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Little Logging Railroad

The Plan and Basic Track Work
 (click to view series of images)


The Start - March 2008

I didn't have much room, but I wanted one, continuous track.  So I imaged and sketched out a couple of  loops with spurs, and, of course, a trestle and  a tunnel, the classic elements I thought.  And I "freelanced" a little logging railroad, the L L . . . . a.k.a. the Little Logging Railroad (pretty original?). As I researched further, I came to realize that there were less tunnels and more trestles in logging country, given the expense of blasting holes through rock and transitory nature of the logging enterprise itself.  While in high school, I had a little HO layout, but had dropped interest in it when I went to college.  Now, over forty years later, I had returned with a renewed enthusiasm.  A mid-life crisis?

Here on the Palouse country of north central Idaho we have a fine tradition of railroad logging, with the Potlatch Corporation.  On a 4'x8' half-inch plywood board, reinforced with 2"x4"s, I drew out those plans, laid my cork roadbed and Styrofoam inclines and declines, and then "spiked" my track down.  Given the 4'x8' dimensions, I would have to have 3% grades and some rather tight turns, with a couple curves at 18" radius.  I maintained my infatuation with HO scale, in conjunction with wanting to use some rolling stock from my high school days and desire to run Dad's "Challenger" on occasion.  For rail I used Micro Engineering code 70 Flex-track, for a little more prototype simulation, with a four #6 right turnouts, along with one Central Valley curved turnout.  I thought laying the Central Valley turnout might be a huge challenge for me, but it was not that difficult.  In my next diorama, I'd likely try using code 55 track and lay my own rails, as the actual logging rail used was pretty light and inexpensive, and the laying of ties and roadbeds were not the most tidy of endeavors.  With insulated rail joiners, I also independently powered the track to four of the spurs, so I could better control which locomotives were being powered.  Its nice not having the sound of all the DCC-sound equipped locomotives on at the same time.  

The trestle was the first real challenge, but with a good design and a lot patience I was pleased with my first attempt at building one.  I was worried that the framework of my first attempt at a trestle was not symmetrical and balanced enough, until I saw more images of actually logging trestles, and discovered my attempt was likely too neat and orderly!   It pays to first do extensive research into the era and type of railroading you seek to replicate in a diorama, even if your "freelancing it."  All the turnouts are powered by Tortoise switch machines, linked to a control panel of toggle switches.  I also planned for and built into the spurs some Kadee magnet under-the-ties uncouplers.  And they work really nice.  Don't forget to build in plenty of excess for any tunnel design you build into your diorama, as the track will need periodic cleaning, and heaven forbid a derailment while in the mountain!

I got a lot of good early advise from Doc of Doc's Caboose of Kansas City, along with Wally of Mr. Choo Choo's Model Railroading Story in Bozeman, Montana.  One of the challenges I have had throughout the construction of the diorama is lack of anyone I could discuss it with - - for ideas, another "eye," and critiquing.  While attempting to fashion a Little Logging Railroad I have been inspired by one of the early great masters, John Allen, and his "Gorre and Daphetid Railroad."  Many of my construction ideas were inspired by and "barrowed" from many other masters in their articles in the magazine, Model Railroader and associated booklets, such as Matt Coleman's Logging Railroads (Kalmbach Model Railroader's Guide), and Dave Frary's and Pelle Søeborg's inspiring books on scenery, as well as some great sites on the Internet.  I've also been influenced by the images and scratch-built models appearing in Russ Reinberb's annual publications, The Logging, Mining and Industrial Annual, The Modeler's Annual and The Narrow Gauge Annual.  Recently I came across a nice magazine, TimberTimes: Logging and Lumbering History and Modeling And finally, Ralph Clement Bryant's Logging: the Principles and General Methods of Operation in the United States, originally published in 1913, has been a frequent last read at night.


The diorama - December 2008


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