Stencil on the side of a BN caboose at East Lewiston

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.