Category Archives: General

Interstate Junction…

Interstate Junction or as it’s also known as “the Junction” exists because of Duluth’s unique geology. Duluth and her sister city, across St. Louis bay, Superior, Wisconsin are at lake level. And while the land south and east of Superior is relatively flat, Duluth is surrounded on the south and west side by a ridge that rises approximately 600 feet. Below is a map of Duluth and the surrounding area.

The yellow line that I drew in is approximately the top line of the ridge. From there it’s a pretty consistent slope to the lake. This situation worked well for the DM&IR as they didn’t have to figure out how to push a loaded ore train up onto a 80ft high ore dock. Rather they could ease the train downhill and then pull an empty train back up. The DM&IR”s tracks did come through a cut in the ridge at about the same place as Interstate 35. This probably saved them 50ft of drop. Even then they still had a 2.2% grade to the docks.

The Northern Pacific also had a line that climbed Proctor hill from the lake side, but I couldn’t find any information on the percent on the grade or how often they used it. Even the DM&IR’s lake side line came in from Two Harbors, 27 miles to the north.

Which brings us to the Junction. Except for NP’s line up the hill and the DM&IR’s line from the north, all other lines came into Duluth from the east/south through Superior, Wisconsin. These included the CMO (Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis and Omaha), C&NW (Chicago and Northwestern), The Soo Line, Great Northern, Milwaukee Road and the Northern Pacific. As seen in the photo below, The Northern Pacific, being the first one there was about the only line with a major yard in Duluth. All others are in and around Superior.

So the Continental Northern’s line heading north out New Brighton had to swing east into Wisconsin in order to then swing west back into Duluth. The “Junction” is where double track mainline branches. One branch that heads north and then west, while the other heads east, then north to Superior and Duluth. I have the double track mainline as well as a double ended siding for each mainline track. It then becomes an interchange within the railroad. This section of the layout becomes an industry where cars are dropped off and picked up.

I did it this way because mid Minnesota industry is mainly farming. How many grain elevators and feed mills do you want. It also means that I can run loads that are not necessarily farm related on this section of the road. After all, a little variety is a good thing.

I also realized that in trying to explain all this to you, that I need to come up with a map outlining where the railroad fits into the world. And when I do I will share that with you. Another thing that I would like to share with you is the variety of industries in and around Duluth/Superior. Most people believe that it was all iron ore. But that is for another day.

Till next time, Happy Railroading…

Hello From Your Absentee Writer…

Hello, it’s you absentee web host welcoming himself back to his website. I have to apologize for the long absence and I will not insult you by offering excuses, I’ll just say I’m sorry.

Ok, not to insult you , but maybe an excuse or two.

When I last left you, which would have been the end of March, I had finally reached the upper deck. Having done so, I then had to work through a couple of electrical problems. After that post not much happened downstairs as I went into full work mode, gotta pay the bills. Big trade show mid April, so there was a week or so of prep and then ten glorious days in New York. We got home on the 17th of April, two days after a rare April blizzard. Less than two weeks later and the house was closed up again with the A/C running.

Somewhere I read that spring and model railroading doesn’t mix. Well, we blew right past spring and into any early summer with all the outdoor work that it entails.

And then towards the end of May my son and his family had to move a second time in less than 8 months for work. This time from Phoenix to Kansas City. My wife and I drove down to help them unpack and settle in. Back to my son in a minute.

This isn’t to say that nothing has gotten done on the layout. Quite the contrary. I have been working on several projects around the layout and will be updating you on all of it in the very near future. The problem goes back to the picture file upload limits. If I couldn’t get pictures in to show you what’s happening, then it just wasn’t any fun to write. I sat down here many times and just couldn’t do it.

Which brings me back to my son. Yep, he’s my IT guy and once they were settled he was able to fix the problem. Now I have to get all the photos loaded so that I can get you caught up on what has happened on the layout.

Till then, thanks for your patience…


Please Stand By…

Please stand by, if you’re old enough. you will recognize those three words as a problem with your viewing pleasure. If you’re not old enough, a quick explanation.

Back in the olden days when we only had three TV networks, the local station would occasionally have a problem with the feed from the network. Your screen would go blank and then those three words would pop up until the problem was fixed. Seconds, minutes or even hours (rare).

And that’s kind of where I’m at.

As you know from my last post there was a problem with the website, or the company hosting it. Though the basic problem was fixed in that the site is back up, I still have lingering problems. Mainly the size of the pictures files I can upload to it so that I can place them in posts. If you’ve been following along long enough you may remember I had run into this problem before, kind of. That time it was a new camera with a much larger sensor, thus larger picture files. Solution then was to continue to use the old camera.

This time when the site came back up it severely cut back on what could be uploaded to the hosting server. I do have a call into my IT dept. and my son is working on the problem. Just haven’t heard back yet as to the verdict.

