Jack Shall

About Jack Shall

I’ve been a model railroader and railfan for well over 50 years now. My interests lie in the steam era and the early diesel era. My modeling has been in HO, but I do have a closet interest in Fn3 :-)

It’s been a number of years since I’ve done any layout construction, and the new Louisiana Central pike under construction is by far my most ambitious effort. Follow along with me on this new adventure of the Louisiana Central.

A Set-up for My LokProgrammer

I mentioned recently that I had acquired a new LokProgrammer during their summer sale.  The device is only about 4″ square and when connected, has three cables attached to it.  However, I found it a bit awkward to handle all of this while using it.  So I took a short break from layout construction and cobbled together this little programming board for my programmer.  It makes it easy and portable to set up for programming a loco.  Here it is plugged into my train room computer:

LokProgrammer_Board

I attached a piece of track to the board with track nails and small screws.  The screws also serve as wheel stops in case the loco inches too far towards an end.  The LokProgrammer, at right, is also fastened with a screw through the hole in it’s center.  I didn’t want to torque down on the screw for fear of damaging the plastic case, so I glued a couple strips of thin rubber to the case bottom.  Now the programmer won’t have a tendency to rotate around the attaching screw.  The track connections make it easy to connect/disconnect if needed.  And the board sits on some little rubber feet so it doesn’t slide around.  The power supply and USB cable are stored in a small plastic case (not shown) when not in use.

I’m pleased with the result, and it made for an enjoyable change of pace this week.

-Jack

About Those Distractions

In the last post Spencer Sawmill Trackage Complete I mentioned how I kept getting distracted from my trackwork mission in Oneida.  It started when the folks at ESU announced a summer sale for their LokProgrammer.  For the benefit of those not familiar with this device, it is a LokSound decoder programmer that uses a computer interface.  While DecoderPro will program LokSound decoders nicely, this programmer has one interesting benefit that DecoderPro can’t match.  You can download new sound projects from ESU, then load them into your LokSound decoder.  I’m new to LokSound, but I’m quite impressed with their offerings at this time.  Several months ago I purchased my first LokSound decoder and it came loaded with the sounds for an ALCO 244 prime mover.  Then a few weeks ago, ESU upgraded the decoder file for this prime mover to include their new Drive Hold, and several other operating features.  No problem . . . just download the new file, and write it to the decoder.  It is now the latest and greatest.  Lured by this prospect, I decided to take advantage of the sale.  My first task was to upgrade my (still new) decoder.  It went well, and I’m tickled with the result.  Then I found out that I could actually modify the sounds in the LokSound decoder that came in my Rivarossi Heisler (it’s the top-of-line version 4 decoder).  Wow!  I spent several days playing with that and I’m thrilled with what I was able to do.

I also became distracted with my waybill generation program.  Back in the early 90s I cobbled up a DOS based waybill generation program using QuickBasic.  It worked quite well on my small bedroom sized layout of the time.  Then later I decided to write an enhanced Windows version using Visual Basic 6.  I’ve played with that program off and on (mostly off) for years now, and have thoroughly enjoyed working with it.  The program is about 85% complete, but lately I’ve been thinking that it’s high time to get busy and finish the thing up so that it’s ready for use when the layout becomes operational.  Trouble is, I haven’t done much with it for at least 5 or 6 years, and find that I’m spending a good deal of time trying to figure out everything I’ve already done!  To complicate matters, I recently started reading the detailed writings of Tony Thompson on the style of waybills that he and friends were developing and using (I originally saw an article he did in Model Railroad Hobbyist, then later visited his blog where his entire ongoing treatise of the subject is available).  They’ve come up with some interesting “model railroading” waybills that bear a nice resemblance to actual waybills.  They’re greatly simplified to be sure, but they capture the essence of the real thing, and I love them!  Indeed, they have prompted me to completely redesign the appearance of my waybills, and to expand on the concept.  Creating the forms was easy, but then I realized that I needed to add quite a few fields to my database to fill in all the new blanks on these new forms.  And then the code to make it all happen.  I’m not finished with this conversion by a long shot, but I’ve made good progress with it, and think the finished product will be well worth the effort.  The downside to all this was, of course, adding another delay to the program completion.

