Dremel Tool and Bit Rack

Over the years I’ve acquired four Dremel Moto-Tools, each of which came with an assortment of bits, accessories, and tool parts.  And each time I needed a bit or accessory, I’d spend more time rummaging through the tools cases where the tidbits were stored than actually doing the work.  So I cobbled this rack together from “scraps of scraps” (literally).  I liked the finished result so much that I caved at the end and shot a coat of paint on the thing.

Dremel Bit Rack 1

Dremel Bit Rack 2

The blue plastic box came with my last motor tool purchase.  I simply screwed it to the rack and will use it to hold sanding drums, polishing pads, etc.


Tracing the Louisiana Central

This past Friday Wayne Robichaux and I took another field trip. This excursion was a repeat of an earlier trip in which we had “followed” the Louisiana Central from it’s beginnings near the east bank of the Mississippi River, to it’s eastern terminus at Bude, Mississippi.  That trip was made in the dead of winter so that we would be able to see better into the terrain.  Friday’s trip found the landscape in full summer greenery.  While it was considerably more difficult to see beyond the edge of the road in places, the look is more akin to the way the modeled scenery will look as I will be placing the time period in the summer.

We were able to precisely discern several of the locations where I’d taken photographs several years ago.  However several other scenes I’d previously photographed were hard to identify this go-around due to the extensive foliage and because of the passage of time.  I re-shot many of the scenes as a comparison, but didn’t discover anything “new”.  While there are way too many photos to post here, you can see the original collection on the website.

We broke off late in the afternoon and headed over to McComb, where we caught the northbound Amtrak train, with a northbound CN freight hot on his heels.  As most of you know, a local railroad museum makes its home in the depot at McComb.  Outside, a former Illinois Central Mountain steam locomotive, along with a few cars, are on display under a shelter roof.  We were pleased to see that an extension of the train shelter is well under construction.  This will place the recently acquired passenger cars on display under shelter as well.  After checking things out, we drove south on Highway 51 to Hammond where we caught one additional train before heading back west to home.  It was an enjoyable day!

Progress on the layout was a bit light this past weekend, but I did manage to assemble a few more car kits.  I also painted a new rack I’m making that will hold Dremel bits.  Oh, and I finally got started on those code 70 turnout DCC modifications that I’ve talked about several times in the past.  I’ve got a pair ready for installation on the layout now.  If anyone shows any interest, I’ll have to take a few photos showing what I’ve done with them.


A Special Car

I just finished assembling this boxcar commemorating the 1973 NMRA National Convention in Atlanta.  My good friend Bill Williams had picked up this kit during that convention which he and I, along with a couple other guys, had attended.  Bill passed away a couple years ago and several months later, some other friends were liquidating a bunch of Bill’s railroad equipment during a railroading get-together and banquet.  We found this car in the box and I just had to have it.

SER Boxcar

The car is an old blue box Athearn that the NMRA had specially made up for the convention.  I decided to leave it more or less in “stock” form, adding only Accurail trucks, Intermountain wheelsets and Kadee couplers.  The car (by virtue of the date) is really too new for my era, however it will find a display spot in the train room and will likely be quietly added to an occasional train.  I’m thrilled to have this car, both for the memory of the convention and especially of Bill.


Layout Construction Photos

I’ve completed a major reorganization of the Layout Construction Photos section on the main website.  As the layout has grown (and the number of photos has increased), I found it getting increasingly cumbersome to add material.  I originally started by adding photos in a linear fashion as I worked around the layout.  But as I started jumping back and forth to various layout sections, that approach wasn’t suitable.  I really wanted to keep photos of a given area together, but it was difficult to do that, and navigation through the photos was poor.  Now the photos are grouped, generally by the various areas of the layout that they pertain to.  Hopefully this will make things simpler for all of us.

I’ve had to rename a ton of files to accomplish all this.  One negative side effect though was that all of the links referring to the renamed pages had to change as well.  Hopefully, I’ve gotten them straight.  But if you find something out of order, please drop a line and point out the error.

I hope you enjoy the new format . . . let me know what you think.

