Tuesday, December 25, 2018

Christmas Train!

I've had my eye on this Lionel set for some time and this year Santa's Elf (Jan) bought it on eBay and put it under the tree for me. Manufactured in 2000 and sold now as new-old-stock, it represents the D&RGW Royal Gorge which ran from Denver to Salt Lake City by way of Royal Gorge and Tennessee Pass (rather than traveling the more direct Moffat Tunnel route). The train left Denver in the early morning and arrived in SLC the following morning and what a beautiful ride it was for us in 1960, '61, '62, '63 and '64. The consist was typically two EMD F7 engines, a baggage car, an RPO, a lounge-diner, a coach and a coach-observation-dome. A shop crew added a rear door to the observation end so a Pullman brought up the rear of the train. Each Summer I found the train crews to be friendly and informal, so much so that Dad and I would spend much of the trip in a vestibule with the top half of the dutch-door open to our scenic passage through the Rockies. It is a joy to now put an O scale model of this train on my tracks and watch it roll as it always has in my mind's eye.

The colors strike me as true-to-life.

Two A units whereas the 
real train was usually drawn
by an A and a B (no cab end).

Except for being shortened this is
a pretty close model of the actual
coach-observation-dome car.
The coach section was in front of the dome
and the observation section occupied the
rounded car end. Restrooms were under the dome.
Instead of a lounge-diner and a coach the
the model has two coaches
and no RPO (Railway Post Office).

Click to start a video of it making a brave scene
and taking me right back to 1964.

Here is a photo of the Royal Gorge
high in the Rockies approaching
Tennessee Pass to the west.

Tuesday, November 13, 2018


 With our move to the Berkshires the second floor of our Cape Cod is entirely devoted to toys: Jan's sewing room and my train room.  I have been a Railfan all my life and have always been interested in model railroads and now we finally have a space where I can pursue my interest.

I am what is known in the biz as a "high railer", using O scale Lionel-style track and scale or near-scale rolling stock in a semi-realistic scenic setting. Rather than a layout with concentric loops of track with several trains madly screaming about my track plan and operating scheme mimics an actual railroad, with the purpose being to transport goods.

O scale is ¼" to the foot or 1/48 scale so it takes up a lot of space. Most modelers use HO scale which is 1/87 proportion but that stuff is too small for my Senior eyes so O scale it is. What this means is that in a 13'X14' room the track plan is necessarily quite simple: a loop around the perimeter of the room with sidings for 5 industries. An interchange track, (a connection with the outside railroad world), is through a tunnel in a corner of Jan's sewing room. The operating scheme is the delivery of loads and empties to the on-layout industries with the pickup of loads and empties from those industries being delivered back to Interchange where they are picked up by virtual trains to be delivered into the virtual outside world. This is the essence of any model railroad operating scheme.

It has been said that a picture is worth a thousand words so here are some pics :~)

Don't forget that clicking twice on a pic enlarges it greatly.

A bit about construction:

 First is Benchwork. I used a tried&true
method: ¼" plywood decking resting on
1X2 joists which rest in turn on
beams made of screwed&glued
1X3 with 1X2 flanges. Strong, lightweight
and easy to modify. 

 These unrealistically sharp toy-train
90deg corner curves were hidden by
That was the first day of operations.

Another tried&true technique:
hot glued cardboard strips

Covered with plaster cloth
(the stuff Docs use to make casts)  

covered in turn with a modeling product
called "Sculptamold".

As it all looks today:

The pic third from extreme left is of the Grand Canyon train.
I once rode in the locomotive from GC to
Williams Junction and return. The pic second from left is
of a Santa Fe GP9, the engine I rode.

There was a.22 rifle above the Fireman-side
front-facing door. I learned what it was for when
a bull walked onto the track and the engineer had to bring
us nearly to a stop (open range so cattle everywhere). Blowing the whistle did no good. The fireman took down the gun, opened the
door in front of him and shot that bull several times.
The bull then ambled off the track, unhurt because
the ammo was, of course, birdshot and all it did was sting him. That particular bull
loved to bother the train.

