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.

-Jack

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.

cheers

Best regards to all,
-Jack

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.”

biggrin

-Jack

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!

-Jack

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.

-Jack

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.

-Jack

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.

-Jack

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!

-Jack

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!

-Jack

Maybe the Sun Hasn’t Set

Maybe the sun hasn’t set over Lou Schultz’s Chesapeake and Ohio layout just yet.  Lou’s family has indicated a desire to see the layout live on and has extended  an invitation for Lou’s operating group to conduct further operating sessions.  Matt Hardey has taken the bull by the horns, along with several others and the “exploratory committee” sat down together this past Saturday at DiMartino’s Restaurant in Covington for a fine meal and to do some planning for the session.  Present were Matt, Mike Walsdorf, Sam Urrate, Johnny Miranda, Wayne Robichaux and yours truly.

The late Bill Williams, known as the Gestapo among the crew, was the Chief Clerk for Lou.  He spent considerable time before each session staging cars and setting up the waybills.  Unfortunately, no one else has a full grasp for all that Bill did, so the main topic during the meal was how operations could be simplified and pre-staging eliminated (or at least substantially reduced).  Several ideas were presented that were deemed worthy of a trial.  The “shake-down” session has been tentatively scheduled for mid May.  I, for one, will be tickled to be back up in the attic again.  Even though Lou, Bill and Shawn won’t be there in person, I’m sure their spirit will be.

And speaking of that, several of the guys had been to Lou’s house earlier in the week to check things out on the layout.  Lou’s wife, Dee, was out puttering around in the back yard.  The fellows were down at the far end of the attic when they heard someone trudging up the stairs (wooden stairs lead up to the attic).  One of the group shouted out that they were down at the end by Alderson, but no one came forth.  Puzzled, one of the guys went to the stairs.  No one was there.  He went down and found Dee, who said she had been in the yard the entire time.  Soooo….who was there (sound of squeaking door in background)?

Maybe I’ll be busy that Saturday……

-Jack

Years End Reflections

Well, the year is just about gone, Christmas festivities are winding down, and another year is about to roll upon us.  Looking back over the past year, despite loosing much of the past three months of construction time, much has still happened on the Louisiana Central.

The staging trackage is largely finished as well as most of the Illinois Central trackage.  The Louisiana Central main has entered the layout and is ready to enter the Willis yard.  Subroadbed and roadbed have been completed heading though and west out of Willis and up to Maynard, the next town on the line.  Actual track construction will start along that section hopefully soon.

A lot of electrical work has been done below the layout.  About 60 percent of the track buses are complete.  The booster bus is complete.  The optical detection system at the staging behind Monterey is coming along quite nicely, mostly needing the actual panel be built and installed and a few other connections here and there.  The OD system at the other side of the layout (behind Willis and under the logging branch) has about half of its detectors installed.  As mentioned in an earlier post, I’ve settled on my control panels and will start construction of them once I start putting the fascia up.

It was disappointing to lose so much time this fall and early winter due to my health issues.  Even though I’m not through that yet, I’m still able to get some work done even if on a limited basis.

I plan to snap a few pics sometime during the upcoming week which I’ll post on the website under the benchwork construction photos section.  That will update the website to where the layout stands visually.

I hope all of y’all had a Merry Christmas, and I wish you the best for a Great New Year!

-Jack

Forging Ahead

While my medical woes are still ongoing, I manage to get some work done each weekend on the layout.  This past weekend I even got a nice chunk of sub-roadbed installed; the mainline heading west out of Willis yard.  It was satisfying to cut wood again and assemble risers and sub-roadbed.  As is my habit, I topped the plywood sub-roadbed with a layer of Homasote.  Track can now be laid here.

I’ve pretty much finalized the layout for all of the controls panels that I spoke of in the previous post.  I’m going to build a “test” panel and verify that I’m satisfied with the design.  I’m still toying around with the method that I will use to mount the panels to the fascia.  The test panel will be helpful in my experiments with that.

With winter just around the corner, I’ve been giving thought to making a couple field trips.  I’d like to once again travel the planned route of the Louisiana Central to grab a few more photos.  Wayne Robichaux and I have already done this a couple times back when I was planning the layout.  We tentatively laid out the track route on a map, then set out to see how closely we could actually follow that route.  We made tweaks to the route on the map as we traveled, and the plan came out rather well.  You can take a photographic journey of this route on the main website.

The other field trip I’d like to take is to the Southern Forest Heritage Museum up in Long Leaf.  This museum features the former Crowell Long Leaf Lumber Company’s mill operation.  I’ve written about this place in an earlier post, and I love to visit there.  The Spencer Lumber Company on my layout will be loosely based on the Crowell mill.  I don’t plan to model the specific structures at Long Leaf, but seeing and understanding the operation and the flow of the work will aid me in laying out a reasonable mill site on my layout.  I’ve already taken dozens of photos, but want many more.

As always, give me a holler if you’d like to visit or if you have any questions.

-Jack