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Steam Scene

While they always say in Portland, Ore., that if you don’t like the weather, just wait a few minutes, it is doubly true in the springtime. With three spring Staver Locomotive steamups under my belt, I’ve seen one beautiful week, one cold and rainy week and one a mixture of the two.

The latter was the 2015 event, held April 23-26. About 50 live steamers from around the Western United States (and a few from farther afield) attended this year’s event, held in a remodeled industrial building in Northwest Portland.

Our Portland host, Larry Staver. Photo by Tom Winter.

Larry Staver began work on his layout, service shop and non-profit event space in the mid-aughts and now has more than 500 feet of hand-laid rail of his own design. Though there is only one mainline, there are hundreds of feet of sidings all around the layout, with dozens of switches.

It sometimes takes two or three hobbyists a minute or two to figure out how to align all the switches to achieve the desired movement. This is part of the fun. Since the 2014 event, Larry and his crew have added electrical motors to the switches in the “narrow-gauge yard”; these have wonderful digital displays where LED lights show how the switches are aligned.

Also new in 2015 was a re-alignment of the main line on the north side of the building, allowing larger-scale locomotives to follow a straight-away without fear of tumbling over the edge.

Sharon Ricketts pumps water, while Greg Dahlem and John Polen chat in the background. Photo by Tom Winter.

In my first visit in 2013, Larry and his helpers had already run the railroad out into the western yard of the building, making a nice, wide-radius loop and coming back inside (during inclement weather, lift-out sections can be removed, a door closed and switches are set to just loop inside).

Over the last two years, while there is no new outside rail, much infrastructure has been built to eventually allow trains to switch off onto a new line that will run back east along the side of the building and then loop back to the western yard, connecting up with the existing rail.

In this area there had always been envisioned a pond; from the movement of earth, it now looks like the expansion area will also have a stream that feeds the pond, which will mean a variety of bridges.

A system has been devised to capture rainwater from the roof of the building and use it to feed the pond and stream. When this is all built and operational, it will be fantastic.

As is the regular practice, the steamers from the Puget Sound Garden Railway Society drove down their portable track and set it up off to one side in Staver’s cavernous building. This allowed for an area where smaller locomotives could run on two nice small loops.

Remodeled industrial building that is Staver Locomotive. Photo by Tom Winter.

While there are no sign-ups for track time, Larry calls for slow trains in the morning and fast trains in the afternoon. On Friday morning when there were a number of long, slow trains running simultaneously, it was taking 10 minutes to traverse the circuit.

Larry provides a light breakfast each morning and refreshments in the afternoon; lunch and dinner are on your own. Saturday night the crew provides a catered dinner (it has been Mexican food in recent years) and though I was unable to attend, I have been told it was great as always.

Staver’s fall steamup will be held next Sept. 17-20; you can visit http://staverlocomotive.com/whatwedo/steamup.html for more information.

Click on photos for larger display with captions and/or slide show; all photos by the author unless otherwise noted.

An Accucraft 1:13.2-scale “Emma” about to return from the outside loop.   Jim Hadden’s scratch-built, 1:20.3-scale Shay with wooden cab and brass fittings.
Craig Griffin multi-tasking: adding oil and butane at the same time.   Kevin Schindler makes a photo of his train as it goes outside.
Craig stands back as Kevin’s Accucraft K-27 lets off some excess steam. Photo by Tom Winter.   A sight never seen in real life: A Denver & Rio Grande Western 2-8-2 next to a Great Western Railway 2-6-2T with U.S. cabooses.
Ron Bacon’s Southern Pacific F4, 2-10-2, pauses on the mainline waiting for the track ahead to clear.   James Small paces his Nickle Plate Road passenger consist.
Chuck Morton gives the ‘thumbs up‘ as Sonny Wizelman works to light his Southern Pacific cab forward.   The English locomotive ‘Sir Theodore‘ zooms by on the Puget Sound Garden Railway Society portable layout.
An Accucraft K-28 roaring down the outside track.   Dan Pantages operates a radio-controlled steam ditcher built by Jim Hadden as a English passenger consist whizzes by.   Jim Hadden adds fuel to his scratch-built Heisler; in the foreground is a Sonny Wizelman-constructed water tower that he gave Larry at the event.