 Grain elevator, Tipple and
[virtual] tank car unloading
facility. For years a tank car
was periodically delivered to
a team track siding in Somerset, Pa
where it's cargo would be offloaded
into tank trucks. I need an O
scale tank truck to complete
the scene.

Oil refinery and paint factory.
The refinery produces loads of
petroleum products. Loads of
solvents, resins and pigments
come in to the paint factory and
loads of paint leave in boxcars. 

 Track is Lionel Fastrack.
Scale size ties and tie spacing
with built-in "ballast".
Hard to not see that
unrealistic third rail
(the purpose of which is to
bring electric power to
the train, as a trolly-wire
would do) but that is what third-railers


Ground cover is fleece
from Joanne :~)

The left pic is near Bennington Curve
close to the top of the Hill above
Horseshoe Curve.
The right pic is starting the climb
to Moffat Tunnel
West of Denver .

Riverside Geyser in the pic.
To the left a Pennsy freight after descending
the Hill to Altoona. Wreathed in brake smoke.

Now about those photos wallpapering the walls. Scenery on this pike is simple and largely symbolic/schematic and the photos are an important scenic element. They were taken over my childhood by my Dad and processed in his darkroom. Many of them I developed as I often helped in the darkroom.

Left center Mom and I in the Dining Car 
Christmas morning 1964.
Immediate right 4y old me at a train wreck!
Right of that Horseshoe Curve.
Bottom left a B&O Maple Sugar excursion
bound probably for Meyersdale, Pa, c. 1958
Top left two pics same excursion train
with an open gondola.

Bottom left is passing through
Island Park, Id a few miles from
West Yellowstone. 1960, the
last year the UP Park Special
ran to West. The other pic is of
the train standing in front of the dining
hall in West. We all got off the train
and walked in where breakfast was
laid out. The Conductor had come
through the train and taken our orders
The railroad lantern belonged to either
my Grandad or his brother. They were both
Telegraphers on the PRR. 

 Center is a train climbing the Hill
above Horseshoe Curve. Pic to the right is in Cajon Pass
on the Santa Fe.
Bottom left is me filming a passing
UP Dome from another UP Dome.

Top right is the 2100 and 2124 doubleheading
on a Reading Ramble c. 1959.
Left center is a D&RGW Narrow Gauge
train 1954.Bottom left is the California Zephyr
along the Colorado River near it's headwaters.
Next is the D&RGW Royal Gorge....
in Royal Gorge. A 10min photo stop.
Next rightward is the Royal Gorge
somewhere near Tennessee Pass,
which until mothballing was the highest
mainline railroad pass in America.
Bottom right is me dangling my feet
over the rim of the Grand Canyon.
The PRR passenger train is stopped in Driftwood, Pa c.1955.
Top just left of center is a B&O excursion train
pulled by an EM1, their heaviest articulated
freight engine. Pic taken from an open gondola car c 1956.
You can see one person's goggles, a necessity
to keep coal fly ash out of one's eyes.

Dad's railroad clock at left.
Looking at San Fransisco Peaks
(Flagstaff, Az)
A tour train sitting at Grand Canyon.
Train schedule posted on the CG station wall.

Center is the UP 844,
a super-power 4-8-4 Mountain
class engine on a photo-run-by.
National Railway Historical Society 
convention excursion train
on Sherman Hill
(West of Cheyenne, Wy)
To the right, 4y old me holding a miniature
lantern in Royal Gorge.
Left is Riverside Geyser.
Bottom center (small pic)
is us at the graves of
Stot, Scott and Wilson,
lynched in the Pleasant Valley
range war. Probably hung from
the trees in the background.

To the left of the tank car, Green River, Wy
with brace of E9s in front of the station, c. 1964
Immediate right taken on the PRR across the 
Allegheny River from the Woods.
Further right me looking out an open
vestibule door (top half of the door open).
My favorite way to ride a train.

Monday, November 12, 2018

A Few Model Railroading details

A word about control:

Power is supplied to the trains by an MRC
AH101 "transistorized" (electronic)
walkaround "throttle".
There is a honkin' big
transformer in there along with
the electronics necessary to remotely vary the
voltage being supplied to the train. 