Last Saturday I made the pilgrimage over to Hammond to attend the annual banquet of the Southeast Louisiana Chapter, NRHS.  As usual, I enjoyed visiting with the folks there, and after an excellent meal we had a nice presentation by Rick Pitcher on passenger service back in the “good old days”.  Afterward I spent a few hours over at the depot and managed to catch a few trains going by.  Another great day!

And I’ve installed a few more Tortoise switch machines on the layout.


Happy New Year!

Well, in just a few hours we’ll be into the new year.  I thought I’d take a couple minutes to wish all of you a very happy new year, and I hope it’s a prosperous one for each of you as well.

I’d like to thank you for taking time to read my various ramblings through this year, and I’m appreciative to those who left comments.  I’d like to make this blog interesting to all who read, so if you have ideas, suggestions or complaints, please feel free to let me know.  Your comments are important to me, so let me hear from you this new year.


Best regards to all,

KCS Holiday Express

Last Friday I went over to Baton Rouge with my daughter and her family to visit the Kansas City Southern Railroad’s Holiday Express train.

KCS Holiday TrainThis is really a fun train to see for both kids and adults.  My three grand kids enjoyed the spectacle despite the extremely long wait in line to go inside the train.  But it was worth the wait.  There are two cabooses and a boxcar (the reindeer stable) that are heavily decorated inside with just about anything you can think of with a Christmas theme: colorful lights and ornaments, Santa Clauses, winter scenes, holiday villages, two O scale and one HO scale train layouts (lots of fun to watch), Christmas trees, and just way too many other things to list here.

Outside the train sits Santa Claus.  And while waiting in line to see Santa, one can enjoy the large scale model train running around the flat car that displays the huge lit-up Santa sleigh and the reindeer.

My oldest grand daughter is nearly twelve now and is in that grey area of belief vs. disbelief in Santa.  Well, ‘ole St. Nick would not hear of it.  He sensed her hesitation and whispered something in her ear.  Later we asked what he told her.

“When you quit believing, you start getting socks and underwear for Christmas.”



Sunset Over the C&O

Yesterday many friends and I attended what was to be the final operating session on the late Lou Schultz’s Chesapeake and Ohio, Alleghany Subdivision layout.  We had a nice attendance, and the session went pretty well I think, with just about all the trains on the schedule having been run.  I felt comfortable being there running my favorite train, #147 on the Greenbrier Subdivision branch, but at the same time I felt an emptiness, with Lou and our other friends Bill Williams and Shawn Levy, not being present at the session.  A special “funeral” train was run near the end, essentially a World War II troop and military equipment train, with a nice open-end observation car on the rear.

This was the third and final session that we’ve had on Lou’s layout since he passed away.  Lou’s wife, Dee, has been so gracious to allow us these last few opportunities to get together and celebrate the friendship and camaraderie that we shared in Lou’s attic.

Repeating (and paraphrasing) the ending  of our first session …back home, Wayne Robichaux and I analyzed the session and stopped to partake of a meal at the Lagniappe Restaurant in Denham Springs.  What a way to spend and end the day . . . a fine day indeed!


Who is Professor Klyzlr?

I’ve had a couple folks drop an email asking who on earth is Professor Klyzlr?

The Prof is an Aussie named John Dimitrievich, from the South Coast of NSW, Australia.  He took the pen name of Professor Klyzlr some years ago; his explanation of the name: “think Climax and Heisler and you’ll get it”.

And for those not familiar with “Climax and Heisler”, these were the two leading types of geared steam locomotives that competed with the Shay geared locomotive.

Professor Klyzlr is quite well known in Australian for his modeling efforts, with diminutive narrow gauge equipment his specialty.  He is a prolific author, and his name is becoming quite common on this side of the world because of his knowledge and willingness to share in detail those skills, his thoughts and suggestions.


Side-stepping Burn Out

I was reading a blog post yesterday Stalledwritten by Trevor Marshall in which he was lamenting the lack of progress on his layout over the past month or so.  His posts of late have been largely philosophical in nature, and that was mostly because of his lack of new work to write about.  He even went so far as to include links to other posts where others had written about being in a similar circumstance.

