The Railroad Really Did Change Everything – Docent-Led Tours at the NWRM

Peggy Barchi

Get a behind the scenes, docent-led tour of the Northwest Railway Museum and find out how the railroad really did change everything!

The Train Shed Tour Package is a docent-led experience at the Northwest Railway Museum. Learn all about how the railroads changed everything in the Pacific Northwest! Start your tour at the 1890-built Snoqualmie Depot, before you board the Snoqualmie Valley Railroad for a ride to the Train Shed Exhibit Building. Detrain and enjoy a 30 minute tour of the 25,000 sq. ft. building that includes large and small artifacts and several exhibits including the award-winning Wellington Remembered exhibit. Docents will lead guests through the building, interpreting railroad and Northwest History. Large objects include freight and passenger cars, maintenance of way equipment, the nationally significant chapel car 5 Messenger of Peace, as well as large artifacts with local ties. Learn about what the Northwest Railway Museum is doing to preserve and perpetuate northwest railway history.

Re-board the train and travel west to the top of Snoqualmie Falls where you will view a large scale construction project, water going over the top of Snoqualmie Falls, and a beautiful view of the valley and river below the Falls. Your docent will stay with you during your trip to the Falls, interpreting the scenery and providing both historic and contemporary context. The Package ends when the train returns to Snoqualmie Depot. The round-trip experience lasts approximately 2 hours.

Please note: Tour Package participants do not go into North Bend by train. However, they will get to see equipment and exhibits that are only available at the Train Shed. Another bonus – guests have their own personal tour guide for their train trip to the Snoqualmie Falls! The Train Shed Tour is offered once a Saturday at 1pm and is limited to 15 participants.

2015 Dates and Times: (please arrive early to purchase tickets)

April-October: Saturdays, 12:30pm. (Black-out dates: Saturdays July 11 & 18, 2015)

Cost: Adults $20, Seniors (62+) $18, Children (2-12) $12, under 2 = no cost

The Tour Package is not recommended for children under the age of 5.

Reservations: you may reserve your Tour Package by contacting the bookstore clerk at 425/888-3030 x 7202. Please note: payment is required to make a reservation and there are no refunds.

A full list of NWRM 2015 events and extensive contact info is available at this previous Grab-Iron post.

Chapel Car and Donated Organ at Train Shed Building, NWRM

Chapel Car and Donated Organ at Train Shed Building, NWRM

Mothers Ride Free on Mothers Day Weekend at Northwest Railway Museum

Peggy Barchi

Celebrate mom this Mother’s Day with a scenic train excursion through the Cascade foothills. You and your mom will journey to the top of Snoqualmie Falls and enjoy the view of the valley below. The Northwest Railway Museum invites mothers to enjoy a free ride aboard our antique train, when accompanied by a paying child – of any age. Passengers may board in Snoqualmie or North Bend. The round trip takes approximately 70 minutes. Passengers may get off at the halfway point, shop, eat lunch, or take a stroll before returning on any later train. Trains depart every 90 minutes beginning at 11:30 AM from the Snoqualmie Depot at 38625 SE King Street and at noon from the North Bend Depot at 205 McClellan Street. Roundtrip fares: $10 ages 2-12, $16 ages 62 and up, $18 ages 13-61, Under 2 are free!

A full list of NWRM 2015 events and extensive contact info is available at this previous Grab-Iron post.

Show Off Your Layout on June 7th

Russ Segner

Want to show off your layout? We will have several layouts open June 7th, the day after our Annual Spring Meet in Bellevue. If you are willing to be open from 1 to 5, just send an email with a description of your layout to me at email hidden; JavaScript is required or call 425-228-7327. I will contact you with details.

Clinics Listed For 4D Spring Meet

Russ Segner

There will be a full Saturday of clinics at the 4th Division Spring Meet to help us all enjoy our hobby more and become better model builders. A list of the clinics and the presenters has been posted to the Spring Meet web site. Come and enjoy learning from some of our best.

The date is Saturday, June 6 at the Bellevue Sheraton Hotel. Registration is available by mail or online and includes lunch. Additional details including online registration are in the previous Grab-Iron post.

We will hold our 4th Division Annual Meeting during lunch and hand out some special recognition to some of our members for their fine work and contributions to the hobby.