On the right is the hand-held
walkaround throttle.
Lower left are the controls for the
track switches
and above are the controls for
the electromagnetic
uncouplers which actuate
at will
the couplers on the train.

 There is an electromagnet under
the track. It actuates the uncoupling
tab found on Lionel couplers.

Lionel knuckle coupler
in the closed position.

In the open position after
having been actuated by
an uncoupler.

To provide ingress and egress a
track section was crafted.
This presents an opportunity for
disaster so...

a Maytag dryer door switch
was installed and wired
into the supply power.
Lifting out the track section allows
the door switch to open,
thus interrupting power to
the railroad.

A word about operation:

This is the "fiddle yard"
where the old "0-5-0"
handles interchange of cars with the outside world.

Once assembled in the fiddle yard the train proceeds through a tunnel onto the layout in the next room. The distance from interchange to the industrial area is simulated by making two trips around the room. Then the train enters the yard/industrial area where it is broken down and it's cars delivered to the appropriate spot on the appropriate siding to serve the appropriate industry.  Loads and empties which need to be returned to interchange are pulled from the sidings and assembled into a train. The train then runs in the opposite direction to Interchange (the fiddle yard) and the cycle starts anew in the next operating session.

Here the engine is delivering empties to the refinery.
On the track to the right are the loaded tank cars
just pulled from the refinery as well as a boxcar load
of paint pulled from the paint factory siding.

Overhead in this pic is the small lantern
4y old me was holding at the bottom
of Royal Gorge in another pic.

The grain elevator and tipple being pulled.
Locomotives are prohibited from passing
under the elevator roof because of
smoke contamination so an idler car
(the one with graffiti) is being used.

Partly hidden behind the grain elevator
is a pic of a man standing lighting
a cigarette. That man is a cowboy named
Buster Holt and he is standing on the rim
of the Grand Canyon at the spot where his
horse bucked off the edge and thousands
of feet into the canyon.
Buster had "stepped off" a couple
bucks previous as he saw where the horse
was headed. He was grumpy because the horse
took his brand new saddle with it into
the canyon (cowboys owned their own saddles).

The train in the pic Botton right is the
Golden State on the Rock Island somewhere in Western
Kansas c. 1954. It was a Chicago-LA train that
ran over the Rock Island and the Espee.

Monday, May 15, 2017


Buffy flying
down a Jeep trail in Death Valley.

Saturday, February 04, 2017


Visiting Relatives also means visiting relative's pets!  Johnny and Buffy got along great.

 Dogs and cats have always had an
affinity for Fred.

We drove out to the Salt River and took a walk.
The rock at Blue Point on the Salt River
East of Mesa.
That is a 50ft deep whirlpool.

 Jan contemplating her misspent youth,
except that we both remember our time
living in  a tent just across the river
there with joy.

 We lived under the Mesquite tree
in the center of the pic.

 Look at the green grass on
the desert floor.
Rain did that.

 Jesse James Johns with his son Indiana.
Forgive Jesse’s appearance as his fever was 102.

 Ann and Granddaughters.

On our way west from Phoenix we met
cousin Ann and her husband Ron.

Deming to Phoenix

 Click twice to embiggen and see there are 2 dogs
on Lew’s lap.

A couple of [Yankee]
Desert Rats.

LOW (Loners On Wheels) Park
in Deming, NM.
This is a Park lovingly kept.
Owned by the club .
The gravel may seem  bit stark
to easterners but it is wonderful
as there are
NO Goatherds to pierce
canine paws.

 Rockhound SP
Not your usual Desert day

 Butterfield Stage station
at Apache Pass.

 Looking North from
the ridge above Fort Bowie.
The Fort behind the photographer.

 This is what Sonoran Desert
looks like when not
overgrazed to death.

Ruins of the Jeffords
Indian Agency.

 The ruins of Fort Bowie, Az

A geologic fault.
The light rock to the left is Limestone.
The pink rock to the right is Granite.

 Thunder and lightning over those mountains.
Rain also, too.

Organ Pipe Cactus National Monument

Picacho Peak SP, Az
I10 and
the Southern Pacific RR Mainline
out there.