Category Archives: General

May and June Update…

Wow, a lot has happened since I last wrote. Though I should have had time to update things, I haven’t really been able to sit down and write.

After our business trip to New York, we were home for a couple of weeks. Then we headed south to see the kids (son, daughter-in-law and grandson) in Kansas City. They had just moved into their new home and we went down to visit and help get them settled. We had been down there before, but hadn’t done much exploring of the city. My son and daughter-in-law were very excited about an area near downtown. It has a ton of small shops that they wanted my wife to explore.

Turns out I was happy to go along as the area they were talking about was the “West Bottoms”. Oh yeah, Chuck Hitchcock territory. If you are not familiar with Mr. Hitchcock, he has been modeling the yards around the KC area for decades. His Argentine Division of the Santa Fe has been featured in all major publications.

Kansas City is truly a railfans paradise. The freeway into downtown alone was tucked between the old airport and one of those yards. Unfortunately I was sitting on the wrong side of the car to get a shot of the railyard. I Figured I would get a shot on the way home, but my son took a different route.

Once in “the bottoms” my son found a parking spot and we started walking around. Turns out there is a great little hobby store there. Docs Caboose ( is tucked amongst the old warehouses. It’s located at 1400 Union Ave.

Docs Caboose, Kansas City, MO.

I had a great time looking around, found some things that just had to come home with me. If in the KC area I would definitely take the time to stop by. A side note, as you can see in the photo there are tracks right outside the door. Be mindful as they are active.

The West Bottoms in Kansas City.
View down the tracks.

After we returned home it was time to have my 2nd knee replaced. Being as I had been through this before I was able to plan on a couple of small projects. The big one (not in project scale but impact) was replacing the HobbyZone ( paint center for a set of their Modular Workshop System paint racks and drawers. If I had known about these when I had rebuilt my workbench, I would have designed it differently.

Anyways, the before..

The work bench now.

With the new system…

New Hobby Zone paint racks and drawers.
Wider view of Hobby Zone paint/storage racks.

Because of the power strip I built into the back of the work surface, I had to build the “shelf” along the back. Like I said, if I had known would have left that out so that I could have more drawer units.

Something I had found before but forgot to share was the following. It is a clearance marker. Found it in Red Wing on a siding on the Canadian Pacific’s line. The reason I had noticed it was that I was trying to figure out how to mark clearance points on the layout. Probably to “modern” for my layout, but it is cool.

They are from the Aldon Company, Inc. ( Their website is a wealth of information for railroad safety equipment. Looking for ideas, it’s a great place to visit.

The north end only had the marker bolted to the tie. The south end also had the tie and side of rails painted yellow. Also, as you can see the maker is made so that a sign or marker could be inserted.

Clearance marker on the north end of the siding.
Aldon Company clearance marker, top view.
South end of siding, with marker, entire tie and side of rail painted.

That’s it for now. The knee is doing better and I will be returning to the layout. I will keep you posted.

Till later, enjoy your summer…




New York, NY…

Recently spent a week in New York for a company trade show. Actually, we are in New York for this reason every April and October.

We were showing out of the Penthouse Suite in what was the former Bell Labs building overlooking the Hudson River in Manhattan. So what does this have to with model railroading, real railroading or any railroading?

Even though it was work, work, work from the time I got into New York until I left, I was actually able to do some “railfanning” from our showroom.

So, directly across the Hudson River from us in New Jersey is the former Erie Lackawanna rail terminal. Today it is still used. Ferries from Manhattan dock here and people transfer to the rail lines branching out to the suburbs.

And a little closer to home was the former Highline that runs through lower Manhattan. In fact it cut through the back corner of the Bell Labs building.

First, as viewed from the penthouse:

The Highline now growing over in grass. One story up from street level.

And then from street level:

Another view of the Bell Labs / former High Line through lower Manhattan.

And a wider angle showing where the building was built around the line:

The former Bell Labs building with the high line running through it.

The buildings on either side of the Bell Labs building are newer and thus do not have the cutouts for the Highline. I was hoping to carve out a couple of minutes and walk the street to see if there was any buildings around that still had remnants of the line. Unfortunately I didn’t get time to do this. Although it does sound like we will be showing there again in the fall. Maybe next time I can track down a little more of the line.

It was a lot of fun to see a little railroad history as I was working in New York.

Next time a little more traveling, til then…



Ah, Springtime in Minnesota…

Ah, springtime in Minnesota. That time of year when the temperature begins to rise and the snow starts to melt. Followed by gentle spring showers, May flowers, etc.

Unfortunately this year it happened pretty much all at once. Most of the winter was snow free. Not much of anything on the ground until the end of January. Then from the end of January thru mid March it snowed weekly. Average snow fall for the Twin Cities is around 54″. This year we ended up around 70″, almost all of it in that month and a half span.

Then when it did start to warm up and melt we got a major rain storm which dropped about 6″ of rain on top of the melting snow. After everything was melted, we then got an additional 10″ of snow in mid April.

So what does this all look like? Well, my wife and I took an over night to our favorite small town. I’ve talked about Red Wing before. Great place to get away from it all, my daughters wedding, etc. Looking out of the hotel, which overlooks the Mississippi river, I was amazed.

First a picture of the grain complex I took in the fall during my rail fanning during my daughters wedding.

Grain receiving building, river side of the tracks. Picture taken in September.

Now that same area with the spring flooding.

Receiving building, river side of the tracks with the river up.

As you can see the river is up quite a bit. The parking area where the  SUV is in the top pick, is completely underwater. The posts and the ramp you see about mid photo is where they tie up barges for loading. The ramp is to gain access to said barges. Again, the walkway in this area is underwater.

How does this affect local railroads? About 25 miles north of Red Wing is Hastings, MN. The Canadian Pacific is watching the river in this area because it could crest (reach it highest flood point) and cover its tracks in the Hastings area. Effectively shutting down all south bound traffic out of St. Paul. Hastings is about 21 miles south St. Paul.

The Union Pacific’s South St. Paul Yard is also having troubles. Normally there are 3 lines coming into the yard. Two of those are currently walled off to prevent the yard from flooding. The only open line into and out of the yard is across the Hoffman bridge. It is an old swing bridge across the Mississippi. In order to keep up, the Union Pacific has said that they have increased train length from 5000’/6000′ to 10,000′. And they are watching the river because it could crest at a point where they would have to wall off this track also to save the yard.

Anyways, back to Red Wing. Another thing I noticed was the staging of sandbags around the riverfront.

Sandbags ready to go.

As you can see in the photo, they have pallets of sandbags ready to go by the depot.

And on the lighter side…

The river is up! Road close and believe or not, the police cruiser was necessary.

The city had a squad car parked by the closed road. Yes, the river has risen over the road. And yes, it was necessary to have an officer here. I saw him wave down several cars and have them turn around. Not sure where they thought they were going.

As I write this (4/24/19), the river has crested and the CP and the UP did not have to divert anymore traffic. If you were worried about the BNSF, their yard is on the north side of the cities well above any flooding. Although the do have some trackage rights over the CP’s tracks through Hastings.

Next time, a bit of traveling. Til then, Happy Railroading…

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…