Jim Davis points out that a railroad is constantly changing, no matter what.
The president of the recently renamed model railroad club, therefore, believes the display housed in a small building on the north end of the Crook County Fairgrounds should reflect that ongoing change.
The name of the club has changed from the Ochoco Valley Railroad Club to Crooked River Model Railroad Club, and through a continual series of tweaks and upgrades, the model railroad display itself is changing.
"We have a lot of new ideas, a lot of new things we have already put into effect on the layout itself," said Davis, who joined the club about a year ago after building a model railroad club from scratch in Longview, Washington. "We are trying to upgrade it. We don't run an old system anymore. We run a new system, which is all radio controlled."New wiring has been installed and directional switch boxes are gradually replacing older on-off switches throughout the display. The trains are no longer controlled by DC power controllers; they are run on a DCC (direct command control) system.
"That's the way the model industry is going," Davis said.
The makeup of the club has changed considerably as well. The Ochoco Valley Model Railroad Club essentially disbanded due to retirement and other attrition, and the few members that remained joined the newly-formed Crooked River club. The organization currently has six active members and "a lot of different personnel in charge," according to Davis.
"We are hoping we can pick up some new members," he added, "because it takes members to run this club."
Other changes to the model railroad will be a bit more eye-catching for those who visit the attraction on a regular basis. The Bend portion of the display features a car show as well as some other new handcrafted buildings and features. The Redmond portion will soon have streetlights and lighted buildings for a nightscape look.
Elsewhere on the railroad, which is modeled after the Oregon Trunk line between Wishram Yard in Washington and Bend, club members have added a substation, some power lines and even some power poles that appear broken or lying on the ground.
"Back in the old days, they had what you call communication lines that followed the railroad," explained member Roy Mackey, "and the reason they are abandoned and bent over is because if they take them out, they lose their right-of-way on it."The model is intended to portray what the railway looked like in the 1950s and 1960s, so each of the handcrafted stations have been built with that era in mind. However, the addition of modern power lines, substations and other newer features reflect a focus on how communities change through the years.
"All towns grow up, so we have got the old along with the new," Davis said.
Mixed with the old and the new are some seasonal displays that will eventually get removed to make room for new ones. The Bend area car show display will go away soon as well as a carnival in the Prineville portion honoring the Crook County Fair.
"We are going to come up with some kind of winter scene," Davis said, so that when the club holds its next open house, probably in November, visitors will be greeted with something that matches the current season.
These aesthetic changes will take place as club members continue to make more structural upgrades to the model railway. More directional switch boxes are planned so that each "community" on the railway has one of the modern features. In addition, the electronic equipment for the remote control system will be moved to a more user-friendly location.
And the work won't stop there.
"Once we get something done, we move on to another area," Davis said. "Maybe down the road, we'll have to redo or revamp and we'll do that, because that's what railroads do."
The Crooked River Model Railroad Club is located at the Crook County Fairgrounds just west of Carey Foster Hall. It is open Tuesdays from 6-9 p.m. and Sunday by appointment. To join the club, contact Jim Davis at 503-396-0160.
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