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

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

Train Day at the Library – 2016

The 4th annual Train Day at the Library in Baton Rouge is now in the bag.  Last Saturday was a gorgeous day and folks took advantage of that to attend the event.  The usual fare was presented including operating layouts, slide shows, photo exhibitions, and numerous displays of models.  Several railroad historical societies were represented as well.  This year we had a new addition to the displays: Bill Chidester brought two Fairmont motor cars over and they were displayed at the entrance to the library.  One is in operating condition and the other is his recent acquisition of a derelict which Bill plans to restore.  The speeders drew plenty of attention from both adults and kids.

Bill, Jack & Wayne at TD@L-2016It’s the end of the day and the motor cars have just been loaded up on Bill Chidester’s trailer for the trip back home.  That’s Bill on the left, Wayne Robichaux on the right, and yours truly at center.  Photo by Bob Schilling.

I really have enjoyed this small gathering each year.  I look forward to seeing friends there, especially those that I don’t get to see very often.  And Saturday was no exception in that regard.  Many thanks to Forrest Becht and all the others that made the show possible.

Wayne and I, along with Bill and his wife, made our way over to a local steak house afterward.  A New York strip, along with a loaded baked potato and salad, all washed down with a cold and tasty brewski, was the perfect way to cap off the 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

Whitcomb Anticipating New Railroad Line

It’s been awhile since I’ve posted any updates, so I thought maybe I should peck out a few lines about what’s been going on.

Last Saturday, Ron Findley and I attended the Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders’ annual open house up in Jackson, LA.  It was a beautiful day and there was a record turnout in attendance.  The highlight of my visit was seeing a gorgeous U.P. Challenger running on their live steam loop.  What a sight!

UP Challenger 3987

Progress in Whitcomb has been a bit slow, but still steady.  The sub-roadbed and roadbed work through the town is nearly complete, and reaches out to the edge of the (future) Louisiana Central bridge just beyond the west end.  Only some feathering of the vertical roadbed transitions needs to be done.  The Spencer sub-roadbed has been extended through the S-curve that passes below the bridge and is headed toward the alcove in the corner of the room.  Track on both lines has been extended a bit further and should be completed in this area fairly soon.

The weather outside has been very dry and a bit cooler, so I recently decided to drag the saw outside.  I cut the wooden joists that would be needed for the second peninsula (which is also the fifth and last major area of benchwork).  Last Monday I installed the joists along much of the peninsula, and today I started laying out the joists around the orb at the end.  I should wrap that up tomorrow.  At that point, the peninsula will be ready for the sub-roadbed.

A few weeks ago I completed the vertical roadbed transition at Willis from the mainline down the yard ladder.  It turned out quite nicely and it makes me want to rip out other transitions I’ve done and replace them with these long, very slightly tapered ones.  But I won’t….at least, not for now.  It’s all I can do to get this layout up and running without ripping things out for re-dos, especially when they’re cosmetic in nature.

A month ago I said I’d be posting a few photos shortly.  I have been waiting for the work at Whitcomb to appear a bit more finished.  It’s taking longer than I expected, but I should be there soon.  As I’ve quipped in my last couple posts, “I’m pleased with the progress being made”.

-Jack

I’m Hearing Spike Mauls

First, an announcement:  In less than a month The Greater Baton Rouge Model Railroaders will be hosting their annual open house up in Jackson, Louisiana.  Saturday, October 10th is the date, and the entire facility will be open for display.  They will have layouts in operation ranging from N scale, all the way up to G (and Fn3) scale live steam.  Lunch is provided and it’s always a great way to spend several hours.  Make plans to drive up there.  I’ll follow up with another post in a few weeks with further details and directions.

This past weekend was productive on the Louisiana Central.  I converted and installed another code 70 switch at the bottom of the Spencer logging operation switchback.  That completes both the Camp 6 and double switchback trackage.  I also advanced the trackage of both the Spencer and the Louisiana Central mainlines toward Whitcomb, getting about 25 feet of track down.  By next weekend the track should reach the end of the sub-roadbed presently installed.

I’ve also started a bit of roadbed work over in Willis.  A few weeks ago Wayne and I cut some long tapered pieces of roadbed from some 2×4 lumber for use as transitions from the cork roadbed down to the Homasote table top.  These will be needed in several places around the layout.  I installed the first of those vertical transitions at the beginning of the yard ladder in Willis.  This will enable me to complete the passing siding and to start laying the yard trackage.

