06 September 2009

End of the season reflections

Here it is the end of the summer season already. I am still in West Linn, Oregon, but will be returning to Copper Center, AK in a few days. When I get there I will continue a process I have already started to park my various train consists for the winter and bring the locomotives back to the bar.

Here we have pictures of a few months earlier--probably mid-April--when I was getting ready for the FIRST run of the season. These were the trains lined up in the bar ready to make that initial trip to Cicely and beyond.

My first consists were all "short" cars, including a mixed freight consist.

Up front was my Great Northern mallet--my largest steam engine--all ready to go. In front of it was the Milwaukee Road "doodlebug." I run this one first as a dual car (a converted passenger car pulling another passenger car) to test out the line before I run the longer, heavier consists.

Here you see the Milwaukee Road doodlebug at the tunnel entrance ready to go:

Soon all of these consists will be shut down for the winter--four months of running followed by eight months of sitting in place waiting for another summer. This is a summer I will definitely miss. Weather-wise it was a great one starting with the last week in April (very early) and extending all the way through July at least. What a great summer it was !

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Cicely Town Layout Track Plan

This is the current RR track arrangement for the Cicely layout:

Here is the blog link to the complete track plans plus the plans for the RR yard below the Cicely town model.

Another Look at the Cicely Town Hill & Mine

The mansion above the Northwestern Mining Company model greatly resembles the one seen in the Psycho movie series. In fact, you will see a part of the Bates Motel below it in yellow. Yes, it is patterned after the one in those three movies. When this picture was taken the mining tracks had not yet been extended outside and other details had yet to be added to this part of the layout. I have also since expanded the mine itself.

Here is a more up-to-date scene showing some additions made in the last few months:

Scenes from Roslyn's Coal-Mining Past, Pt 1

This is one I just found yesterday on another site. It is identified as a coal mine near Roslyn. It is probably mine #5. Picture taken in the 1950s. Click for a larger image:

Here is one of the adits to the many underground Roslyn coal mines: (click):

The Overlooked Coal Mining Heritage of Roslyn

One of the aspects of Roslyn which stood out when I began studying it on the internet--many months before I made by first visit in May of 2007--was an very significant coal-mining heritage. As you can see just from the pictures of the coal miners' memorial, there HAD to be a great mining past to this town. Here is one picture of at least nine underground coal mines operated by the Northern Pacific Railroad dba Northwestern Improvement Company: Mine No. 1 to the immediate east of Roslyn (click for a larger image):

I decided to find a way to integrate this unavoidable part of Roslyn history into my diorama even though the producers and writers of NX carefully excluded any reference or scenes of any kind of mining in their mythical town of Cicely.
Here you see a mine coming out of the side of a residential hill in the same manner that these structures appeared along the east hills of Roslyn, Washington: (click any image for a larger version)..

Here you see a closer view of the residential hill. Eventually I will place a model of my interpretation of Maurice's log mansion on this hill in place of the mansion you see there now.

The coal line tracks from the mine extend outside the building as you see here. These are the east-approach tracks leading into the Cicely town model.

In this scene is a line of Great Northern coal cars that I included as a reminder of the true nature of Roslyn-as-Cicely:

Moving on to Maurice's Home

One of the models I will feature on my Cicely NX layout will be my version of Maurice Minnifield's log home. The film producers gave us some tantalizing shots to hint at the nature of his log mansion.

Maurice is particularly interesting to me because of his dominant position as the unofficial town leader, as amply demonstrated in the very first episode where he made it clear to Dr. Joel that he WOULD be the doctor at remote Cicely Alaska for all 4 years whether he liked it or not.

All the interior shots of the Minnifield home were studio mock-ups filmed in Redmond, Washington, such as this scene of his main door. On the REAL house--the one whose exterior shots we have seen many times--this is NOT the door. In fact, the studio version is much larger than the exterior house--the one on the hill at Roslyn--actually allows.
I always liked the studio version of Maurice's home as the producers envisioned it inside.