And that led to yet another distraction.  The new waybills will be printed on 3″ x 5″ slips of paper (I’ve found a source for this paper size and my HP printer can handle it).  Problem is, the larger than “normal” waybill size requires a larger than normal box on the layout fascia to hold them.  I could of course make them myself, but I’ve taken a fancy to the nice boxes that are offered by Bill Brillinger up in Canada.  I contacted Bill and he says he can make up any size that I need.  Excellent.  But after some email exchanges, I realized that I needed to do more homework as to exactly what I’ll be needing (sizes, number of slots, etc.) so that Bill can work up a quote for me.  It was then that I realized that I was doing everything that I wasn’t supposed to be doing (at this time) and I pulled in on the reins.

I got back on the trackwork at Oneida, and I stayed there until the job was completed.  The only trackwork left to do (on the peninsula) is a bit of mainline on the backside of the peninsula that brings the trains from Oneida into Monterey.  I’ll be starting on that soon.

Now, where did I put that programmer?  And I really need to get back to Bill on those boxes…

-Jack

Spencer Sawmill Trackage Complete

Back in May I reported on the completion of the Louisiana Central trackage in Oneida.  In that report I mentioned that I’d probably get started next on the Spencer Lumber Company’s sawmill complex in Oneida.  And I did so within just a few days, figuring I would probably whip that out in just a couple of weeks.  So much for my optimism.  The trouble with the model railroad hobby is that it’s so easy to get distracted by other interesting things that pop up.  I could go on for the next five or six paragraphs rambling about these distractions but I really need to stay on topic, so I’ve put my distractions into a separate post.

Well, the Spencer trackage in Oneida is complete, along with the switch motor installations and all of the wiring.  In fact, ALL of the Spencer operation is complete.  Trains of empty skeleton log cars can leave the mill and head up into the woods, and then return fully laden with prime timber.  Spencer’s railroading days are winding down here in 1964.  The only trackage left in the woods terminates at Camp 6 located a few miles to the east of Whitcomb.  Camp 6 is now used as a re-load point for the logs.  Trucks have taken over hauling the timber from the various cuttings, but the trains still get them from this re-load point back to the mill.

Here are a couple photos of the recently completed trackwork.  In a couple days I’ll get a few additional photos posted on the main website for your perusal.

Spencer-Sawmill-Complex
Here is an overview of the mill complex.  In the center of the photo, the mill pond will be in that depressed area, and the sawmill itself will be in the open area at the upper edge of the pond.  The switch at the lower left is on the mainline coming from the woods.  The diverging route (to the left) is to the loading track for the finished product (the spur track to the left of the pond).  The track branching to the left from the upper switch is the connection to the Louisiana Central.  This connection will allow the mill switcher to retrieve the occasional load of supplies and fuel oil left on the loading track by the LCRR.  Heading straight up from the mainline switch, we enter the yard.  The track nearest the pond will have a log dump.  The crossover is to allow the locomotive to run around the cars.  The run-around extends past the crossover to the locomotive service track.  The spur at the far right is the RIP track for the logging cars, and will also double as the caboose service track.

This view above is taken from atop a stool to enable a better view of the track arrangement.  Actual track elevation in Oneida is 54″ above floor.

Spencer-Sawmill-Complex-2
And here’s the view from the sawmill area.  Again, the track closest to the mill pond is the unloading track, the center track is the run-around and engine service, and on the left is the RIP track.  There will be a bit more rolling terrain beyond that last track, and the Louisiana Central mainline will be wrapping around in the distance and then heading down the far left side of the peninsula on it’s journey to Monterey (off to the left of that doorway).

Other than the LCRR mainline trackage mentioned here, and a bit more down in that alcove, the remaining layout trackage is for the yards at Willis and Monterey, and the industrial trackage at each.  While that’s still a lot of track to lay, I can at least see the light at the end of the tunnel (and I think it’s a train).

-Jack

LCRR Trackage in Oneida Complete

The largest town on the line between Monterey and Willis is Oneida.  Oneida is pronounced wah-nee-duh, an unusual pronunciation for sure, but typical of naming habits in Louisiana and Mississippi.  J.D. Spencer (founder of the Spencer Lumber Company) named the town after his oldest daughter when he built his sawmill complex on this ground back in the early 20s.

