The 5th Anniversary

My, how time flies! Today marks the fifth anniversary of the Louisiana Central layout construction. Unfortunately tragedy struck the Louisiana Central less than a month after the fourth anniversary post was made. For those of you who are new to reading this blog, my city suffered a horrific flood last August 13th. My home and the layout building took on about 15″ of flood waters. The good news is that the layout itself suffered only wet feet. However the restoration of the building (flooring, drywall, cabinets, etc.) is on hold until my house restoration is complete (hopefully within these next few weeks).

Since the layout and building have been out of service for the past year (the building is serving as a warehouse for items salvaged from the house), there is little to report with regards to layout construction. A few weeks before the flood I posted my latest (and last) progress report on the layout, the advancement of the mainline west out of Oneida. The only mainline track left to be done is the last stretch into Monterey, and the track in the turnback curve back in the alcove (this is the mainline between Oneida and Whitcomb). I had just finished casting the bridge abutments needed there, and was about to cast the wing walls.  The fourth anniversary installment gives more detail on the remaining work.

I’ve spent time surveying the layout progress these past few months. I’ve laid enough trackage and done enough wiring now to have a good feel for the time required for those tasks. Once layout construction resumes, I should be able to completely finish laying track (including the yards and service areas) within two or three months. Add a month for the wiring, and another month or so to install all the fascia and control panels, and the layout will be ready for shakedown operations. Maybe I’ll have a big announcement on the sixth anniversary!

Fortunately I was able to attend a half dozen railfan and model railroad events last winter and this spring. In just a few weeks (August 5th) the Southeastern Louisiana Chapter of the NRHS will be having their annual slide show at the Denham Springs library. It’s a lightly attended event, but I enjoy the company of those folks, and there are always some interesting slides to view.  You don’t have to be a member to attend, so I encourage those of you local to this area to come join the fun.

I’ll post my progress on the layout building restoration once it gets underway. Hopefully that will be soon.

-Jack

Critters and Such

Back in late March Ron Findley and I took a trip up to Jackson, Louisiana and spent the morning with the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders, also home of the Old Hickory Railroad. While there, we headed over to the large “train shed” on the property, a large covered area where 1:1 railroad equipment, and an assortment of other odds and ends are stored and worked on. I thought I’d post a few photos of some items that caught my attention.

First up is a recently restored Plymouth “critter” that was parked just outside of the shed. I don’t have any information or background on this piece, but plan to ask questions on our next visit. She looks like she just rolled out of the factory.OHRR_Plymouth-1

OHRR_Plymouth-2

Here are a few other Plymouths quietly awaiting their turn at restoration. Seeing that chassis without a cab and hood (look closely behind the two locos in the foreground) was very interesting, as it allowed one to inspect and figure out the internal workings of the machine.OHRR_Plymouth-3

Below is a contraption that I’d never seen before. From a distance I initially thought it was a straddle lumber carrier. But once I walked over to it, I realized this was a beast of an entirely different nature. I’m speculating that it is some kind of harvesting machine. If any of you folks can shed some light on it, please feel free to comment.OHRR_C-R_Tractor-1

OHRR_C-R_Tractor-2

OHRR_C-R_Tractor-3

A side note: my home restoration from last year’s flood is on the final lap . . . hopefully I’ll be moving back in within a few weeks. Much work remains, especially on the exterior, but at least I’ll be home again!

-Jack

More on Roundhouse Flooring

Before I get into the subject, I’d like to comment on a couple other blog related things.  Back in March this blog was hacked (apparently an attempt to use the blog to distribute spam).  Fortunately my web host detected that a bunch of files had been changed, so they “froze” the site.  I ended up having to re-install the blog software to get things back to normal.  It really wasn’t hard to do, but it did take some time.  At the same time I took steps to harden the site so hopefully it won’t happen again.

