Saturday, 13 September 2014

A Change of Scale and Prototype

This post is a bit 'off topic' but no, I'm not moving away from the NSWGR prototype or away from HO scale.

Currently, my wife and I are on our first major retirement trip to catch up with friends in the US and Canada as well as visiting some places that we haven't seen in our earlier sojourns to this part of the world. So I thought I would post a few images of two of the 1:1 scale US railroads we have encountered to date.

The first three photos come from the White Pass and Yukon Railroad in Alaska. The narrow gauge railroad was originally built to provide a link to the Alaskan gold fields in the late 1890s. The 110 miles of track was constructed in a very fast two and a half years just in time for gold rush to falter and then subside. However, the railroad continued to operate commercially until the early 1980s when it closed, only to reopen as a tourist railroad in 1988.

The railroad currently operates a mixed diesel fleet of GE locomotives from the 1950s and Alcos from the 1960s hauling a number of restored passenger coaches. Their literature also states that they run two restored  Baldwin steam locomotives but these were not present when we visited. All I saw was this old Mikado looking like it has seen better days and is probably providing spares for the operational locomotives.

However, what sets the WP&YRR apart is its engineering in a very harsh environment. The track hangs on the side of a substantial valley with grades up to 3.9%, numerous bridges and a few tunnels.  Perhaps the most dramatic bridge encountered, in the 40 mile round trip that we did, is the one shown in the photo. It is no longer in use with the trestles and probably the steelwork in very poor condition. However, I suspect that it remained operational until the 1990s at least. What sets it apart, in my view, is the apparent lightness of the steel structure. It's a great example of the versatility of the steel truss design.

The second group of three photos covers two competing railroad companies running parallel operations on banks of the Columbia River Gorge that forms part of the border between Washington and Oregon states. The operations of the BNSF Railway and its rival, the Union Pacific Railroad seem fairly typical, multiple units pulling very long freight trains frequently with additional assistance at the rear as this photo shows. However, what sets this area apart is the spectacular setting with railways operating on either side of a very wide river dominated by massive basalt cliffs and steep slopes.

If one were to attempt to model accurately the mountains dominating the Columbia River in this area in HO scale, the mountains  would need to be somewhere between 10 and 30 feet high with the odd peak rising higher still. That's a lot of Styrofoam! The photo opposite, taken just west of the township of Hood River in Oregon, actually shows a BNSF train moving on the northern bank of the river. It appears only as a thin multi-coloured line just above the water line.

The final photo shows the same train, this time with a 24x zoom (the best I can get out of my camera) looking like a distant photo of someone's N scale layout.

I once wrote about the concept of 'modelling the ordinary' but on the Columbia River, the 'ordinary' is spectacular.

Next stop is the Rocky Mountains in Canada.

Obviously, physical work on Philip's Creek has been temporarily suspended while we are away. However, a copy of XTrackCAD loaded on the laptop has allowed me to work on the plan for the upper level of the layout. This may be getting ahead of myself as I haven't yet finished the Halls Creek Bridge scenery or started the transition and helix that will enable an upper level, but hey, there's nothing like thinking ahead!