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

Photographic Proof of Progress!

Earlier in the week I finished installing the sub-roadbed (plywood topped with Homasote) in the town of Oneida.  This town is located on the 2nd peninsula, which happens to be the 5th and final major area of benchwork.  Today I sanded and filled joints between panels and did general cleanup in the area.  Tomorrow I’ll likely get a coat of paint down to seal things.  I’ve been promising for weeks (months?) to get some pictures posted of the work that’s been done in both Whitcomb and in Oneida.  Well I’ve finally done it!  Here are a few to start things off:

Looking down the aisle
Here’s an overall view looking down most of the length of the room.  That’s the Spencer Lumber Company’s Camp 6 on the right, along with the double switchback required to get up the hill.  To the left of that is the Louisiana Central mainline.  Way down at the far end is Whitcomb.  Over on the peninsula at left we see Oneida.

Whitcomb up close
Here’s a closer view of Whitcomb.  I’ve started the trackwork in this area and the mainline (left) is complete and wired.  The passing siding (center track) and the industrial spur (right) aren’t installed yet . . . the pieces are being cut and fitted, and they should be going down soon.  The next track to the right (on it’s own supports) is the Spencer mainline from the woods.  It’s heading back to the mill at Oneida.  And the high line against the wall is the tail of the 2nd switchback on the track up to Camp 6.

The alcove
Down in the alcove, both the Louisiana Central and the Spencer mainlines make a 180 degree curve, then head back to Oneida on the peninsula.  The gap in the roadbed at right is where the plate girder bridge will go.  The Spencer mainline passes below the bridge here.  The two mainlines join at left for a bit of joint trackage over the river bridge to be located just east of Oneida.

I’ll get a pic or two taken at Oneida in a few days after I finish up the painting and cleanup.

If you’d like to see more photos, you’re invited to visit the photo section of the website: Whitcomb and Oneida.  And you can find the track plan here.

Happy New Year to all!

-Jack

A Benchwork Binge

It’s been over three weeks since my last post.  This time of year gets kind of hectic with all that’s going on.  But even so, some significant progress has been made on the layout.

I’ve been on a benchwork binge for several weeks now.  I mentioned back in November that I’d started cutting out the sub-roadbed for the two turn back loops contained within the alcove in the train room.  That has been completed and installed along with the cork roadbed.  Track can now be laid.

But I didn’t stop there.  Coming out of that alcove, one enters the second peninsula of the layout.  This is the 5th and final major section of layout construction.  I had previously installed the joists in this area in preparation for the sub-roadbed.  As of today, all of the Louisiana Central sub-roadbed has been installed through the town of Oneida (located on said peninsula).  I’ve cut the sub-roadbed out for the Spencer trackage that will be in the mill site, and will probably get it installed within the next few days.

The only sub-roadbed work left now is the big loop at the end of the peninsula orb, then the mainline run back down the back side.  The track will then traverse the bridge across the room entry and enter Monterey (the end of the line).  The mainline has long been completed in Monterey, so I simply need to connect there.  Wow! the end (of sub-roadbed construction anyway) is actually in sight!

I’ve been saying for months now that I’d post a few photos of the recent construction.  As soon as I complete the work at Oneida near the mill, I will snap a few shots and get ’em posted.

I’ll likely shift to track laying soon as I’m getting way ahead of myself with benchwork.  I can put down about 35 feet of mainline right now, plus a passing siding and quite a few feet of industry trackage.  The Spencer mainline can also now get into Oneida, so I need to put that down (about another 35′ of that).

Again, I’m pleased with the progress.  I’ll be starting the new year on a positive note!

I’d like to wish each of you a very Merry Christmas!

-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

Getting Back on Track

Well, sub-roadbed actually . . .

I’m mostly through with my computer woes, having most of the software re-installed and my data all intact on the new hard drive.  I took a break from working with all this to get some more railroad construction in.  And more construction did indeed ensue.

The Louisiana Central mainline sub-roadbed has reached the middle of Whitcomb.  The Spencer logging operation has sub-roadbed installed all the way to the west end of Whitcomb.  Track laying will commence shortly on both of those lines.  I’m enjoying this benchwork phase as it really produces visible evidence of progress.  And it’s kind of fun sawing and drilling wood.  It is tempting to simply keep advancing the sub-roadbed all the way down to the alcove, then back out to the second peninsula (the final frontier).  But I’ll resist and will commence track laying instead.

Here are a couple photos of this past weekend’s efforts:

LCRR mainline from Maynard to Whitcomb

The Louisiana Central mainline is now curving out from Maynard (at the far right), and then advancing westward to the center of Whitcomb (at the far left).  That’s the Spencer Camp 6 trackage at the upper level, and the double switchback at the mid level.   Both the Louisiana Central and the Spencer mainlines are headed to Whitcomb.

Spencer Lumber Co. at Whitcomb

The Spencer mainline has been extended further west and now is passing through Whitcomb.  The skeleton log car at left is just at the west edge of town.  The track will continue a few more feet left of this point, then make an S-curve to pass beneath a Louisiana Central bridge prior to heading for the hairpin curve in the alcove.  The benchwork at the far right is the Louisiana Central coming into the east side of Whitcomb.  That wide area will have the mainline, a passing track, and an industry spur serving a freight house, and a farm implement and supply dealer.

If you’d like to see more photos, you’re invited to visit the photo section of the website: Whitcomb and the Spencer operation.   All-in-all, not too bad of a weekend.