The Louisiana Central trackage here was recently completed.  The switch motors have been installed and the electrical feeders for all trackage are terminated at their respective terminal blocks.  The only work remaining is to connect feeds from the power bus to those connection points.  Here are a couple photos:

Track-in-Oneida-East

Above is the view from the east end of town.  The (future) bridge across the Little River will be at the lower right above the plywood river bottom.  The first switch is the Spencer Lumber Company mainline heading to the mill complex.  If you recall from an earlier post, the Spencer has obtained trackage rights across the LCRR bridge.  Once over the bridge, the lumber road splits away to their own mainline.  The next switch is the passing siding, and the track coming off the pass and heading back toward the camera is the spur for the sand and gravel pit.  Off in the distance, we see the spur for the Wildcat Petroleum Company, and way down at the far end, the spur for the Spencer loading track can (barely) be seen.

 

Track-in-Oneida-West

Here we see the view from the west end of town.  The mainline (on the cork roadbed) presently ends here at the switch; extension westward to Monterey will be in the near future.  The passing siding branches off to the left.  The first switch is the Spencer loading track, and the next two switches lead to the Wildcat Petroleum Company and the sand and gravel pit, respectively.

I’ll probably get started on the Spencer trackage for the sawmill complex next.  You can see the Spencer mainline heading this way toward the mill (the distant track at center that currently ends at a switch).  The Spencer track will curve to the far side of the mill pond (that depressed area at left), where there will be a log dump, and a couple servicing tracks for the steam locos and rolling stock.

I still need to get started though on those bridge abutments over near Whitcomb.  It would be hard to get over the line without that bridge!

-Jack

Whitcomb Open for Business

The town of Whitcomb is now a revenue source for the railroad as the trackage there was essentially completed this week.  The mainline through town has been laid for some time now, however the passing siding and industrial spur have languished.  But no longer . . . track is in, switch motors are installed and everything is wired up.

Track-in-Whitcomb

Pictured above is the first train to enter Whitcomb.  Well, it actually backed into town as the bridge at the west end of town hasn’t been installed yet.  It’s waiting for the abutments and wing walls to be poured.

There will be one additional industry in Whitcomb, a builder’s supply store.  The mainline switch is already installed (it’s around the curve, behind the train), but track cannot be laid until the structure is complete as the track will enter the property on a concrete trestle (a former coal dump).

I’ll be turning my attention to the aforementioned bridge, and also will be commencing trackwork in Oneida starting tomorrow.  Oneida as you may recall, is where the mill complex for the Spencer Lumber Company is located.  In addition to the Louisiana Central trackage in town, there will be a good bit of track laid for the Spencer mill pond and yard area.

-Jack

Back On Track

Really . . . I’m back on track, having reactivated my program of modifying Shinohara code 70 switches to be “DCC friendly”.  Regular readers of this blog will recall that I was suffering from “layout construction fatigue” back in late February.  Well, I’ve been ready to get back at it again for over a month, but have been continually distracted by other things.  To be sure, I’ve been doing mostly railroad related tasks, but meat and potatoes production on the layout, -namely trackwork- has been stagnant.  I spent time evaluating, ordering, and then changing out my DCC system back in March.  And I finally got my plate girder bridge assembled; it’s waiting for abutments and wing walls now.  I finished some miscellaneous support framing for the scenery base that will cover the staging tracks, and that area of the layout is just about ready for the hardboard fascia.  All the wiring is caught up with the installed trackage.  I even put some time in on my waybill creation program, redesigning the waybills and empty car bills to more closely resemble the real thing (thanks to Tony Thompson and his work in this area).  And as you know, I’ve been playing a lot, A Mini-Reunion at Covington.

But I have been distracted from the trackwork for much too long, so I determined that I was going to get something done under that discipline today.  That mission was accomplished.  Now that I’ve broken the ice so to speak, I think I’ll find it easier to get back into the swing of things.  I only have about 30 feet of track left to complete the mainline, but I’m holding off on that as I want to complete the trackage in Whitcomb and Oneida before I continue with the main.  I need eleven code 70 switches to be modified and installed in order to complete those areas, so I really need to get with the program.

It’s good to be back!

