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!


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!


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.


It’s Fall …and it’s Railroading Time

We’re getting into my favorite time of the year for model railroading and railfanning.  The temps have come down and the rains have slacked off . . . we’ve had some beautiful days these past several weeks.  Last weekend was the annual open house for the railroad club up in Jackson, Louisiana.  As usual, they had all of their layouts on display and operating.  I don’t think many clubs can boast of having an operating layout in each of the major scales.  And the outdoor operations are fun to watch also.  Their G scale garden railroad is pretty cool, and of course, the operating live steam loop always has some really nice equipment under steam.  I got there about lunch time (and consumed one of their complimentary lunches), but ran out of time before I got to visit all of the layouts.  It appeared to me that they had a nice turnout for the event.

This weekend coming Lou Schultz over in Covington will be having an operating session on his C&O layout.  There is also the annual railroading event over in Meridian, Mississippi this weekend.  It’s too bad that it conflicts with Lou’s session, as I would like to do both.  And the weekend following this will see another operating session down at Art Houston’s layout in Houma.  This is also the time of year that we occasionally have a train show, either in Covington or Gonzales (unfortunately, there is no show scheduled for this year).

It’s also a great time to spend next to the tracks, with the mild days and crisp weather.

I’m still working on my layout, though at a bit of a reduced pace.  As I reported earlier, the basic framework of the benchwork is all but complete.  I’ve turned my attention to the sub-roadbed and risers this past month.  I am working in one corner of the room where several of the tracks going into the hidden staging area will be located.  It turns out that this is a difficult area to lay out and build.  A couple of the tracks at the rear are on curves and are descending at the same time.  They start at different places, but ultimately end up on the same hidden roadbed.  It is challenging to say the least.  I would have rather started in an area of straight, level track to kind of ease into things, but the more I thought about it, the more I realized that it would be much easier in the long run to install this complex area, then build out away from it, than to do it the other way round.

I haven’t posted any pictures lately as I want to wait until I have some track actually spiked down.  Trackwork in place signifies to me that the section is complete, thus ready to photograph.

I have my vacation time coming up later this year, and I hope I am able to use some (most) of it working on the layout.