Category Archives: General

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?

It’s Been Awhile…

Hello, it’s been awhile and for that I once again have to apologize. I haven’t looked, but I don’t think I’ve gone this long without checking in.

So, what’s been happening you ask. Why this total lack of letting you know what’s been going on. Knowing what was going to be happening the last time I posted, I thought that I would actually have more time to get things done.

First there was work. Two business trips spaced out every other week followed by a quick 5 day vacation that we squeezed in because we realized that we wouldn’t be able to later. And then I had my left knee replaced.

It’s been something that I knew would have to happen one day, you can only get cortisone shots for so long and then it’s time. I seriously started looking into the surgery late last January. That’s when I walked into my LHS (I hadn’t been in there since before Thanksgiving) and noticed a sign on the door with shortened hours due to surgery.

I asked the owner what was up and if he was OK. His response was, yes he’s OK and doing great. Turns out he had his knee done in late November. Two months later, he’s back at work and lovin’ life. Best decision he’s made.

Got me to thinking.

So on my next visit to my doctor I told him I was ready. We set a date in mid May. This got moved to early June as the second work trip popped up. And I started planning on what I could do while recovering.

Turns out I was wrong as to what I could do while recovering. I knew that they wanted you up and moving as soon as possible. It turns out this was about 6 to 8 hours after the surgery. Yup, same day. I thought that I would be able to sit at the workbench and get things done. Turns out that any sitting was in a recliner and I could only stand for so long. You get up and walk, do the exercises and then in the recliner and ice the knee. Rinse and repeat.

Where am I at now? Doing great and lovin’ life. Getting around pretty good. At the two week check up the doctor was very happy with where I’m at. The physical therapy people said I’m ahead of the curve in many areas.

And I’m back downstairs. Working the top is no problem and i have made progress on a few things. Reports to follow soon. Anything that requires working on the floor (ie. working under the layout) is out of the question right now.

Like I said, I’ve got some stuff done and will have a post on that real quick. Thanks for stopping by even though nothing was happening.

Till later…

On The Workbench #5…

For this edition of “On The Workbench” I’m not so much covering what’s happening on the workbench as much as what is happening with the workbench.

For Christmas one of my kids got me a bench top paint rack. Anyone who had seen my workbench would know that I needed one as the paint jars were kind of all over the place. I just didn’t realize that they had been down there and had paid attention to the mess.

Anyways the paint rack needed assembly and had ended up in the to-do pile. Bored, I was looking for something to do and figured I would put it together and see how useful it would be. I don’t know where they got it from, who was the manufacturer or even what country it was from. My guess would be Eastern Europe somewhere and the translation to English was horrendous. Luckily there were pictures and the overall kit was pretty simple and straight forward. Some carpenters glue, masking tape and a couple of clamps and it went together rather well. I don’t have any pictures of it going together.

As every modeler will tell you, no matter how big your workbench is you only ever seem to have 1 to 1 1/2 square feet to work on. In my case my workbench is 2′ x 8′, but I still only have 1sf to work on and the paint rack ended drying on the layout benchwork. Which meant if I wanted to get the paint rack on the bench I was going to have to do some cleaning.

The picture below is a bit misleading as I had done a bunch of cleaning before I took the picture.

Workbench before the purge. This was what I considered extremely cleaned up at the time.
View from the other angle.

So I attacked the workbench. I threw out anything that wasn’t needed or was old. A lot of paint went this way.

By the time I got done there wasn’t a whole lot left on top of the bench. Kind of the point I guess.

The work bench now.
From the other way.

And the paint rack that started it all.

The new paint rack, the reason for the clean up.

It’s a nice little paint rack and getting everything else cleaned up because of it was really nice. Now we’ll see if I can keep it that way.

Next time, more little projects that got done.

Till then, Happy Railroading…


An Apology or Two…

I would like to offer an apology or two. First is the length of time since the last time I sat down and updated this site. I would like to say that because of the number of natural disasters that have occurred here in the last month I haven’t been able to write anything. Or because of the zombie apocalypse and all that it entails, I haven’t been able to write. The truth is that yes, the work travel schedule has been something, home 1 week, gone the next and rinse and repeat. I have managed to get quite a bit done downstairs. It’s just that  I get to the end of the day and figure I’ll write the next night. And then I don’t.

Like I said though, I’ve gotten quite a bit done and will start updating real quick.

The second thing I would like to apologize for is the appearance of the site, specifically the sideways photos that have been in several posts.

I didn’t even realize it was happening until a recent trip. I had meant to log in to the backend of the site but ended up signing onto the actual site. Since I was there I figured I would read through the site as you see it. That’s when I came across several photos that were sideways.