The second item concerns the New Post Notifications that are sent out to subscribers when I pen a new morsel for your consumption.  The plug-in that handles that is several years outdated, and the author apparently isn’t interested in keeping it current.  Therefore I elected to try another plug-in (Mail Poet) and hopefully I have it set up correctly.  If you experience a problem, please drop me a line and I’ll try to get it straight.  Or if you just happened to check the blog and saw this post (but didn’t receive an email notification that it was here), please let me know about that too.

OK, on to the topic at hand: roundhouse floors.  Several years ago I had a post in which I was pondering the different floors used in roundhouses.  That led to a nice discussion, but not on the blog.  Instead it was just a bunch of emails back and forth between me and a few friends.  One of the floor types that I mentioned at the time (and one which I had not heard of prior to then) was a series of wooden blocks set on end to create the floor.  Several of you sent me some photo examples of this.  From what I gather, this type of floor was rather common, not only in railroad facilities, but also in other industrial applications, particularly where heavy and/or bulky material and equipment was being handled.  My impression is that the floor is easy on things laid or dropped upon it, and is easy to repair if necessary.

The photo below was taken by Jack Delano back in the ’40s, and it clearly shows this wood block flooring inside a Chicago and Northwestern roundhouse.  You can click on the photo to get an enlarged view.

CNW_Roundhouse-large

Mr. Delano took many photos of railroad subjects back then, and there is currently a book available with a nice selection of his work.

As usual, comments are appreciated.

As another aside, the recovery of my home from the flood last August is finally hitting full stride.  The drywall is up and finished, cabinet work has begun, and I am finally seeing light at the end of the tunnel!

-Jack

So, What’s Going On Now, Jack?

It seems like forever since the flooding of my home and train room last August.  While both buildings have been dried out, cleaned and treated for mold, and prepped for construction, not much has happened in the reconstruction department.  The problem has primarily been procuring the services of a reliable, local contractor.  But the search has ended, and I should be starting that reconstruction process within a few weeks.  I’ve started the ball rolling by insulating the house.  I’ve nearly through with the living area, and will do the garage and storage room early next week.  Then the new drywall can be hung, and that will be the first major step of many.

Unfortunately, the train room recovery is on a back burner.  It is in the same state as the house as far as remediation and preparation are concerned.  However I’m using the train room as a warehouse for all the stuff that wouldn’t fit in the mini-warehouse (and that’s a lot of stuff).  The plan is to move everything from the building into the house once the house is complete.  Then I can start the rebuild process in the train room.  I wish I could do things more quickly, but this is the best I’ll be able to do.

But I have enjoyed some quality hobby time over the past few months by attending several events in the area, and by spending time with some of my railroading buddies.  Back in late January I participated in the annual Train Day at the Library which is hosted by the Jones Creek Road branch of the public library of Baton Rouge.  The displays at the show were a bit lighter this year due to the fact that several of the participating hosts of the event had themselves flooded and lost much or all of their valued equipment and/or collections.  Particularly hard hit was Forrest Becht, the driving force behind the show.  Forrest lost virtually all of his photo collection (and that’s quite a bit).  But the show was still a hit, and we’ve already been invited back to do the show again next year.

The following week I was off to visit friends at the annual banquet of the Mississippi Great Southern Chapter of the NRHS in Hattiesburg, Mississippi.  As usual, the food was excellent, the presentation superb and the camaraderie was marvelous.  This particular event has become my favorite each year and I’m already looking forward to next year’s get-together.

Fast forward two more weeks and I attended the annual banquet of the Southeast Louisiana Chapter of the NRHS in Hammond, Louisiana.  I have the same comment here as I had above.  I have friends in this group some of which go back to the late 70s, and it’s always a pleasure visiting with them.

