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Seattle Narrow Gauge Convention roundup- in three parts

Posted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 8:45 pm
by John Coker
1. Don't you ever call it a Shay!
Well, back from the big show. Travel from Colorado to the Northwest is basically a trip through desert upland, but Northeast Oregon and the valleys ,mountains and the interlocking bays of Puget Sound are truly beautiful, especially in the clear weather I enjoyed on the way up.
The first full day was an excursion on the Mt. Rainier Scenic RR. I received a cab ride in the Rayonier #2, the last Willamette, thanks to the graciousness of Stathi Pappas, Rainier's CMO. Stathi started out under the tutelage of John Bush at Roaring Camp. This geared locomotive brand was legendary. Built at Willamette Iron and Steel in Portland, it was a variation of the Shay design. Some loggers believed it was a superior locomotive. But don't ever call a "Willamette" a "Shay" to the purists!
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The equipment was spotless and appeared to be in excellent running order. Polson (Rayonier) #70 is a beautiful Baldwin 2-8-2. It was unusual in that though it was a 1924 delivery, it had slide valves, Stephenson valve gear and was saturated. Of course there was a story. The Polson road foreman liked a 1908 2-8-2 so much that he ordered an identical model 16 years later!
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I wasn't the only rider up in the spacious cab of the Willamette. George Lavacot and Jimmy Booth rode too. George is well known in the Northwest; he is a 4449 volunteer and is almost done working on his own ex-Santa Maria Valley 2-6-2. Jimmy works for PBL models and is active in his own preserved steam group in Ukiah. Here is a photo of Lavacot, Booth and Stathi in the cab of Rayonier#2...
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The train stopped for lunch at Mineral- the present end of the line. There is a trove of locomotives there. They were working on the old ALCO "Minerets" style tank 2-8-2. Stathi is repairing his own little Porter 0-4-0. Pickering Pacific Coast Shay #11 sleeps in a corner. The Hillcrest Climax and the #91 Heisler were out for photos. There was even an old NP F-unit out. There was two other rusty lokeys I forgot to shoot. I will add more photos in the next post.

Re: Seattle Narrow gauge Convention roundup- Part one

Posted: Sat Sep 22, 2012 9:19 pm
by John Coker
More photos of the Mt. Rainier R.R.... First is Hillcrest Climax#10. This huge engine ran on Vancouver Island. It was the second-to-last Climax. The last one is 30" gauge and ran occasionally on the Puffing Billy in Australia.
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Second is the well-traveled Heisler #91, that shot several owners under its drivers. It has piston valves.I rode it in 1991.
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The ride back was glorious. There was a perfunctory photo line at the big bridge.
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Stathi said some interesting observations about the locomotives. The geared engines don't roll. He said the smooth-running Baldwin will spoil an engineer. The Willamette will out-pull anything they have but is harder than a Shay to work on the engine, on account of the placement of the Walschearts valve gear and the pistons being in the back. The Climax bucks when it slips. The MRSRR runs with only 3 full-time employees-the rest are volunteers.

For me the first full day in Washington state was the highlight of the trip. What a great trove of logging steam! Thanks to Stathi Pappas for making the first day I ever saw a Willamette a memorable one!

Well the Grateful Dead are doing a rare version of "La Bamba' om the box and I want to watch Saturday Night Live with my sweetie. Tomorrow a few words (me, few words,HAHA!!) about some of the greatest model railroads in America-all within 100 miles of Seattle. And oh yes, the convention...

