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Logging Railroad Fans Gather In Sonora

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Logging railroads of the west was the focus in the Mother Lode Saturday.

Hundreds of model railroaders, logging historians and a few former professional timbermen converged on the Sonora Elks Lodge for the 17th annual Westside Reunion.

John Swiger was this year´s event coordinator. He says the event that recognizes the history of logging in the Mother Lode region, especially the former Westside Lumber Company and it´s famous narrow gauge logging railroad.

“We primarily specialize in logging related end of the model railroading hobby,” said Swiger, who works as a machinist at the Yosemite Mountain Sugar Pine Railroad at the south end of Yosemite National Park in Fish Camp.

The annual gathering had humble roots. Swinger says the event began as a reunion type gathering of ex-employees and others interested in the West Side Lumber Company of Tuolumne, and over the years evolved to become a convention for model railroad hobbyists and others generally interested in the historic logging and lumber production industry and the railroads which served them.

The logging railfans started meeting at Glenn Tyre´s house in Tuolumne. “It got too big for his place, then we went to the VFW Hall in Tuolumne and it got too big for that place, so we came here.”

This is the 17th year for the Westside Reunion. Included in this year´s event was informative and entertaining clinics presented by experts in the field of model railroad construction and operation, railroad and logging history and the technical aspects of those areas. Professional photographers, researchers, film makers, historians and others kept the audiences entertained and interested with their programs.

A major part of the event is the model contest that´s open to models in all scales and representing all kinds of railroad and logging equipment including structures and dioramas. Voting for the winners is by popular ballot.

Dozens of vendors displayed everything from vintage logging photos, books, scale model trains, kits and detail parts for enthusiasts to look at and purchase. Members of the Tuolumne City Memorial Museum and the Sierra Logging Museum also had displays. Sierra Railroad modeler John Zach of Twain Harte held an open house of his massive HO scale layout depicting the Sierra Railroad from Oakdale to Tuolumne.

But above all, Swiger says its the people that attend that makes it special. “It´s an eclectic group,” he admits. “You´ll find guys that just live and breath this stuff, and then you also have the person who has an occasional interest in it.”