About the MFR

The Metaline Falls Railroad (MFR) is a proto-freelanced model railroad based on the Pend Oreille Valley Railroad located in northern Idaho and north eastern Washington State. For the very latest on the layout, please visit my YouTube channel and follow along with my Instagram account.

Monday, September 30, 2013

Come Ride the Lions Club Excursion Train!

Here is another video for the Lions Club Excursion Train which shows a view of the Box Canyon Bridge that I had not seen before.  It looks like creating my scratchbuilt version of the bridge will be more tricky than I had originally envisioned...

Monday, September 23, 2013

Gone Muddin'

I didn't get quite as far on scenery as I wanted this weekend, but I was able to get all of the cracks and rough areas along the seams of the stacked foam layers filled in and smoothed out using Mike Confalone's "Universal Mud" technique as described in his scenery videos. Out of respect for Mike's work, I don't want to give away his technique here. Instead, I'll point you to where you can purchase his videos and learn how he does it yourself. He does discuss his techniques in great detail and I've found his videos to be worth their weight in gold.

I was also able to run through three full operating sessions on Sunday and I found a few more rough areas in the trackwork I needed to fix before I finish ballasting the layout. Good thing I discovered these rough spots now instead of later.

Sunday, September 15, 2013

Layout Progress Video #4

I figure it's about time I created another layout progress video. We get to see a train work the yard tracks in this one!

Wednesday, September 11, 2013

A Plausible History

The Steamboat METALINE navigates the nearly impassable rapids at Box Canyon near Ione Washington. This photo was captured circa 1890s. Soon, the railroad would arrive, making such a dangerous journey unnecessary.
Although I am creating a freelanced railroad and I am thoroughly enjoying the freedom and the lack of constraints that freelancing offers, I wanted to evoke that sense of historic authenticity usually reserved for prototype modelers.

I hopped on to Google to research the location I chose for my modeling and from that research I developed a timeline of events important to the development of the MFTR as it "exists" today. Many of these events are historically accurate. (Such as the the construction of the original rail line in 1909.) Other events are completely fictional and serve as justification for the choices I've made in my modeling. (Such as the cement operations moving from it's original location to the town of Ione) Still others are minor tweaks of real events. (Such as the change in management and direction at the Ponderay Paper Recycling Co.)

With that in mind, here is a brief "history" of railroading in the Pend Oreille Valley: (Updated for the new layout)
  • 1892 - The Great Northern Railroad (GN) reached Newport Washington enabling shipment of timber towed upstream from mills located along the Pend Oreille River Valley as far north as Metaline Falls.
  • 1909 - The Lehigh Portland Cement Co. (Originally Inland Portland Cement Co.) is established in Metaline Falls.
  • 1909-1911 - The original line from Newport to the town of Metaline Falls was built by Fredrick Blackwell and given the name Idaho and Washington Northern (I&WN). 
  • 1925 - A slump in the lumber market led to the sale of the I&WN to the Milwaukee Road.
  • 1956 - Construction completed on the Box Canyon Dam.
  • 1967 - The Boundry Hydroelectric Dam is built in the northern most area of the Pend Oreille Valley. The dam supplies up to one-third of Seattle City Lights power, It's presence has changed the landscape, permanently submerging the famous Metaline Falls river rapids.
  • 1970 - The Great Northern together with the Northern Pacific, (NP) Chicago, Burlington and Quincy, (CBQ) and the Spokane, Portland and Seattle Railway (SP&S) merge to form the Burlington Northern Railroad (BN). This new railroad continued supplying rail traffic to the Pend Oreille Valley.
  • *1983 - the Vaagen Brothers Lumber company acquired the valley's largest mill located in the town of Usk.
  • 1985 - Soo Line purchased the bankrupt Milwaukee Road and takes over operations in the valley.
  • *1988 - The Ponderay Newsprint Co. is founded in Usk bringing with it new economic opportunities.
  • 1990 - Canadian Pacific gained full control of the Soo Line. 
  • *1994 - Continuing to find success in the Pend Oreille Valley, The Lehigh Portland Cement Co. moved operations from it's aging plant in the town of Metaline Falls to a new plant located in nearby Ione. This move saved the railroad 20 miles of travel round trip. The old plant continued to receive occasional loads of cement to store in it's large capacity silos for many years after.
  • *1996 - The Burlington Northern merged with the Atchison, Topeka and Santa Fe (ATSF) to form the Burlington Northern and Santa Fe Railway (BNSF). This new railway continues to supply traffic to the valley.
  • 1998 - For economic reasons, The BNSF proposes abandonment of the line from Sandpoint to Metaline Falls. Rather than see the line abandoned, the citizens of Pend Oreille County joined together and voted to create the Port of Pend Oreille to operate the Metaline Falls Railroad (MFR). The name honors both the lovely town at the end of the line and it's historic falls. Both of which have contributed greatly to the valley's history..
  • *2009 - In an effort to save on the costs of upkeep, the MFR filed for abandonment of the rail line and its several tunnels and wooden trestles north of the Box Canyon Bridge leading to Metaline Falls.
(*These dates represent a fictionalized version of historical events.)