This is because I have always viewed the site through the backend or admin side of the site.

I had taken the photos vertically, but as you know the camera records them horizontally. When I download them from the camera, the computer automatically flips them back to vertical. I then move the pictures from my computer to the server hosting the site. Every once and awhile they will show up there back in a horizontal state. I will flip them back to vertical and save them that way. They are then inserted into a post and before I publish I will preview the post (the way you see it) to make sure everything reads and looks well.

Everything was right, including pictures, when I did this. In fact when I saw the problem I logged into the admin side to correct them but there they were in the correct orientation from the admin point of view. I have chatted with WordPress and the web hosting service but they’re not sure why this has happened.

I have replaced the photos that I could with ones I retook horizontally, as pictures still seem to orientate themselves to horizontal no matter what. The few that I can’t retake, I have left until I figure this out and get them right.

I realize there are larger problems in the world then this, but this really bugs the OCD side of me.

Like I said I will have updates real soon on what’s been happening and sorry about how long it’s been since I said hello.

Till later (but not to long), Happy Railroading…



A few of my favorite things…

As I’ve had a chance to consistently work on the layout for the last month and half, I’ve come to appreciate of few of my latest acquisitions. Or as I said, a few of my favorite things.

First up is the Dremel Multi Max oscillating tool. I originally bought it because of it’s triangular sanding head. Great for getting into nooks and crannys on woodworking projects. But recently I have started to use the saw blade more and more.

Dremel Multi Max oscillating tool.

The fact that you don’t have to drill a starter hole for a jig saw and then worry about the depth of cut is such a relief. As long as the hole is at least an inch wide, you are good to go. A recent example would be the holes for the UP5’s.

Hole cut for the UP5 panel.

It was nice to know that I could cut the hole and not worry about the wiring just behind the fascia. As a side note, Jim Kelly had a write up about oscillating tools in the latest (March 2017) issue of Model Railroader Magazine.

My next greastest find is the “Raskog” three tier cart from Ikea ( Great cart, easy to put together and the quality is far better then I expected, even for Ikea. I have two (bought 1 and then ran out and got another). I currently use one for construction equipment and the other for wiring equipment and supplies. Eventually one will become the scenery cart.

The Ikea Raskog Carts.

I wish I could say that I “discovered” this, but I first heard about it on one of the forums.

Last is rather strange, it is an EYE VAC  floor sweep vacuum cleaner.

The Eye Vac floor sweep vacuum.

I had first run across this at my hair stylist. Seeing it in action, I knew I had to have this for downstairs. Sweep up that which needs to be swept up, get it I’m front of the EYE VAC, the sensor kicks in, the machine turns on for about thirty seconds, boom, the mess is gone. I find myself cleaning up more often simply because it is easy to quickly sweep everything over and make it go away.

So there you have it, three things that are making my life a little easier and more enjoyable. Not saying that you need to get any of these as I don’t know what your hobby budget is, but they should be considered as they make life a little easier.

Till next time, Happy Railroading…




End of January Update…

It is the and of January and I have some actual progress to report on the railroad. First of all, for those wondering about the roundhouse, progress on it is as far as it can go until it is set in place. And when that will happen is a whole post on it’s own.

So what have I gotten done. Well, as I mentioned at the beginning of the month, I had cut a whole bunch of wood so that things could get done. First the “power box” that I touched on in that post.

I have been reading in multiple blogs and forums that one should be able to kill the power to the whole railroad should something happen. Add to that all the extension cords and power strips I had everything hooked up to, I figured I should do something. My answer was a box that would control power to the deck lights, aisle lights, blue rope lights for night lighting and all the power to the DCC system and related equipment.

It is simply a box tucked into the one of the electronic cabinets that has power to it, with switches on the front for the different functions and outlets on the back for the related items. Here is a photo of the finished box in place.

Main power panel – light control as well as all power to the layout.

It wasn’t hard to do, just a little time consuming, but I already feel it has been worth it as I used to have to plug in two cords to get the deck lights on in order to work on things on the lower deck. Now, I just flip a switch.

Next was the missing backdrop sections. Those installed were: The short section near the power station between the staging yard and the power station, behind the roundhouse and behind the berm scene.

Scenic block between layout and staging yard.
View from the staging yard.
Backdrop behind the roundhouse scene.
Backdrop in place behind New Brighton berm scene.

I have one section left on the lower level which is on the backside of the berm scene. I have the piece cut but have not installed it yet. The gaping hole between the piece behind the roundhouse and the berm scene is where the helix will be. Its backdrop won’t be installed until it’s installed.