In a few weeks I’ll be pushing the sub-roadbed beyond Whitcomb and into the alcove, where the L.C. and Spencer mainlines will be making some hairpin curves and then heading out onto the second peninsula where Oneida is located.  If you study the trackplan, you’ll see that the L.C. mainline crosses over the Spencer mainline just west of Whitcomb.  I had planned to use a Micro Engineering 50′ plate girder bridge there.  I opened the package recently to study and perhaps begin assembly of the bridge when it dawned on me that the bridge would be too short for the planned installation.  The problem is that the angle of the crossing is about 35 degrees and I hadn’t factored in the space that the bridge abutments would occupy.  Uh-oh . . . back to the drawing board.  I discovered that Central Valley makes the same bridge in a 72′ length.  That should work nicely, so I’ve ordered one and it should arrive within a few days.  Whew, dodged another bullet!

As a side note, the Louisiana Central mainline has finally pushed past the halfway point.  It is way behind schedule, however I’m now making significant progress in that area and am optimistic that the pace will continue as it is presently.  More photos will follow in the near future.

-Jack

Rained Out

Yesterday Ron Findley and I joined a couple friends from Covington for a get-together at Tom Davidson’s home over in Hammond.  As many of you already know, Tom is a vast sea of knowledge about things railroad in southeastern Louisiana and southern Mississippi, especially when it comes to the Illinois Central.  Tom did a nice presentation on the railroad history in the greater Hammond area.  Of particular interest was the information presented regarding the strawberry shipments made from what was once known as “The Strawberry Capital of the World”.

Afterwards we had planned to shoot photos of several small industries and businesses around Hammond, but unfortunately the rains commenced.  Ron and I hung around for several hours, but it eventually sank in that this was not just a thundershower.  We relented and headed home.  We’ll simply return on a sunny day in the near future to complete our mission.

A few weeks ago I mentioned that I had started constructing a few easy car kits.  I’ve continued on that and now have a nice train full of new rolling stock added to the active roster.  I’m really enjoying this and I plan to continue assembling at least a few kits each month now.

A Group of New Cars Another Group of New Cars

As stated earlier, I won’t be detailing or weathering any of these cars initially . . . that can come later once the layout is operational.  However these cars are equipped with Kadee couplers and metal wheelsets.  Everything has been checked, adjusted and lubed so that these cars are ready for service.

I’ve also done a little more work on the assembly of the road bridge that I also mentioned earlier.  I’m assembling it in place so that it hopefully will fit the spot well when scenery work is started.  I’ll post a photo in the future once it’s completed and painted.

-Jack

A Bit o’ Work, a Bit o’ Fun

A few weeks ago I posted an update of layout construction progress and I mentioned several activities scheduled for this month.  So, starting with the first of those scheduled activities, I attended the (3rd annual) Train Day at the Library in Baton Rouge.  This years show surpassed last years (which had surpassed the first year).  Forrest Becht and the folks who are involved in planning and hosting the show are really listening to the feedback provided by the visitors and have made the appropriate changes to reflect that.  As a result, (in my opinion) the show has enjoyed considerable improvement in the few short years of its existence.  Now this isn’t a large show, but rather a small gathering at a local library.  There is a large and very nice photo exhibition of railroad subjects, tables and cases of models are displayed, and several local and regional organizations have a presence with plenty of hand-out literature.  There are on-going slide shows throughout the day, and several small operating train layouts (three rail and some N scale).  It’s fun and it’s free.  Can’t beat that.

Next week Ron Findley and I are heading over to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for the annual banquet of the Mississippi Great Southern Chapter of the NRHS.  Their banquet is always well attended, with lots of displays, sales tables, a good speaker and plenty of great food.  I’m looking forward to that.

Layout activity: I’ve completed the refurbishing and wiring up of 25 Tortoise switch motors and have even installed the first one.  I need to install 18 more to get all the switches presently installed operational.  I also completed the hard-wired aspects of my cab bus (throttle bus).  I ended up relocating the DCC command station to the middle booster location since this was electrically central to the layout.  This has reduced my longest cab bus run by nearly half.  As I add fascia to the layout, along with throttle plug-in points, I will only have to daisy-chain from point to point using pre-made data cables…nice and clean.

I should be getting back to benchwork and trackage this spring.  I haven’t done any of that since last October and I’m anxious to get back to it.  I haven’t added any new photos to the main website since early January since all I’ve been doing has either been done on the workbench or beneath the layout.  However the photos on the site do show the latest in the benchwork progression.

If you’re interested in coming by for a visit, just drop a line and we’ll set it up.

