Monday 10 February 2014


Engine 3629 is pushing hard on the tail end of an Eastbound freight in the upper Coquihalla Canyon having just exited Tunnel No. 2, mileage 19.9.  The road engine is probably another 3600.  The train is a little shorter than normal so there are only two engines working this freight.  It was common for three engines to work a freight on the Coquihalla Subdivision during steam days, two being on the head end.  Of course we know this is a model as there is no smoke in evidence - thick black stuff would be pouring out of their stacks.  Bill Sornsin, a visitor from Seattle, took this great shot in the thick of an operating session, with him at the throttle of the pusher.  He timed it perfectly.
On the labour day weekend of 1991 or so, my wife and I went to my happy hiking ground in the upper Coquihalla Valley to do some field research.  One thing that had grabbed my attention was a photo of the tunnels #1 and #2 published in Roger Burrow's Railway Mileposts, Vol.II.  This particular view, looking west, struck me as an ideal subject to model: sheer cliffs, spectacular tunnels, interesting portals and a short distance between them.  We measured the distance with the odometer in my truck and then measured all 4 portals, taking many pictures with a 35mm Minolta camera.  Remember those days of print film.

As it turned out, the entire scene including the two facing portals could be modeled in 12 feet at 1:87; i e full scale.  Wow!  This was getting interesting.  So,we hiked down the slope to the river, splashed across (not very deep) and up the other side to a vantage point somewhat higher than the right-of-way across from us.  It was tough going in the loose gravel and the bush but I was breathing just as hard from excitement as from exertion.  Taking photos in succession east to west, we caught the whole scene and then zoomed in for some detail shots.  We returned to the truck and started for home happy - very happy.  Here is one of the shots from across the valley showing the east portal of Tunnel No. 2.

I was thrilled with the pictures and went to a copy store to enlarge them on copy paper and stitched them together - remember when actually we cut and pasted with paper and glue stick.  Then I drew a grid on the sheets to aid in modeling for proportions and overall scale.  It was fairly easy to do.  A month or two later I was ready to build.  Company work was a bit slow, so I took a week off and devoted the time to building it.  About 60 hours passed very pleasantly.  At that time the tunnel portals were omitted and the track just disappeared into a holes at either end of the module.  But everything else was complete in the 12 foot section.  We installed it on the wall, anchoring it with screws through the solid framework into the wall studs.  We took it down 3 or 4 years later to build and install the tunnel portals and tunnel linings.  Reinstalled shortly after, it has hung there with no movement or sagging for years.  Adjacent sections were built in time for the NMRA convention in Seattle in 2004 when some convention attendees made the trip north for tours and operations sessions.

Much later I acquired CPR drawings for the right of way and also the portals themselves.  Both documents confirmed the site measurements and estimates but I was a little off in the track alignment itself.  Nevertheless, I was not in any way disappointed by that discrepancy preferring the model's S-curve with their complementary super-elevations that are nicely evident in the photo.  The story of how I acquired the drawings is a story for another day.

Happy Hiking;

Coquihalla Man

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