Thursday, April 19, 2018


I must pause from my regular reporting on building and operating my dream model railroad to offer a tribute to my four-legged companion of the past five years--our dog Phreddie.  Phreddie was a Brittany--a wonderful breed!  He was ideally suited to us and us to him.  In retirement, we could give him the attention he craved.  In return, he provided companionship, comfort and love. He alerted us to folk coming to the door, especially our regular UPS deliveryman.  He greeted my operating crews with a friendly face and attentiveness.

Early this year, we noted a growth on his right rear leg.  The lump is just visible in the photo above.  The veterinarian diagnosed cancer and gave him a short time.  He outlived that diagnosis by a considerable margin, but inevitably, the cancer took its toll and gradually reduced his mobility.  He adapted well for quite some time to ever more limiting use of that right rear leg.  When Phreddie could no longer be himself--a field dog, we knew it was time to end his suffering.  

On walks (at least two a day, rain or shine), Phreddie showed his spaniel nature--always sniffing, looking for game.  Squirrels and quail were favorites.  I found myself following his nose.  He loved a regular routine, but that still meant checking all of the usual spots every day.

In spite of being a field dog, Phreddie was a house dog.  Likely that was because he wanted--needed by breeding--to be close to us.  He provided us seemingly endless entertainment and mirth.  Every day provided at least one new laugh at some action on his part. Yes, as with all dogs, he sought any food scrap that might come his way.  He kept us on schedule.  Once we did an activity a second time, he expected that as part of his daily routine. 

The inexhaustible love shown by a dog is but a reflection of that shown by our Creator--God.  I hope we will meet again "on the other side."  Rest in peace loyal friend and companion.

Wednesday, April 11, 2018


My railroad has been operating quite a bit over the past month, with sessions every two weeks—first with the regularly scheduled “First Saturday” sessions and then with the special session in mid-March associated with Winterail. I held a regularly-scheduled operating session this weekend on my SP Cascade Line.  I have been trying to restrain myself from reporting every such session, but sometimes, the session compels itself to be reported.  This one also had crew members asking for such a report! My railroad was built for operations, so herewith is the report on the latest operating session.

I expected a smaller crew for this session, as a number of the regular crew were out of state for a privately arranged operating event.  This opened up operating slots for a number of infrequent operators on my railroad.  The expected smaller operating crew also led me to develop a lower train density line-up. With several trains annulled, my retired SP Dispatcher mentor Rick K. noted it was more of a weekend line-up.

The session began with several trains still out on the line, left over from the end of the mid-March special session.  The RR-West EUOAY (Eugene to Oakland manifest) was at Wicopee, with a helper entrained.  The RR-West EULAY (Eugene to Los Angeles manifest freight) was at Oakridge, ready to have its helper cut in.  Also at Oakridge was the RR-East WCEUY (West Colton to Eugene manifest freight).  We began the session with a “bang!”

The EUOAY climbs up to the Summit Tunnel (Tunnel 3) with the rear of the train still crawling through Tunnels 5 and 7.  Conductor Clive E. watches his train from the Cascade Summit platform while Helper Engineer Craig L. manages his locomotives from the main floor.

The helper locomotives have been cut into the EULAY at Oakridge and it is preparing to depart.  Helper Engineer Pete H. is closest to the camera and is watching his locomotives’ performance.

The WCEUY works RR-East toward Springfield under the control of Engineer Richard C. (right rear) and Conductor Mike R. (back to camera).

Dispatcher Craig P. works his Train Sheet and Block Authority Sheet. This was Craig’s first time dispatching my railroad.  He did a fine job in spite of traffic challenges that developed in the middle of the session.

At Eugene, Scott B. reaches over intervening tracks to uncouple a car as he works the Eugene City Switcher in the distance.  West Switcher Tom D. works his end of the yard as Yardmaster Chuck C. organizes the yard work.  Closest to the camera is East Switcher Ken R. Meanwhile, a RR-West train with TOFC is working through the depot area on the main track.

The Eugene Yard was loaded with work left over from prior operating sessions.  Critically, the Eugene City Switcher was called to work the industries near the depot. The Eugene City Switcher had not been called for several sessions, so a considerable backlog of work had developed. Eugene yard operations were blessed with a full, experienced crew.

After the initial wave of traffic left out on the line at the end of the previous session, operations settled down into a more normal pattern of road freights working from one end of the railroad to the other.  This next wave of trains included a couple of RR-East freights: the RVEUY (Roseville to Eugene Manifest) and OGEUY (Ogden to Eugene Manifest—a train that came over the Modoc Line), and a RR-West:  the EUCIY (Eugene to City of Industry <Los Angeles area>).  

The RVEUY has taken the siding at McCredie Springs for a meet with the EUCIY.

The EUCIY rolls through McCredie Springs with Engineer Richard C. (closest to camera) at the head end and Helper Engineer Craig L. (Dark red shirt on the left) watching his unit’s performance and controlling the slack coupler point in the train.  The crew for the RVEUY: Clive E. (left-rear) and Dick K. (right-rear) watch the EUCIY roll past.

Mark K., Conductor for the OGEUY, monitors his train and lines it out of Crescent Lake.  

Engineer Brigg F. watches the head end of the OGEUY as it rolls through Cascade Summit.

Next up was a pair of hot trains with auto racks and trailer-on-flatcar (TOFC).  The BRLAT (Brooklyn—SP’s Portland, OR, Yard—to Los Angeles Trailers) was up first, departing Eugene just after midnight on the fast clock.  Adding spice to this event was the need to add a private car to the rear of the train at the Eugene Depot.

BRLAT Conductor Dick E. copies his clearance while the Eugene City switcher adds the private car to the rear of the train.  Adding this car to the train led to an interesting discussion of prototype railroad operating practices.  It also led to cooperative switching moves involving the Eugene City Switcher and the Eugene West Switcher.  

As the BRLAT worked its way RR-West on the railroad, other traffic needed to make way.  The BRLAT was the hottest (highest priority) train on the railroad during its travel from Eugene to Crescent Lake.  This eventually led to threading through congestion at Cruzatte where the BRLAT ran around the EUCIY and met a light helper set tucked into the house track. Another RR-West freight followed the BRLAT.  The fourteen locomotives, including eight with sound, involved in this congested set of moves left my power system panting.  I will need to monitor the current draw for this sort of situation with an eye to further breaking up the power district and perhaps adding another booster or two.  

Congestion on the Hill!  Three trains and four helper sets are drawing power as the BRLAT threads its way past lower priority trains on its way uphill.

In the end, I had nineteen operators participate in this session—close to a normal crew size.  We took advantage of the somewhat lighter line-up of trains to fully staff the trains with two-man crews.  We also doubled up the Dispatcher with a first-timer and a mentor.  The smiles on faces and banter among crew members indicated a good time being had by all.  Success!

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!