So for now just words.

The good (great) news is that the railroad has reached the upper deck. I obviously would have liked to have pictures showing the historic moment. But I really couldn’t wait to share this moment until we got the picture thing worked out. As soon as I can, I will have the photos on here.

Of coarse as soon as the first train hit the upper deck the whole “mouse/cookie” thing reared it’s ugly head again. I am now in the process of running buss wires for the upper deck and all the other support structure that I had put in place on the lower deck so long ago and had not thought about for the upper deck.

I hope to have photos of what’s been going on soon. The world has become far to visual not to have them.

Until then, please bear with me. And “Please Stand By”…


Welcome back…

Welcome back, it’s been awhile. I’ll better you’re wondering if I’m speaking to you the reader or myself. I guess a little of both.

The last time I posted was almost a month and a half ago. I thought I would be back here sooner. January was a little crazy at first and then a couple of trips for work. Got home from those and then my wife and I slipped out of town for our anniversary for a couple of days. When I finally had a chance to get back to the site I logged onto a lot of things I didn’t understand, but I did understand two of them. A big red “WARNING” and “FATAL ERROR”. That and no website.

A quick text out to my IT dept. (my son, who set me up on this site and teaches coding and website design) did not yield a quick response. It took him awhile to get back to me and the response was: I’m not sure what happened, but it’s not something you did.

Thanks son, that I knew.

He finally got back to me with a lengthy explanation on what he did to get it back up and running. I was kind and let him talk although I didn’t understand as he sounded rather proud of fixing it. There was talk of “FTP”ing and hiding things and “skipping” something. All in all, what I might of heard was “I hacked my way in and fixed it”. Not sure though.

Any way if you had stopped by during the week and half that the site was down and still came back to see if it was still here – Thank You. I appreciate your staying with me and your patience.

I will have a new post in the next couple of days.

Again, Thank you for staying with me…

Railfanning My Daughters Wedding…

As I had mentioned a couple of weeks ago my daughter was married. The wedding took place in Red Wing, MN., a  river town (Mississippi) south of the cities. It was at the St. James Hotel, and as anyone who has been there knows it is on the river. But between the hotel and the river is the former Soo, now CP mainline between Minneapolis/St. Paul and Chicago.

Our “room” wasn’t actually in the hotel, but in an old foundry building behind the hotel that is now part of the property. The reason I have room in parenthesis is because it was the top floor of the former foundry and larger than any of the apartments my wife and I had when first married. It was also only 150′ of the mainline. Yup, paced it off out of curiosity. Downside is that the depot was right there and next to the depot a grade crossing. You get the full effect of the diesels horns at that range.

The other downside is that I found that not a lot of trains went through during the day, rather most came through town from early evening, over night and into late morning. Found that one out when one came through town at about 4:00 AM and sounded like it was in the bedroom with us.

Not much variety either. AMTRAK came through each morning at about 8:45 on their eastbound run to Chicago. And stopped again in the evening westbound around 9:00 pm. Most of the freights were unit grain trains (not unusual as it is harvest time), a few mixed freights and an occasional unit oil train. Most of the action during the day was the switchers taking care of on the three large grain complexes in town.

One of the interesting things to watch for was how CP had set up the power in the trains. Quite a few had all of the diesels on the head end. But there were a lot with distributed power. Whether it was most on the head end and one on the tail or two up front with a couple of mid train helpers.

I didn’t shoot pictures of everything that came through (my wife started laughing at the situation, as I would hear a train approaching and grab my camera) but I did get a mix. Below are some of the shots.

Mixed road names on a southbound freight.
Shot with all for units.
Amtrak stopping in town.
Amtrak cars at the Red Wing depot.
The ADM elevator switcher.
GE 45 ton switcher
CP pickup line side.

The last couple of pictures are of the huge ADM elevator complex just south of the hotel. It straddles the mainline and would be one of those great builds to hide a hole that goes into the backdrop.

The ADM elevator complex straddles the main line.
Close up of the elevator complex over the mainline.

As you can see the larger structure on the right, which is the silo complex and the smaller unloading shed on the left are connected by the grain transfer pipes. As I said this setup would be great at hiding a hole. The silos, if placed towards the front of the layout, would limit what you could see of the hole through the backdrop. If I was modeling a more modern era I would probably take out the electrical plant that I have hiding the hole to the staging yard and replace it with a complex like this one.

So that’s it. The wedding was perfect, and the fact that I got in a little railfanning was an added bonus. Next time will be back to the layout.

Till then, take care, be well and happy modeling…

Number 100…

Yup, finally hit post number 100. Thought I would have hit this a lot sooner, but better late then never.