The next thing I have been working on has been the fascia around the lower level. I had started with the piece under the staging yard and have been working my way around. I have it in place all the way up to the town of Jackson. However, I stopped just outside of town as I’m trying to figure out some of the scenery contours and need to figure out how wide to cut the next piece to accommodate a hill that acts as a scenic block.

Fascia in place in the back aisle. Holes cut for UP5 panels.
Fascia installation working it’s way around layout.

I also have mounting the UP5 panels for the DCC system to the fascia. I made a mounting template out of styrene to mark screw hole location and the hole for the circuit board. Fun to make and it makes it easier to mark the holes and keeps things consistent.

UP5 template I made to speed up the hole process.
Hole cut for the UP5 panel.
UP5 panel mounted.

Lastly, the first set of doors are done and installed. These are on the side that faces the stairway up to the family room. Since there is no door that would block the view of the unfinished layout, it has been my wife’s biggest bug-a-boo and why she wanted them in.

First set of cabinet doors finished and installed.
View of the layout from the family room. This is why my wife wanted the doors on.

As I said this is the first set, only 25 more doors to make. But the heat is off to get them done.

So looking back at January what have I learned. Probably the same thing you had noticed, that after several months of not being able to work on anything major downstairs, I was all over the board trying to get everything done. Time to sit back and take stock of where I’m at and organize where I’m heading.

Till next, Happy Railroading…


Twin City Model Railroad Museum Pt.3…

A year ago I wrote that the Twin City Model Railroad Museum had found new space and was raising money in preparation for a move. Over the New Years weekend my wife and I stopped by their new space to see how they were doing.

I’m happy to report that they have successfully completed their move. In fact, they not only have managed to move their old layout and have it up and running, they also have added about a half dozen other smaller layouts for display and for children to interact with.

In addition, they have several display cases showing different scales or a variety of type of trains. Also, they have display boards explaining scale, types of trains and what the plan is for the space.

As far as the space goes, right now it’s one big space with a hodge-podge  of layouts and displays. They did have a floor plan of what the finished plan is, I didn’t get a picture of this, and some conceptual art of the space –

Concept art of what the future holds for the museum.

There will be a real railroad feel to the space, with false walls dividing the different areas. Another thing I didn’t take a picture of was an elevated space for the operators of the main O Gauge layout. When finished, it will look like a switch tower.

Here are 3 pictures of what greets you now when you walk in:

Part 1 of three shot pan of the new space.
Part 2
And, part 3

Some of the display layouts:

Marklin layout on display. Has buttons (to the far right in the photo) so that kids can make the trains go.
One of several small display layouts on hand.

Some of the display layouts were supplied by other local clubs.

They also have a large children’s area with interactive layouts. Some being hands on and some have push and hold buttons to make the trains go and other things to move. And of course as you will see in one picture, if you have small children, you’re going to have to rerail things.

View of the kids area.
Another of the interactive layouts aimed at kids,

And the afore mentioned display cases / boards –

Another of the multiple display cases on hand.
A Hornby display case.

They still have along ways to go to get where they want to be. The main layout alone, though up and running, has no backdrop and big holes and gaps in the scenery where it was taken apart and put back together. Add to that all the walls and railroady structures they want to add ambiance, and you know they have some work ahead of them.

Having said all that, it’s still worth a stop by if you are in the area. Their new address is:

Twin City Model Railroad Museum, 668 Transfer Road #8, St. Paul MN.

New entrance to the Twin City Model Railroad Museum @ 668 Transfer Road #8, St. Paul, MN.

Stay tuned, I will have an update of what I’ve gotten done in the last month very soon. Till then, Happy Railroading…




Happy New Year…

Happy New Year to you all. And Merry Christmas and Happy Thanksgiving as well, as I seem to have missed them all.

Looking back at my last series of posts (On the workbench) I was pretty confident that I would soon have time to do some major work on the layout. In fact in the first of the series I had said that I had a cut list and timing for getting the major projects going.

Unfortunately that all fell apart. First was work (and no, I won’t apologize for this as I have to keep a roof over the layout), the last quarter was hell with two trips suddenly tucked in between Thanksgiving and Christmas. My wife and I also host Thanksgiving, Christmas and this year New Years for family and friends, 20+ per holiday. And then the thing that totally shot any hope of getting anything done was a simple little thing off from my wife’s “Honey do list”.

She had originally asked if we could repaint the office as the color was left over from when my daughter had the room as her bedroom before moving out. I agreed as the color kind of sucked. The easiest way to tackle this was to move most of the stuff out of the office as we had desks, bookcases and other things tucked against the walls.