And a recent surprise: Matt Hardy, one of the former operators of the late Lou Schultz’s layout, organized an event held this past Wednesday over in Covington, Louisiana.  Several of us from the Baton Rouge area met with the Covington crowd at Lola’s Restaurant located in the former train depot in downtown Covington.  While there, we toured an old Brill car that is just starting to undergo a cosmetic restoration.  Afterward we retired to Matt’s home for an excellent presentation by David Price of Mississippi.  David is a local historian of the shortline railroads and logging operations in Mississippi, and also many of those in Louisiana.  I’ve enjoyed David’s presentations in the past and this was no exception.  We then took a short tour of Matt’s layout (always interesting to see the progression of layouts over the years), and then we went over to Mike Walsdorf’s to see what was up at his L&N pike.  Another great day!

And it isn’t over yet.  This weekend there will be a train show over in Ponchatoula, Louisiana, and near the end of this month the club up in Jackson, Louisiana will be hosting an open house at their huge facility.  Those folks have at least four large indoor layouts (and I think a few small ones), and two G scale outdoor layouts, one of which is live steam.  I always enjoy the show and camaraderie there as well.

The one thing that has really come to light over the past months is how important my relationships with fellow railfans and modelers have become.  The older I get, the more I cherish the time I spend with other like-minded folks.  Just last month Don Hanley, the associate editor of Model Railroad Hobbyist magazine, did an editorial entitled Build Relationships as Well as Models.  It was a timely piece and I agree with most all he espouses in the article.  You can read it yourself (for free) in the February 2017 issue.

Well, I hadn’t intended to pen such a lengthy rambling, but then I haven’t penned much of anything for months, so I had to catch up!

Here’s to all my great railroading friends!

Cheers!
-Jack

The Aftermath

It’s been over three months since my home and layout building flooded.  Both have since been dried out and are waiting for reconstruction.  The building inspector must certify the structures before the walls can be closed in.  However the inspection department is grossly overloaded, and the inspector is nowhere in sight!  It’s been several weeks since I received my building permit, but I’m dead in the water until the official shows up.

I thought I’d post a few photos showing the “cleaned up” train room and shop.  Fortunately, the layout itself has received no significant damage, as only the legs and bracing got wet.  It has all been sprayed with a mold killing chemical to insure there won’t be a future problem there.

Here’s the first view of the layout room.  As you can see, the carpet, and the bottom 30″ of gypsum board and wall insulation have been removed and disposed of.  Things are dried out pretty well now.  I still have to pack away all of the stuff on top of the layout.  In the minutes before the flood (yes, that’s all the time I had) I piled everything I could on top in an effort to (hopefully) minimize damage.Layout Flood - 1

This is a view from the diagonal corner of the room.  Note the flood water silt still covering the black chair base.  Many things from the house have since migrated to this resting place in order to clear the house for remediation, and will have to be packed up and put into storage before reconstruction commences in this building.Layout Flood - 2

The upper half of the shop is relatively unscathed.  However, all of the base cabinets (and much of the contents) were ruined and have been thrown out.  For the time being, I no longer have a workbench (though I wouldn’t be using it now anyhow).
Layout Flood - 3

I don’t plan to spend much effort out here until the house itself is complete and I’ve moved back in.  But eventually this building will recover, and I’ll be back at layout construction once again.

-Jack

Flood!

The Louisiana Central Railroad has flooded!

On Saturday, August 13th the region I live in suffered a horrific flood.  My home (and railroad building) were not in a flood zone (well, at least not before that fateful day).  However a flood of epic proportions swept thru the area and the house and railroad room found themselves with 15″ of water inside.  The river carrying the water has a flood stage somewhere near an elevation of 29 feet.  The maximum recorded water level for the area was 44 feet, and this was considered a 100 year event.  My house and railroad building are on land with an elevation of 52 feet.  Considering the height of the building slab, and the water depth within the buildings, I’m estimating that the water reached an elevation of near 54 feet.  Preliminary estimates I’ve heard on the radio say this may be close to a 1000 year event.  If only I had been born a century earlier or later!

