WPRRHS 1997 convention Oroville, California

WPRRHS 1997 Convention Report

by John Walker
Photos by Mike Mucklin and Robert Forren

Click on any of the thumbnail images for a full size version

Early in the development of the Feather River Rail Society, after a hard days work at the museum restoring and operating our early Western Pacific equipment collection, members would often get together for slide shows, BBQs and chat sessions under the stars around a roaring bonfire. Regular membership meetings in Portola were well attended when the evening's business would conclude with slide shows, lectures or videos. As the museum grew, this type of social interaction among members tailed off as the demands of operating the museum continued to grow. The Railfans Day event and the annual membership meeting helped to promote social functions for members but again, the operating demands and political fallout overshadowed the leisure aspects of the event.

A convention is an opportunity for people with a common interest (in our case, railroading and the Western Pacific) to meet and converse with people with similar interests. Several people in the FRRS have called for the organization to have some kind of convention over the years. Despite the diversity of the FRRS, many members whose primary interest is modeling and history felt that there was no forum for them to get together and share their common interests. And many people simply didn't want to make another four or five hour trip to Portola, they wanted to have an event a little closer to where the membership was located instead of where the museum was located.

In preparing the first stand alone WPRRHS convention, these thoughts were of paramount concern. First was picking a neutral site where everyone could enjoy themselves without worrying about the operational aspects of running the museum. We also had to pick a time of year that would not conflict with operations at the museum. Ideally, the convention should take place somewhere on the old WP mainline which would be very accessible to members and provide a forum where all of the different interests in the WP, Sacramento Northern and Tidewater Southern could be explored fully. Additionally, we wanted everyone to simply relax, have a good time and if we made any extra money, we would use the income to help with the development of the new FRRS/WPRRHS Library.

Our first Western Pacific Railroad Historical Society convention was held at the beautiful Depot Restaurant in Oroville April 18th and 19th, 1997. Eighty guests attended the event. At Oroville, Western Pacific fans, historians and modelers had plenty to look at and admire. Many museum volunteers also had a chance to relax and enjoy themselves before beginning the 1997 campaign up at the museum. The Depot Restaurant just seemed like a natural place to have a get-together. The restaurant took over the WP station after the discontinuance of the California Zephyr. Although it has been modified to some extent, the building still reflects its original purpose. The owners of the restaurant have decorated the building with lots of railroad memorabilia. With WP steam switcher 164 sitting across the street and the mainline just outside the door...who could ask for more!


Oroville Depot 
 Banquet room with WP motorcar
UP trains going by on the main 

A view of the east end of the WP Oroville depot, now The Depot restaurant,
location of the 1997 WPRRHS convention

Near the west end of the building is the banquet facilities entrance where Gary Boots' beautifully restored WP motorcar was displayed

To the delight of many attendees, UP provided a constant parade of trains which made their presence known whether you were inside or outside the depot. This eastbound is approaching the west end of the platform.


The festivities started Friday night with a Sacramento Northern slide show by Bill Shippen. Robert Forren took us on a tour of the Highline since the UP began operating the line. Kent Stephens then presented some history of the various railroad shortlines and industrials that once inhabited Oroville and other members showed some of their favorite slides.

Saturday morning opened with an impressive model display. An array of nearly 100 WP and Sacramento Northern HO, N, S and O scale models were displayed and many people enjoyed talking with the modelers, comparing notes, construction ideas and kit evaluations. It is interesting to see how much a person can learn from a model! Indeed, discussing the details of an authentically detailed model is akin to looking at the real thing in a museum! Thankfully, a lot of WP equipment that was never preserved can be recreated in miniature form for the education and enjoyment of WP fans. Frank Beavers display of a heavyweight style, steam powered passenger train and a 14 car steam powered freight are things we will never be able to recreate in real life. Yet, the model tells a story that all WP fans can appreciate. Special thanks goes to Pete Solyom, Mike Mucklin, Thom Anderson, Al Wood, Don Schmitt, Dave Pires, Frank Beavers, Andy Carlson and others for their painstaking work to produce these accurate models.

 WP model display
WP model display
The popular vote contest models took up four tables in the center of the room.
 WP model display
WP model display
Display models were placed on several tables surrounding the perimeter of the west room.


The popular vote model contest included numerous entries in several categories. I know that many have speculated on what might have happened to the WP if they had not merged with the UP. That is why it was also fun to examine the Fantasy category that featured a Sacramento Northern TGV type high speed electric, a WP GE DASH 9 in the "new image" paint scheme and an AC6600 in a stylish version of the old silver and orange scheme. Several really nice freight cars and locomotives (some of which you'll be seeing in future issues of The Headlight) rounded out the contest model display.

Popular Vote Model Contest Winners
 Steve Geisenheimer's HO scale WP 2-8-2 number 333

Steve Geisenheimer's HO scale WP 2-8-2 number 333 took top honors in the Steam Locomotive category.

 Thom Anderson's WP SW9 number 601

Thom Anderson won the Diesel Locomotive category with this HO scale model of WP SW9 number 601.

 Al Wood's HO scale PS-1 box car, number 3425

Al Wood's HO scale PS-1 box car, number 3425, was the winner in the Freight Car category.