-Jack

Railroad Construction Crews Advance Despite Interference by Others

As I mentioned in the previous post, I have managed to get some work done on the layout.  I’m a couple weeks behind where I’d like to be, but all-in-all, things are still moving along nicely.

The Spencer logging operation received a bit of track, extending from the high line (along the wall), down to the mainline that will head back to the mill.  Last weekend I cut out the next section of sub-roadbed that, when installed, will take the mainline past Whitcomb to the point where the Spencer line ducks beneath the Louisiana Central mainline (see the track plan).

And speaking of the Louisiana Central, the sub-roadbed has been extended from Maynard westward to within about three feet of Whitcomb.  The next section of sub-roadbed, which will carry the line up to the middle of Whitcomb, has been cut out and is waiting for installation.  I’ve also started laying cork roadbed from Maynard out to near the end of the new sub-roadbed.

Electrically, all of the bus wiring that was run a few weeks ago has been tied into the circuit breakers beneath Whitcomb.  Now they are energized and ready for service.  And the Tortoise motors serving the Spencer trackage have their wiring extended down to the control panel location at the (future) fascia.

Finally, Wayne and I made a lumber run and then ripped enough joists, risers and fascia supports to carry us through Whitcomb and Oneida (the next town down the line).  We also cut several sections of Masonite fascia, and even managed to cut some long wooden tapers to use where track needs to drop from the cork roadbed down to the tabletop.

I’d like to complete just a bit more work before posting any progress photos, but I think that will be soon.  I’m optimistic about September and look forward to some solid progress during this month.

-Jack

Technology Interference

I’ve had a couple roadblocks thrown in the way of layout progress these past few weeks.  This blog is powered by WordPress software and that’s where my first trouble came.  Several times a year the WordPress folks release an update to the software.  I have dutifully downloaded these updates and completed the upgrades without a hitch . . . rather painlessly, in fact.  The latest release wasn’t so friendly to my installation.  In short order, it trashed the blog site.  If any of you attempted to visit during this time, you were met by a blank page (if anything at all).  Fortunately I had a recent back-up of the site.  But I had never actually done a restore before, and I had quite a learning curve to get it all sorted out.  After many hours spread over a couple of days, I finally got things restored back to the pre-upgrade state.  I think I’ll hold off upgrading the site for a period of time, at least until the next minor upgrade is released.  Hopefully that upgrade will work a bit more smoothly.  At any rate, I’ll make a back-up immediately prior to the upgrade attempt, and if things fail again, at least I’ll have the knowledge and experience to get the site back on line within just a few hours.

Hurdle number 2:  Literally the day after I got the blog restored, my desktop PC went down.  Now, this is the PC that I depend on; all others are mere toys and conveniences (like, for running model railroad software).  I had been experiencing a couple symptoms that something was awry for several weeks, but didn’t expect this.  While not conclusive, the evidence is pointing to a failed hard drive.  And naturally, I haven’t been able to find a new hard drive (of the size, type and style that I wanted) anywhere in town.  So off to the internet, where I found the prize in short order and followed up with a purchase.  It finally arrived this morning, but it’ll be a couple of days before I’ll have a chance to install and format it.  Then I must install the operating system and the jillion programs, data items, photos, etc., etc.  Fortunately here also, I have a fairly recent backup of all data, so once the programs are installed, the data will be there.  The success of this however, depends on my assumption that the problem is indeed the hard drive.  I’m formally requesting all readers to cross their fingers and toes.

Despite all this, some progress still ensued on the layout.  I’ll have an update on that in my next post.

-Jack

Camp 6 in Operation

The past few weeks have been productive ones.  The Spencer Lumber Company’s high line into the woods terminating at Camp 6 (the re-load point) has been completed.  Trackwork is down, the Tortoise switch motors have been installed, wiring is complete, and I even sprayed a coat of Rust-Oleum Camouflage Brown onto the trackwork.

Next up was the double switchback.  The sub-roadbed for that has been installed, along with a nice section of the lower mainline.  This mainline will bring the trains to the mill in Oneida, two townships away.  The mainline sub-roadbed has progressed to the middle of Whitcomb (the first township).  The photo below shows the current state of construction in the area.  I’ve posted about a half dozen photos in the photo section of the website; you can -click here- to go there if you’re interested.

Spencer Lumber Co. Camp 6

This photo was taken while standing on a stool in order to show the track layout better.  The high line roadbed is 60″ above the floor down where the Shay locomotive is sitting.  The mainline at the point where it leaves the photo at lower left, has descended to about 54″.  It will drop to under 52″ by the time it reaches the west side of Whitcomb.  Those three tracks down in the “valley” are some of the staging tracks that will be hidden from normal view by the scenery.

Trackwork will commence on all of this sub-roadbed this coming weekend.  As a side note, all of the sub-roadbed here was cut from the salvaged sub-roadbed of a layout built back in the late 1980s.  The Homasote then was of a much higher quality than that being sold today.  Very little surface prep will be necessary before laying track.

The good news with all of this is that the re-load point at Camp 6 is now operational.  And even better, the Louisiana Central mainline can now proceed westward out of Maynard (that area down at the far end), and on to Whitcomb.

Some electrical work has also been accomplished.  My ace building compadre Wayne came over last Saturday and we twisted and pulled all of the remaining track power buses.  All remaining trackwork can be immediately connected to the bus and powered up as it is laid.

July and August continue to be great!

-Jack