OPINION: Move or not to move that is the question


So after get a good start on my P48 layout, I ripped it out as you have likely read by now.   We bought a home in Arizona and looked forward to moving.  So we ventured down in July and again in September and got a sample of the legendary Arizona summer.  Well, you know they say it is a dry heat.  It is still hot no matter if it is dry or wet.   I have been in Abu Dubai in July and thought it was hot.  Arizona is hot.


Now we are selling the Arizona home (want to buy it?) and resorting to Plan B.  That is to stay in Cali and in our current home.  Onward with Plan B.  Now I have to start the layout all over again.  Yes, there were lessons learned.  Hopefully, I can apply them and make a better go of it.


California has good, bad and the ugly.  You just have to live with the last two.  Sometimes that is hard to do.   One good thing is at AT&T park.   Seeing the Giants play at home is very cool.   It helps to ease to pain of the bad things.  Now that they got a closer it will even be better.


At any rate, we are planning to stay..

Happy Trails,


COMENTARY: Stuck in Lodi Again

Lodi arch HABS

Do you remember the old Creedence Clearwater Revival song about being stuck in Lodi again?  It sort of describes my frustration of having the sale of our home fall through.  So we are back showing it to potential buyers.  Uncertainty rules the day!

Aside from the tune’s negative suggestion that Lodi might be another “jerkwater” town in the middle of nowhere, Lodi is not that town. Creedence was not a fan of their wonderful wines and quaintness.  It is now an official appellation for their wine.  They produce a number of very fine Zinfandels.  The SP, Central California Traction and the WP once served this little town in the Central Valley of California.   There are a number of interesting industries that were once served by railroads.   I have liked a number of them.


 Well, I was fortunate not to have packed everything away.  My tools and parts are still there for me to use while waiting for the next buyer to come along.

My previous posting showed a couple X23s done by Lee Turner.   The cars arrived at their owner’s layout.   They belong to Norm Buckhart of Protocraft.   His layout features many custom decorated cars done by a number of modelers.

x23 at norms

Happy Trails,


OPINION: “Go West Young Man”

American author Horace Greely was attributed for writing the phrase in the title of this post. As it turns out that a fellow in 1851 penned the phrase “go west young man” years before Greely.   At any rate, it did spawn a migration to the west settling in California and all points in between.  It was like the famous Chicago Burlington & Quincy slogan of “Everywhere West”.


WestCoastTrailCost2_resizedI have been in the Golden State since 1963 and like many I have seen it transform from a largely agricultural economy with great prosperity and possibilities for people who wanted to work to one that has shifted away from agriculture to high tech with more people than jobs.  The cost of being here has shot to the moon.  Real Estate is now untouchable in the San Francisco Bay Area and many other places.  I left Silicon Valley to the foothills seven years ago to find a place to retire.   Now, the progression of taxes and home building has made my current location less desirable.   Before coming to the foothills of the Sierra, I tried home ownership in Hawaii.  That is off the hook in terms of expensive.  Try to find a hobby shop within 2400 miles of the islands.

Capay Valley

So, I have decided to ignore the advice of going west.  Besides it no longer applies since I am an old man now days.   “Going Southeast Old Man” might better describe the direction.   I start looking around in Nevada, Arizona and even Texas.  In this day and age you can visit places using applications like Zillow and Realtor.c20150920_183241om.   Arizona became my choice after researching various aspects of the living environment.  Texas was my emotional choice since I have lots of friends there and pioneer spirit of the old wild west was still alive.  The weather was a bit of a downer however.  A.T. Kott reminded me that Texans hate the sight of another damn Yankee towing a Uhaul.   I used to do business in Waco, Greenville, Plano, Austin and a few other places.  The heat and humidity was tough in the summers.

Well, the house is on the market and the layout is being torn out of the garage.  We are committed to the process of relocation.   Not sure when we will load up the moving van but hopefully sooner than later.  We have been in the current hope for seven years which is just long enough to collect more junk than you can manage. Anyone who has moved understands what I am talking about.

layout teardown

The scraping process is painful to do.  Lots of plans have to be reset for a new space and time.  I was able to give nearly all of the layout material to Ron Souza who is building his On3 railroad.   Lumber would be expensive to move since commercial movers based their costs on weight.  I am salvaging a portion of the layout (20′ or so).  Most of my built models will be packed and moved in a rental minivan.  My wife will drive our car and I will drive the minivan.  The thought of fragile models bouncing down the road in a 53′ moving van is something I don’t want to consider.

end shot

The blog is not ending but will cover other topics while the relocation takes place.  I might even get a few construction projects done until the new layout space is finished.