When reading up on how to do a website/blog, the recommendation was two posts a week to hold readers interest. That means I should have been here within the first year. But I have never been one to throw things out there just to hit a number. And than there’s that whole thing about having something worth writing about. Life happens and you can’t get things done if you don’t have time.

I do have a bunch of stuff to report on. Various things on the layout as well as things on the work bench. And I will, as we are now on the other side of my daughters wedding. You may remember the candy cart, still have it if you’re interested. The wedding itself will be it’s own story here as it was trackside in Red Wing, MN.

As far as the workbench projects versus work on the layout goes, it tends to lean towards the workbench projects.  I’m having a hard time getting into the mindset of working on the railroad. I still have a trade show coming soon, which means 8 days in New York. After that I’m thinking that the next project needs to be the helix when I get back. Getting the helix done means that I can get the rest of the track and wiring done. I have played a little with scenery but as I had mentioned a long time ago, I would prefer to get one thing done before moving on to another.

And with the helix in place and most of the upper deck track work done, at least to the upper return loop, I can start orbiting trains between the two loops. With that in place I will then want to get the scenery done. Because you don’t want trains just running on the “Plywood Pacific”.

One other thing I’m working on has to do with this site. There is far more content that can be added to dress things up, I’ve just been afraid to mess with things with the fear that I’ll somehow crash it. Got to get over it and just do it.

So that’s it. Happy One Hundred. Next time there will be something more then me just rambling.

Till then, have fun and Happy Railroading…

Disappointment and a Change of Plans – A Rant…

I recently received some disappointing news which has led to a major shift in plans. No, I’m not changing the layout.

After waiting about a year I finally got the official word from Atlas ( about the fate of their signal system. I don’t know if you are aware or not but a little over a year ago they had sudden problems with their Chinese suppliers. They aren’t the only ones, as I have heard from various industries of manufacturing plants suddenly closing up in China. The companies then scramble to retrieve plans, patterns, molds, whatever from the plants. The problem is they are usually just gone.

You may or may not recall that my plan was to use their signal system on my layout. It was a simple system to hook up. Not as in depth as others, but would give me basic block occupancy and a little animation. One could “see” around the corners as to the status of the track.

As well as having their circuit boards for detection and signal control which were made in China, Custom Signals ( were supplying them with the type G signal masts. Custom Signals is closing up shop. Not sure where Atlas is getting their signal masts from now.

The word from Atlas is that they will be selling the signal masts (type G) as well as a block detector.  Great, except I can get type G masts from other suppliers cheaper and the detection units only work with standard DC. No offense to those staying the course with standard DC, God bless your heart, but really! Plus they are not offering the signal controller, which is the heart of the system.

So, after looking around at what is available, I’m going to have to buck up and go with the Digitrax ( system. The basic layout wiring that I have in place will easily work with their (Digitrax) system,  it’s just more complicated. It has far more features than I need, although in the future when things are nearing completion, as in scenery and such, I can look at using more of the features. You know, the layout is never done. As to cost, it’s more or less a wash.

That’s it, that’s the major change. Not really a big one as signaling is still in the future and I have time to plan for it. But it’s kind of annoying, as I have a bunch (not enough to finish the layout) of the Atlas masts/detectors/controllers on hand and now they are worthless. who knows, maybe Ebay.

Thanks for listening, till later…

Early August and What I’ve been up to…

Wow, it’s already August and you’re probably wondering what I’ve been up to.

Looking back, I noticed that I failed to mention that my youngest child, my daughter, is getting married this fall. I have found that as parents of the bride, we are far more involved in wedding planning. I should probably clarify that and say I am more involved. With my sons it was far more easy, what am I wearing and when do I show up. With my daughter it seems to be everything, plus the extras.

Case in point.

My wife was hosting a bridal shower for my daughter, thought that I wouldn’t have any involvement with this. Then one night my wife called me over to her computer and wanted me to see this really cute candy cart she found online. For those who don’t know what a candy cart is, which up to this point included me, it’s a copy of cart that a vender would push around hawking his candy wares with.

Looking at it I said it was cute. She just sat there waiting for it to click. After a minute or so of me looking at the picture and her looking at me, it finally hit home. She wanted one for her party. And she wanted me to make it.

Quick side note. My wife’s friends tell her she is spoiled. And they refer to me as her drive up window. She wants something, she pulls up and orders it. And then I deliver.

So with nothing more than a picture and two weeks time I built her a candy cart. I give you the finished product.

The Candy Cart.

Don’t get me wrong, I love the challenge. Plus you keep mama happy and she doesn’t mind you playing downstairs. The actual wedding is still a month and a half away. I image time downstairs will be hard to come by. More so as we get closer. But I have gotten somethings done and will have an update on those things soon.

Till then, anyone want to buy a slightly used candy cart?