As I was laying out the plan to move things out so that I could gain access to the walls to paint them, my wife’s eye kind of glazed over as her mind went to work. Yes, I knew I was in trouble.

She felt that since we were moving most of the furniture out then why not move everything out. That way we could replace the carpet with a nice laminate wood flooring. And since we did that then she had some pictures of built in desks and shelving. If you give a mouse a cookie.

So her desk went down to the sunroom off from the dining room and mine went to the only other area that had any space… the basement. After I tucked a desk into the only open area large enough, which was at the end of the peninsula, getting anything downstairs was impossible.

Oh, and I had to have it complete enough to get things moved back in by Thanksgiving.

Tough schedule, but I felt I was up to the challenge. Everything was moving along well. Repaint ceiling and walls, check. Install floor, slight delay as Home Depot didn’t have enough in stock, but got it in, check. Start construction of built in desks and shelves, well this is where God decided to show he has a sense of humor.

My two least  favorite home projects are plumbing and taping and sanding sheetrock. As I was making pretty good progress on the desk part, a leak developed in the upstairs bathroom which came through the ceiling in the downstairs bathroom. I had to tear out a large part of the ceiling downstairs to gain access to the upstairs. It took me a couple of days to isolate the leak and repair it, which still left me with a large hole downstairs.

My wife decided that the office was more important and that’s was where I concentrated my efforts. I got most everything done in the office (except the cabinet doors) and moved everything back in the night before Thanksgiving. Then, between Thanksgiving and Christmas (and the business trips) I finished the doors and replaced the ceiling downstairs.

So, that’s why absolutely no progress to report, kind of. When buying wood for the office project I also picked up enough to get some stuff done downstairs. Before cleaning up out in the garage I cut a bunch of it up to sizes needed to get projects rolling downstairs.

They are as follows:

1/8 hardboard for the rest of the backdrops on the lower level and for the fascia on the lower level.

Wood for the power switch box ( will explain later)

Plywood for the upper valance supports.

And wood cut to size for the rails and stiles for the cabinet doors.

So I should have some progress to report soon, Till then, here is a picture of the finished office.

The new office.

Till later, and it shouldn’t be long, Happy New Years to all and Happy Railroading…

I warned you…

I warned you in the beginning of April that I might not get much done and well, I was right. Although not something I was hoping to be right about. I have been out of town a lot for work and when I’m home it’s been all about catch up.

First a confession. About mid March you may have noticed that there was something of a work slow down. Before that I was marching right along with laying track, getting it wired up and running a train back and forth across what was down. Then there was a switch to working on buildings. Confession time. My wife and I were out and about on a lazy Sunday with nothing much to do. Being kind of bored we decided to hit the “Parade of Homes” here in the Twin Cities. For those unfamiliar with a Parade, it happens spring and fall when all the builders showcase their latest and greatest.

Now we weren’t looking for a new home, but rather what’s new and hoping to pick up an idea or two for what improvements we could make at home.

Long about the third model we walked into we were both floored. (no that’s wasn’t meant as a pun). The house was perfect. We had talked over the last couple of years what our “Golden Years” were going to look like. One of the things we have talked about was what happens if navigating stairs became an issue (we both have Parents/ grandparents/family members where this was/is an issue) and thought that having a house where all the main living is on one level would keep us in the house longer.

Anyways, you would have thought that they knew that my wife was  coming. Not only was the house everything we had talked about in regards to main floor living (yes it has a basement) and then some, it was also painted and staged (you know, all the “stuff” they decorate with that makes it look lived in) with all the things my wife would do. She had mentally moved in before we left the model. After about three weeks of picking out all the things one picks out for a new home we decided that at this time to just stay put where we are right now. We love our present home, but this still could happen but not in the near future.

That’s why the “work slowdown”. I didn’t want to be working on something that I was going to tear down. And once we decided to stay put, the travel for work started.

Anyways it has made me think about what I’m doing downstairs. Going forward I have to plan on being able to disassemble the layout (because believe me, she hasn’t let this one go. Again, know your audience).  This won’t stop me from moving forward, I just have to have an eye on moving it.

About the new space. It’s approximately the same square footage, but without all the things I had to work around in the present space – ei. support posts, utility room, store room and stairs. Dimensionally it’s the same, but I actually pick up space.

Back to reality. Tonight I finally had about an hour to play with and started working on the track work in Brandon. I spent most of that hour rounding up all my tools and supplies for track work as they had been scattered because of various other projects. I hope to have a post on actual progress very soon.

Till then, Happy Railroading and thanks for sticking around…