NP Lester WA T-Trak Z Module Set Project

rray Feb 11, 2020

  1. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    As many know, I am a die hard Northern Pacific Railroad fan. One of my favorite locations on the NP mainline was Lester Washington.

    Part 1: A little history

    Lester is a long gone ghost town, that the city of Tacoma destroyed, so they could have their own watershed, fed by the snow melt from the Stampede Pass into the Green River.

    In 2004, I attended the NMRA convention in Seattle, and one of the extra fare tours was a train ride from Seattle's Kiing Street Station, through the Stampede Tunnel, and to a BBQ in Cle Elum WA. It was the most beautiful train ride I had ever taken. The scenery was full of pine trees, mountians, rivers, bridges, tunnels, and... A Ghost Town. Really just 2 or 3 abandon small structures, a patch of gravel, and some tracks, reclaimed by the forest.

    Lester was founded in 1891 as a railroad stop on the western side of Stampede Pass.

    Lester actually had a population of over 1000 people at one time, it was a railroad town. It's reason for being was to break up trains and add helper locomotives, to get them over the Stampede Pass. Being the last mountain pass between Montana and Seattle, and on the NP mainline, there was lots of rail traffic, and one long dirt road that closed in the winter due to snow.
    9.JPG

    To keep the mainline open in the winter, Rotary Snowplow #10 was often used over the pass, and could often be found ready, on a track on the west side of the Lester depot.
    8.JPG

    7.JPG

    Lester had a coal dock, water tower, 2 story depot, roundhouse, machine shop, a section house for snow fighting crews, and lots of other railroad structures. Somewhere between 1956 and 1957 the coal dock was removed, and a large steel Diesel fuel tank installed.
    3.JPG

    5.JPG

    There were several crews assigned to their own locomotives, and they had their own stalls in the roundhouse.
    6.JPG

    2.JPG
    In the 1940's Diesels started replacing steam locos. Helper crews were starting running out of Yakima and Auburn, and Lester was not as important then, so many people moved out.


    The Northern Pacific did a good job holding Tacoma at bay for decades, but with the creation of the Burlington Northern, and it's access over Stevens Pass, the Stampede Pass was no longer as important, and neither was Lester. Tacoma bought almost everyone out, and over the next several years tore down the town. The last resident left in 2002, and the town site is now a publicly inaccessible part of the Green River watershed.
     
  2. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    Nothing like a good back story. Jim
     
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  3. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Part 2: A plan to reconstruct Lester in model form:

    I have been collecting photos, stories, and structure plans for almost 16 years now, and although I have very little, I do have enough information to start moving forward. Now that I am retired, I had to come up with a layout plan. At first I was planning on building a traditional layout in my shed, after I get the insulation, heating, and sheetrock installed, but I read something in the December 2019 Model Railroader that shook me up a bit.

    There was an article about expiration dates on our models. We spend a lifetime collecting stuff, and building a layout, then we die and someone comes in with a Sawsall and Hammer, and hauls it off to a dumpster. Let's face it, we love our trains, but our family sees them as knick nacks and old toys. That article got me thinking that if I am going to do something, I better do it right, spend extra time making sure it can be salvaged and sold off, and that whoever gets it, will want to keep it for a while.

    So I thought Modular. I need to make my layout modular. But then I was thinking in traditional 2' x 4' modules, which are heavy, and sometimes cumbersome. So I remembered that I seen the Portland Z Scalers using T-Trak Z modules at the National Train Show in Salt Lake. I started researching T-Trak Z at that point. I had a track plan for Lester, but it seems I could not fit it into TTZ modules. I needed roughly 66" x 21" to fit Lester in highly compressed form.

    While I like the Steam era, I also like the Diesel era too, so I will be picking somewhere around 1956 as my modeling date, so I can have a turntable, roundhouse, coal dock, water tower, AND I will have the Diesel Fuel tank, and run older diesels.


    Over the next few weeks, while honing my skills at building NP depots, I finally came up with a plan. Build a special TTZ module for the Turntable, and everything else can fit on adjacent modules. I drew it up in Corel Draw, and it fit:
    [​IMG]

    With these plans, I can do the module construction. I had previously built the Lester WA depot a couple months ago using these part plans:
    Lester Depot Plans.JPG

    And what I am working on now is the turntable. I am modifying a Rokuhan turntable to catch the flavor of the Lester turntable. Here are the turntable bridge drawings so far:
    Lester Turntable.JPG
     
  4. Pig Gap

    Pig Gap TrainBoard Member

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    Wowzer. Looking forward to more of your adventure into this project.
     
