Stencil on the side of a BN caboose at East Lewiston

Tuesday, September 6, 2011

Bridge fire in Lapwai Canyon

A sad day befell the Lapwai Canyon portion of the Second Subdivision on Friday, September 2nd.  A wild fire crept up a portion of Lapwai Canyon, burning down bridge 21.3, the first bridge to the south (railroad west) of Half-moon bridge and tunnel 3.  This unfortunate news likely seals the fate of this once magnificent rail line.  

A view from across Lapwai Canyon shows the scorched draw where bridge 21.3 once stood.  Steve Taulbee photo, September 2, 2011.

This close-up view shows all that is left:  A few burned bridge timbers and a single piece of rail dangling across the draw.  Steve Taulbee photo.  September 2, 2011.

After being sold to North American Railnet, the line stayed in operation until November of 2000.  After being shut down, the line sat idle for three years.  It was subsequently sold to Mike Williams, re-creating the line as the Bountiful Grain & Craig Mountain Railway.  

Since its purchase by Mike Williams, part of the line has been abandoned and the rest has sat mostly idle, with only the portion between Spalding and Culdesac used for storing railroad cars. 

In 2003, some wood trestles of the former Canadian Pacific/Kettle Valley Railway in Myra Canyon near Kelowna, BC, burned down in a wild fire.  These bridges are part of the Kettle Valley Railway trail, a bike and walking path that utilizes the abandoned railways road bed.  Considering these bridges a national treasure, the Provincial and National governments helped fund their rebuilding, to Canadian Pacific specs no less!  

Lapwai Canyon is unlikely to see this sort of undertaking.   There simply isn't the money nor (in my opinion) the desire by the state of Idaho to have this bridge rebuilt for posterity or potential future commerce.  So the once great second subdivision likely gasps it last bit of breath, succumbing to something we all feared could happen any day.

Here are some pictures of the canyon and the bridges under better circumstances:

An extra Craigmont Turn descend the Lapwai Canyon grade traversing three of the many bridges in the canyon.  The bridge farthest to the left is bridge 21.3.  October, 1997.       Matt Sugerman photo. 

The recent Burlington Northern-Santa Fe merger is evident in this photo as the west bound Grangeville train crosses Bridge 23.1 in late October of 1997.  Matt Sugerman photo.
The Craigmont Turn's caboose makes its way across the bridge on the way to Lewiston.  October 1997.  Dave Lehlbach photo.

Monday, June 27, 2011

Camas Prairie train operations part 4: Hauling logs to the Lewiston mill

The Headquarters Logger and the Night Logger, trains 885 and 886

By the late 1960's, the Camas Prairie Railroad was largely an empties in and loads out railroad.   There were some inbound loads, primarily to support the massive Potlatch paper and tissue mills at Lewiston, but the vast majority of loaded cars (called commercials by the railroad) left the Camas Prairie Railroad, to locations across the country.  The exception was the movement of saw logs to the sawmill at Lewiston.
The fourth subdivision, a 40-mile line, ran from Orofino to Headquarters.  The line traversed an uphill ruling 2.2% grade for the first 28 miles, climbing right out of Orofino.  The grade leveled out at Nelson, just west of Jaype.  From Jaype to Revling the line was relatively flat before ascending another 4 miles to the aptly named Summit.  From Summit, the line descended the final 6 miles down a 2.2% grade into Headquarters.

Potlatch Forests Clearwater sawmill at Lewiston received most of its saw logs from the drainages along the north fork and middle fork of the Clearwater River.  About half the logs that supplied the Lewiston mill came from the spring log drive that originated high up along the north fork of the Clearwater river, some 100 miles from Lewiston.

Saturday, June 18, 2011

Camas Prairie train operations part 3: Along the Clearwater River

The Kamiah Local, trains 881 and 882

The first subdivision, from Lewiston to Stites, saw quite a bit of train traffic in 1967.   The Camas Prairie Railroad operated as many as seven trains east of Lewiston.  Locals operated both directions between Lewiston and Kamiah (pronounced Kam-ee-eye). 

The first subdivision is a water level route, with gentle grades, following the Clearwater River.  The line crossed the Clearwater River twice before reaching Stites, just east of Spalding and again, just west of Kamiah.

Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Camas Prairie train operations part 2: The Camas Prairie

The Grangeville Local, trains 857 and 858

The building of the Second Subdivision, from Spalding to Grangeville, led to the creation of the Camas Prairie Railroad. One of its most iconic features was the route through Lapwai Canyon.  This line, with its many bridges, tunnels and severe curves (the curve across Half-moon bridge was 17 degrees!), was one of the railroad’s many scenic marvels. The purpose of building the line through the rugged Lapwai and Rock Creek canyons was the tapping of the prairie’s rich and expansive grain crops.  Reaching the prairie required the railroad to climb almost 2000’ feet in 14 miles, with a ruling grade of 3%!

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Camas Prairie train operations part 1: Connections with Union Pacific and Northern Pacific

Recently, one the readers asked some questions about how the Camas Prairie Railroad interchanged cars  and made connections to the parent railroads, Union Pacific and Northern Pacific.  I figured this was a good time to start discussing, in more detail, what trains operated, when and what their purpose was, in my modeling period of 1967. 

Riparia, the western most station on Camas Prairie Railroad's third subdivision,  was the point of interchange to both NP and UP in 1967.  When the Camas Prairie Railroad was created in 1909, the NP, who already had access from the east via Pullman,  gained access to Lewiston from the Riparia side. 

Wednesday, May 11, 2011

Modeling downtown Lewiston, Part 1: Design compression

My inspiration for modeling the Camas Prairie's Lewiston terminal started with the idea of the downtown Lewiston industrial area in a bedroom, an idea I have had for several years.  Ideas for this type of industrial district came from Jack Ozanich's Atlantic Great Eastern, South Dover city yard and a portion of Dan Holbrook's BN Missabe Divn at Connors Point.  Keith Jordan's Santa Fe "Patch" railroad is another source of inspiration considering the size of the layout relative to all the industries and dominating structures.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

13 years ago

The logo of the Camas Praire Railroad and later Camas Prairie Railnet.  The local management designed this logo for the railroad in the late 1980's and applied it to several pieces of equipment such as motor cars, hy-rail vehicles, etc..
Thursday, April 17, 1998,  marked the end of the Camas Prairie Railroad and its joint ownership by Union Pacific and Burlington Northern Santa Fe (nee Burlington Northern and Northern Pacific).  While the lines, all or some, have continued to be operated in some form or fashion since, this date was the end of an arrangement between two arch competitors that truly made the Camas Prairie Railroad a unique entity.  Following are some pictures of the last run of the Camas Prairie Railroad, along with my thoughts and reflections of that day.

Sunday, April 10, 2011

Off topic...Here come the 'Hawks?...

One of my other passions, besides family and railroading, is ice hockey.  More to the point, Chicago Blackhawks ice hockey!  Being born and raised in the Chicago area, I am naturally a fan of all Chicago sports teams, but the Blackhawks are, without a doubt, my favorite of them all.  I have been a Blackhawks fan since 1982 when I went to my first game at the old Chicago Stadium.  The years from 1996 to 2007 though, were about as tough on a die hard fan as possible.  The 'Hawks were really brutal during those years!

Since the 'Hawks re-birth during the 2007-2008 season, I have really gotten back into hockey.  After winning the Stanley Cup last season, something I never thought I would see in my lifetime, I have been just giddy!  But that was last season, and this season has been, well, extremely difficult.

The defending Stanley Cup Champion Chicago Blackhawks ( I will NEVER get tired of saying that) had to jettison a large part of their team due to the NHL's ridiculous salary cap rules, including their winning goal tender, so a large part of this season required a lot of "getting to know your team mates" time and the 'Hawks have been on the playoff bubble for most of the season.

Back in October, a couple of my good model railroad friends, John Bauer and Dave Lehlbach, and my dad, went to a game in the United Center versus the Vancouver Canucks, the game was a tie with the 'Hawks winning in the shootout.  One of the things we discussed during that game was the home and home series the 'Hawks would play against the hated Detroit Red Wings at the end of the season and how it would affect the standings.  My thoughts at the time were the Hawks would be playing for the division at the end of the season.  Well...

Instead they played for their playoff lives.  This morning when I woke up, they were in "the you win, you're in" situation. A loss would mean the Dallas Stars would have lose also, a prospect that seemed unlikely, since they would be playing a team out of the playoffs with nothing to really play for.  After a hard fought game, the 'Hawks were defeated by Detroit 4-3.  I felt sick.  Only two teams in recent history have won the Stanley Cup and then missed the chance to defend their title the following year.  Not only did I want watch the 'Hawks in the playoffs again, but I didn't want them to be in such dubious company!