Happy Trails,





OPINION: Getting Older?

AZ mountains

We recently completed a trip to Arizona to check out the possibility of relocating.   Arizona offers considerable savings in cost of living.  Taxes and housing are cheaper than Cali.


On the way down, we passed an unusual load on being carted down I-10.  It looked like a large cat or a possible bat mobile.  Well, my guess is that it a space plane called Dream Chaser. My former employer develop this machine to compete on the NASA space station program.   I could be wrong and it might be a bat mobile after all.

Being away means that you have a pile of mail to go through.  Most of the mail was pure junk.  There were flyers from cemetery plots, Neptune Society, burial insurance and assorted junk.  Wow! What a downer.  Maybe I needed to go down to Costco and pick out an appropriate box.

Someone said that age is a state of mind.  My state of mind is positive so I must be still young.  Since I just didn’t fall off the turnip truck, I am thinking that the clock is  really ticking down.

When your modeling time is limited, you must focus on an achievable objective.   All too often modelers run out of time to build the empire of their dreams.  We are all “collectors” of kits, parts and such.  How much time does it take to build a kit?  A quick scan of the project shelf will show a lifetime of work.  I have done the look.  This has triggered selling many kits, completed cars and books.   I went through my magazine collection and “clipped” for useful information.  There are probably too many plans and articles in my pile of clipped material.  All of my Mainline Modelers are now being recycled.  The last several year of that magazine probably had little or no useful information.   In retrospect, you could see the slow death of a once great magazine.

 I am in the process of tearing out my layout saving a few sections for use as a photographic stage.  The next version will be smaller and uncomplicated.

What do you really need to pull of an achievable railroad?  One or two locomotives is really all I need.  I am fortunate to own several Glacier Park brass imports.  A couple dozen cars and a caboose or two is all I need.  I can concentrate on structures and scenery.

NP front crossing lr

Happy Trails,


MODELING: Depicting Real World

You may have noticed that many in this hobby tend to look at structures on a layout as background or a collection of unusual buildings.   Factories too small to justify a rail siding and houses that didn’t fit the locale.  Modelers who try to model prototype areas and scenes try to build credible looking buildings that fit the area and scale.

What I am suggesting is that you need to build models from scratch to make the scene credible.  Buildings are the easiest things to build.  There are lots of parts such as windows and doors available today.  If you are modeling the area you live in, grab your camera or smart phone and get your butt outside and find interesting and plain buildings to provide the right look.  If you don’t live in the area or you are modeling a period prior to “urban renewal”, you need to get to know Google real well.  It is amazing what you can find when you start searching.   I found a site that showed bungalows in the Seattle area.   I live 900 miles away but you can go to the Tacoma Public Library website and find photos of nearly any kind of building or industry for that area.

Ok, it is time to “just do it”.

Renee Grosser created the look of western Minnesota.

I have long admired Renee’s modeling of classic Midwestern homes.  She has captured the look because the models are based upon real buildings in the area that her husband Ray’s railroad depicts.   Ray is an ardent Soo Line modeler and has built a Soo Line layout in HO and recently in O scale.   The following buildings were built from styrene and are well executed.

1 Prototype house 2 lr

The actual stone building is shown above.  Renee’s rendering is shown below.  The model captures the design and details of the actual home.

13 finished house lr

Rau house Waite Park MN won 2nd place at O Scale National 2012 lr

The home shown above won second place at an O Scale convention in 2012.  The model shown below has lots of visual eye candy to capture attention without looking like a cartoon.

Rear of Ringsmuth house Waite Park MN lr

I would like to thank Ray and Renee Grosser for sharing their work.

Happy Trails,






Over the years I have spent entirely too much time waiting for something to be produced.  That time could have been applied to building the desired model.  I used to make excuses that I lacked tools, expertise, plans and something else.   It was probably the fear of diving in and tackling something new and challenging.   Then there is analysis paralysis.    I wonder how many of you out there suffer from the same condition.


Waiting for “it” has caused me to waste so much hoping for something to be produced.  Over the years, I have taught myself to do a number of model building techniques.  I am still learning today.   The techniques have allowed me to step away from some of the waiting game and decide my modeling path.  My initial efforts in scratch building were all over the place in terms of prototypes and quality.   There wasn’t a single theme or direction.    Ron Sebastian once told me that a person has only so many good models in them.  In other words, don’t waste the energy on something that isn’t important.   I am staring down seventy years of age and wondering how many more things can I accomplish before I can’t do it any more.   It is a morbid thought but the aging process is not kind to model builders.