-Jack

The Louisiana Eastern Railroad

In a recent post, A Mini-Reunion at Covington, I had mentioned visiting Matt Hardey’s Louisiana Eastern Railroad layout.  Well, I didn’t get that exactly right.  Matt started his dream with the New Orleans Great Northern Railroad.  The prototype eventually was acquired by the Gulf, Mobile and Northern, which itself later became the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio Railroad.  Matt has come up with several operating schemes for his layout.  By using equipment and such for different eras, he can operate the road as the NOGN, or a later era of the GM&O.  Another variant is a “what if” scenario, running steam powered Louisiana Eastern trains over the GM&O via trackage rights in the Covington, Louisiana area during the early 1950s.  Matt has a collection of LE rolling stock, which is what I was fixated on during my visit.

Most of the readers of my ramblings are from this area and are likely to be familiar with the Louisiana Eastern Railroad.  However a few of you may be scratching your head and thinking “never heard of it”.  The Louisiana Eastern was the vision of Paulsen Spence.  An excellent piece about Mr. Spence and the Louisiana Eastern has been written by noted author and local historian Louis Saillard, and can be found here on Chris Palmieri’s website.  I’ll touch on a few of the highlights of the LE gleaned from Louis’ treatise here.

Born in Baton Rouge, Mr. Spence had made his fortune with his Spence Engineering Company and his considerable number of patents for various steam regulating valves.  Eventually he turned his interest to the sand and gravel business, starting a gravel operation in the late 1940s.  He utilized steam locomotives (that he had recently acquired) to move the cars of gravel from the pit to the interchange with the nearby Illinois Central.  The Comite Southern Railroad was born.  In 1950 Mr. Spence acquired a larger gravel pit operation a short distance away.  Included with that sale was the one mile Gulf & Eastern Railroad.  In late 1950 the Louisiana Eastern Railroad was chartered and that’s where the dream began.

Now, the gravel business was good for Mr. Spence, with well over 200 cars of commodity eventually emerging from the pits each week.  But he had a larger vision.  Mr. Spence had been purchasing recently retired steamers from various roads beginning in the mid 1940s and throughout the 1950s, and he eventually had about three dozen of the breed on the property.  The reason for these purchases?  Mr. Spence had conceived the idea of creating a railroad that would run from Baton Rouge, Louisiana to Pearl River, Louisiana near the Mississippi border, a distance of nearly 100 miles.  In Baton Rouge, he would have access to the Illinois Central, the Kansas City Southern and the Missouri Pacific.  Near Pearl River he would interchange with the Gulf, Mobile and Ohio and the Southern Railway.  With these connections he could effectively create a bypass around the rail traffic congestion in New Orleans.  The steamers were the power for that railroad.  Buying these locomotives at bargain basement prices just made good business sense to Mr. Spence.

Grand plans to be sure, but things came to an abrupt halt in late 1961 when Mr. Spence died suddenly from a heart attack while on a business trip to New York.  The dream was dead.  Everything was sold off and most of the steamers were soon scrapped.  I believe four of the locomotives survived and can be found in various parts of the country.  One of the most interesting locomotives was one of several 4-4-0 types that Mr. Spence had acquired.  Locomotive No. 98 was purchased new by the Mississippi Central Railroad in 1909 and eventually sold to Mr. Spence in 1946.  She still survives and is in operation on the Wilmington & Western Railroad, where she still carries her number of 98.  There are a number of YouTube videos showing her in service; see her during the Wilmington & Western’s Springtime Steam Spectacular in 2014.

A few other links for information about the Louisiana Eastern can be found at the HawkinsRails website, and on Wikipedia.  But if you want the very interesting and detailed story, be sure to read Louis’ piece linked to above.

-Jack

A Mini-Reunion at Covington

This week has been one of several social gatherings for me.  It began last Wednesday when Wayne Robichaux, “Tomcat” Kelly and I drove over to Covington, Louisiana to spend the day touring several layouts.  The three of us are former operators of the late Lou Schultz’s Alleghany Subdivision of the C&O Railroad.  Our hosts were also members of that same operating group, so this was not only to be a series of layout tours, but also a “mini-reunion” of sorts.

