A Visit to the Grande Pacific

This post is a bit tardy relative to the event, however I had started preparing the earlier post Photographic Proof of Progress! last Tuesday and wanted to complete and publish it before starting anything else.  Okay, on to this story:

Last Wednesday I had the opportunity to visit Art Houston’s Grande Pacific Railroad.  Wayne Robichaux called Monday evening and informed me that Art was hosting an open house and an informal operating session, and would I be interested?.  Well I had never been to the Grande Pacific, and I decided it was high time that I got myself over to Art’s place, so I accepted.  Wayne picked me up at 7:35 on a rainy Wednesday morning, and then after picking up Jim Lofland, we headed south to Houma, Louisiana, the home of the Grande Pacific.

The two hour drive was uneventful and we arrived just as the layout was cranking up.  Art was busy greeting everyone as they arrived, so I set about checking out his layout.  A bit later after things were running smoothly, Art gave me a schematic diagram of the railroad so that I could get a feel for the route.  As it happened, an empty coal train was departing for it’s run to the mine near the other end of the line, so I decided I’d hitch a ride and see where the train led me.  The Grande Pacific is a multi-level layout with three levels in most places and a fourth level down at the staging yards.  Because of this, the length of run is deceptively long, and I spent a good deal of time with that train.  Once it arrived at the mine, it had to pull the loads, then spot the empties in their place.  Once the new train was made up, the journey back to the origination point began.

It was while that train was on it’s return voyage that a group of fellows from the North Shore area (of Lake Pontchartrain) arrived.  These were all folks that formerly operated on the late Lou Schultz’s C&O layout, and naturally I knew all of them quite well.  By mid afternoon it became practically a mini-reunion with no less than 12 former C&O operators in attendance at Art’s open house.  What a splendid turn of events!

Art himself was quite the gracious host.  Those that wanted to operate did so, and those that wanted to “railfan” and kibitz with each other did that also.  Art was fine with all of it.  He came over to me several times during the day for extended conversation about various things on the layout, and even some discussion about certain model railroad industries.  All was interesting.  And did I mention the refreshments?  I don’t think anyone left Art’s house hungry.

The Grande Pacific is an interesting layout, and is built for heavy operations.  There is something there for just about anybody’s operating interest.  Art has quite a bit of information about his layout on his Facebook page.

Thanks Art for an entertaining day!

-Jack

The Social Aspects of Model Railroading

In my last post I mentioned that I was becoming more fond of the social aspects of the hobby.  Well, tonight I thought I’d expand on that a bit.

I’m a regular reader of Trevor Marshall’s blog (Port Rowan in 1:64) and he often writes about the social aspects he enjoys as part of his hobby.  It isn’t uncommon for him to host an operating session, then retire to a local eatery afterwards for a nice meal and a pint or two.  He recently wrote of hosting a couple visitors at his home during which they actually devoured two meals in the one day (lunch, then later, supper).

For a good number of years I was a regular operator at the late Lou Schultz’s C&O layout.  One of the things I really enjoyed there was the social camaraderie that took place in the crew lounge both during the session, and afterwards.  I’ve just this year started eating breakfast out on Saturday mornings with a group of model railroaders (I recently referred to this as the ROMEO* breakfast).

Thinking back on it, the very first group of model railroaders that I fraternized with was the original Crescent City Model Railroad Club in New Orleans.  This came about when I was in my mid teens.  After the operating session, we usually drove to a pizza place on Veterans Highway in “new” Metairie.  Back in the mid 60s, pizza wasn’t a common thing in the deep south.  Indeed, the first slice of pizza I ever consumed was during that late hour “snack”.

The point of all this is that as I’ve aged, the social aspects and the camaraderie of being with others of the same ilk has become more and more desirable to me.  I hope to one day have a small group of folks over for regular operating sessions, and to maybe head out somewhere afterwards to share a meal.  Just tonight I was visited by two local modelers, Rod Fredericks and Gary McMills. Gary had been here once before, perhaps a year or so ago.  But much has been done on the layout construction since his last visit, so he had plenty to look at.  This was Rod’s first visit, so he received the nickel tour.  After the walk-through we just plunked down in some chairs and had a good old fashioned bull session.  What an enjoyable evening!  I had even thought of us perhaps heading around the corner to enjoy a cold brew, but tomorrow is Thanksgiving day and everyone needed to get on home for an early start in the morning.

