Building the Pacific & Eastern:
The Permanent HO Model Railroad
of the
Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club

The Gorge near East Derby

The scene at East Derby presented several challenges.  Layout designer Dave Spakousky best described the track layout as a mistake: nowhere on the P&E route would the line have crossed over itself and nowhere would there have been two main lines splitting off in a canyon.  But, given the space available and operational needs (lower level loop plus the main which climbs into the mountains) we wound up with two tracks crossing a creek down low and a third track up high crossing both lower tracks and the creek.  Now, this may sound like a great model railroad scene.  Unfortunately, it didn't make for a very good railroad model scene.  First attempts included a massive two track deck girder bridge for the high line.  But, why would a railroad build a two track bridge only to neck down to a single track after crossing a gorge?  Out came the bridge, switch and track.  In went a single track with the switch moved to the other side of the canyon.  This necessitated moving the switch at the other end of Derby Siding back so as not to shorten the only long siding between Medford and Summit. 

Click on images below for larger pictures

Original Gorge Scene
The first double track bridge and attempts at tying it together with the rest of the scene.  Clearly we were struggling here and the scene wasn't working.  A member from out of the area happened by and commented, "It looks like you're trying to make scenery to cover up benchwork."  That hit home, out came the scenery and bridge.

The yellow pipes are part of an elevated observation platform so younger kids can view the railroad. 
Track Re-work at East Derby
Jay Mudge installs a Tortoise switch motor at East Derby at the new switch location (A) for the switch (B).  A new single track bridge will be located at (C) taking the high line across the gorge (D) to the main line grade (E).  The Lower Level Loop (F) is barely visible near the tape covered main line (G).  Road Master E. Don Petit supervises. 
Building the land form at E. Derby
Dave Spakousky reworks the foam blocks under the land forms at East Derby.  Using the same key from above, the new switch (B) has been installed.  The high bridge (C) will span the gorge (D) and connect the high lines between (A) and (E).  The lower level loop (F) and main line (G) will also have bridges across the creek at the bottom of the scene. 
Building the mountain at E. Derby
Dave vacuums up some foam debris on the opposite side of the mountain shown in the view above and just to the left of the view at the top of this table.  He's made some plywood steps to stand on.  Foam blocks will be fitted into these steps and then formed to blend in with the surrounding, non movable, terrain.  This will enable access for maintenance and repairs without risking damage to the scenery (and club members) once the scene is complete. 
Forming Land Forms
Amidst a storm of foam debris, Dave fashions land forms for the Neil Creek canyon between East Derby and Butte Falls.  Plywood temporarily fills in for the high bridge (C) above the gorge (D).  Hard board fascia has been installed with a profile of the land form. 

Construction Note:   A mixture of white bead board and blue and pink extruded foam was used in this and other scenes.  The extruded foam is superior to the bead board in being stronger, easier to work and much less messy.  We found that solvent based adhesive is superior to latex based ones.  But, be sure to get an adhesive with a solvent that's compatible with foam.  (Hexane base  is safe and less toxic than ketone and xylene bases. )
The Gorge takes shape
The gorge scene takes shape.  Areas marked "X" were smashed with a hammer and reworked several times to get the scene right. 
High bridge set in place
Temporary foam  piles support the through truss bridge and deck girder approaches. 

Trees were "staged" in the gorge to check out the effect of the two lower tracks disappearing into a forest.  It worked!  The trains just go away without a tunnel portal. 

Admiring the Gorge
Dave's grand daughter Katie admires Grandpa's handiwork.
The Gorge with backdrop and trees
One of the goals we'd set late in 2006 was to have the new layout back together enough to operate during the semi-monthly "Run Days" at the Railroad Park.  By April, we'd accomplished that goal. 

Also note the painted backdrops.  In a few short months, John Gerritsma mastered the art of painting backdrops that resemble actual scene along the P&E AND blend in very well with the modeled scenes in the foreground.  Still missing from this scene is about 500 trees...not to mention bridge abutments, rock castings, brush, a creek, etc.

 Shown here is a westbound freight out of Butte Falls approaching the high bridge. 

Westbound above gorge A close-up of the above scene crops out most of the unrealistic elements.  The look of things yet to come.
Through the high bridge Coming across the high bridge.  .
Lower track bridge
Twin crossings of the creek on the lower level posed another challenge.  The line to the left is the lower level loop and purports to be the old main.  The line on the right is the main starting up grade to Derby and the track on the high bridge.  Both lower tracks are on curves and at angles to the creek below.  After much study and collaboration, we decided to make the old main a skewed  through girder bridge with steel girder approaches.  The new main will be a deck girder bridge with longer spans which will go directly onto abutments.  In other words, two types of bridges, from two eras, of different lengths and different angles to the creek below.  Each bridge will feature two main spans skewed so that the piles are set parallel with the flow of the water.  The center piles of both bridges should line up. 
Empire Builder on the high bridge
Photographer Mike Lindsay, of Model Railroad News, brought his skills and equipment to the Club and shot this photo of Walther's Empire Builder on the high bridge.  Do check out the larger version of this picture (click on photo).  It's awesome.

Photo by Mike Lindsay and © 2007 by Model Railroad News  Used with permission.
Lower level bridge work
The above picture is nice, but it conveniently excludes the bridges under construction below.  Building the skewed through girder bridge was a challenge.  In addition to modifying the kit, the track had to be carefully bent and set on the bridge to allow allow operation of all rolling stock.  A 90' box car was used to test clearances.  Also, a short approach span (white in the photo) was scratch built.  It will have a center trestle bent when completed. 
Complete lower bridges
The deck girder bridge was easier to build although it did require skewing where the two spans met in the middle.  The abutments were made from MDF (medium density fiberboard) and painted. 

With the bridges finished, attention turned to finishing the creek bottom with rock castings, real gravel and finally water.  Next: weathering, brush and trees will complete the scene. 
Gorge Bridge from above Adam Gerritsma visited the P&E after a bunch of trees had "grown in" and offered the last four photos.   Notice how the two lower level tracks disappear into the forest just as planned.. 

Photo:  Adam Gerritsma
New Bridges
Overall view of the three new bridges as they frame and fill the scene.  Compare this with the picture at top of this page and it's evident why we chose to redo the scene and how worthwhile the effort became.

Photo:  Adam Gerritsma
Low Level Gorge
A low angle "Glamour Shot" of the gorge scene.  Too bad the trains weren't cooperating,

Photo:  Adam Gerritsma
Hear that?  WHOOSH!
Up on the east end of the high bridge, Adam dozed off under a tree waiting for a train.   Suddenly, he awoke to the sound of a fast approaching train.   It was by in a blur.   Amtrak on the P&E?  Nah, it must have been a dream.

Photo: Adam Gerritsma
Photos by Larry Tuttle except as noted

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