Now it’s very common for layout activity to slow during the summer months.  Trevor explained that several other commitments were draining his time, plus the previous winter had been quite brutal, and the spring long and chilly, therefore he was really enjoying spending much of his (summer) spare time relaxing on the patio reading books and enjoying adult beverages.  Others responded, mentioning similar activities.

Yard work takes up much of my time during Southern hot, humid summers and occasionally I’ll partake of a railroad related activity that will take me out of town for the day.  But I’m generally working on the layout during the majority of my free time.  Even when there’s not much apparent work going on with the layout, it isn’t out of my mind.  I’m constantly reviewing, refining and planning both the immediate work and the long term tasks that will be required.  While I’ve made some pretty good progress this summer on the Louisiana Central, I’ve been feeling a bit burnt-out lately.  Much of the work has been boring, tedious and/or repetitive, and sometimes quite aggravating.

I’ve started work on the sub-roadbed for the Spencer Lumber Company’s line up to their reload point in the woods.  There’s a 20 foot stretch of roadbed that will span almost two thirds the length of the longest wall in the room.  I’ve cut out the plywood and Homasote, pre-installed the splice plates for the sections, and fabricated most of the risers that will be required.  I started test fitting the risers Sunday and ran into a nasty surprise.  The risers will attach to the very end of the joists butted up to the wall.  The existing risers supporting the lower staging yard are attached to these same joists.  Unfortunately, the attachment point for many of them is also at the end of the joists.  While I can simply put the high line risers on the other side of the joists, the problem is not having room to clamp the risers to the joists.  I generally clamp the risers temporarily so I can adjust them for both elevation and level, then permanently attach them with a couple screws.  And that leads to a second complication: I don’t think I’ll have enough room to get a drill motor in position to drill the pilot holes for the screws.

If I had been more forward thinking, I would have installed the high line benchwork first, then unscrewed the sub-roadbed from the risers, placing it aside while I then installed the staging yard below.  As it is now, it isn’t reasonable to uninstall the staging yard to move it out of the way as it is complete with track, wiring and all those optical detectors.

That was when I decided that I needed a little down time to clear my head from the aggravations that sometime occur during layout construction.  When I read Trevor’s column, I realized that one mustn’t let the hobby devolve into something that becomes a chore rather than a pleasure.  While I fully intend to continue construction of the railroad, I realize that I probably should add some other activities into the mix in order to keep my sanity and enjoyment of the hobby intact.  In a few days, I’ll begin pondering the sub-roadbed situation and I’ll figure out a solution.  But the solution will come after having a clear and relaxed mind….always does.

So forgive this somewhat lengthy ramble; I’m just clearing my head.


Do You Smell That?

There was a brief discussion recently over on the Model Railroad Hobbyist forum about scents and their use on model railroads (read the discussion here).  The topic roamed around a bit, with discussion ranging from what people had experienced, some product that had been available, and some ideas about what could be done today.

One person mentioned the defunct line of scents that was marketed under the name of Olfactory Airs, which I remembered.  There were a dozen or so different scents offered in the form of bottles of oil.  I remember a couple of the scents: creosote, diesel oil, pine trees, and coal smoke.  You were supposed to put a few drops onto something like a cotton ball or similar, then stick it some place on the layout for it to release its aroma to the surroundings.  Unfortunately, it never lived up to its promise in my opinion.  The odors didn’t linger very long and it was hard to relate the odors to what they were supposed to be.  Apparently others thought so too, as the company eventually disappeared.

But I think the idea was really cool.  Imagine running a train down the mainline on a hot summer day and detecting a faint odor of creosote as you’re moving down the line.  Or the smells of steam, hot oil and coal smoke down by the roundhouse?  Maybe the aroma of a pine forest by the logging operation, or even the smell of flowers when passing a meadow.  It can go on and on.  And no, I’m NOT interested in introducing the aromas of a stock yard or a fish processing plant.

As hobbyists, we’re really caught up in the sounds of locomotives now, and I even plan to experiment with stationary sounds in a few strategic locations some day in the future (gotta get some trains running first!).  But I suspect that smells are something that not many of us have experienced on a model railroad.  One of the posters on the forum (using the handle of Professor Klyzlr) even offered a few ideas as to how the concept might be implemented.  Maybe I’ll have to bookmark that column for later reference.