Developing this timeline has been a lot of fun. Not only did I enjoy creating a plausible history for my freelanced railroad, but I also found myself absolutely fascinated by the real history of the Pend Oreille Valley which only increases my desires to do it justice with my fictional representation.


I was standing in my layout room the other night thinking to myself "You know, I could make this layout twice as big if I were to cut a hole into this door, curve the mainline through the closet and back out into the room along this other wall..."

I had to stop myself. I was coming dangerously close to violating one of my personal rules I established for myself when I started this model railroad:  Keep It SMALL Stupid. (K.I.S.S.)

I imagine most modelers find themselves longing for larger layouts from time to time.  The advantages that come with more layout are hard to ignore, yet there are also plenty of advantages to keeping a layout small and focused as well.  Small layouts are cost less to build. Benchwork, wiring and trackwork goes much quicker which gets trains moving sooner.  Smaller layouts allow you to focus your attention on modeling finer details that would just be too time consuming to be considered on larger layouts.

For example, I have spent many, many hours individually detailing and weathering ties on my little railroad. Now that job is nearly complete which is good because I am starting to get a bit burned out on track details and I'm ready to move on and try something new. If my layout were twice as big as it is now, I'd only be halfway through the job and frankly, that would be rather discouraging.

I'm 33 years old and know myself well enough by now to know that I may DESIRE to have a big layout from time to time. However, I also know that keeping the layout small and manageable keeps me from getting burned out which keeps me excited about the hobby.

Besides, I've got a mountain to build, trees and a river to model, buildings to kitbash and assemble, a highway overpass and railroad bridge to scratch build, cars to weather, and much, much more. I've got enough work on my plate to keep me busy for years!

Sunday, September 8, 2013

A Start on Scenery

I was able to get a good start on scenery this past weekend including laying down a base of ground foam as well as weathering and ballasting the yard tracks. Say goodbye to the Plywood Pacific!

I am especially happy with how well the track weathering and details turned out. Though I would still like to add some light rust to the rails and joint bars.

Tuesday, September 3, 2013

Laboring on the Weekend

I've had that model railroading bug in me again lately so I put that motivation to good use and I'm rather happy with the amount of laboring I was able to get done on my railroad this Labor Day weekend.

I started by completing all of the basic foam contours that would make up the terrain on my layout. I trimmed and shaped 2" extruded foam and 2" floral foam and hot glued them into place on the layout.  Once secure, I went back over it with a saw to clean up rough edges and create the final shape.

The green floral foam is nice in that it is easy to secure trees into. (or so I am told.) I'm pretty happy with the overall look of the box canyon scene at this point. I'm starting to get a better idea of how this area will look when finished. It's exciting to see it take shape!

Once that job was complete, I was feeling rather bold, so I decided to start the process of painting my track. To avoid conductivity issues, I carefully taped off the switch points for all of my turnouts with masking tape. I then applied a base coat of Rustoleum dark brown spray paint straight from the can.

I've read that most of the master model railroaders use an airbrush and airbrush paints for this process. I don't have an airbrush yet and I was concerned that all my hard work detailing the track would be ruined  by cheap spray paint.  However, once I saw that Rustoleum straight from the can was the same technique that Mike Confalone uses on his Allagash Railroad, I went for it without hesitation.

Once dried, I decanted a small amount of spray paint into a jar and touched up the switch points being careful not to get paint in the areas where electrical contact is important. (Click here for more information on decanting spray paint.)

I'm only part of the way through the process of painting the track, but the results so far are great! the individually distressed ties look especially good which is only encouraging me to go back and beat them up some more.

More to come soon!