The Dallas Stars, who were now in the "win and in" situation and I figured it was no-brainer.  But it's tough to win in the NHL and the Stars played a Minnesota Wild team who decided to show up and give them a game.  In the end, the Stars succumbed to the pressure and lost 5-3.  So the 'Hawks are in the playoffs to defend their title!

I should have been working on my layout today, and after the 'Hawks lost, I figured I would just ignore Stars game, but I couldn't get away from watching it.  Kinda like watching a car crash or something.  Late in the game I was rooting so hard for the Wild one my greyhounds came over to me and started sniffing and licking me to make sure I was OK.

It's now 11PM and I'm just now calming down.  Considering the emotional highs and lows and how amped up I got today, there is no way I should have been handling any power tools!  So "here come the Hawks, the mighty Blackhawks"...into Vancouver, BC, with a date with the best in the NHL Canucks.  It may be a short series, but its the playoffs baby...Cue the Chelsea Dagger!!!

What a day!

Monday, April 4, 2011

Field Trip, part 2...

After my morning spent downtown and along Snake River Ave, I used the rest of the afternoon to look over the East Lewiston Yard and engine facility.  In the old days (did I just call the late 90's that?!) when I would come over to Lewiston, I was a poor college student, so I would eat at the Dairy Queen Brazier near the old Lewiston depot, then drive over to the yard to eat lunch.  The DQ is still there, though they don't call it a Brazier store anymore.  For whatever reason, there aren't a lot of Dairy Queen's here in the Fort Worth area, so I rarely ever get to one.  A cherry Mr. Misty freeze is "the bomb"! 

After a brazier burger and a Mr. Misty freeze, I headed over to the yard.  Several years ago, I spent quite a bit of time taking pictures of trackage and structures in East Lewiston, however, model design considerations were somewhat abstract to me when I was selecting the criteria for my photos. 

Monday, February 28, 2011

Field Trip, part 1...

It so happens that my position at BNSF as a chief dispatcher covers a large portion of Washington state. On February 12th, I trekked to the Northwest on company business to see my territory.  Not the best time of year to be in the Northwest, mainly because the days are so short, but it worked out well.  I spent 9 days in Washington and took one day for myself and traveled to Lewiston to look over what was left of the trackage and structures. 

As I develop my layout based on the Camas Prairie Railroad's Lewiston terminal area, I find myself trying to find out little details about things such as whether there are drainage ditches within the body of the freight yard at East Lewiston, if the main track was tamped up higher than the yard tracks, how much curve exists in a turnout or lead, etc.

Arriving in Lewiston last week was sort of melancholy, as much of what I remember from just a few years ago has been changed, removed, razed or completely obliterated.   I had heard that the Twin Cities Foods building had been razed, and that the city is interested in turning entire area into a city park, so I wasn't sure what was left.  Progress I suppose.

Tuesday, February 8, 2011

What to model?

So what the heck am I actually modeling? I am "modeling the Camas Prairie Railroad"...That's kinda vague isn't it?
Selection from an NP company map of Washington and Northern Idaho
NP Lines are in Red, UP Lines are in brown and the CSP lines are an alternating red/brown

The prototype is made up of four subdivisions and a small terminal, about 300 miles of RR, give or take.  Modeling the entire system isn't possible in the space that I have available.  Here in Texas, there are no such things as basements, so most of us who are into model railroading have to take over a portion of their living space to accomodate such an endeavor.  In spite of a few discussions with the real estate department, i.e. my wife, the idea of knocking down walls, etc. really is a pipe dream.  (If I could take down the wall between the upstairs loft and bedroom, oh my, 28' for a yard!!!...)

In my meager sized space, 14X18, and an adjacent 11X13, obviously the entire railroad is not an option.  My aim, however, is to model a portion of the Camas Prairie as accurately as is REASONABLE within the space constraints I have.

So what portion of the Camas Prairie's territory is right for modeling?  Well, the whole RR lends itself well to modeling.  Lapwai Canyon, on the second sub, is probably the most scenic and iconic part of the Camas Prairie Railroad, and makes for a great scene.  With its 3%+ grades, curves in excess of 14 degrees, and numerous wood trestles, it is a modelers dream...or is it?  

