Cheney Lumber Pt. 1

With the urban side of the layout about 70% complete I wanted to work on the sawmill side.

npp-layout-1612073 npp-layout-1612072 npp-layout-161207

When I designed the layout, I planned for a sawmill for one side. Because the track plan was designed for switching operation, it was fixed, so I had to find a mill with tracks laid out similar to what I had. Tacoma had a number of mills around the city in the late 1940’s; one of the reasons I chose the area.

I found a couple of aerial photos of the Cheney Lumber company in the late 40’s. It was compact, visually interesting, and could be adapted to my track plan.

cheney-lumberyard-tacoma-2 cheney-lumberyard-tacoma I especially like the gantry crane.

Cheney Lumber is somewhat famous in the wood products industry as the company that introduced the standard 2 x 4 x 8′ building stud. The company had specialized in railroad ties, but after the war demand declined. The standards of railroad tie manufacture also produced a significant amount of waste. Because ties were 8′ long, and most residential ceilings were of similar height, Cheney realized they could produce standard lumber for the burgeoning construction industry. I don’t know if the Northern Pacific really served Cheney Lumber, but in this case they do, I liked the idea of having a little history on the layout.

Because I didn’t have clear idea of what exactly the sawmill area would look like, I’d left two spur tracks on the roadbed. The other I’d graded down to the layout surface. From the photos it appears the siding tracks are pretty much in the dirt. Whether or not the NP served the mill, that’s consistent with their siding roadbed.

I’ve been working on the layout for nearly two years, and I’ve done a lot of scratch building. It’s an aspect of the hobby I enjoy. The corollary is like everyone else I’ve acquired some tools and a fair amount of material. I wanted to see how much of this project I could build with the resources to hand.

The first step was to raise the ground to more nearly track level.


I used 1/4″ foam board cut to fit as the new ground, then covered everything with water putty to hide seams and add texture. Everything was painted Rustoleum Camouflage Brown.


The crane rails were made from Code 55 rail glued to 0.100 x 0.060 styrene strip. It’s oversize, but so are the rails. I painted and weathered the rails prior to installation. I simple gauge from scrap styrene kept everything in place. The rails were CA’d to the surface.

npp-aligning-crane-rails-2 npp-aligning-crane-rails

The area around the track was painted with Apple Barrel Natural Brown, which looks more like Carolina clay than anything you’ll see around Tacoma, but I figured most of it would disappear under ground cover.



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