run-through to get to this end of town.

Completing the switching puzzle at the RR-East end of town, I have delivered the pair of sand covered hoppers, pulled the empty covered hopper and an empty company oil car.  I am collecting the empty company service cars prior to placing them in my train.

Completing the work in Oakridge, I am placing my locomotives on the RR-East end for the run back to Eugene.  With the train made up for its RR-East return, the crew goes off-duty for their eight-hour rest.  Upon return to duty (usually in the next operating session) the Oakridge Turn starts RR-East with mainline authority.  The first item of business is switching the Standard Oil spur which is the left-most track seen here.  Mainline authority is needed for this set of moves, so this activity is usually lumped with the mainline authority to Westfir.

Having switched Standard Oil (note the two tank cars) I am now serving Western Lumber at Westfir.  I am pulling the loaded plywood cars and wood chip gondolas from Westfir Track 1 so I can place them ahead of the tank cars for proper train make-up involving tank cars.  The empty tank cars led out of Oakridge for the very short distance to Westfir.  This is deemed safer than the more complicated set of moves needed to place them deeper into the train immediately.  Tunnel 22 is directly at the RR-East end of Oakridge and makes switching at that end of town difficult.

Fresh empty cars are switched back into Westfir Track 1 for wood chip and plywood loading.  Next to be switched will be lumber on Track 2.  Once again, the flat cars will be left on the RR-East end of the lumber loading spur.

With the work completed at Westfir, the Oakridge Turn rolls RR-East, here crossing the Willamette River on its way back into Eugene.

Both the out-bound and returning Oakridge Turn jobs have been highly sought assignments during my crew selection process at the start of an operating session.  Almost all operating sessions have at least one half of the Turn.  Some sessions see both pieces.  The job has challenges.  The out-bound Turn must organize the train for efficient switching. It needs mainline authority to switch the House Track and must otherwise stay out of the way of mainline operations. The returning RR-East-bound Oakridge Turn must switch very efficiently, as it blocks the mainline all the time it is working.  The key to both sets of tasks is the initial train reorganization that needs to be done upon arrival in Oakridge from Eugene.