Note The Vote

JJ Johnston, Election Chair

Attention: You should have received your 4th Division election ballot in the mail. If not, it should be there shortly. Please take a couple of minutes now to complete and return your ballot. Let’s show our support of those who volunteer to serve us. You will also see the flyer and registration information from Superintendent Russ Segner for our 2015 Spring Meet to be held in Bellevue on the weekend of June 6 & 7. There will be clinics and layout tours. You can sign up now. Please vote.

Skagit Valley and Whidbey Clinic Report, Apr 2015, Al Carter Signs

Rich Thom, photos by Rich Thom

Clinic Chair Rich Blake welcomed 28 other folks to the Skagit Valley & Whidbey Clinic’s April meeting at the Summer Hill facility in Oak Harbor. Attendance this season continues to be strong, so planning next season’s program was up front and center, with Program Chair Susan Gonzales requesting further ideas. She and Rich have already fleshed out some of the program, with Russ Segner presenting in September, the ever-popular Mini-Clinics in October (five or six 15-minute clinics by our own talented members), and a reprise of the Model Contest in February. The theme for next season’s contest will be flatcars with loads, any scale as usual. Jack Tingstad, volunteering as contest shepherd, said that the contest rules will be presented at the September meeting, but broadly either a flat car must be scratch built, or a load (or both). There will be a humor award as well as others. Get a-building now!

Without further ado, Rich introduced well-known model building artisan Al Carter for the evening’s clinic on how to apply distinctive period signs to buildings, of brick, wood, stone, or any other material. Al uses three techniques: (1) dry transfer lettering; (2) thin paper method; and (3) decal method, often combining them on the same model.

Fig 1 - Al Carter introduces the dry transfer method

Fig 1 – Al Carter introduces the dry transfer method

The Dry Transfer Lettering Method uses self-adhesive letters available at stationery or craft stores. The letters are used as masks, rather than applying them to a wall and leaving them in place. Start by painting the wall:

  • Choose your base structure color
  • Spray on primer (rattle can or air brush)
  • Add mortar
  • Add weathering (optional at this point)

After the wall is prepared, select the location for lettering and:

  • Mask wall so area of lettering is exposed (all other areas covered)
  • Paint with desired color of letters, usually white; use a spray-on primer for this step, not a craft paint, for better adherence
  • Add individual lettering (note the letters can be any color you can find since they are removed later)
  • Paint over letters, usually black; craft paint can be used for this step
  • Carefully remove letters
  • Remove masking
  • (Optional) Lightly sand or scrape sign to reveal wall material—brick or wood—to simulate a well weathered sign

The end result is white lettering on a black background. See the excellent example in Figure 2. (You can also create black lettering on white, or use other colors, but white on black was most common.)

Fig 2 - Signage on Al's Franklin Garment Co. building

Fig 2 – Signage on Al’s Franklin Garment Co. building

The Thin Paper Method makes use of color reproductions of signs that can be found in multiple sources including magazines and on-line. The trick is to print them on very thin paper so that the signs, when glued to the structure, conform – or “snuggle on” – to the texture of the building wall.

  • Select sign graphic—from magazines, internet, books, your own artwork
  • Copy on thin paper
  • Carefully cut ou
  • Apply 50/50 white glue/water to backside
  • Place sign
  • Carefully press into place with damp sponge
  • Weather to suit
Fig 3 - Some of Al's signs printed on thin paper

Fig 3 – Some of Al’s signs printed on thin paper

Several kinds of thin paper are suitable, but it may take some experimenting. Al uses “flimsy” paper he obtained many years ago, but others will work, too. Ted Becker said that he has had good results with the tissue used with gift wrapping. Other options are “onionskin,” tracing paper, and airmail paper. Whatever you try, the next challenge is: will the thin piece of paper run through your printer without jamming? The only way to find out is to try. If it doesn’t, Al suggested that you can tape the thin sheet to a carrier sheet – a piece of ordinary copy paper – and run it through your printer that way. Another hint: whenever Al obtains a new kit or sheet of signs, he always makes a copy on his home copier of the signs so he has a backup in case of errors made with the original. A terrific example using the thin paper method is shown in Figure 4.

Fig 4 - One of Al's buildings with sign created by the thin paper method

Fig 4 – One of Al’s buildings with sign created by the thin paper method

The Decal Method is essentially the same technique that modelers use to letter rolling stock except that the decals are just substantially larger.