I have to thank Trevor for reminding me of how much fun these social interactions are.  It’s really easy to hunker down in the layout room day after day and to simply forget that there’s so much more out there to enjoy about the hobby.  Reading of Trevor’s enjoyment has prompted me to stick my head up out of the benchwork occasionally to spend time with friends.

-Jack

*Retired Old Modelers Eating Out

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

Andy Sperandeo

I’ve just learned of the passing of Andy Sperandeo. I was aware that Andy had been having some health issues for some time, but his death really caught me by surprise. He will be missed.

I first met Andy back in the early sixties. Andy used to clerk at the Hub Hobby Shop in New Orleans. I was a young teenager then and used to get to Hub as often as I could. Andy was my go-to guy for model railroading supplies and he was always helpful to me. One day while there, Lou Schultz wandered in and Andy introduced me to him. We all got into the usual model railroading banter and I found myself to be quite at home with these guys. Eventually I was invited to visit the Crescent City Model Railroad Club which at the time was headquartered in Judge Boutall’s attic out in “new” Metairie. After a few visits, the club members deemed me fit for membership, and I joined the club as their first junior member.

Andy was always present at the weekly meetings and he was quite patient teaching this kid how to properly run a train, and how to switch cars, and so on. After Andy moved up to Wisconsin, I didn’t get to see him too often. But we would meet at various NMRA functions, and occasionally Andy would make a trip back down to Louisiana for a visit with old friends. I last saw him several years ago at Lou’s C&O layout in Covington, where he assumed the position of yardmaster in Hinton for the operating session.

It’s sad -and kind of scary- that so many friends have passed in just the last few years, including four folks that I considered very good friends.

I hope Andy has joined Lou, Bill and Shawn for construction of the grandest model railroad of all.

-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

The Tall Timber and Santa Fe

Last Saturday I managed to drag myself out of bed early enough to make breakfast over at the Warehouse Restaurant in Baton Rouge.  An informal group of railroad enthusiasts and modelers usually gather there on Saturday mornings to socialize and enjoy a good breakfast together.  Jim Lofland was there and after the meal, he invited a few of us to drop by his home for an impromptu operating session on his Tall Timber and Santa Fe Railway.  Wayne Robichaux and I accepted, along with Gary McMills, and shortly after we were getting a tour of all the latest things to happen on the railroad.  Gary had other obligations and couldn’t stay for the session, so just Jim, Wayne and I started the trains rolling.

Jim’s layout has been in existence pushing 40 years now.  Even though the construction is very “old school”, it still looks good and operates very well.  Jim keeps everything in fine tune and trains run smoothly.  The layout recently received a make-over with hundreds of new trees installed.  Jim loves to build structures and as a result, industries on the layout frequently change as newer buildings replace the old.  I hadn’t been to Jim’s in several years, so there was an awful lot of new stuff to check out and study.  The short session went well and I’m happy that Jim invited us over for a visit.

I’ve hunkered down beneath my layout these past few weeks and have been busy installing Tortoise switch machines.  The weekend before, Ron Findley and I had gone over to Hattiesburg, Mississippi for the NRHS Mississippi Great Southern Chapter’s annual banquet, and as usual it was excellent.  The advertised guest speaker had cancelled at the last minute due to illness, however David Price and Dan Watson put together a splendid presentation about their exploits back in the 60s ferreting out and visiting quite a few shortlines (many of them steam powered) in Mississippi, Louisiana and Alabama.  They ended the show with me clamoring for more.  After the banquet while heading toward home, we managed to catch a couple freight trains passing the depots at Hattiesburg and Slidell.  A really nice day!

This Saturday Ron and I will head over to Hammond for the NRHS Southeast Louisiana Chapter’s banquet, and we’ll probably hang around the depot over there for a bit afterward.  The traffic has increased on the CN line and it’s not uncommon to see BNSF and UP power on the trains.

And I’ll be installing more Tortoises the day after.

-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

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