Stencil on the side of a BN caboose at East Lewiston

Sunday, July 12, 2015


After a great push starting in mid March, the railroad became operational in early July.  Two local operators, Lance Lassen and Blair Kooistra, and a guest from Australia, John Gillies, attended the first operating session on July 5th.

After arriving at Forebay, NP 661 "the Highball", doubled its 26 car train into the Forebay yard, then pulled down the power down the main to clear the way for the switcher to retrieve the cars.
The wheel report for NP 661, inbound to Lewiston on July 5, 1965. (The list says 662, which is incorrect).  In the future, I will add a more involved paperwork system, using a miniature waybill system, developed by Dan Holbrook.  For now,  switch lists, and traffic generated in my head, is the system in place.  The list above includes what railroad (NP or UP) the cars came from and if they are loaded or empty.  The list also includes the contents of a loaded car and the "TIBS" blocking code.  

Switch crew Engineer Blair Kooistra and Foreman John Gillies plan their work at the mill.  The work for the day, required the switcher to pull cars from the paper and plywood mill, then handle off spot cars from the storage tracks to the various locations to load.  After these moves, the outbound traffic was to taken to Forebay, and blocked for either UP or NP, for the trip to Spokane.  Then cars from the inbound NP 661 taken to the mill to be spotted or left off spot in the storage tracks.  Since this was the first time, the plan took a little while to develop!

With only Spokane/East staging, Forebay and the PFI mill operational, the theme for the session was that line from Riparia to Lewiston was out of service account the Army Corps of Engineers doing dam construction on the Snake River, requiring all traffic into Lewiston to arrive on NP train 662 "the Highball".

The session consisted of train NP 661, delivering all of the traffic, both UP and NP to the yard at Forebay (a contraction of Potlatch Forest Mill Bay) and the switch job switching out the cars at the PFI mill, then delivering the out bound UP and NP traffic to Forebay for NP 662 to take to Spokane.

For the first session, I created a hand drawn  "TIBS" map of the mill and Forebay.  TIBS stands for Train and Industry Blocking System.  Its a alpha-numeric system similar to the real Burlington Northern's SPINS system from the 1970's.  Dan Holbrook wrote an article that appeared in the July 1987 issue of  Model Railroader magazine that outlined its use.  A complete TIBS book of the Lewiston Terminal area drawn using a computed graphics program  is in the works.
SW7, NP 114, was utilized for the mill switcher.  The cab on the 114 had a mishap and the Lewiston shops put on a replacement.  Unfortunately, the shops didn't have sufficient time to get the cab painted before pressing the venerable switcher back into service.  More on the replacement cab in a future post!
The switch crew is done pulling the cars from the mill and is taking them to Forebay for the outbound Highball, train NP 662.
Engineer Lance Lassen switching the inbound 661 train at the east end of Forebay.  Without a Lewiston yard switcher available, the road crew was pushed into switching service, blocking some of the inbound and outbound traffic.  A time slip for performing switching service was undoubtedly filed upon the crew's return to Spokane!

The session took about about two-and-a-half real hours, and there was still cars to spot to the mill at the conclusion.  My plan was for the mill job to be a real three to four hour job for a two person crew, which appears to be right on target. Seeing the  railroad finally operate was a rewarding experience and I'm looking forward to more sessions in the near future.  I suddenly need a lot more freight cars!  

Special thanks to my dad Perry, brother Jon, John Bauer, Dave Lehlbach and Lance Lassen, for helping me get it running!  

Lastly, a very special thank you to my wife Lisa, who has put up with my desire for an operating railroad model over the past 17 years, in one form or another.    

Friday, July 10, 2015

Mill-ing About

Its been a few weeks since my last post, but, at long last is an update to the blog and the railroad model of  the Lewiston Terminal.  I've been working rather steadily since February to get Forebay and the PFI mill complex to the point where limited operations could occur.  Limited operations (switching of the mill and using Forebay to yard an inbound/outbound train) will hopefully commence within the next six weeks or so.  

Deadlines are also a great motivator!  A friend from half a world away, visiting the Dallas-Fort Worth has certainly inspired progress.

Below are some progress pictures...
February.  The East end of Forebay Yard and the end of the modeled part of the railroad.  Switches and track placed for fitting.  Track and roadbed had only been installed just beyond the staging yard at this point.

March. My friend John Bauer visited late in the month to give a tutorial on hand laying switches.  Using Micro Engineering Rail, Kappler wood ties and Fast Tracks frog point and stock rail making tools, he is hand laying the Potlatch lead switch.

*Of note...For anyone who plans to hand lay and spike the rail, the Tightbond glue seen in the right of the photo is not so great for the process.  The glue is exceptionally hard, making it good for wood working, but quite difficult to push spikes through! I have switched back good ole' Elmers wood glue, which is no problem.  DAP adhesive caulk is another alternative.

Dave Lehlbach, of Tangent Scale Models, joined our work party toward the end of the week for a day.  He's sanding the luan plywood roadbed for the mill trackage.  

June.  PFI mill trackage.  All but three switches in the mill are built and installed.  A couple of the switches are rebuilt Shinohara switches I had left over from a previous project.  The remainder are hand built.

Another view of mill trackage.  Part of the reason for hand laying switches was to accommodate the curved switch geometry necessary to fit in the necessary tracks. The two switches in the foreground are the first hand built curved switches on the layout. I anticipate the next ones to be easier to build and a little better looking.

Operations are right around the corner...