  • Select sign decal
  • Apply decal
  • Use setting solution; on hydrocal buildings, use lighter fluid (extinguish cigars before performing this step)
  • Carefully press into place with damp tissue or sponge
  • Seal with Dullcoat (or alternatives—see below)
  • Weather to suit

Some sources for sign decals include Art Griffin Decals (, T2 Decals, and Largemouthlodge Decals. The latter two suppliers do not have websites, but both sell on Ebay under those seller names. Do an Ebay search (in model railroading) on Ghost Signs.

Al has also experimented with various dulling finishes, and has found that an even flatter finish than the popular Testors Dullcoat is another Testors product named Modelmaster Lustreless Flat.

Two of Al’s buildings with signs applied using decals are shown in Figures 5 and 6.

Fig 5 - The Manhattan Hotel overlaid signs, a decal by Art Griffin Decals

Fig 5 – The Manhattan Hotel overlaid signs, a decal by Art Griffin Decals

Fig 6 - Another sign created using an Art Griffin decal

Fig 6 – Another sign created using an Art Griffin decal

Fig 7 - Side of one of Al's buildings with signs made by a number of methods

Fig 7 – Side of one of Al’s buildings with signs made by a number of methods

Al concluded by noting that these methods can be used in combination, such as in Figure 7. The Pepsi sign is a Woodland Scenics dry transfer; the Morton Salt sign a decal; and the Seven Up sign a thin paper example. The Red Man sign is a paper sign that was slightly sanded on the back (but not as thin as a thin paper sign) so it doesn’t conform to the bricks as well,

Never one to leave the stage without an encore, Al showed pictures from his and his wife’s recent cruise to Brazil. No flash pix of Rio or Carnival here, just photos of cluttered and well-weathered rooftops on wharf side buildings for modeling inspiration. Al really knows how to enjoy his vacations!

Tacoma Clinic

by Al Babinsky

Editors note: The date of Walt Huston’s open house has been corrected to May 23rd.

Al Babinsky moderated the clinic since MMR Gene Swanson was unable to attend (he was bringing his wife home from the hospital). We had 45 modelers attending with no newcomers at this time. Walt Huston announced that he was having an open house of his layout on Saturday May 23rd, and invited anyone that was interested to come out and visit. Jim Sabol made a couple of announcements on the Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad and the future of the passenger service along the Prairie line. The Mount Rainier Scenic Railroad will have its shop facilities at Mineral open for visitors and the owner will move his 7.5” railroad to Mineral in the near future. The Freighthouse Square Sounder Station will be expanded to accommodate the Amtrak Coast Starlight as well as the Amtrak Cascades and the line will go through Lakewood and connect to the mainline near Olympia.

“What’s New at the Hobby Shop” was presented by Bill Sandstrom for Tacoma Trains hobby shop which included a number of scenic items from Woodland Scenics, one of which was a burning structure. A firetruck and its crew could be used to make a scene of extinguishing the structure fire. A set of N scale weathered hopper cars, an Athearn Genesis locomotive, and a set of ON30 wood-sided dump cars from Bachmann completed Bill’s announcements.

In the “Model of the Month” category Chris Clancy had a couple of GE UC33Cs and weathered freight cars, some of which he purchased at an antique store. Paul Vaughn brought one of his HO to Sn3 conversions which always looks great. Tyler Wickham modified a Blair Line Pizzeria kit into a tavern called Drunken Clam which sported a Miller Engineering animated sign proclaiming the Drunken Clam. MMR Dale Kraus brought a European box car that he shortened so it could be used on his narrow gauge line. Jim Clower brought a couple of Oriental Import hopper cars. Ken Levine brought a box car and B&O passenger car kit that he purchased at a swap meet, adding weathering, metal wheels, and Kadee couplers. The “Model of the Month” winner was Tyler Wickham with his Drunken Clam tavern.

Our clinic for this month was given by Steve Carter on operating train order boards. These train order boards are going to be used in eight locations on the PSMRE layout. The train order board (signal) is from Tomar, the control board, servo motors and linkage are from several manufacturers including the radio controlled airplane world. At this time one train order board is installed on the layout at the Kanasket station and is operational with computer control. The signals will eventually be controlled by the dispatcher with a control panel.