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  5. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    Robert, From the USGS site. Here is Lester in 1954, you can make out the roundhouse. Lester54.jpg
     
  6. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Very cool, Robert! Is Stampede Tunnel included on the layout?
     
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  7. badlandnp

    badlandnp TrainBoard Member

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    Wow! I will have to show this to my buddy that I took to Minneapolis to see 4014. He grew up there for a while, his dad was a NP manager there when he recieved his first trike. He has a lot of memories of the place. I suppose I will link him to this thread, it will make his day!
     
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  8. BoxcabE50

    BoxcabE50 Staff Member TrainBoard Supporter

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    I wish my grandfather was still with us. He took us up there a few times, 1950's, to see a friend of his who had something to do with the timber industry activities. I have only the most vague of memories. The coal dock must have been gone, as I do not recall any structure that size.
     
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  9. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I plan on modeling Stampede, Martin, ending with Easton at the other end of the module sets. I also want to include the Green River High Bridge, and Cabin Creek sawmill.

    I wish I could find a better aerial map of the area, but what Chris found is as good as it gets. I suspect that map is actually in the 1960's as the coaling dock and giant water tank were there in a 1956 photo I have, and in 1957 the coal dock was gone (from photos of the 2626's last trip in 1957), but the water tank was still there.
     
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  10. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    Part 3: Construction

    So I finished the Lester Depot in mid November, and here it is again:
    [​IMG]

    I also finished the module base that the Depot and Turntable will go on:
    [​IMG]

    And I started modifying my brand new, 4X too expensive for how it is made, Rokuhan Turntable:
    rokuhan-s037-turntable.jpg

    First I disassembled it to see what I was dealing with, then I popped off the control cabin, and used my Proxxon mini table saw, to cut off the control cabin. The Lester turntable was an "Armstrong" type. That means it was pushed by hand, so it has a pole sticking out, that gave the guys leverage to manually turn the table. It's unclear if later the turntable was motorized, but in a 1956 photo, there were electrical wires added and an arch over the bridge. Either way, no control cabin, so that has to go:
    [​IMG]

    Here's a closer look at the underside of the bridge, and you can see why I don't believe it's worth $400 bones, but hey, beggers can't be choosers:
    [​IMG]

    I drew up parts to hide the ugly pit gear and way too deep pit. The depth from the bridge is a scale 14 foot drop, so that will not do. I cut a couple half circles out of .025 Polybak that will unfortunatly have to turn with the bridge rotation. Better to look good than deal with that pit gear.

    I also did not like how high the turntable sits above the layout, so I completely countersunk it, and removed all the plastic approach deck parts, then mounted it to polybak and dropped it in. I will cut more parts to build up the pit ring later. Right now I just want to complete the bridge.
    tt.jpg

    I did a bunch of fine tuning my rivet making ability, and was able to actually raster our strips of rivets. I used the .011" black polybak with transfer adhesive attached, and ablated 70% of the material, leaving about .003" of polybak sitting on .02" of 3M 467MP transfer adhesive. This is as thin as I can peel off the wax paper backing and have the polybak not immedialy disentegrate. I am so pleased with the results. I also used the 70% Ablation method to make peel and stick rail ties to hide the ugly bridge deck. Here is a closeup showing the rivet effect, this will sure make Jeff Merrill smile!:
    tt rivets.jpg

    Well, back to the grind, the next step is to come up with a bridge arch plan. I am tossing around brass wire ideas in my head.
     
  11. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    The first photo was from 7/28/54. Here is another from 9/4/57 Lester 577.jpg
     
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  12. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    BTW Getting these from here:
    https://earthexplorer.usgs.gov/
    It can be hit or miss. There are a few for each year, but some aren't as clear. Oldest is 1954, 1957, then jumps to 1972. They are very large TIFF files that are cropped to a JPG here.
     
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  13. bostonjim

    bostonjim TrainBoard Member

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    Hi, Rob
    Have you fried Fairchild Aerial Survey (FAS)? They have over half a million aerial pics from 1927 up to the mid-50's. Their cameras were made by Keystone Manufacturing Co. right down the street from me. The factory is now senior living. Good luck. Jim
     
  14. southernnscale

    southernnscale TrainBoard Supporter

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    Looks like a outstanding project. Like the photo's some of them would make nice 3D printed models! but the laser cut wood would be best!I have a turntable but not designed like the one your doing! can't wait to see your progress!
     