We motored over to Covington during a steady rainfall, but that didn’t dampen our spirits.  We arrived at the first layout, the Southern Railway’s “Rathole”, under construction by Walter Rieger.  Also there were our other hosts, Matt Hardey, Mike Walsdorf and Sam Urrate, and the layout tour commenced.  Walter has essentially completed the first third of his layout, and is now hard at work doing benchwork and laying track on the remainder.  The bulk of the layout is a two level mushroom design, with a third level for staging.  The focus will be on hot and heavy freights running on a fully CTC controlled mainline.  One must see the completed section of this layout to appreciate Walter’s attention to detail, and the completeness and authenticity of the design.  I’ll be following it’s construction over the next several years.

We broke for lunch after touring Walter’s layout, heading over to Bud’s Broiler for one of their famous burgers grilled over a real charcoal pit.  I was especially pleased with this selection of eatery, as I grew up a few blocks from the original Bud’s Broiler on City Park Avenue in New Orleans.  I was a regular patron of the establishment back in the 60s (and which is still in operation).

After lunch we headed over to Matt’s rendition of the Louisiana Eastern Railroad.  Matt had recently completed grafting a beautiful section of a layout that he had acquired onto the peninsula of his layout.  And he has done a masterful job of integrating it into his original layout.  Had he not told me what he’d done, I would have thought it had always been there.  Matt really enjoys building very detailed structures with interiors, and I enjoyed studying them, continually finding more and more to see.

And last we visited Mike’s L&N Railroad.  Mike has an attic layout, and that thing has one of the longest runs I believe I’ve ever seen on an HO layout.  The layout goes around the four walls of the room, and into a long U-shaped peninsula in the center.  But get this . . . it has three levels!  The room is over 50′ in length, and while I don’t recall its width, it is wide enough that Mike has four foot (and greater) aisles through most of the layout.  He says it takes about an hour for a train to traverse the entire line!  He is relatively close to completion on the trackwork, and scenery already has a good start.  The layout will feature both CTC and some APB signaling, and should be quite interesting to operate.

I believe all three of these layouts will have good operations when the time comes, and that can’t be too soon.  I really miss the operations we had at Lou’s, and I’m hoping I’ll be invited over to run on these pikes someday.  The tours were excellent and I’m glad we made the trip to see them.

Late that afternoon we departed Covington and then made a stop in Hammond just to see if anything was running on the CN line there.  Our timing was impeccable.  We arrived just in time to see a southbound freight roaring by, headed by a couple of KCS units . . . an unusual sighting.  And a few minutes later, the southbound local came charging though town hot on the tail of the first train.

Upon arriving back in Denham Springs (about 8:30 pm), Tomcat decided to call it a day.  Wayne and I headed over to the Lagniappe Restaurant near my home for a late supper.  A great day, indeed!

But that wasn’t the end of the week.  Today, Friday, Syd Dann dropped by my house for a visit.  I gave him an update tour of the Louisiana Central, and he then went to his vehicle and labored to carry a large grip into the train room.  Inside was his latest acquisition, an O scale 2-6-6-6 Allegheny!  Man, that was one massive locomotive (even as a model).  After our show-and-tell, we headed up Highway 16 to Watson’s Pizza Place, where I ordered one of their famous Watson Supreme pizzas.  I really love that pizza!  Naturally, my eyes were larger than my stomach, so I’ll be chowing down on the balance of my Supreme for lunch tomorrow.  No problem, there.biggrinAnd the week still has another day left.  In the morning I’ll be attending the weekly ROMEO breakfast with some railroad friends at the Warehouse Restaurant over in Baton Rouge.  I know I’ll have gained five pounds this week by the time I finish it.

But what a delightful week it has been.

-Jack

Trains are Running Again

I’ve been working and playing with my new NCE “Hybrid” DCC system for a couple days now, and things seem to be running smoothly.  The installation was mostly straightforward, with a few glitches in figuring out the polarity of certain wires and connections between NCE and my existing Lenz equipment.  The power input, and the track and cab buses were literally a simple plug-in and all worked fine.  The biggest challenge was hooking the control bus from the Lenz boosters to the NCE command station.  Lenz uses the Euro style wire connectors for everything, whereas the NCE uses that style for just the power input and track outputs.  The NCE box utilizes a telephone type plug for the control bus, so I had to figure a way to go from a twisted single pair cable to that telephone connector.  I had an old telephone out in the garage that I had retired probably 20 years ago, so I took the receiver jack out of its base (with wires attached) and I secured it to the backboard at my controls area.  I already had a barrier strip there where the control bus terminated, so I soldered a couple spade lugs to the appropriate pair of the jack’s wires, and simply attached them to that barrier strip.  Then I was able to use the telephone handset cord to plug the NCE box into that jack, and -voila!- I had signal on the bus.  Today I finished off the installation by hooking my computer up to the NCE box, and then cranking up DecoderPro.  After doing the configuration for NCE, I was up and running.  Other than a little tidy-up work, I’m done with the new installation.

