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Workin on the railroad

The Ochoco Valley Model Railroad Club is dedicated to constructing accurate replicas of historic regional railways


by: KEVIN SPERL - Brad Peterson is one of the original members of the Ochoco Valley Model Railroad Club, created in 1994.

Glenn Edmison and Brad Peterson spent this past Sunday afternoon fixing a faulty railroad switch, somewhere on the tracks between Culver and Metolius.

For a real railroad, this might be a large-scale problem, but for these two members of the Ochoco Valley Model Railroad, it was a smaller scale one, an HO scale one, in fact.

Located in the railroad building adjacent to the Lynn Boulevard entrance to the Crook County Fairgrounds, the club maintains a model replica, at 1/87th original size, of the Oregon Trunk Railroad line, running from Wishram, Wash.., to just south of Bend.

"This is a prototypical model that is accurate, to scale, of what existed in 1965," explained Edmison. "This is not an imaginary railroad."

The model includes accurate replicas of depot communities along the way, including those at Gateway, Madras, Willow Creek, Metolius, Culver, Crooked River Gorge, Prineville, O'Neil Junction, Redmond, Deschutes Junction, and Bend.

"When you walk in here, you step back into 1965," added Peterson. "You realize what it was like back then."

The club gets its inspiration from the book "The Deschutes River Railroad War," by Leon Speroff, which tells the tale of the race to expand railroad service from the Columbia River, up the Deschutes River, to Bend. The competition between two railroad barons, James J. Hill of Great Northern, and Edward H. Harriman of Union Pacific, began in 1909, with each of them building tracks on opposite sides of the river.

Edmison and Peterson are joined by Jim Van Voorhees, Bill Puritan, Dave Toupal, Bill Kindley, and Roy Mackey in the personally-funded club, all contributing thousands of hours of modeling over the past six years.

A centerpiece of the model is an 18 to 20-mile section of track, owned by the City of Prineville.

"This track is the only city-owned railroad system in the country," explained Peterson. "There were seven to 10 sawmills in town, and they ran two shifts, hauling a lot of lumber out of here."

Model railroading has been in Peterson's blood since his dad gave him a train set when he was 12.

"I got into trains the same way I got into Harley Davidsons," he said, explaining that he rode his first bike, as a foolish 16-year-old, in 1956.

Edmison's interest in railroading came about by listening to his wife talk about the toy trains she had as a child.

"Well, I never had a train set and was pretty long-faced about it," laughed Edmison. "Guess what I finally got for Christmas 15 years ago? A train set."

That got him started on building a 4-by-8-foot model that grew to include 30 switches and lots of buildings.

"It has taken me 15 years to build and is now up to about 5-by-9 feet," said Edmison.

A serious modeler, Edmison has earned six achievement recognitions from the National Model Railroad Association and, according to their website, is one achievement short of earning Master Model Railroader status.

Part of Edmison's contribution to the club's model is a replica of the Metolius potato factory that closed in 1968 due to potato blight.

"It is almost ready to go, except for the potatoes. Do you have any idea how hard it is to make potatoes at HO scale?" he laughed, explaining that he is using the grain, Quinoa, to accomplish the task.

In addition to creating the train model, the club also makes its expertise available to local, home model hobbyists.

That's exactly how Mackey came to be a member.

"I made the mistake of coming over here to ask a few questions about my model track," said Mackey. "And, I think I am about to get roped in as a member."

Future plans call for extending the track to Klamath Falls, and, even if the model might look like it is finished someday, Peterson says there will always be work to do.

Mackey agreed.

"This is a hobby, and a hobby is something that you never finish," he said.

As for that faulty switch they are working on? Peterson says they will probably end up replacing it.

"It's what a real railroad would have to do," he said. "All it takes is money and time. Luckily, we love what we are doing here."




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