Re: Seattle Narrow Gauge Convention roundup-Part 2

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 7:38 am
by John Coker
2. The best model railroads in America.
Where the weather is inclement, you will see great modeling. Seattle is famous for months of rainy and dreary weather, and perhaps the finest model railroads in America. All these modelers know each other, and despite long drives and the geographic obstacles of Puget Sound, many of the modelers help each other with their projects. The spirit of the great Brian Ellerbe is present on many layouts- as many of his cars and structures appear on others' model railroads. Sam Furukawa's model railroad of the RGS is finished, but going there involved crowds, reservations and bus rides-forget it. I will start with Paul Scoles' famous model railroad. It is a freelance railroad that ran from the California coast to the Great Basin country in Nevada.
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This is Big Trees, modeled after the lovely station on the SPC.
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Paul's railroad ferry was the stand-out model on this remarkable layout.
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The last photo shows a mill town. Paul's layout had some great vanishing points, adding great depth to his model railroad. Paul and other modelers made the absolute best trees.

Re: Seattle Narrow Gauge Convention roundup- in three parts

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:38 pm
by John Coker
Next We visit Ken Larson's West Side Layout in On3. Like many model railroads, Ken's is partly finished, though the track work was complete.What he had was impressive. His bench work was beautifully finished-to furniture quality.
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Reloads make very interesting terminals.
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Some of Ken's excellent modeling. Wasn't there a recent article about his gas-mechanical?
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Ken's Tuolumne machine shop and engine house interior was complete.

Re: Seattle Narrow Gauge Convention roundup- in three parts

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 2:49 pm
by John Coker
More of Ken Larson's remarkable layout on beautiful Bainbridge Island, a 40 minute ferry ride from Seattle's Pike Street piers.
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Here is #7 in front of the engine house.
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#12 and the Crew are posing at Camp 45.
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Like Paul Scoles, Ken's trees were awesome!

These layouts had to be seen to be appreciated. They were crowded, of course, so some shots didn't come out as well as I wished. I thanked Ken for opening his model r.r. to the masses as well as buying a couple well-displayed oroginals! That drew a few laughs in the room. We had lunch at a cafe by the beautiful harbor at Bainbridge. We took the ferry over and saw a couple more model r.r.s. We got back just in time for a quick sushi dinner before the show. I have one more photo of ken's centerpiece in the next post.

Re: Seattle Narrow Gauge Convention roundup- in three parts

Posted: Mon Sep 24, 2012 3:06 pm
by John Coker
Ken Larson's centerpiece was his magnificent River Bridge.
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Steve Depolo was building a freelance Sn3 railroad called the Alaska Pacific. He had a lot of Ellerbe's models.
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Here is a mill and terminal.
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Depolo made an almost-perfect use of a mirror to add length and depth to an inland waterway-fiord.

Re: Seattle Narrow Gauge Convention roundup- in three parts

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:44 am
by John Coker
We took the long drive to Shelton to visit Bill Busacca's Sn3 layout. Shelton us the terminal of the Simpson lumber r.r.-maybe the last working example left in the Northwest. They still have a small working roundhouse and turntable. Because of fencing i was not able to photo it. Busacca is a real outgoing dentist, and his RGS layout was small but had some great structures and scenery.
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This is one of my favorite scenes. It is of a lonely a beautiful location on the RGS, the hamlet of Stoner. Bill made great use of Dale Kreutzer's photo backdrop.
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I took a closeup of the Dolores section house. The prototype was a Sears kit building, made by Raggs to Riches in three scales. I liked the details of the clothes line and the little garden.
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A real nice street scene of Dolores, and a nice perspective.

Now on up the road to Dale Kreutzer's RGS railroad in Port Orchard.

Re: Seattle Narrow Gauge Convention roundup- in three parts

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 7:59 am
by John Coker
Port Orchard was an hour up the road to Dale Kreutzer's layout. Most of the model railroads we saw were point-to-point,and hence were not operating. Kreutzer's layout was made for continious operation, and was running. Longtime Sn3 modeler Bill Adkins looms above the scene.
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Besides some great structures Dale had perfected water. I took a photo of a creek bed. Look at the variation of color in the bed/ Unlike many water applications, Dale used a new brand that does not "bleed" into the banks like other products.
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Dale perfected making panoramic photo backgrounds, which we saw applied to several other model railroads on the tour. He often cut out clouds and applied them to the mural. with great success. His blending of a photo mural with benchwork for his Hesperus scene is a singular triumph in modeling.
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Washington is a hotbed of Sn3 modeling while a lot of it was D&RGW prototype there were some model railroads I missed because of time constraints, like a freelance by Bob Christopherson called the Pioche & Western. After all this was a business trip. Now, about the convention.