 Pete Solyom's WP RDC

Pete Solyom's RDC took top honors in the Passenger Car category.

 Mike Mucklin's O scale/Proto 48 WP steel caboose number 482

Mike Mucklin's O scale/Proto 48 WP steel caboose number 482 won both the Best-Of-Show and Caboose categories.

 Mark Freiberg's HO scale GE unit  5009

Mark Freiberg brought the WP into the '90s with this HO scale GE unit, number 5009, which took top honors in the Fantasy Category.

 Jack Palmer photographs

Jack Palmer took top honors in the Photography category with his shot of a WP FT set (photo on right).


Robert Forren, Steve Hayes, Bill Shippen, Lolli Bryan, Vickie Krois, Norm Holmes and John Walker put up a small, but notable display of WP Memorabilia. Lanterns, switch keys, locks, WP paintings, B&W photos of the old WP, engineering drawings, a California Zephyr place setting, a book of snap shots of the flood of 1986, WP passenger timetables and tour pamphlets of the Feather River region were included. A well-traveled nose herald from a WP F-unit and some enamel signs from a WP piggyback trailer help tell the story of the WP that goes much deeper than just the diesel locomotives used to pull the trains.

Many FRRS members have long wanted an opportunity to swap or sell their excess models and memorabilia with other WP aficionados. The swap section at the convention included several brass locomotives, timetables and WP related books at good prices. The WPRRHS was selling Historical Society T-shirts, Hats and WP models while showing WP related videos. Norm Holmes was busy selling items from the museum gift shop and several attendees cleaned up on the many raffle prizes graciously donated by model railroad and railfan gift manufacturers.

 Display area
 WP memorbilia and merchandise

Looking from one end of the banquet facility to the other, the WP memorabilia tables on the right and swap tables on the left filled the east room while the contest and display models filled the west room. Slide shows, clinics and movies were presented in a separate room off to the right.

Another view of the WP memorabilia and swap tables. The double doors on the right opened to the patio where (the former platform) where passing UP freights could be viewed as they passed only a few feet away.

 WPRRHS flag
 Raffle prize table

Robert Forren surprised us with this large wall banner made by his wife Wendy. Thanks Robert and Wendy!

The raffle prize table was filled with items graciously donated by many hobby manufacturers and shops.


Between delicious meals prepared by The Depot Restaurant staff, conventioneers were treated to fantastic slide shows and modeling clinics. Robert Forren and Mike Mucklin presented a near complete, number by number program on WP's fleet of steel bay window cabooses. Dave Cox gave a presentation on the WP's maintenance of way equipment. Thom Anderson conducted a modeling clinic on WP GP20s and Pete Solyom dispensed information on how to model a WP GP9. Kent Stephens presented a very comprehensive history of the Oro Dam Constructors Railway which included many rare photos of this short lived yet unique operation. Norm Holmes brought down a short UP video of the damage done to the Feather River Canyon last winter. The tape was produced by the Union Pacific and was played during intermissions throughout the day.

 Trackside lunch at the Depot Restaurant
 David Dewey in FRRy Shay No 1
The Depot restaurant staff came through with excellent meals. Lunch was served trackside on the patio, only a few feet from the main line! David Dewey, shown here in the cab of the Feather River Railway Shay, made arrangements for attendees to get behind the fence and view both this locomotive and WP 0-6-0 #164 in HewittPark adjacent to the depot. Meanwhile, Vic Neves inspects the top of the tender.

Just before dinner, the conventioneers walked over to Hewitt Park where David Dewey had arranged to have the gate opened to WP 0-6-0 #164. This was a rare opportunity for everyone to see this engine and the Feather River Railway Shay up close and personnel. After dinner, Chris Skow presented his hour and a half long, two reel color Western Pacific movie (soon to be available from the FRRS on video) and Vic Neves' multimedia slide program, Remembering the WP.

 Convention guests checking out the Shay
Convention guests checking out the Shay
After a short walk from the depot to Hewitt Park, attendees were able to inspect this Feather River Railway Shay locomotive up close. Among the crowd checking out the steam locomotives was Steve Habeck and Jim Dias as well as many others.
Convention guests checking out WP 164 
 WP 164 plaque
Also available for inspection was WP 0-6-0 #164 shown here with Norm Holmes, Hank Stiles and others. Placard commemorating the donation of the 164 to the City of Oroville.


Post convention surveys indicated that everyone had a really great time and are looking forward to next years event! While on that subject, we need to hear your ideas and suggestions for future events like this. Steve Hayes led the way by chairing the 1998 convention held May 8-10 at The Stockton Inn in Stockton.

Several people contributed their time and energy to making this event a rousing success. David & Linda Dewey, Clyde and Linda Lippincott, Vic Neves, Robert & Wendy Forren, Steve & Norma Hayes, Pete Solyom, Dave Pires, Thom Anderson, Chris Skow, Dave Cox, Jim Cooper, Norman Holmes, Kent Stephens, Richard Daniels and Bill Shippen did a great job! We couldn't have done it without them. And thanks to everyone who attended. Thanks to you, we covered the convention costs and raised over $400 for the library. The best part of all of this is that everyone had a great time doing it!