Next month’s clinic will be on May 14th at our usual location in the Pierce County Library Admin Bldg. on the corner of 112th Street and Waller Road at 7:30 PM. Hope to see all of you there. The clinic for May will be given by Mike Shaw on the use of Fast Track jigs when building switches and crossings.

Free Benchwork and HO Scale Track

Bobj Berger

Free layout bench work with HO nickel-silver track and turnouts attached directly to the plywood. Very sturdy 1×4 legs air-nailed to two 4×8 plywood sheets on top form the benchwork, which can be used for other scales. This is very well built and has a control stand shelf. For moving this layout can be split into two sections and taken out through sliding doors next to the basement apartment, then out a gate to the street. Each section can stand alone.

The layout / benchwork was built by a tenant in a lady’s house in South Edmonds near Shoreline. He moved and left it. It can be yours for free, but you have to haul it. Everything needs to be taken at once. Contact Bobj at email hidden; JavaScript is required or 206.948.0862 to schedule or if you have questions. Free is good!

Free layout pic 1

Free layout pic 1

Free Layout Pic 2

Free Layout Pic 2

Free Layout Pic 3

Free Layout Pic 3

Free Layout Pic 4

Free Layout Pic 4

Free Layout Pic 5

Free Layout Pic 5

Free Layout Pic 6

Free Layout Pic 6

PNR Now Has Twitter Feed

Michael Highsmith

The Pacific Northwest Region (PNR) of the NMRA has joined Twitter and now has their own official Twitter feed: @PNRNMRA. Follow it to receive news and information relating to the PNR region.

Foss Waterway Seaport Layout Help Still Needed

Bud Thompson

Construction is progressing but help is still needed!

How often do you have the chance to build a layout that 100′s of people will get to enjoy? Help us complete the model of Tacoma’s Half Moon Yard. Our typical schedule is Mon thru Fri, 9 am to at least 1 pm. We may be able to work longer if museum staff is available, up to 5 pm. Always call before coming in to ensure there have been no last minute changes.

Additional details are on the previous Grab-Iron blog post.

Please contact me (Bud Thompson) to let us know if you can help, at 206-310-9414 or email hidden; JavaScript is required.

Eastside Get-Together Intense Free Scenery Clinic April 16th

JJ Johnston

Reminder: The Eastside Get-Together meets next Thursday, April 16th at 7:30 pm. This is an intense scenery clinic you don’t want to miss as the clinician is our very own structure model multiple award winner David Yadock.

David says:

It is called “Helpful Structure Hints on the Dry Gulch & Western”. It will explain three or four techniques and materials that I use for modifying structures, modifying windows, and creating various scenic items around my train layout. Some are “old school” while some are new. There are even a couple of new ideas that I will mention that have not even made it to my layout yet. The clinic should last around 30-40 minutes.

It has a variety of subjects that will keep the audience interested and David will also bring some examples of his structures and such to show everyone.

Of course we will have all the other important stuff too. “Model of the Month”, maybe stuff to buy and sell, free coffee and dollar donuts and fabulous door prizes from the Inside Gateway Hobby Emporium. See ya.

For Eastside Get-Together location and other information, see the 4D Clinics page.

Westside Clinic April 14th, Bremerton

Bill Hupé

This coming Tuesday, April 14th, is our next Westside Clinic in Bremerton. The clinic is “Narrow Gauge Geared Locos” and will be presented by Steve Hauff.

For the March clinic, thanks go to Steve Neupert for presenting “Making Sure Your Freight Cars Are Ready for the Layout.” We also thank Jack “The Tool Man” Hamilton for sharing 4th Division, PNR and NMRA news, as well as sharing his screw head capture drives. Bob Jensen provided the latest news on the Bremerton Northern Model Railroad layout. He invited those present to join the BNMR at Retsil Veterans Home on April 4th and 5th.

We were joined by visitors Steve Hauff and his wife, Steve Ragan, and Bob Preece.

As always we will have a “Model Contest” and “Show And Tell.” Coffee and cookies will be provided. Please come and bring a friend.

For those visiting us for the first time our clinics are held at the United Way of Kitsap Building in downtown Bremerton (647 4th Street) at 7:00 PM. For more information contact me (Bill Hupé) at email hidden; JavaScript is required or 360-621-5041.