My first realization that something was awry was about 7:30 that morning.  I was about to head out to meet some railroad buddies for our weekly Saturday breakfast, when I noticed that the backyard was almost covered in water.  Looking out the front window, I saw the street was under water.  I had never seen this in my 21 years in this house, so I immediately starting raising what I could.  About 45 minutes later I saw water seeping in the back door, at which time I thought “I better get out of here!”.  I pulled the truck out of the garage, but it was too late.  I saw a car stalled in the street and the water was already over the door sills.  I knew that the rural highway at the end of the street was several feet lower than my street, so knew I had waited too long.  I put the truck back in the garage (the highest point on the lot), and waded out to the street.  All my neighbors were doing the same thing; we were all caught off guard.  Someone said that they heard on the radio that the sheriff’s office had air boats coming out to rescue people.  After wading around the center of the road for a while, a couple small boats appeared.  They were crewed by young folks and they were trying to rescue people.  I scored a ride in an old bass boat and off we went.  The water was at about 30″ in the street at this time.  When the boat turned at the highway, we were shocked.  The houses along the highway already had water from mid window to just under the eaves.  I noticed something sticking out of the water and realized that it was the light bar on the top of the police car that my neighbor drives home at night.  The car itself was completely submerged.  All this water in under two hours!

I returned to the homestead on Tuesday, the 16th.  I have been working continuously each day trying to dry out everything.  Those that have experienced flooding know what I’m talking about . . . cutting out the sheetrock, removing insulation, removing cabinets, etc., etc.  The big enemy here is mold, and it sets in very rapidly.

The railroad room is a mixed bag.  The actual layout suffered no damage, just wet benchwork legs.  I had managed to pick up tools and really important stuff and stacked things on top of the benchwork.  I lost all the materials and less important things.  Actually, I was quite lucky to get some important things up in both the house and the train building.

But about the railroad:  After I got back to my home, I had been extremely worried about mitigating damage in the train building, as the house had first priority.  Late last week four of the fellows from the old C&O operating group in Covington stopped by to see if they could offer some help, Walter Rieger, Sam Urrate, Mike Walsdorf and Johnny Miranda.  They cut out and removed all the carpeting in the train room . . . a major piece of work.  Thanks guys!  Then a few days later my cousins from Hammond came over.  Debbie spent time packing my dishes and cookware so I could put them in storage, and Jim went out to the train building.  When I checked on him hours later, he had cut out the sheetrock below the layout level and removed all the wet insulation.  Another great piece of work complete!  Thanks to my cousins.  Finally, earlier this week Wayne Robichaux and I went out there and removed the cabinets in the shop and restroom, cut out the sheetrock in that area, and removed the insulation.  The immediate remediation in the train room is done, and it’s now drying out.  Wayne has been extremely helpful in my recovery.  Hopefully in a few days I can spray down the house and train building with the mold killing stuff, then start with the reconstruction.

I don’t have a feel for how long the process will take, as there will be a shortage of contractors due to the HUGE number of people that lost their homes.   I feel that I’ll be lucky to get back into my home within 4-6 months.

But the most important thing is that I’m still alive and well.  The Lord was with me on that fateful day.

-Jack

Planes, Trains and Automobiles

Well, the automobiles were only used for transportation to see the planes and trains in this case…

The past month has seen somewhat sporadic progress on the layout.  I confess to several distractions during this period.

Three weeks ago Ron Findley and I motored down to New Orleans for the Airpower Expo at the Lakefront Airport.  This year’s show was again quite interesting, with a nice roster of war birds in attendance.  There were three bombers there (all flying): a B-29, a B-17 and a B-25.  A P-51D Mustang was busy all day with flights, along with an SB2C Helldiver and a P-40 Warhawk.  Also on display were an SBD Dauntless dive bomber, a P-51C Mustang in “red tail” livery, a P-39 Airacobra, a C-47, and several training aircraft of various vintages.  The National WWII Museum (co-sponsor of the event) had quite a few pieces of ground equipment ranging from trucks and jeeps, to small field pieces, to a light tank.  A great day with good weather and plenty of flying.

