A big idea: Cottage Grove replica town

A replica town would include special locations such as the Swinging Bridge and various historic covered bridges.

As readers know, my columns contain nostalgia and history. And hopefully, things that might suggest a happy family outing.

Recently my articles have contained information on the railroading history and movie making, mining and logging industry, enhanced by railroads. Many years ago, when I was involved in a restoration project, and grant writing was just beginning as a way of raising money for restoration projects, such as parks and old roadside attractions, the emphasis was, in those early days of grants, projects that showed and demonstrated historic value to the public for future generations.

A good example was the restoration project of the Dr. Pierce Barn. The first restoration project was in 1989. The old barn was straight across from the Koffee Kup restaurant on Highway 99 at the north end of Cottage Grove. The barn was over 100 years old, and through fundraising in the community, it was restored to last another 20 years, and a 20-year lease was obtained from the land-owner.

At the end of the 20-year lease, the barn needed further repairs. Efforts were made, but the project failed. The cost of the land, and the restoration of a 100-year-old barn, was beyond the financial capability of the group. The Dr. Pierce Barn, for those many years, was a landmark, and one of the most photographed sites in Lane County. It was nostalgic – it had a couple of fruit trees in the pasture, and three to five head of sheep, and at times a cow or two.

On a huge billboard on the west end of the barn, facing Highway 99, was DR. PIERCE’S PLEASANT PELLETS.

Replica cities and model railroads are becoming a popular tourist attraction across the country.

This landmark is gone, and is visible only through memory and thousands of photographs. Many pen-and-ink postcards were sent across the world of Dr. Pierce’s Pleasant Pellets barn.

Back to the storyline and the history of the past two articles in The Chronicle – railroading. In 2013 or ’14, the subject of the carousel first came up. It was suggested, on two different occasions, that the carousel, being a historical entity, might be supported with a second historical entity in a common building that would be a drawing card to two different groups of people. Many grants are available for history-supported entities, such as the history of communities, airports, and historical buildings.

I have written of model railroading in previous articles. But I’m suggesting a written recording of an idea and dream. This is only a dream and a vision.

If we were to take and build a major model railroad showing the history and culture of South Lane County and the timber, mining, and railroading, recreation history, with all the railroad short lines, and the main line of Southern Pacific from Eugene to California. This could be trackage on the front with a hairpin curve on each end, to return the train back, making a continuous loop. This turnaround could be camouflaged in a tunnel/mountain with standing timber, showing our forestland.

Along this route we could show Cone Lumber at Goshen, Bald Knob at Creswell, and other entities along the way to the junction with OP&E. The history of the mines might be modeled along the OP&E spur line that went up Row River. Mining history could be told.

A logging camp could be established, with a Shay Steam Logging Locomotive hauling logs out of the Bohemia Mountains. A Shay differs from a rod engine such as the Blue Goose. There were three logging locomotives that were gear-driven by a line shaft turned by steam cylinders,  Shay, Climax, and Heisler.

Next we might have the Chambers Mill site with two sawmills, one at Lorane, a logging RR coming from the Lorane Valley to the second Chambers Mill at South 99, where the fire department and the restored covered RR bridge is today. Next we might see the history through model railroading of the Woodard Lumber Company and the building of the two dams.

In today’s model railroading, there are so many options for automation. When I was in the hobby, years ago, most things were scratch-built. Today, you can buy entire cities of different eras, even a burning building with a fire truck sitting in the street.

There are models of drive-in movie theaters, with a 7-inch screen. What better way to show history, as it was, in South Lane County? Visualize a model drive-in theatre showing The General!

There are complete carnivals, with operating Ferris wheels, carousels, etc.

Even with automated lumber mills, where the train dumps logs, one log at a time goes on a conveyor belt into the building, the round log is stored, and a pre-stacked 2×4 comes out.

Both steam and diesel locomotives today are computerized and can be set for a certain speed, stop and start at certain places, RR station platforms, coal docks, etc.

There are automatic fork lift stations that load freight on RR flat cars.

Model RRing and history today is almost endless. For a display of this size, you need a museum-type setting, where you have the length and width to properly display oh, so many historical events.

I lay out this vision for anyone in the future who might be contemplating a major business or a museum of high quality. There are major model RRs of this nature throughout the United States.

Both Walt Disney and Frank Sinatra had large model RRs. It was Disney’s model RR at home, as a young man, that gave him the dream of Disneyland.

For the readers who follow my articles, admittedly, some contain dreamland material. But one never knows who might read this idea, embrace it, and build it. 

Model railroading of quality is well attended. My next article will be on available full-size steam train rides in the West. I have traveled the western U.S. and ridden many excursion trains – they are normally booked ahead by two to three months. 

Model railroading is a draw and crowd pleaser, and what better way to show your community and history than through a historical model railroad display, with automation and moving parts? In today’s model railroading, historical displays would only enhance a museum with other quality presentations.



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