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

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

Those Optical Detectors

There are six hidden staging tracks serving the Louisiana Central.  Since the tracks are concealed from normal viewing, I decided to use optical detectors at each track to determine occupancy and the locations of trains.  Typically each track has two or three detectors near its end, and one at the entrance marking the fouling point.

Two of those staging tracks are in Monterey, one each for the IC and the T&P.  This weekend I completed the wiring for the photo-transistors and infrared (IR) LEDs, and their connections to the circuit board serving this area.  The fascia panel with the indicators isn’t built yet, so I soldered a couple leads to a red LED indicator and temporarily jumped it across the various output terminals for testing.  I’m happy to report that all the detectors worked perfectly without a single adjustment necessary.  This is somewhat a milestone in the electrical/electronics portion of the layout construction.  There are two more circuit boards over at the Willis side to handle the rest of the staging tracks.  I’ve got most of the photo-transistors already wired, but I need to get all the IR LEDs installed.  Benchwork for the Spencer logging operation can’t proceed until that work is done as most of the staging track is below that, and I want the system complete and operational before starting this new benchwork.

I had a busy weekend working on the layout.  In addition to the above, Wayne and I got the remainder of the sub-roadbed installed in East Monterey (not an official designation).  This area is around the corner from Monterey itself and will support the mainline entering town as well as a couple businesses.

I also got some roadbed laid near the end of the Monterey yard and I took care of a half dozen little tasks that I’d been putting off.  Overall, a good weekend.

Finally, my scheduled visit by a guest from Florida was cancelled due to some family health issues, but I got a semi-surprise visit instead from a co-worker, Van Thomas.  Van has been hearing about my construction for the past couple years and he decided to come over to see what this was all about first hand.  I think he enjoyed the visit, despite the hot and heavy construction going on during his stay.

-Jack

Monterey Yard Sub-roadbed Complete (and other things)

Things have been pretty busy around the Louisiana Central these past weeks.  Since completing the lift-up access section a few weeks ago, I’ve gotten the remainder of the sub-roadbed down for the yard at Monterey.  This completes the benchwork along the east wall of the building and represents about three-fifths of the total area of layout.  The west wall and the second of the two peninsulas will not have so much “table top” sub-roadbed, but will be heavy in the single track variety as this is where much of the mainline is located.

This past weekend, Wayne and I mocked up the Spencer Lumber Company’s line up into the woods.  This is the trackage that will be over (and will conceal) the three track staging yard along the west wall of the layout.  I’ve had concerns over the accessibility of these tracks since the day I started construction.  The track will be reachable from below the benchwork, but not easily visible.  I’m hoping that the crude mock-up we’ve erected will enable me to study the concept satisfactorily, and to make the decision to go with it or not.

Next weekend I’m expecting a visit from a fellow hobbyist from Florida.  I had planned to clean and straighten up around the layout in anticipation of his visit, however, lack of time will likely kill that plan…hope he understands.  I also need to take some time to visit the library that is currently hosting an exhibition of photographs taken by local photographer Forrest Becht.  Forrest takes images of many things, but railroads are his specialty and I always enjoy viewing his work.

There’s a fellow up in Canada, Trevor Marshall, that is building an S scale pike based on a Canadian National branchline set back in the 1950s.  I believe I’ve mentioned him before in this blog.  Anyway, Trevor maintains a blog chronicling the construction and operation of his mini-empire, along with other little tidbits about what’s going on in his world.  I really admire Trevor’s approach to the hobby and many of the things he does to model the CN branch and to enhance his operations.  I also enjoy his writing style and the variety of topics he rambles about.  If you’d like to give his blog a look-see, you’ll find it here: Port Rowan in S Scale.  To quote Trevor, “Enjoy if you visit“.

-Jack