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The DVD that Steve Mitchell of Yard Goat Images and I shot last January in Colorado is finally ready for a pre-release. I met with Steve today, and he gave me a number of copies at what he calls his distributor price. He also gave me permission to sell these at a discount to friends and family. For obvious reasons, he requested that I not advertise the discounted price, but if you would like one, please contact me at my e-mail address    Some of you saw the DVD that I made from my video alone; this finished version, with the work of both cameramen, is twice as spectacular.  If you like steam trains and western scenery, this is one DVD you are definitely going to want in your collection.

Here is the other DVD that I am holding in the post above. Steve Mitchell of Yard Goat Images and I shot this in January of 2013 in Colorado. Some of you saw the DVD that I made from my video alone; this finished version, with the work of both cameramen, is twice as spectacular. If you like steam trains and western scenery, this is one DVD you are definitely going to want in your collection.

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Mad City Train Show 2016

Last weekend I went with my friend, Steve Mitchell, to the Mad City Model Railroad Show in Madison, Wisconsin. I have sometimes shot video for Steve's DVDs, and I like to help him with these shows. I'm holding two of the videos that I did a lot of work on.

Last weekend I went with my friend, Steve Mitchell, to the Mad City Model Railroad Show in Madison, Wisconsin. I have sometimes shot video for Steve’s DVDs, and I like to help him with these shows. I’m holding two of the videos that I did a lot of work on. I posted articles on both these videos when they first came out, and I have reproduced those postings below.

 

For five years, from 2004 to 2008, I had a Christmas train layout under our tree using Bachmann's On30 equipment. That's where I fell in love with the scale. The only problem was that each January, the layout had to be packed away until the following Christmas season. Although it had a pretty complex track arrangement, and two levels, it was made with Lemax Village buildings and people. Their buildings are OK for what they are, and are generally speaking quarter inch scale, but their figures are closer to G-scale, and I had some 1:32 scale automobiles on it. All in all, it was OK for a Christmas display, but it wasn't a real model railroad. I had done some video pieces of it every year because I like doing that kind of thing. In January of 2009 I knew I was going to be able to start on a real model railroad, so I made a farewell video, using all of the tricks at my command. I arranged special lighting for all of the scenes. I placed theatrical gels over the camera lens to simulate dusk and night. I had a small fog machine that generated a pretty good blowing snow effect, and I did some "camera-on-flatcar" shots. I even plotted the suggestion of a story. Jump forward to July of 2013. My friend Steve Mitchell, of Yard Goat Images, e-mailed me to see if I'd like to make a commercial release of my 2008 Christmas train video. I pounced on the idea, and we spent the next five or six weeks re-editing the video, tightening up the story, re-scoring the music, and adding all new sound effects. The finished product is the DVD, "The Last Train to Christmasville", which is now available on Steve's web site, yardgoatimages.com. The running time is about 30 minutes, and the price is $15.00. The preview of it can be seen on the web site, or at U-Tube http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Mbu1Qyr-C3k Young children love to watch trains, and I really think "The Last Train to Christmasville" turned out to be a delightful product for young children, ages toddler up to middle school, so if you have any kids that age in your life, your own, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, I'd strongly urge you to consider it for a Christmas gift.

For five years, from 2004 to 2008, I had a Christmas train layout under our tree using Bachmann’s On30 equipment. That’s where I fell in love with the scale. The only problem was that each January, the layout had to be packed away until the following Christmas season.
Although it had a pretty complex track arrangement, and two levels, it was made with Lemax Village buildings and people. Their buildings are OK for what they are, and are generally speaking quarter inch scale, but their figures are closer to G-scale, and I had some 1:32 scale automobiles on it. All in all, it was OK for a Christmas display, but it wasn’t a real model railroad. I had done some video pieces of it every year because I like doing that kind of thing.
In January of 2009 I knew I was going to be able to start on a real model railroad, so I made a farewell video, using all of the tricks at my command. I arranged special lighting for all of the scenes. I placed theatrical gels over the camera lens to simulate dusk and night. I had a small fog machine that generated a pretty good blowing snow effect, and I did some “camera-on-flatcar” shots. I even plotted the suggestion of a story.
Jump forward to July of 2013. My friend Steve Mitchell, of Yard Goat Images, e-mailed me to see if I’d like to make a commercial release of my 2008 Christmas train video. I pounced on the idea, and we spent the next five or six weeks re-editing the video, tightening up the story, re-scoring the music, and adding all new sound effects. The finished product is the DVD, “The Last Train to Christmasville”, which is now available on Steve’s web site, yardgoatimages.com.
The running time is about 30 minutes, and the price is $15.00.
Young children love to watch trains, and I really think “The Last Train to Christmasville” turned out to be a delightful product for young children, ages toddler up to middle school, so if you have any kids that age in your life, your own, grandchildren, nieces or nephews, I’d strongly urge you to consider it for a Christmas gift.