Then last weekend I headed over to Ponchatoula with Ed Dayries to take in the annual train show over there.  The show is primarily aimed at the 3-rail crowd, but there was also a nice S scale layout in operation, as well as a live steam display.  Vendors were offering their goods in just about all of the common scales/gauges.  We capped it off with a short run up to Hammond where we happened to catch Amtrak #58, the northbound train running from New Orleans to Chicago.

Progress on the layout has come in short spurts during this time.  I’ve finished the mainline track through Whitcomb and the switch motors are installed.  I’ve started on the passing siding and industrial spur trackage.  I’ve finished all the joists on the peninsula that I wrote of last month, and I’ve cut out the basic sub-roadbed shapes for Oneida…trimming and adjustments will be made later once it’s time to plot out the track centerlines.

Today saw an uptick in the production, with some excellent progress being made.  Wayne Robichaux and I made a lumber run this morning after enjoying the weekly ROMEO* breakfast.  After unloading the material, we proceeded to lay out and cut the plywood and Homasote sub-roadbed pieces that will be needed for the turn back loops located in the alcove west of Whitcomb.  We completed both the Louisiana Central and the Spencer Lumber Company’s sub-roadbed loops.  I’ll probably start making risers for all of this tomorrow.

I received the 72′ bridge that I needed for the overpass at Whitcomb but it still sits on the workbench awaiting assembly.  I’m going to have to start focusing on specific tasks for the remainder of the year.  There are many events (those distractions) between now and late January that I’ll likely participate in.  But that’s okay, because for me, that’s part of what I enjoy about this hobby.  As I age I’m finding the social aspects are becoming more and more important.  I can hardly wait for each event, whether it be a train show, an open house, or an NRHS banquet…I’m ready for it!  And of course, with the holidays coming up, I’ll also be enjoying good time with family.  It’s a great time of year!

But fear not, the Louisiana Central will continue to progress.  Ultimately, I can hardly wait for the day when trains are operational.

 -Jack

*Retired Old Modelers Eating Out

National Model Railroad Month

It’s that time of the year.  November just kind of snuck up on me this year.  Art Houston sent out an email announcement the other day with a list of all the model railroad events scheduled for the Southeast Louisiana area during this month.  I was surprised at how much activity is planned.  Just a couple weeks ago we had a nice event with the open house of the club up in Jackson, Louisiana.  There are one or two events scheduled each weekend for the rest of this month.  A couple of the clubs have open houses scheduled, and several private layouts will be open to guests.  The only thing missing is a regional show with both portable layouts and droves of vendors peddling their wares (sorely missing in this neck of the woods).  While I won’t be able to make everything, I plan to attend at least a few events.

Layout progress has slowed a bit over the last two or three weekends as I’ve had a number of diversions.  Aside from the distraction provided by the new Heisler, I attended the open house in Jackson (mentioned above), and last weekend I went down to New Orleans for the fly-in and exposition at the Lakefront Airport.  It was hosted by the WWII Museum in New Orleans, with aircraft provided by the Commemorative Air Force.  Among the aircraft displayed were a B-29 Superfortress (Fifi), a LB30 Liberator (freighter version of a B-24), a B-17 Flying Fortress, and a B-25 Mitchell.  Several P-51 Mustang fighters were in attendance, along with an SB2C Helldiver, a C-45 Expeditor transport, and some trainers: an SNJ and a PT-17 Stearman.  Most of the aircraft were making occasional forays into the sky with passengers (for a tidy sum).  What does this have to do with model railroading?  Perhaps nothing, but if I didn’t have my trains, I’d probably be an airport bum, especially when it comes to chasing old war birds.  I just like ’em.

There has been some progress on the layout though.  I’ve gotten a bit more track down, done some more wiring beneath the layout, and assistant Wayne and I cut out a whole bunch of Masonite hardboard fascia panels.  I’m close to needing fascia installed so that I can start building and installing panels and controls.  And I even hosted a small operating session (with only me in attendance) this past Sunday.  There is just enough track laid at Monterey that I was able to do some switching.

I love this time of year!

-Jack