-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

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

A Great Saturday

Yesterday my friend Ron Findley and I attended the annual banquet of the Mississippi Great Southern Chapter of the NRHS.  The banquet was in Hattiesburg, MS just a few blocks from the Amtrak depot (former Southern Railroad depot).  Hattiesburg enjoys rail service from the Norfolk Southern, Canadian National and the Kansas City Southern railroads, and has a nice railroad heritage.

As usual, the event was excellent, with a really nice crowd of folks.  There were a few exhibits and several model railroad vendors peddling their wares.  Present was Tony Howe with a nice selection of his art prints (the piece at the top of this blog is by him), and as usual, I couldn’t resist picking up yet another print.

Also as usual, the lunch was tasty and plentiful; barbeque chicken, pulled pork, baked beans, potato salad and rolls, all chased down by sweet iced tea and dessert – a typical Southern dinner.  I saw and visited with a number of friends, and also a few that I only see annually (special surprise, Mike Palmieri was there…I hadn’t seen him for several years edit: 7 years).  It is splendid seeing friends at these get-togethers!

The real treat after lunch was the presentation by the special guest, Wick Moorman, the chairman and CEO of the Norfolk Southern Railroad.  He gave a brief bio of his career, then spoke about the Heritage Locomotive program, the new Steam program and a bit about the PTC system that NS and the other railroads are in the process of building.  He then opened himself up to a nice question and answer session.  It was all very interesting.  Wick’s speaking was laid back and entertaining, and he has a nice sense of humor.  He is somewhat of a railfan and in one of his side-line anecdotes, he spoke of the time when he got to handle the throttle of the ex-Nickel Plate 765 while traversing the Horseshoe Curve.  His words, “How cool is that?“.

I’m already looking forward to next years banquet.

And this Saturday coming we’ll be attending the banquet of the Southeastern Louisiana Chapter of the NRHS.  Man, just can’t get enough of this stuff!

-Jack

January – It’s Been a Busy Month

January has been a great month for railroading.  I’ve been attending events for the past three weekends, and have yet another this Saturday coming.

The Crescent City Model Railroad Club in New Orleans held their annual open house early in the month.  They’re in the process of converting their layout to DCC operation, and since the layout would be down, they decided to remodel several major sections.  Wayne Robichaux and I went down to inspect their progress and also to hit the few remaining hobby shops in the area.  Unfortunately there doesn’t seem to be a single decent model railroad shop left in south Louisiana.  A few shops we hit had nice selections of Lionel and similar, but us “scale” guys are left in the cold.

The following weekend Ron Findley and I drove over to Hattiesburg, Mississippi to attend the annual banquet of the Mississippi Great Southern Chapter of the NRHS.  Those folks put on a fine get-together.  There were several vendors displaying their wares, the dinner was good, and the guest speaker was quite interesting.  It was good seeing old friends and acquaintances over there.

This past Saturday several of us drove over to Covington to operate on Lou Schultz’s C&O layout.  Overall the session went well, there were plenty of snacks to chow down on, and as usual, it was good to meet with fellow model railroaders.

And finally, this Saturday, January 26th, there will be the Train Day at the Library event at one of the local libraries here in Baton Rouge.  There will be numerous displays about railroading (prototype and modeling), possibly a display layout, and many slide presentations by Forrest Becht, a noted railfan and photographer.

Oh, BTW . . . I actually managed to get a bit of track laid on the Louisiana Central.  I’ve been struggling back in the corner of the room it seems forever, but we’re finally getting rail down.  I’m using Atlas code 83 track and switches for my hidden track (which is what I’m laying presently), and I’m not too impressed with the construction of the switches with regards to soldering jumper wires to them.  Soldering rail feeders isn’t too big a deal, but soldering jumpers to the points is!  They’re just formed sheet metal and I found it quite difficult to tack a wire to the lower portion of the point so it would clear wheel flanges.  Despite my efforts, I had to do considerable filing afterwards to clear the NMRA gauge nubs.  And the frog . . . what a pain!  The frog doesn’t accept solder well, but there is a small tab with a hole sticking out to one side of the frog.  I couldn’t find my taps, so drove to a friend’s house for him to tap the holes for me.  Then I screwed a 1-72 screw to each and added a nut to the bottom.  I placed a dab of solder below the nut so it will never come loose, then soldered a jumper to the screw.  Despite the precautions I took (good hot iron with freshly tinned tip, and a fast in and out technique) the thin plastic surrounding the tab melted away and the cast frog on one switch came loose from its mounting in the switch.  Now I need to figure out what kind of adhesive I need to use to adhere metal to slippery plastic so as to permanently reattach the frog on that switch.

That’s about it for now.  My main focus on the layout will be to get track laid, hopefully at a steady rate.  Leave a comment if you have any questions or suggestions.

-Jack