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...

Sunday, February 22, 2015

Back...In Black

A return to the blogosphere and modeling the NP 114

Hey, it’s been a REALLY long time since I posted anything!  Though I have been an inactive blogger, I have not been an inactive modeler.  In the past two years (ahem) since I last posted anything, I've actually been working on the railroad and equipment to operate the railroad when it is up and running.  So, I thought I would share some the things I have been working on over the past several months and get back into this whole blogging thing!

Switch Engines on the Camas Prairie Railroad
While venerable Union Pacific and Northern Pacific GP9’s held down the road assignments on the Camas Prairie Railroad, switching duties in the Lewiston Terminal were handled by four switch engine types, two from each of the parent railroads.  The Union Pacific supplied an NW2 and SW7, while the NP provided an SW7 and SW1200.

It’s been a long time since I built a model of a locomotive, at least 10 years!  I believe the last model I built was a BN painted GP9 for when I was modeling a later era on the Camas Prairie RR. 

The first one I chose to build was an SW7, the NP 114.  

NP 114, and EMD SW7 pictured in the engine terminal in East Lewiston, Idaho.  This is the only picture of this loco I have ever found in NP paint.  Picture taken presumably about 1967 or 68 based on no ACI plate, but with a rotating beacon.  Date and photographer unknown.

(If anyone out there has the slide and or knows the photographer and date, it would be greatly appreciated!)

The engine was built by EMD for the Northern Pacific Railway in 1949 and subsequently leased to the Camas Prairie Railroad.  The 114 survived well into the BN era and was retired in 1981.

The 114 at East Lewiston after the BN merger.  A few changes were made, including spark arrestors and handrails the entire length of the long hood.  Dan Holbrook photo, May 5, 1974.

To create the HO scale model, I started with a Kato NW2 and reworked it into an SW7.  Changes to the car body included:
  • An SW7 cab, from Cannon and Company;
  • A change from a stepped long hood section on the NW2, to a sloped long hood section, harvested from a Life Like SW1200;
  • The sill sections below the step wells straightened;
  • A new radiator grille from Detail Associates, and;
  • A welded fuel tank, a separate part available from Kato.

A Cannon cab as well as the sloped hood section from a Like Like SW1200 to change the NW2 into an SW7.  Also, the portion of the sill next to the step well has been removed, as an SW7 sill is straight across, from step well to step well.

This overall fireman's side view shows the full sized. square front radiator grille, the wire handrails,  the more detailed wire hood rail, wire grab irons and the Farr Grille "louvers" unique to the NP 114.

The NP 114 also has some unique grilles on the long hood instead of the usual louvers of most SW type switch engines.  This is the only NP/BN switch engine I have seen with this arrangement and the reasons for it are unknown to me.  I cut up an old Detail Associates F-unit Farr type grille to create the unique “louvers”.

While the Kato NW2 model is one the nicest switch engines on the market, the supplied handrails are rather oversize.  They are also made of acetal plastic and hard to paint.  No manufactures that I am aware of make an aftermarket switcher handrail stanchion either, so there is no option for replacing them. 

Many years ago, I ran into this problem while building several NW2’s for Dan Holbrook’s railroad.  My solution was to cut the handrail segments from the stanchions and bend new handrails from steel piano wire.  I then drilled holes through the acetal stanchions and ran the steel wire through the holes.  I used the same process on the NP 114.  I chose steel wire over brass for its strength and structure.  Steel wire is a little harder to work with, but I prefer the end result. 

I also replaced the acetal plastic provided long hood handrails and grab irons with brass wire. 

After all this detailing, came painting it…black!  All that detail work, just to paint it black?  Well, yeah.  I used Scalecoat Detail Black, which is more like a really dark grey. 

All that work just to paint the whole thing black!

After painting, but before decaling, I did some "pre-weathering", with an artist oil paint wash.  I covered the model with a flat coat, then go to town with a grimy wash of raw umber mixed with white. 

Not so black now!  To get the grimy look, I used raw umber and white oil paints mixed together, and created a wash using mineral spirits as the vehicle.  Surface rust along the hinges and rivets was created by dabbing on a touch of yellow ocher and burnt sienna, then flowing a small amount of mineral spirits over the top of the oil paint.

I like to do this “pre-weathering” to bring out the detail of the door panels, louvers, hinges, etc without darkening the lettering.  Lettering in this era was usually applied with a stencil and a roller.  The lettering was rather robust, standing up to grime and paint failure quite well.  By applying the wash before hand, covering the lettering is not an issue.  After the weathering wash was dry, I coated the car body with a gloss coat to create a nice surface for the decals.

I used a decal set provided by the Northern Pacific Railway Historical Association.  This a very nice and comprehensive set.  The lettering is on Dulux Gold, with striping in bright yellow, to replicate Scotchlite.  The decals were printed by Microscale and San Jaun, and apply very nicely, especially on Scalecoat paint!

The NPRHA decal set for NP locomotives has virtually everything needed to complete several models.  Notice the Yellow stripes and the Dulux Gold lettering.

Kato NW2’s are also a challenge to add DCC and sound to.  They have a two piece metal frame, that surrounds the motor and fills the entire inside of the car body.  DCC installation is not one my strengths, and while I can install a DCC decoder into a model locomotive such as a Stewart F unit, milling out the Kato frame for a decoder, speaker, lights and all the wires seemed a bit daunting. 

TVW Miniatures offers the service of doing all of these things to the Kato NW2, with very nice results!

The final details included some additional weathering, couplers, air hoses, window “glass” and headlight lenses.

NP 114 ready for the layout!

***You’ll notice that there is no all-weather window on the model of the NP 114.  The frame needs to be fabricated and I am investigating having the part cast or 3D printed as I need them for other loco’s as well.  Worst case will be scratchbuilding the window frame, in which case it will be added the 114 when it is completed.***  

...its been too long, but I'm glad to be back...
More to come, and in less time than another two years!