Building the Pacific & Eastern:

The Permanent HO Model Railroad

of the
Rogue Valley Model Railroad Club

The Medford Corporation Sawmill Complex circa 1989

The model year for our Pacific & Eastern is 1989, the last full year the Medford Corporation fully operated its huge sawmill and plywood plant in Medford, Oregon.  The complex was dismantled shortly afterwards and now Oregon Highway 238 runs right through the middle of what was once the main mill building.    

Several challenges presented themselves as we contemplated building Medco.   In 2003 when the track was laid, we considered a more generic version of the mill complex with a few signature buildings and a lot of free lancing.  The farther we progressed into the project, however, the more we felt we needed to be as faithful as possible to the original.  Then there's the matter of available space.  Modeling the entire complex in HO would have required most of the layout room.  We settled for about 6% of the real estate Medco once occupied.  If we wanted some of the major buildings, clearly we were going to have to accept compromises on the location of those structures.  So, we elected to take license to move things around a bit while trying to model the look and feel of major components of the mill. 

There are a number of historical photos of Medco taken from the 30's through the 70's.  Medford Corporation: A History by Jeffery LaLande and boxes of photos from the Southern Oregon Historical Society are proving invaluable as we learn about and build Medco.  The trouble is, the more we study these pictures, the more we see that we can model and the more scratch building it will take.  This is a far cry from gluing up a few kits and calling it a mill. 

To help gain a sense of perspective of what Medco once was, what the land is now, and what we're trying to model, consider the overlay map of the area below.

Medco Area Overlay Map A Plywood mill, built in  1960; it was a massive yellow structure that faced the Big Y.  It stood across Court St. from the Mall. 
B Original, main saw building of Owen Oregon Lumber.  Note that today when leave Crater Lake Highway and head towards Jacksonville, you cross over the site of this building.
C Mill pond
D The power house.  Not shown on this map is the hog fuel building next to it.
E The wye where first the original Pacific & Eastern and later the Medco Railroad connected with Southern Pacific's Siskiyou Line (L). 
F Alternately called the Shipping Shed or and Crane Shed. 
G A Lumber Shed, though it appears as part of a larger complex of buildings on this map.
H The railroad engine house and shops.  It also housed shops for the mill.
I  The "White House." Medco's corporate headquarters building. 
The railroad crossing of North Pacific Hwy.  After the railroad stopped running, the Medco Haul Road crossed here. 
K The log dump where log cars were unloaded into the pond.
L The Southern Pacific Siskiyou Line (now CORP).

Click on images below for larger pictures

Plywood Mill
Jay Mudge built the first building for Medco, a much shortened version of the Plywood Division building.  It's representative of a triple bow string truss roof structure typical of mill and other large buildings of the era. 
Main Saw Mill Building
Working from pictures, Larry Tuttle is building the main saw mill building.  Included in this scene is a log ramp out of the mill pond, the power house (gray structure near the back) and a mock up of the fuel building.  The black cone in the foreground is a mock-up of a wig-wam burner which, after much deliberation we decided to eliminate -- Oregon sawmills seldom used burners in the late 80's. 
Medco Wye Area
Since we couldn't find a prominent chip loading facility from aerial photos, we decided to locate one next to the wye.  Included here are chip loaders for both rail cars and trucks.  In the foreground is the location for the McAndrews Road overpass -- half of it will be modeled and visitors, especially shorter ones, can peer under it and look down the tracks.  The last track on the left is the SP Siskiyou Line, complete with a pair of US&S Style B Semaphores.   And yes, the track connecting the two legs of the wye does curve around the blades per an actual situation in the Medford Yard.

(That pesky wig wam burner refuses to be just moved closer to the mill.)
Medco White House and Plywood Mill
Positioned correctly in relation to most of the adjacent buildings is the White House, shown here with a foam board place holder.  Just to the left are a pair of stub tracks which will go into the Railroad Shops building being constructed by John Powell.  The roads in this scene are laid out as closely as possible to what was observed on aerial photos.

Then there's that little irrigation ditch which Dave and Larry discovered on a field trip through the area.   We thought it'd be a good scene break and  make for some nice bridges.  Turned out to be a pain to get right, but after several attempts, it was worth the effort.  Pictured here is an early, unsatisfactory version. 

Medco Secne December '07
Some more plaster and ground foam makes the chip loader and wye scene start to come together.  The building on the right is the Shipping Shed, based on aerial photos, and relocated.  Also, note that the main mill building is sprouting an addition after a discovery from better photos. 

(Finally, we got rid of the wig wam burner!)
Ditch area December '07
The scene between the White House and the Plywood Mill progresses.  At last the irrigation ditch looks good. 
Big Y   December '07
Lots of details remain to be added to the "Big Y" scene.  Working from aerial photos again, North Pacific Highway spits into two one way streets (Court and Riverside) just south of the track (bottom of this photo).   Larry mocked up the White House with foam in order to evaluate the size and proportion.  Behind the White House is John Powell's model of the Medco engine house/plant shop building.  John worked from old photos to scratch build this replica.
Medco looking east
A view from the other direction shows the business end of the engine house as a pair of SD-9's switch the mill complex.  The bulkhead flats are spotted in a paved, open area for lumber loading.   There are still lots of details model, but the scene is coming along.
Medco looking north
The scene west of the main saw mill building, looking north.  The log pond has been poured and the conveyor and power house structures built and painted. 

A switcher spots log loads to be unloaded into the pond by the A frame unloader (upper left). 
Medco chip loader and Backdrop
Adam Gerritsma is a graphic artist and has us lent his talents to help out with the structures on the backdrop.  The mostly gray building on the backdrop was created from photos of Timber Products, which occupies this location on the Siskiyou Line.  His father, John, painted the mountains.  When the backdrops are complete, Larry will go to work creating "aerial clutter" of pipes, power poles, lights and other details to complete this still rather plain scene. 
Spotting a box car
A P&E switcher fills in for the usual Medco locomotive as it spots a box car.  Adam and John are working on this backdrop with photos of the Medite plant which still exists in this location relative to the now-gone saw mill building. 
Box cars in loading shed
Another shot of the boxcar spotted in the loading shed with a photo backdrop of Medite's facility rising above. 
Photos by Larry Tuttle .
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