Sunday, July 15, 2018

South Cle Elum Rail Yard

Yesterday we visited the South Cle Elum Rail Yard, part of the Iron Horse State Park along the former right-of-way of the Chicago, Milwaukee, St. Paul and Pacific Railroad (Milwaukee Road). The rail yard, depot, roundhouse and other supporting structures were built in 1908–1909 as the railroad was pushing west toward Seattle, the third and last transcontinental railroad to cross the Cascades in Washington.

The depot was built in 1909 and was used until passenger service was discontinued in 1961. It is pretty substantial in size, 132 x 24 feet. Thanks to volunteers it was fully restored and reopened to the public in 2006. The east half of the building houses a restaurant that is open most days of the week, while the west half of the building houses the museum which is usually open a couple days per month between May and October, depending on volunteer availability.

When the Milwaukee Road ceased operations in Washington in 1980 it sold off some of its assets in South Cle Elum, including the bunkhouse which is now a B&B, and three operator houses built in 1920 which are now private residences. But the bulk of the land including the depot and the substation were transferred to the state in compensation for taxes owed. Most of the length of the main route through Washington went to the state as well and became known as Iron Horse State Park on the west side of the Columbia, and the John Wayne Pioneer Trail to the east of the Columbia. Today the entire length of the publicly accessible right-of-way is known as the Palouse to Cascades Trail. With some connecting trails, it is possible to walk the old railroad bed (or ride a bike, or a horse) from the Seattle area to the Idaho border.

The Milwaukee Road was using coal at the time the South Cle Elum yard was built in 1909. But they started converting to oil powered locomotives in 1910. And then started experimenting with electric powered locomotives in 1912. This section through the Cascades was fully electrified by 1920. The Milwaukee Road ended electrification along this section in 1972, and completely abandoned electric locomotives along its entire route in 1974. That year the Milwaukee Road also stopped using South Cle Elum as a division point and the yard was virtually abandoned. It was only a few years later that the Milwaukee Road, in bankruptcy, abandoned its Pacific route altogether.

Today, while the state owns the property and buildings, it heavily relies on local volunteers to tell the story. The Cascade Rail Foundation has been instrumental in ensuring the history of the Milwaukee Road in Washington is not forgotten. They have spent thousands of hours restoring structures, providing interpretation, and operating a museum in half of the restored depot. The yard and extant structures were listed on the National Register of Historic Places in 2003.

The substation is normally closed to the public. But they occasionally open it for guided tours which is why we chose yesterday to visit. If you're interesting in seeing the inside, they'll likely have another tour day in August—check their website for details.

East end of the substation, built in 1919. The concrete structured angled out from the wall was the anchor for the incoming AC high power lines. In the lower left-hand corner you can also see concrete blocks that supported a steel tower for the power lines.

A view of the south side of the substation, showing where DC power would have left the building headed for the catenary over the tracks.

A view inside the north room of the building, looking east. In the lower center part of the building is where high power wires came in, and you can see the wall angled out.

A close-up view, showing original wires that are still in place!

These large doors allowed a railroad flat car to be pushed in, so heavy objects could be transferred directly from the flat car using an overhead crane. 

Both rooms are filled with all sorts of railroad equipment. In the center of the picture is an overhead crane, not original to this building but recovered from another Milwaukee Road substation. The plan is to install it where it would have originally been, in part to provide structural support for the brick walls.

This is a small transfer vehicle that could be pushed along rails between the two large rooms. It's shown on a small turntable allowing workers to rotate the vehicle to go around the corner.

The Milwaukee Road had 22 substations along its route. So why is this one number 24? The substations were numbered sequentially from east to west, and reflected the intent to electrify all the way from Two Dot, Montana to Tacoma, Washington. But there was a gap in eastern Washington that was never electrified, so substations 15–20 were never built.

The remains of the 85-foot turntable can be seen here, with the pivot foundation on the left, and part of the pit wall on the right.

And to the north of the turntable are the remains of the eight-stall roundhouse where locomotives would be serviced. What you see here were the tops of concrete pits where workers would inspect and work underneath locomotives.

These concrete footings are all that remains of the water tower. The wooden tank that sat above this foundation would have held about 50,000 gallons of water.

The only piece of rolling stock currently on site is this bay window caboose built in 1946. The siding is ribbed metal which is unusual and required less metal, creating a lighter car. The Cascade Rail Foundation plans to add more pieces of Milwaukee Road rolling stock over time.

A view inside the depot of the waiting room at the west end of the building and ticket office on the left.

Friday, June 15, 2018

NGRC Atlanta Update 3

To continue to the Atlanta tour, here are some pictures of the garden railroads I toured last Friday.


JD & VR Railroad | Jim and Marylou Foley | Atlanta, GA

JD & VR Railroad: This lovely railroad had a double track running around a small pond and was very well integrated in and with the garden.

JD & VR Railroad: You can easily run two trains at once and could probably operate a third one as well, if you're careful.

JD & VR Railroad:  One train running was a PRR coal unit train.

JD & VR Railroad: Train coming out of the tunnel by a remote water tower.

JD & VR Railroad: View from the back side looking toward the village.

JD & VR Railroad: Access from the layout to the storage area is provided using these beautiful stainless steel bridges.

Appomattox Railroad System | James and Angela Robinson | Riverdale, GA



Appomattox Railroad: There are a number of detailed buildings, like this sawmill and mine shaft.


Appomattox Railroad: I really liked this barn-like distillery.