 

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Allow me first to apologize to all my regular subscribers, and especially to the new subscribers who continue to sign up, despite the dearth of recent postings.

Allow me first to apologize to all my regular subscribers, and especially to the new subscribers who continue to sign up, despite the dearth of recent postings. I could go on and on with reasons and excuses for neglecting my railroad and my web site, and many of those would be very valid, but the bottom line is that I owe my subscribers more content. One thing that has been holding me up has been the depth of that Durango section of the layout. I finally bit the bullet, and decided to eliminate the turn-back curve in Durango. This will bring most of the trackwork to within three feet of the fascia vs. the four foot reach that was there with the turn-back curve. Double click the photo above for an enlarged look. In order to preserve continuous running on a part of the layout, I added a cross-over on the far right side of the track diagram. I took out the San Fransisco style armstrong turn table for the Durango trolley. That was never going to be more than cosmetic, and I’m using the Tam Valley Train Shuttle to control the trolley anyway.

On a more exciting note,

On a more exciting note, I am traveling to Sweden next week, and I’ll be visiting Troels Kirk and his famous Coast Line RR. In e-mails with Troels a couple of years ago, I discovered he lived fairly close to my Swedish cousin, and he invited me to stop by the next time I was in Sweden. I’ll post something about my visit when I get back….and I promise to make more progress on the D,D&SRR later this summer.

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Steve Mitchell and I attended the big railroad show in Madison, Wisconsin this past weekend. I sometimes volunteer with Steve's company, Yard Goat Images, Yard Goat

Steve Mitchell and I attended the big railroad show in Madison, Wisconsin, this past weekend. I sometimes volunteer with Steve’s company, Yard Goat Images, to help with videography or with shows like this. Here is the quiet before the storm at the Alliant Energy Center on Friday night during set up for the show.

Here is Steve in front of the two tables that comprise his vendor's location.

This is Steve in front of the two tables that comprise his vendor’s location.

9:00 am Saturday morning the doors open. By 5:00 pm Sunday night, over 10,000 people will have attended the show.

9:00 am Saturday morning the doors open.

By 5:00 pm Sunday night, over 10,000 people will have attended the show.

By 5:00 pm Sunday night, over 10,000 people will have attended the show, which featured 29 layouts, 3 clinics, 20 exhibitors and 69 vendors.

Layouts ran the gamut from small dioramas like this one....

Layouts ran the gamut from small dioramas like this one in HO scale….

....to large scale masterpieces like this one from the G Whiz Gang....

….to large scale masterpieces like this one from the G Whiz Gang.

In between there were little jewels like this suitcase train....

In between there were little jewels like this suitcase train….

....and some nicely detailed modular layouts.

….and some nicely detailed modular layouts.

Exhibitors included several museums and historical societies.....

Exhibitors included several museums and historical societies…..

....and the National Model Railroad Association.

….and the National Model Railroad Association.

There was the usual selection of vintage railroad equipment.

There was the usual selection of vintage railroad equipment…..

....and structures of all shapes and sizes.

….and structures of all shapes and sizes.

Children were not overlooked. This young man is fascinated by a garden railway set-up.

Children were not overlooked. This young man is fascinated by a garden railway set-up…..

....and the circus train was a popular ride.

….and the circus train was a popular ride.

Anyone for a cup of coffee? Fuel your day with purpose at chapincoffee.com.

Anyone for a cup of coffee? Fuel your day with purpose at chapincoffee.com.

The G-scale circus train is always an eye-catcher.

The G-scale circus train is always an eye-catcher.

