A Visit to the Grande Pacific

This post is a bit tardy relative to the event, however I had started preparing the earlier post Photographic Proof of Progress! last Tuesday and wanted to complete and publish it before starting anything else.  Okay, on to this story:

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to visit Art Houston’s Grande Pacific Railroad.  Wayne Robichaux called Monday evening and informed me that Art was hosting an open house and an informal operating session, and would I be interested?.  Well I had never been to the Grande Pacific, and I decided it was high time that I got myself over to Art’s place, so I accepted.  Wayne picked me up at 7:35 on a rainy Wednesday morning, and then after picking up Jim Lofland, we headed south to Houma, Louisiana, the home of the Grande Pacific.

The two hour drive was uneventful and we arrived just as the layout was cranking up.  Art was busy greeting everyone as they arrived, so I set about checking out his layout.  A bit later after things were running smoothly, Art gave me a schematic diagram of the railroad so that I could get a feel for the route.  As it happened, an empty coal train was departing for it’s run to the mine near the other end of the line, so I decided I’d hitch a ride and see where the train led me.  The Grande Pacific is a multi-level layout with three levels in most places and a fourth level down at the staging yards.  Because of this, the length of run is deceptively long, and I spent a good deal of time with that train.  Once it arrived at the mine, it had to pull the loads, then spot the empties in their place.  Once the new train was made up, the journey back to the origination point began.

It was while that train was on it’s return voyage that a group of fellows from the North Shore area (of Lake Pontchartrain) arrived.  These were all folks that formerly operated on the late Lou Schultz’s C&O layout, and naturally I knew all of them quite well.  By mid afternoon it became practically a mini-reunion with no less than 12 former C&O operators in attendance at Art’s open house.  What a splendid turn of events!

Art himself was quite the gracious host.  Those that wanted to operate did so, and those that wanted to “railfan” and kibitz with each other did that also.  Art was fine with all of it.  He came over to me several times during the day for extended conversation about various things on the layout, and even some discussion about certain model railroad industries.  All was interesting.  And did I mention the refreshments?  I don’t think anyone left Art’s house hungry.

The Grande Pacific is an interesting layout, and is built for heavy operations.  There is something there for just about anybody’s operating interest.  Art has quite a bit of information about his layout on his Facebook page.

Thanks Art for an entertaining day!

-Jack

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