One of my ventures in model railroading was into S Scale.  It seemed to have a great potential.  I noticed that I was waiting and watching to see when a new decal sheet or a pair of trucks might appear.  Brass locos appeared but the basics weren’t there.   I suspect it has gotten better.   I have seen some remarkable work being done in the scale by some talented builders.  For me, it is a little to late.

The lesson for me out of all these words is that: don’t wait for something to happen.   As the Nike commercial used to say:  “Just Do It”.   The biggest pain for me was the reliance on some supplier to key components like trucks, couplers and decals.   The rest is just model building.   There are a few bright lights in our small world of Proto48.   The most important is Protocraft.  Norm Buckhart has created a company that has filled many important voids in our hobby.


Protocraft decals have made me forget about names like Champ, Walthers and Microscale.  There are only a few dedicated artists that take the time to search out the prototype data, photos and history.  Protocraft is one of them.   They don’t use stock lettering from the typesetting world like Champ and Walthers.  With few exceptions, all of the Champ freight car dimension fonts are not traced or matched to prototype cars.  Protocraft does the tracing directly from actual photos.    There are some many new sets out and coming that I may have to expand my storage box.   Hopefully, all these cars will make onto the bucket list.

50-ton T-Section

Trucks have long been a challenge in Proto48.  Between Protocraft and San Juan Car Company, many of the steam/diesel era trucks are available.   Finally, important post war trucks like ASF A-3 Ride Control, Barber S-2 and the National B-1 are available.  A new 50-ton Andrews will be arriving soon.

AOX 1001

So it seems that most of my problems are solved.   No! There are models that I want but have not been produced.    I have held out hope for new tank car models and a few new urethane freight cars.   Well, that problem is no longer a problem.   I have a small layout and not a great need for rolling stock.   I will build what I need and not wait around for a fickle supplier to “Just Do It”.

CDLX 335 (6) IS

As for the rest of you, I will share my projects via this blog.   It might show you a way to get what you  want.


The Cost of Disappearing Hobby Shops


Like orange juice stands in California, the hobby shop has disappeared from the local scene in most cities and towns.  Both were fun to stop by and enjoy. Now the hobby shop is only a memory to reflect upon when you run out of something critical to a project.

So now I go online and order the few parts I need and get to pay shipping and wait a week or less.   When I consider the $8.00 shipping charge for $18.00 of parts, I get a sharp pain in my wallet.  So how did we get here?

There are a lot of reasons why we no longer have a local hobby shop (LHS).   I don’t intend to plow this field.   Many folks have waxed at great length on this topic.   I am sure you have your opinion like me.

The reality is that the hobby today is not the hobby of forty years ago.  An aging population hasn’t help matters either.  My theory is that internet retailing killed the LHS.  The local needed full margins to pay for the brick and mortar establishment.   Changes in retailing channels has affected nearly everything in our lives.   Think about the effect of a new Walmart-type big box store opens in a town.  Within a few years, all of the local shops are gone.   While the big  box store reduced the cost of a lot of things, it did it at a cost to the community.   The large internet retailer had a similar effect on the hobby. The lure of lower prices for hobby items and a large selection brought a lot of customers who used to buy at the LHS.  Those same discounted big ticket items purchased through the internet were the bread and butter of the LHS.  So this left the LHS only the bits and pieces to pay the rent with.   It just didn’t work out for the local guy or gal.   Now we get to pay through the nose for the little things when the shipping costs are factored in.

I lived in Silicon Valley for many years and enjoyed the fact that the Train Shop in Santa Clara to take care of my diverse needs.   The store discounted merchandise and managed to keep their customers buying local.   The store is still going strong under the ownership of Dennis Cole.   It is a success story.

Over the years, I managed to do a great of traveling in my profession and was able to sample the LHS all over the US and in England and the Continent.   I loved the English shops with all of their wonderful bit and pieces liked milled structural shapes and tools.  The English railroads had their own charm and could be modeled to a high degree of fidelity with material you purchased at the LHS.

For some reason, the Sacramento area is devoid of a railroad hobby shop.  I guess that it says something about the market for trains in the state’s capital.  It is the same city that has built a world class railroad museum.   Go figure!