In July of 1897, at the height of the gold mining boom in the camps scattered across the Elkhorn Mountains of Eastern Oregon, a group of individuals led by Thomas McEwen incorporated the Sumpter and Bourne Railway Company, for the purpose of building a narrow gauge branch line off the Sumpter Valley Railway Co., from the end of track at Sumpter to the mining town of Bourne. Bourne was seven miles up Cracker Creek, a tributary of the Powder River, which flowed through a narrow canyon that was heavily forested. The canyon was barely wide enough for a road along side the creek. The narrow gauge railroad company ran a survey of the projected line. The railroad would have been about seven miles long, with a short branch up Silver Creek towards the mining camps at Cable Cove, and would have crossed Cracker Creek and its tributaries twenty two times in seven miles. So far as can be determined, no work was ever done on the railroad aside from the preliminary survey.
Not knowing about the existance of the Sumpter and Bourne Rwy. Co. when I first visited the region in 1977, I commented on what a nice setting the route between Sumpter and Bourne would make for a model railroad. About ten years later, I found the Sumpter and Bourne Rwy. Co.'s map and incorporation papers in the State archives, which strengthened my determination to build such a model railroad. I began kitbashing and scratch-building HO scale narrow gauge engines, since nobody manufactures the small Americans and Moguls the Sumpter and Bourne would probably have leased or bought from the Sumpter Valley Rwy., but I was never able to build a reliably running HO scale narrow gauge loco. The desire to model the S & B remained on the back burner until I discovered Bachmann's On30 model railroad equipment! There was the answer to my dilema - ready to run models that were sufficiently generic enough in appearance that my pike wouldn't look like a transplanted slice of a Colorado mountain railroad.
Before committing to building a layout, I wanted to get my hands on some On30" equipment and make sure it would suit my needs - reliable running, large enough to see the detail without my reading glasses, readily available, and similiar enough to Sumpter Valley Railway equipment that I could use it on a branch line off the S.V. Rwy. Let's face it, the C-16s, mudhens and K-series locomotives, and the D&RW 3000 series box cars are so distinctive looking that they instantly brand a model railroad as "Colorado" even if they are lettered for the Lahaina Sugar Plantation or the Oregonian Railway Co. limited. I have nothing against Colorado narrow gauge - I'm quite fond of it, in fact - but I wanted my pike to look like it was part of the Sumpter Valley Railway system.
I got the Bachmann Silverton Flyer On30 train set, because I liked the freight cars. To my delight, the box cars and flat cars are almost a perfect match to the plans printed in Mallory Hope Ferrell's book on the Sumpter Valley Rwy. "Rails, Sagebrush and Pine". There were several Sumpter Valley locomotives in the book similar to the Bachmann mogul. Only the caboose was not salvagable, since there was no easy way to hide it's Colorado heritage. I decided to "Sumpterize" the train set. It seemed a bit ironic that I was trying to hide the set's Colorado heritage, but I bought the one set with the most unique Colorado paint scheme. As much as I liked it, the Bumblebee paint job had to go.
The freight cars were easy - they only required a new paint job, weathering and lettering to turn them into Sumpter equipment. The original Sumpter Valley freight cars were actually painted yellow, though at some time later they switched to box car red. I decided to go with the red scheme as yellow box cars are just too "out there" for my taste. I drybrushed various shades of red, browns and greys over the original Bachmann paint, even going so far as doing several layers of lettering and weathering on the box car. With the freight cars repainted, I turned my attention to the locomotive. Since I wanted to model the Sumpter & Bourne Rwy. as if it had been built in 1897, the mogul had to represent an 1897 vintage locomotive, and one that could have come to the S&B either by lease or purchase of a Sumpter Valley Rwy. Fortunately, there is a fairly complete written and photo roster of Sumpter Valley engines in the back of "Rails, Sagebrush and Pine". I found two locomotives - a mogul and a consolidation - that resembled the Bachmann mogul closely, and were of the right vintage. Both had extended smoke boxes and domes that matched the model, so extensive surgery was not necessary. However, both had diamond stacks and wooden cabs.
The S.V. Rwy. also put large wood ricks on the backs of the tenders, so they could travel further between wood stops. I removed the coal load from the tender, and built up a wood rick from plastic stock. I painted the tender, installed the wood rick, then painted added a balsa wood wood load. I pried the cab off the locomotive, then discovered that I did not have any wood to build a new cab. I was even running short of plastic stock, so I had to make a cab out of the leavings in my scrap box, and I am not happy with the result.
The stack was a different problem. I had devised an easy method of making diamond and balloon stacks - easy in large scales like G or above, but found my method wouldn't work this small because I was too fat fingered to hold the tiny pieces necessary to make the patterns. So I used a piece of tubing for the bottom, a wide piece of plastic tubing cut off the core of a fax machine paper roll for the top, and glued them to opposite sides of a disk cut from heavy stock the diameter of the widest part of the diamond.
I filled in the sloping parts with Sculptey Clay and baked it in the oven until hard. I then sanded the clay smooth, painted it, and called it a smoke stack. I sawed off the top of the straight stack on the mogul and installed the diamond stack. When painted, it looked pretty good. Since nobody bothered to record what color the Sumpter Valley Rwy. painted their engines, and I figured the S & B would be proud of their only road engine, I painted it with red and green trim, similar to the old American Flyer train set we had played with as kids.
With the locomotive now looking similar to a Sumpter Valley locomotive, I then turned my attention to the caboose. Ah, the caboose. It was a Denver and Rio Grande short caboose. These cabeese resembled nothing than ran on any other railroad except a Denver and Rio Grande short caboose. It "branded" the train set "Colorado" just as much as the Bumblebee paint scheme. On the other hand, the Sumpter Valley Railway had very distinct looking cabooses of its own, and so far as could be determined by the photographic record, never had a short caboose.
I had the plan of a S.V. caboose from "Rails, Sagebrush and Pine" as well as many photos taken of the two surviving S.V. cabooses. So nothing would do but to build a new caboose in the style of a S.V. Rwy. caboose. The only problem was that I still had no source of stripwood, and with the small size of my proposed railroad, a short caboose would work better than a long caboose. I decided to take apart the Bachmann caboose to see how much of it I could salvage and bash into a S.V. caboose. To my surprise, it had a complete interior, but the windows in the model were so small you couldn't see it!
At that point I decided to modify the short caboose into a S.V. style, but keep the length the same, as if the S. & B. had bought a damaged S.V. caboose and cut off the injured end to make a shorter caboose. The S.V. caboose had fewer windows in the sides than the D. & R. G. short caboose, but two windows in each end, which would make the interior more visable. I cut apart the interior and reassembled it, in order to move the cupola off center.
I then built up new car sides and a cupola out of N scale siding boards, about the only strip wood I had left, glued over Strathmore board subwalls. I planked the walls inside and out, painted the inside industrial snot green, and painted the outside various shades of red and brown. The roof was made of stripwood with paper glued on and painted to resemble tar paper. The model was reassembled with the new body. I am happy with the result, but I would like to find castings for the ladders that are complete - the Bachmann ladders stop in mid-arch. With the caboose done, my train set was properly "Sumpterized". It was time to begin a layout.
Continue to Chapter Two
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This page updated Aug 4, 2006
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Photographs and Text © Scott Gavin