In my last post I neglected to mention the other big reason I became disillusioned with my Lenz system.  My favorite thing about the Lenz was that LH90 throttle with the big knob.  The thing I liked the least about the system was that LH90 throttle with the big knob.  Huh?  How’s that you say?  Well, the LH90 throttle doesn’t have a full keypad.  It can only access five functions directly (that is, with a single key press).  Getting to higher functions (up to function 8) requires pressing a shift button before pressing the desired function.  Getting to functions up to 28 requires as many as a dozen button presses!  With my earlier decoders, this wasn’t any particular problem.  But with the advent of sound decoders, that shortcoming was quite disappointing.  I generally need between eight and ten “instant” function buttons to set things up the way I prefer . . . easy to do with a full keypad.  Even the small NCE throttles I have satisfy that requirement.

And last, I failed to mention the fast and convenient service Art Houston (my NCE dealer) provided when I called to order the system.  Thanks, Art!

Can’t wait to get back out in the train room tomorrow to run some trains!

-Jack

The New Hybrid DCC System

Back in the early 2000’s, I made the decision to go with the Lenz brand for my DCC power and control system.  That decision was based in part on the knowledge that Lenz was developing a new radio throttle that would utilize a knob (which I prefer) for the speed control (it looked identical to the present LH90 throttle).  That throttle did not come to fruition, as Lenz abandoned the project quoting the difficulty and expense in making an international throttle that could meet all the various requirements of broadcasting both in Europe and North America.  Major disappointment!  But anyway, I had already purchased their Set01 that uses the LH100 tethered throttle, and I decided to stick with their system.

Over the years I had added components to the system: several of the LH90 throttles with the big knob for speed control, a couple more boosters, a computer interface so I could use DecoderPro with the system, and a few other odds and ends.  But I still wished for a good radio throttle.  Lenz did come out with a plug-in that allowed you to use a wireless telephone as a throttle, and I understand it works well. But somehow, that just struck me as a kludge and I couldn’t warm up to it.  Then a few years ago Lenz introduced a method for using a “smart” cell phone for a throttle.  While there are some nice things about that, it still isn’t the type of control I want.  If I were to go wireless, and if I wanted a “true” throttle, I’d have to use the CVP system.  Their throttles interface to the Lenz system via a CVP base station, and are said to work quite well.  But there is a downside to that solution: big $$$.

Well, I recently had an epiphany.  The NCE system uses the same bus protocol as Lenz, and the two systems have many similarities in the way they operate.  I started investigating and found that I could use my Lenz boosters with an NCE system.  And NCE makes a radio throttle that I like . . . with a knob!  And further, I wouldn’t need to purchase all the throttles needed for the layout as so many folks around here use NCE, and already have throttles (something that didn’t benefit me with Lenz or CVP).

So, I made the decision to make the change.  I recently sold my Lenz command station/booster, the computer interface, and all my Lenz throttles.  I kept and will continue using my separate Lenz boosters, and will keep the throttle plug-ins around the layout.  I ordered an NCE Power Pro system with a radio throttle . . .

NCE-Power-Pro_R

. . . along with a couple of the Cab06 throttles that use that beautiful knob.

NCE-Cab06pr

The box arrived late this afternoon, and I have been reveling in it’s contents.  I’ll be heading out to the train room in the morning to start my installation, which should be rather straight-forward given the similarity of the systems.

Radio control at last!

I’ll do a follow up report soon once I get things operational.  I’m keeping my fingers crossed that all turns out as expected.