Scenery wise, it can't be beat, but operationally???  Not much other than occasional helper operations due to the grade.  There is no switching and the line only saw one train per day in the late 1960's. 

Atop the camas prairie, on east half of the second sub, there is more operational opportunity.  Several granger towns lie along prairie, with grain elevators dotting every one of them.  In between, more bridges, most wood, and one giant steel viaduct spanning Lawyer's Canyon at 296' tall!  There was even an interchange with a smaller shortline, the Nezperce Railroad, at Craigmont.  

Still, only one train per day though.  I am looking for a little more than one train a day operation.  Part of building, then operating a railroad model, at least for me, is the social group.  Sharing what I have done with friends, and watching it "come alive", but with others participating.  No necessarily a huge group, but 3 or 4 others is my intention.  So I need to find a portion that supports this.  

Scenery, or scenes, however, are not unimportant.  Several years ago, I was one of many assisting Dan Holbrook build his BN Missabe Division railroad model.  Dan models the Duluth-Suerior terminal region shortly after the Burlington Northern merger.  I found his concept really cool, but having never been to the twin ports, knew very little about the prototype.

In the summer of 1995, I decided to go for a visit and take a tour around the Duluth/Superior area since I was so involved, by proxy,  in modeling it.  When I got to Superior, I was able to navigate my way around the area from the model I had worked and operated on in Dan's basement!  How cool is that?  He had accomplished, with scenes, especially "signature scenes", track arrangements and structures, such an accurate representation of the Twin Ports, that I was able to find my way almost everywhere without a map.

With this in mind, whatever segment of the Camas Prairie, I choose to model, the scenes, track arrangements, etc., are very important.  Not just for scenic interest on the model, but to place the model in the real world.

I've toyed with modeling a portion of the First Subdivision also.  There was a small yard and junction at Orofino.  The fourth subdivision splits off here, on the way to the log reloads at Jaype and Headquarters.  At Greer, there is a small wood elevator that would load a handful of cars with grain from the Weippe (pronounced Wee-ipe) Prairie.  

At Kamiah, one of those signature scenes exists with a giant, but spindly swing bridge over the Clearwater River.  Two lumber mills, a log loading operation, a couple of pole loading outfits and a grain elevator round out the industries.  There was a depot and agent here also, so it has many great modeling elements.

Further to the east, Kooskia was the last major station, though the railroad continued another two miles to Stites.  At Kooskia, another pole operation, lumber mill and grain elevator make up the industries.  

The Camas Prairie Railroad served these stations, in the late 60's, with two 6 day a week trains.  One originated in Lewiston, went all the way to Kooskia (Stites, when needed) and returned to Kamiah, switching the various industries long the way.  The other one originated at Kamiah, and went to Lewiston.  They would meet somewhere along the way, and according the Camas Prairie ETT 113, it was planned for Orofino.

Two trains, one each way, and because of the light loading on the swing bridge at Kamiah, the trains operated with one GP9.  Again, this seemed like a lot miles of railroad to represent, about 35 from Orofino to Kooskia, and only a couple of trains to operate.  

There is some definite value in an operation that only consists of a couple of trains.  The number of freight cars and engines needed is minimal, and I am not the fastest model builder.  Another good friend of mine, Dave Lehlbach, of Tangent Scale Models (awesome models by the way...shameless plug), and I, made several railfan trips together along the Grangeville line, and he is considering modeling a couple of towns on the prairie for this exact reason.   

Dave has a day job, and also owns Tangent Scale Models.  This plus his family life doesn't allow for much time to build a layout and equipment, etc.  He wants to spend some time with his son working on a railroad model though, so by modeling one or two towns on the second sub, with one train a day is the right thing for him.  But back to me...

So my criteria for a model:  accurate representation, with enough operation to keep 3 or 4 operators busy, signature scenes that would be recognized if one traveled along the railroad, and with a small enough fleet of engines and rolling stock to be manageable.

Now that I have beat around the bush for a while, I am finally to the portion I have decided to model: The Lewiston terminal area.  This encompasses from the log yard at Forebay, through the main yard at East Lewiston, to the downtown area of Lewiston proper.  It also includes the PFI Clearwater Mill spurs between East Lewsiton and Forebay.  On the prototype, this is about 5 miles of railroad.  