The 2nd Anniversary

Last week I had intended to celebrate the second anniversary of the Louisiana Central’s construction, but work and other things simply got in the way.  This past weekend I spent some quiet time in the layout room and pondered what had happened over the past year.  A year ago I wrote a piece after pondering the same thing.  At the end I had stated a goal of completing the L.C. mainline by the end of the second year.  I suppose I was feeling overly optimistic that day, or perhaps my inexperience with building a large layout clouded my sensibilities.  Not only was that goal not met, it wasn’t even close!

To be truthful, I lost a couple months where I just couldn’t do any meaningful work on the layout due to some health issues.  That was followed by several more months of light duty in which some progress was made, but nothing to get excited about.  But even putting that aside, there simply was no way to get that far along in a single year with me only working on the layout during weekends.  After reading several model railroad forums, and seeing what other friends were doing, it finally helped open my eyes to what realistically can be done in a year’s time.

I’m doing much better now, and for the past three or four months, I’ve made good progress on the layout.  I also recently reduced my hours at work (semi-retirement) so have an extra day each week to put some time in on construction.  I’ve been mixing tasks during this time trying to get everything current, and also trying to avoid getting bored or overwhelmed with a single job.

The layout has five major benchwork areas: three sections along walls, and two peninsulas.  The basic L-girder benchwork for all was completed last year.  What is happening now is everything above the L-girders: joists, risers, sub-roadbed and track.  Benchwork has been completed along two of the walls and on one of the peninsulas.  This past weekend marked the construction start of the fourth section.  My friend Wayne came over and we started cutting out and placing the joists on the section of benchwork along the longest wall of the building (34′-6″).  While I hesitate to make predictions now based on my result from last year, I’m confident that these last two areas will have benchwork completed by late winter or perhaps the early spring.  Trackwork has lagged behind more than I’d like, so I want to put more emphasis on getting the track installed as well.

Here’s a pic showing the recently completed work on Saturday and Sunday.
Benwork in the AlcoveThere are a couple more pictures on the main website.  As always, comments are welcome….drop a line!


Progress Non-indicators

I’ve been hesitant to write anything about what I’ve been up to for a couple weeks now for fear that it would be –well– boring.  I’ve been spending an awful lot of time doing things that don’t really show up or add visible progress to the layout.  For example, I’ve been hard at work installing the optical detection system for the hidden staging tracks at Willis and under the Spencer logging operation up in the woods.  That alone has been quite a chore, including fabricating support brackets for the illumination LEDs, bus runs of wire, wiring dozens of photo-transistors and LEDs, and more.  When complete, not a single soul is likely to bend over and look into the dark recesses at the back of the layout to see that system (they likely won’t even know that it exists).

Then there are the power buses and dozens of track feeders to same.  Again, a very necessary endeavor, but entirely unnoticed by crew or visitors.

I spent quite a bit of time creating gently sloped ramps for the mainline at Monterey to get the various yard and industrial tracks from the elevated roadbed down to the tabletop.  It’s all done now and waiting for track.  Even though that work is visible, it is very likely to go unnoticed.  And how about those track bumpers that I manufactured and installed on the ends of all six staging tracks?

And so it goes.  I can list another half dozen projects that I’ve undertaken and completed these last several weeks, and not one will garner any attention by those who casually peruse the layout.  And none will likely be photographed and immortalized on the website.

Those of you that have constructed, or are constructing a larger sized layout know exactly what I mean by all of this.  Everything I’ve done is necessary for the operation of the layout.  But I confess to being a little depressed about putting in so much time doing things that do little to reward you with a feeling of accomplishment (well, there is the self-satisfaction of having done the chore and scratching it from the list).

However . . . things are looking up for the near future.  Once the detector work is completed (and it’s not terribly far off), the sub-roadbed construction can again proceed.  And I now have several areas where a bit of track may be laid, and that’s always something that gets attention.  Gratification time is getting near!

In truth, there has been some visible work.  I’ve completed all of the benchwork and sub-roadbed for Monterey and the area immediately to the east, including it’s roadbed (with tapers), and all is covered in a nice coat of paint.  I suppose I should take some photos and post them to the main website.  Maybe I can get to that by the weekend.  Now that would be gratifying!