Northern Pacific Tacoma Division - HO - Phil Keppers

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This layout is a semi prototype depiction of the Northern Pacific in Washington State in the 1955- 1957 era.

The modeled portion runs from Ellensburg to Lester with a short branch line at Cle Elum towards Roslyn which was a major coal mining area.

The layout has two full visible decks and a third lower level staging yard. The three decks are connected by a helix. The dimensions are 22 X 28 with 3/4 being the modeled section and the remaining 1/4 being the helix, work bench and utility room.

The layout is essentially a huge loop. The 8 track staging yard has a double cross over at the entrance to allow trains to either make a continuous loop or to reverse their run. This was important because the prototype actually did this on three of the four passenger trains I intend to run. The same set of cars ran west bound in the morning and eastbound in the afternoon. I also intend to "recycle" some of the through freight trains.

The following is a west bound run.

This is the staging yard.


After leaving staging you enter the helix. West bound the train simply goes around the backside of the lowest loop.


The first town is Ellensburg. This was a division point at one time but by the 50's was a mid size town in ranch country. The NP served quite a few small industries here. There is a 22' long siding and 3 yard tracks.


After leaving Ellensburg you enter the Yakima River Canyon. This is a very scenic section between Ellensburg and Cle Elum. The prototype makes 10 degree reverse curves as it follows the river. The river will be along the edge of the fascia and between the tracks and wall there will be a vertical canyon wall going up to the bottom of the upper deck. It is about 1 scale mile of winding single track through the canyon between Ellensburg and Cle Elum. I really wanted to capture the effect of this area.


After leaving the Yakima River Canyon you enter Cle Elum. This was a relatively small town but was very important up through the 50's. This was the point at which a short branch line connected to the NP transcontinental mainline. This branch line connected with a wye which you can see in the photo. The branch was only a few miles long but went into an extremely coal rich area. There was a dedicated switching job to bring empties up to the mines and loads back. There was a small yard at Cle Elum to handle the coal traffic. The NP didn't run unit coal trains here in the 50's. Trains would set out and pick up hoppers here as traffic demanded. There was a unique locomotive coaling station here. The branch line on the layout runs into the center of the peninsula to a mine. Cle Elum was also the location where the local trains met. There was a local from Yakima to Cle Elum and one from Auburn to Cle Elum.


Coal mine on the branch


After leaving Cle Elum you enter the helix and do about 3 turns to reach Easton which is on the upper deck. Easton is the beginning of the double track mainline. It is also a helper station as it is near the bottom of the 2.2% grade across the Cascade Mountains. Easton has a couple storage tracks for log cars. Easton also has a very important interchange track with the Milwaukee Road. The NP and Milwaukee interchanged cars here as done at a typical interchange, but this interchange saw a lot of use by detouring trains. Since it was located just east of the Cascade range, when one railroad had to close their line across the summit for repairs or a wreck they would use this convenience interchange as a detour. I will have an Olympian Hiawatha detouring over the NP at this location and a detouring Milwaukee freight. The story is they are doing some major bridge repairs so the Milwaukee is detouring for an extended period. I'll also interchange some cars between the two railroads here.


This spur is at Cabin Creek which was a large logging operation. I didn't have room to realistically model the log loading area so I will just use this short spur to simulate it on the layout.


The grade to the summit at Stampede Pass begins at Cabin Creek. On the NP it was 2.2%. On the layout I exaggerated it to 3%. I'm running diesels and wanted to actually need helpers on long trains.


At the top of the grade is Martin. The double track had a short siding on each side which I have included. The four tracks then merge to one and enter Stampede Tunnel which is on the left of the picture, through the wall. There was a staff system to control train movements through the tunnel that I will model with a wooden dowel that is passed through the wall.


On the other side of the tunnel is Stampede. This is basically the west side equivalent of Martin.


The four tracks at Stampede merge into a double track mainline.


This is the location of the Green River Viaduct. This was the highest bridge on the Tacoma Division. My version is about five feet long but will do a decent job of representing it. The black plywood is only temporary of course.


This is the western most modeled section, Lester. This was the west side of the 2.2% grade and another helper station. There was a lot of logging in this area so there was a small yard for the log cars. This was the end of double track mainline. After leaving Lester a west bound train enters the helix and returns to staging.


The Scott Paper Company had a large logging operation at Lester. I have a log loading area inside the end of the peninsula that will represent this.


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