NMRA Election 2015 Results

John Stevens, NMRA Secretary

The results of the 2015 NMRA national election are:

  • President: Charlie Getz
  • VP-Admin: Clark Kooning
  • VP-Special Projects: Gerry Leone
  • Pacific District Director: Mike Bartlett
  • Eastern District Director: Joe Gelmini
  • At-Large North American Director: Peter Youngblood

4th Div Board of Directors Meeting Saturday, April 11

Cliff Green

A reminder that the next 4th Division Board of Directors meeting is tomorrow, Saturday the 11th, 11 am, at Mitzel’s in Kent, Washington. As always, all 4D members are invited to attend.

Welcome, New and Renewed Members, Grab-Iron Notification List

Cliff Green

Welcome, new (and renewed) 4th Division NMRA members! I’ve updated the Grab-Iron e-mail notification list with new members as well as members that have renewed or changed their e-mail addresses. Any time a Grab-Iron blog post is created and published you will receive an e-mail notification. If you do not wish to receive these notifications, let me (Cliff, email hidden; JavaScript is required) know and I’ll be happy to remove you.

Many train related events are happening over the next couple of months. A list of events in the NMRA Pacific Northwest Region (PNR) can be found here. Events of particular 4D interest include:

  • The Narrow Gauge Symposium is less than a week away, their website is
  • The 4D spring meet will be held on June 6th in Bellevue.
  • Portland Daylight Express, the NMRA national convention, will be held August 23 – 28, 2015. Additional information is available at
  • The annual Olympia area layout tours will take place May 16th. Per the NMRA Pacific Northwest Region calendar, additional information will be available from Scott Buckley, email hidden; JavaScript is required.

There is a wealth of model railroading expertise available in this area, and a good place to encounter it is at one of the 4th Div clinics (see the 4D web site “Clinics” page for more info). I urge everyone to take advantage of it whenever possible. Most of the clinic organizers provide overviews and reports in the Grab-Iron, but reading blog posts can’t compare to attending in person.

A Narrower View – Track

Syd Schofield

Editors note: This is the second article of a new series on narrow gauge by Syd Schofield. The previous article is available by clicking here, or by filtering with the category “Narrow Gauge”. Syd welcomes discussions and feedback, which can be made by clicking on the comment link at the bottom of the post.

Narrow gauge railroad track isn’t much different than the “standard” four feet eight and one half inch gauge track on a lesser, “junior varsity” short line or a somewhat neglected spur. The main consideration is the weight of the heaviest wheel set to be supported. This results in a balance of rail strength and tie (or sleeper if you’re not from around here) spacing. So a K-37 would require heavier rail and closer ties, maybe even with tie plates to further spreads the weight over a larger foot print (bearing area) on the tie than needed by an 0-4-0.

In the early days (the Civil War and on) the materials involved were wrought iron with high strength alloy steel used later on. The rail deteriorates in elastic fatigue as a beam loaded between the ties as well as surface region fatigue due to the dual flexing (also elastic) of the contact area of the wheels, wheel on rail, with the rail top. Large rail grinding machines are used today to make an “insurance cut” of the affected rail top region. As rail was replaced due to fatigue and insufficient capacity, rails were often upgraded in size and material and the locally available, minimally prepared ties were upgraded with ties milled for tie plates and spike pilot holes off-site. Notably, spikes are made with a chisel point across the grain of the tie so as to break the fibers but remain supportive in the lengthwise direction as opposed to splitting the fibers opening an unsupported gap in the lengthwise direction.

What all this leads to is a hand driven single spike on each side of the rail in every tie for the earlier years / low budget / low capacity remote business or the store-bought closely spaced ties with tie plates and four spikes per plate for more modern or high capacity / well-financed business. With a little preparation of the Peco / Micro-Engineering / Shinohara nickel silver flex track and turnouts, to name a few, with an X-Acto knife and Dremel tool plus coloring and ballasting practices, the tie can look a little neglected and more representative of the frugal / back woods / mine supply / agricultural on a short life plan railroad. The actual time spent between the two methods is reportedly similar when appropriate skills and experience levels are achieved.

In addition to the Washington common carrier narrow gauge railroads previously mentioned we include the Alaska portion of the Pacific Northwest Region Forth Division: Golovin Bay Railroad, Seward Peninsula Railroad, Tanana Valley Railroad, and the still active and very popular White Pass and Yukon Railroad. And, as in Washington, there were numerous privately owned company railroads for support of logging, mining and other enterprises.

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