Appomattox Railroad: An overview picture showing many of the buildings and trestles in the background.


Appomattox Railroad: A view of the main depot and siding tracks.

Papa Railroad PRR | Michael Carney | Peachtree City, GA

Papa Railroad PRR: This large railroad uses Digitrax DCC for complete control of all trains on all sections of track, as well as dozens of signal lights and crossings. Here the signal light warns of an occupied block ahead.

Papa Railroad PRR: A monitor near the track provides an overview of the system and indicates which blocks are occupied by trains (red) and which are open (black).

Papa Railroad PRR: My favorite part was seeing two PCCs providing back-and-forth service on a commuter line.

Papa Railroad PRR: Plenty of bridges, tunnels and other features as well.

Papa Railroad PRR: One more picture of a PCC heading out over a bridge. Track in the foreground in the freight mainline.


Elk River Railroad | Norm and Ann Lundin | Newnan, GA

Elk River Railroad: This railroad has three loops that cross over each other.A passenger train is running on the upper track while a BN locomotive idles below.


Elk River Railroad: A Santa Fe A-B-A consist idles next to the village.


Elk River Railroad: An old icing facility on a siding. The roof may be caving in, but it just adds character.


Elk River Railroad: Passenger train is crossing over the lower track.


Alpine Adventure | Jeff and Mary Ann Folk | Newnan, GA

Alpine Adventure: This railroad models the Bernina Express train of the Rhaetian Railway in Switzerland, including the famous Brusio spiral viaduct.

Alpine Adventure: The train cars are models of the actual cars in use today.

Alpine Adventure: Another view of the train showing the locomotive.

Alpine Adventure: The Express pulls out of one of the twin bore tunnels.

Bonus train! Just by chance, we came across this indoor railroad suspended from the ceiling when we stopped for lunch on Friday in Newnan, GA.



Wednesday, June 13, 2018

NGRC Atlanta Update 2

Here are some more pictures of the garden railroads I toured around Atlanta last week. These are from the Thursday tour, and we only made it to four railroads as a lot more driving was involved than Wednesday. But all four of these railroads were great and definitely worth the trip. Thursday also included a stop by Trainz.com for a tour of their facility which was fun.

Pick-N-Grin Railroad | Jesse and Kim Murrah | Sugar Hill, GA

Pick-N-Grin: This amazing railroad is built on, into and next to a natural rock outcropping, which strongly influenced how the train could be laid out. And while the setting may have been rural Georgia, seeing the Rock Island (a Chicago-based line in the Midwest) still seemed totally appropriate.

Pick-N-Grin: Because of the change in elevation, multiple curved trestles and bridges are required to keep the track at a relatively modest grade.

Pick-N-Grin: At one end, tight return loops are hidden behind a hillside and tunnels.

Pick-N-Grin: Not one but two streams run through it, with a lovely waterfall on one of them. I also really like these bridge piers—I'm now thinking I may want to incorporate stone into the piers on my railroad, rather than just using plain concrete.

Pick-N-Grin: Campers on vacation enjoy some live music.

Pick-N-Grin: And I really enjoyed this scene as well. The attention to detail here is amazing.

Frog Mountain Railroad | Dennis and Ellen Bass | Snellville, GA


Frog Mountain: Freight train passes a passenger train stopped at the depot.

Frog Mountain: A beautiful canyon cuts through the middle of the layout, with a road bridge overhead.

Frog Mountain: Not the most common location for a wedding. Is this a metaphor for taking a leap of faith?

Frog Mountain: They had a second, small train loop running next to the driveway with a watermelon train! The watermelons are hand painted pecans—another idea I'm going to have to borrow.

Mount Jefferson Garden Railway | Terry and Ginny Manning | Lilburn, GA

Mount Jefferson: I think my eyes wondered over this entire layout and I'm sure I missed things. There was an amazing amount of details layered in. The main feature was this wonderful zoo.

Mount Jefferson: And there was also an outdoor animal preserve that was encircled by a safari train. 

Mount Jefferson: Holsteins are always a nice addition to a garden railroad. So much detail for such a simple scene—the multiple cows, the fence, the windmill, the signage, the feed trough and water barrel, the old tractor, and even a dog house.

Mount Jefferson: This new addition on to town doesn't even have train service yet—but it will.

Mount Jefferson: I think this was my favorite of all the structures in town.

Mount Jefferson: And this backyard scene with quilts on the clothesline was perfect.

Flat Top & Mystic Valley Railroad | Joe and Debbie Fotschky | Duluth, GA

Flap Top & Mystic Valley: The more I looked around this railroad, the more I realized just how much work had gone into it. There is a very high focus on realistic detail, and an incredible amount of effort was spent building some of the features. To the right of the double-track railroad is a highway made from poured concrete. Some side roads were also concrete and others were gravel. Note the utility poles running along the railroad.

Flap Top & Mystic Valley: Here the rail line cross the road, with another crossing next to it for a short industry spur. Note the detail of the inset road crossings.

Flap Top & Mystic Valley: The layout runs the full length of the backyard, and the the layout progresses from a small town to a more rural setting to a mountainous setting. Here the train passes a farm. The horses are safely corralled, but the cattle seem to be free range.

Flap Top & Mystic Valley: The two tracks have independent tunnels, each with a different approach. While the wood trestle is very nice, the poured concrete viaduct is amazing.

Flap Top & Mystic Valley: Train emerging from the tunnel on the outside track.

Flap Top & Mystic Valley: Another fun scene, an off-leash dog park that somehow has far more dogs than people!