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  15. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I have tried USGS, FAS, everything. For some reason I cannot seem to sort out a single image. There are hundreds of search acronyms that I don't know, so hours of serching yield nothing useful. Those two images Chris posted are the best I have ever seen, and have leeched them into my collection. I have not been able to successfully search those 2 images myself.
     
  16. JoeS

    JoeS TrainBoard Member

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  17. HemiAdda2d

    HemiAdda2d Staff Member

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    Those rivets are killer! As for your eyes, are they crossed now?:ROFLMAO::ROFLMAO:
    Nice work on that TT!
     
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  18. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I measured for turntable approach tracks this morning, and discovered something I did not know...

    Rokuhan track is code 65. I actually measured 3 times, zeroing my micrometer each time, on 3 different model # of Rohuhan track, and measured .066", .067", and .066", so I have to assume they designed it as code 65. I zeroed and switched to metric, and measured 1.62mm, 1.63mm, and 1.62mm. The small 15 degree turntable pit rail pieces are thicker rail, by 10 microns.

    So I measured Atlas track, and it measures .056, .056, .056 on Left, Right, and Flex track pieces. 1.45mm, 1.44mm, 1.44mm. Atlas is code 55 rail.

    Rokuhan Roadbed track is .212" tall by .64" wide, .315" outside the rails, .257" between the rails, and .036" above the moulded spike detail.
    Atlas Flex on Midwest N Cork is .215" tall by .64" wide, .325"outside the rails, .268 between the rails, and .028" above the moulded spike detail.

    Rokuhan track holds a much tighter tolerance than the Atlas track, so operation on Rokuhan could be expected to be slightly more reliable. Probably not enough to quibble over, and I still prefer the appearance of Atlas track better, so will move forward with it.

    There will be a slight transition bump between these rails of .010".
     
  19. Chris333

    Chris333 TrainBoard Supporter

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    Being in Ohio I know nothing about this area. But when you posted the Lester Depot photos and told of the ghost town I just had to look it up. So now that I see you're modeling this area I already had the files on my desktop. I use the USGS site all the time just for fun and to see what used to be there... For instance this is an area close to me that was once a steel mill:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/aLgRKuHKApDDThjDA
    And here is the same spot in the 1950's:
    https://photos.app.goo.gl/rQobD94hsQZKecBD8
    Quite a difference.

    The site is a little bit quirky and to find certain exact spots you need to type in old names that are no longer used. And the files are zipped and need to be opened yada yada, but the results are pretty good.

    Are there any good photos of the roundhouse in the diesel era?
     
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  20. rray

    rray Staff Member

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    I don't know why, but I can get topo maps OK, but the aerial photos don't show up for me. There are so many possible combinations of criteria that I have yet to try.
    Anyways, the newest photo I have of the turntable is in 1957 at the end of the Supersteam Era. The photo is taken from the roof of the roundhouse when famous Timkin 2626 (the first steamer fit with Timkin roller bearings), an NP 4-8-4 Northern Class, (NP steamers generally have much longer fireboxes under the cab, and way longer smokeboxes up front because they burned low grade Lignite Coal on the scale of Lignite = Peat Moss and Anthricite = Granite density) was making it's final run, a fan train. The 2626 had been converted to an oil burner in 1947.

    While the fans wait for the 2626 to be fueled and watered, they mill around the depot area. In those days you were allowed to climb on roofs, water towers, and coal docks to take pictures. Notice the Coal Dock is removed, yet in the fifth photo I posted under Part 1: History, of the large Water Tank, was taken from the coal dock. That water tower and coal dock were removed between 1956 and 1957, and this early prototype diesel servicing tower top right of the turntable was installed:
    Lester 1957.JPG

    In this photo of the 2626 being fueled, which is top left, out of view on the previous photo, you can see that a Fuel Oil and Smaller Water Tower have been installed by the summer of 1957. Get a load of that huge smokebox up front, signature NP, and get a load of that Jamoke getting ready to faceplant, after tripping running over the tracks!:
    Lester 1957 Eastbound 2626 Fueling Diesel.JPG

    Here is a Platt Map of Lester in I believe 1960:
    Lester Platt.JPG
     

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