Re: Seattle Narrow Gauge Convention roundup- in three parts

Posted: Tue Sep 25, 2012 8:42 am
by John Coker
3. The convention and the trip home.
Bellevue was an brand-new city.The Seattle area used to live and die by what happened at Boeing and with lumber. Telecom and other big new corporations are located here to draw on the considerable well of young talent-and greatly diversified the economy. The first night I went on a pub crawl with some old friends, drinking one Bombay Sapphire martini and two high-octane microbrews. I did not repeat that behavior, as the shows require a lot of energy and a good night's sleep. There were two great sushi bars near the hotel which I used several times. Prices were extremely high there.

The convention was very well-organized and managed, and well-attended. The pall of hard times were evident. A lot of brass was for sale and a lot of manufacturers did not make the long drive. Not many new products were displayed. I sold only three small originals. However, the giclee prints carried the day, especially my new West Side Shay prints. My requirement for a successful show is $500 a day, and that requirement was met for an 8-day trip. The most discouraging aspect is the graying of the hobby. It was basically the same old faces I saw at the show 20 years ago. Some young people started coming in the late 1990s and again there was a little increase in the 2000s but it is obvious that the depression has hurt the younger hobbyists worst than any other group.

The contest offerings were ho-hum, except a standout scratch built SPng 17 in Sn3 by Paul Washburn. Stupidly I didn't take any photos of it or anything else at the show. Business was slow but steady, and I had to stay close to my display.
After the show we went down to Pike Street in Old Seattle. King Street Station was under repair. Like a lot of Western cities, Seattle is a mix of new high-rise office buildings and old cut-stone and brick hotels, offices and warehouses. Once covered with railroad tracks, trains are almost gone from old Seattle, with most of the port traffic going now to Tacoma and other port towns to the south. We ate a great dinner at the famous Ivar's restaurant, on old N.P.Pier #3. Dana Bassett and I had the delicious bacon-wrapped halibut while Jim and Gill Bennett attacked two huge Dungeness crabs.I commented to Jim and Gil they were working those crabs like a second job! Gone were the cheap hotels, opium dens, sailors, miners, lumberjacks, whores and pickpockets of the Days of '98. Gone were the tracks and NP switch engines plying the street. In its place were throngs of tourists peppered with some visibly crazy street people.

Dana Bassett, a UP engineer and I got early and headed for Salt Lake. A very long drive, but Dana was very smart, well-read and interesting, and made great company. We skipped the Sumpter Valley but stopped at Baker for a great lunch at the ornate old Geyser Grand Hotel there. Evidence of drought was everywhere-even Seattle was bone-dry. By now the smoke from forest fires was oppressive, all the way to Salt Lake. I stayed with Doug Jolley, an old friend who is a longtime employee of the D&RGW and the UP. He is close to retirement. Doug and his wife moved and he tore down a great model railroad and he was in the process of piecing it back together when his wife of three decades died of cancer. He recovered and now his layout is running as he pieces the scenery back together. It is based on the D&RGW Third Division, my personal favorite as well. He had his remarkable mill and tramway finished. Here is a shot...
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Here is another of Ridgway depot. repeating a classic scene...
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I ran my D&RGW 346, which operated flawlessly from point to point. Like nearly all of the model railroads I visited Doug'shad switched to DCC but I was able to run my model because it had a sound shut-off. Then the pleasant 6-hour trip home through canyon country. This is the end of my description of my road trip. Hope you liked the photos.