Starting to the east, is Forebay, a three track yard that was often used as an arrival departure yard for train originating at Lewiston.  It skirts along the side of the PFI Clearwater mill log pond and included two different spurs that poked out over the pond for dumping logs.

Next is the PFI mill area.  This is a sprawling complex that manufactures several different types of forest products.  Tissue, coated paper, plywood, finished dimensional lumber, wet pulp and pres-to-logs.  There are several tracks in the facility for loading forest products as well as receiving various commodities needed for  lumber and paper making.  This industry alone generated 50% of the commercial traffic off the Camas Prairie Railroad and required a switch job three time a day! 

Immediately to the west of the mill, is the East Lewiston yard, the Camas Prairie Railroad's main freight yard.  The car shops, RIP tracks, store room and roundhouse are also here.  From here, all of the Camas Prairie trains, originate. Additionally, the connecting freights to and from the Union Pacific and Northern Pacific pick up and set out cars.  The CSP operated at least two switch engines a shift in the late 60's, and sometimes a third during the daylight shift.  the switch jobs handled the classification of cars in the yard, as well as switching the mill and local industries.

Last, is the Lewiston proper area.  Shortly after departing the East Lewiston yard, is the Lewiston depot and headquarters of the railroad.  There are several industries along the line here as it is the heart of commercial district.  Industries are as diverse as a scrap dealer, a liquor warehouse, bulk fuel and oil dealer and grocery warehouse.  to the west of the depot, the line splits, with the beginning of the third subdivision and a bridge crossing the Clearwater River. This is the western outlet of the railroad and provides a connection to the Union Pacific at Ayer and the Northern Pacific at Riparia.

The other line continues into the Lewiston industrial district.  Here, there is a freight station for less-than-carload-lot traffic, three team tracks, two frozen food processing plants, a building material distributor, grange supply and another grocery warehouse.  The industrial spur continues south along the Snake River, and ends at a large grain elevator. Forebay, PFI and East Lewiston will occupy the main 14X18 space, while Lewiston proper will occupy the adjacent 11X13 room.

This covers the "what".  In following posts, in an attempt to find ways to avoid ACTUAL construction, I will write more about operations in and out of Lewiston and also modeling philosophy.

Tuesday, February 1, 2011

A Little Prototype History...

So why does the Camas Prairie Railroad exist?  A little historical context, for those who don't already know, follows to give you an idea of where I am headed with my railroad model...

Washington's "Inland Empire" consists of roughly the eastern third of Washington.  The area has rich soil and is one of the great grain growing areas of the United States.  During the late 1800's, the Oregon-Washington Railway and Navigation Company, later known as the Union Pacific, and the Northern Pacific built secondary mainlines and branch lines to every little community in the region.  The Great Northern also purchased upstart independent railroad lines that were built through the area.

The result:  Lots of competition, but also significant cost.  There was considerable traffic during harvest periods, but otherwise, these lines generated little revenue for the railroads that operated them. Additionally, with one or two other railroads to compete with, the railroads were struggling to earn return on the many lines they had built.

Monday, January 17, 2011


Well, I decided to start writing about the Camas Prairie RR railroad model I am building in the upper floor of my Tejas house.  Writing, is a great diversion from working on the layout, but since only a few of my model railroading compatriots live near me, I wanted a way to share what I am up to.  Over the years, I have had numerous ideas on what I should model.  Different eras, different locales and MANY different railroads!

The Milwaukee Road in the west has and always will intrigue me due to its quirky operations on the Rocky Mountain and Coast Divisions.  When the Hyrail Milwaukee Road Book came out in 1990, I was absolutely hooked!  I built a few freight cars and a couple of locomotives that I figured would work on a western themed layout.  I even went so far as to acquire some OMI brass "boxcab" freight motors, just in case I decided to model the Milwaukee under wires!

Later on, I sort of settled on the St. Maries and Plummer Idaho areas as a potential modeling subject and in 1993, I made a sojourn to Idaho and Washington to look at the abandoned carcass of what was once the Milwaukee Road, Lines West.  My base of operations for this trip, was at the home of some family friends in Pullman, WA, which was fairly close to the parts of the Milwaukee Road I was interested in looking over.