More views of the NWIC / KBHR-Minnifield Comm Bldg

This door still says "Minnifield Communications Network." In fact the building was a company general store.

The miners' memorial, complete with names of the deceased, now dominates the scene.

The now-blank sign used to say : "Northwestern Improvement Company"

Rear of this large building from the east. The Northern Pacific RR tracks curved around here. You can still see the footprint. This was the loading dock end of the building.

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05 September 2009

Fan Letter (Sept 1 2009)

Two Canadian bicyclists who happen to be geologists stopped by the bar in late August. Each one purchased a book that I then shipped off to their respective addresses in B.C. and Alberta, Canada. Here is a letter I received from one of them the other day:

Hi Ronald,
Just received your book titled "Legacy of the Chief".
I haven't had a chance to read it as yet but it looks like it is going to be a very interesting read with lots of good pictures. I would like to congratulate you on publishing such an impressive book- it must have taken a great deal of time and effort to prepare a book of this length and quality.
You mentioned that you had some discussions with Lew Green on the geology of Kennecott when he was working for Hanna Mining. He was my party chief when I worked as a student with the Geological Survey of Canada north of Keno Hill in the Yukon in 1955.
Thanks for opening your bar for Chris and I and for giving us a demonstaration of your minature trains. We were both impressed with the size and quality of your train system and with the model towns, bridges, cars and people that you had placed along the route. We were particularly impressed with the your duplication of the Kennecott townsite and mining/milling operations.
Our stop at your bar to have a few beers, see your model train display and chat about the history of the Copper Centre/Kennecott area was defintely one of the highlights of our bicycle trip in Alaska.
With best regards,
Jim Allan

 Chapters from my historic novel can be found on-line here "Legacy of the Chief"
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Here is a second "fan" letter from Nov 10, 2008:
Hi Ron,
What a totally amazing site that you have! Having grown up in Douglas and spending much of my kidhood playing in the old Treadwell mines site, I’ve been a lifelong devotee to Alaska mining (and fishing) history. What you’ve done for the Kennecott, CR&NW, KMR, and Copper River area-in-general history is outstanding. I’d love to have you apply the same dedication to the Juneau area mines as well, but it’s easy to see where your heart is and how you’ve focused on your area as a means of self-discovery as well. Your auto-biographical page on the “pursuit of the ghost train …” is enthralling and I can’t wait for your next update, or for that matter, all the rest of your site pages. I’ve also checked out most of your other links and they’re right on!
I don’t get out much from Juneau except to the greater Anchorage-Mat-Su area where we have family to visit, but the next time we go over to Valdez , your establishment will be number one on my list of priority attractions. Conversely, if you ever make it down to Juneau for whatever reason, be sure to give me a call. I’d love to get acquainted with a fellow history buff.
Keep up the wonderful work.
Rich Mattson

Kennecott Millsite Re-visited

I have found an all-new source of images of the mill and select structures that I have uploaded so I can present some of them here and elsewhere. These are Historic American Engineering Record photos used by the National Park Service. Due to their high resolution, these are excellent reference images. I present just one of them here. Click for a much-larger image.

03 September 2009

Minnifield Communications & KBHR

I first found this building, the old Northwestern Improvement Company store, on the internet. I do not recall ever seeing a scene on NX that showed the building, so I am showing it here:

When NX was shot, the Miners' Memorial, seen here in front of the NWIC building, was not there. In fact, there was no reference to ANY kind of mining in those episodes at all, much less any reference to the coal mining legacy that is Roslyn--the scene of most of the NX outdoor shooting.

Here you finally get to see the mythical station of that mythical town of Cicely as it really is.

01 September 2009

West Linn, Oregon

I have taken a few days off to visit the folks in West Linn. Dad will turn 85 on Sept 7th. The folks' wedding anniversary is the 5th. I believe it will be their 61st. Weather is good--approaching the 80s.