-Jack

Lenz DCC Equipment For Sale – SOLD

I’ve decided to sell some of my Lenz equipment.  I’m offering a command station/booster, a computer interface, and several throttles.  All items are like new, clean, no scratches or dents, and are complete, and have the latest version 3.6 software.  My layout is not operational yet; equipment has only been used for testing during construction.  Manuals are included.  If you’d like to take a look at what I’m offering, head over to my For Sale page on the main website.

In my last post I had indicated my need to take a bit of a breather from layout construction.  I think that was a good decision as my spirits are taking a lift with this time off.  To be sure, my enthusiasm for the hobby hasn’t waned a bit, as most every day I find myself focused on something hobby related.  One of the things I’ve been mulling for some time is a slightly different approach to the method I’ll be using to control the layout.  I’m going to take something of a hybrid approach to this, hence my decision to sell off some of my Lenz equipment that won’t be needed in my new scheme of things.

I spent a little time last night visiting the MidSouth Model Railroad Club over in Baton Rouge, and I enjoyed seeing their relatively complete layout in action.  Getting around an operational layout helps to get the juices flowing again.  I spec I’ll be back out in the train room pretty soon for some construction.

-Jack

Side Stepping Burn-out, Part Deaux

I have to confess, I really haven’t felt much like working on the layout for a couple of weeks now.  Sure, I’ve been heading out to the layout room most each day, but I really haven’t been very productive . . . mostly looking for “low hanging fruit” to work on.  I reconditioned a bunch of old Tortoise switch motors.  And I transferred a sound decoder and speaker from a “basket case” Bachmann modern 4-4-0 to another similar model I have that is running and intact.  Another small project completed.  And I spent a day checking out my newly repaired digital camera.  But none of this was advancing the state of the layout itself.

The last two weekends have featured back-to-back NRHS* Chapter banquets, one in Hattiesburg, Mississippi, and the other in Hammond, Louisiana.  I attended both and thoroughly enjoyed every aspect of each day.  The journeys were good, the meals were good, the presentations at both were excellent, and most importantly, I really enjoyed the company of fellow modelers, railfans and historians.  Today was the Hammond event, and afterward Ron Findley and I headed over to the train depot to hopefully catch a few trains.  Traffic was a bit slow, so we decided to just stroll down Cate Street (along the track) and I started photographing the wonderful old buildings along that street.  I guess Ron and I really got caught up into it, as we ended up strolling to the end of the business district, then started down Thomas Street where we repeated our photographic endeavors.  And then there was Oak Street, and finally, Church Street.  I believe I ended up with several hundred images, and I totally enjoyed our little foray.  We eventually found our way back to the depot, where I noticed that there was quite a bit a material staged along the tracks and maintenance-of-way area.  There was a crane parked on a spur, and one of those neat (Difco?) side dump ballast cars.  Lots of rail, ties, ballast, spikes, tie plates and more.  I suspect that this was material left over from the recent trestle repairs down at the Bonnet Carre Spillway. For those of you who are unaware, the CN experienced a major fire there a couple weeks ago that took out an entire span of trestle between two concrete fire breaks.

But back to my original confession above, I have been going “hot and heavy” on the layout construction for over a year now.  You long time readers may remember I went through an intense period of burn-out during my second year of construction and got very little accomplished, relatively speaking, as a result.  I even wrote a post about it, Side-Stepping Burn Out.  When I returned to serious construction a few months later, I knew I would have to change my work habits to help avoid this problem in the future.  In large part, I’ve done better because I will work on something -say, trackwork- for several weeks, then I’ll switch off to something else; benchwork, electrical work, workshop projects, just about anything to break up the repetition and boredom that sometimes occurs when building a relatively large layout (mostly single handedly).  But the burn-out symptoms have been rearing their ugly head again for some time now.  And I’ve simply backed off from what I’ve been doing.  I’m feeling a bit better about things now, especially after these two great Saturdays, and I suspect in another week or so that I’ll be raring to get after it again.  To be sure, I continually feel some guilt for letting this time pass without “real” production, but I’ve told myself that this is after all, a hobby.  And if I’m not happy doing it, then it ain’t a hobby!

So not to worry, the Louisiana Central will continue to see heavy construction, albeit with just a short delay.

Hmmm, now I’ve got to figure out how I’m going to fit those neat city buildings in over at Willis.

-Jack

*National Railway Historical Society