How about this 7.5 inch gauge stock car, over6 feet long!

How about this 7.5 inch gauge stock car, over 6 feet long!

Anyone have room for a helix this big?

Anyone have room for a helix this big?

Last but not least, I always look forward to seeing my friend, John Drechsler, from Milwaukee.

Last but not least, I always look forward to seeing my friend, John Dreschler, from Milwaukee.

He creates some of the most detailed scratch-built structures and rolling stock in On30 that I have ever seen.

He creates some of the most detailed scratch-built structures and rolling stock in On30 that I have ever seen. Here is a logging camp bunk car he was working on.

 

 

 

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The workshop in my garage has been completed for a couple of weeks now.

The workshop in my garage has been completed for a couple of weeks now. I attached six shelves to the wall facing into the garage to help with storage. There is still room for my Mazda Miata, but when I purchase a new car, a Toyota Prius, I will probably have to remove the bottom three shelves to make it fit in the garage.

The inside of the workshop did hold everything.

The inside of the workshop did hold everything.

It is crowded, but at least it is warm. A small enclosed oil heater visible in the rear of this picture keeps the temperature at a constant 50-60 degrees F, and I can make it warmer when I'm working.

It is crowded, but at least it’s warm. A small enclosed oil heater visible in the rear of these pictures keeps the temperature at a constant 50-60 degrees F, and I can make it warmer when I’m working. I went with this type of heater because there are no exposed heating elements to start a fire, and it uses less electricity.

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With the help of my friend, Collin Ludwig, we bagan framing in the walls of the 6 foot by 11 foot space that will become my all-weather garage workshop.

With the help of my friend, Collin Ludwig, we began framing in the walls of the 6 foot by 11 foot space that will become my all-weather garage workshop.  The garage is deep enough to get a car in between this structure and the garage door.

These walls will be insulated and then lined with plastic to help hold off the Minnesota winters.  Our temperatures here can sometimes get into double digits below zero.

These walls will have wallboard on the outside, and then be insulated and lined with plastic to help hold off the Minnesota winters. Our temperatures here can sometimes get into the double digits below zero.

An insulated, exterior door will help with the heating.

An insulated, exterior door will help with the heating.

A small oil-filled radiator will keep the temperature at a constant 60˚ Farenheit when I'm not in the workshop.  This will prevent damage to any of my paints.

A small oil-filled radiator will keep the temperature at a constant 60˚ Farhenheit when I’m not in the workshop. This will prevent damage to any of my paints.

The concrete floor is covered with quarter inch thick, interlocking rubber mats, and eight inch thick tempered masonite.

The concrete floor is covered with quarter inch thick, interlocking rubber mats, and eighth inch thick tempered hardboard. The hardboard will protect the mats, and give me a good smooth surface for the rolling office chair that I sit in when I work on small modeling projects. More to come…..

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From September 3rd through the 6th, my wife and I attended the 34th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.

From September 3rd through the 6th, my wife and I attended the 34th National Narrow Gauge Convention in Kansas City, Missouri.  This was my first experience at a national model railroad convention of any sort, and I thoroughly enjoyed it  They have a beautiful new center in KC attached to a Sheraton Hotel, so the convention facilities were outstanding.  This backside view doesn’t really do the exterior justice, but we stayed at the Hilton Garden Inn next door, and this was my view each morning as I walked to the convention center.

The main registration/information desk was in the west-facing foyer of the center.

The main registration/information desk was in the west-facing foyer of the convention center.

The clinics for the convention were conducted in rooms at the Sheraton, which were just a short covered walkway away.

The clinics for the convention were conducted in rooms at the Sheraton, which were just a short covered walkway to the west.

A spacious and inviting, east-facing lower lobby led to the clinic rooms.

A spacious and inviting, east-facing lower lobby in the Sheraton led to the clinic rooms.  Most days there were five clinic choices, spaced at 90 minute intervals, 8:00 am to noon, and 6:30 pm to 10:30 pm.  The afternoons were free for local layout visits, that we scheduled on an individual basis.  I usually tried to attend two morning clinics, and two evening clinics.  I was able to see an average of 4-5 layouts on each of the afternoons of Wednesday, Thursday, Friday and Saturday.  There were 51 layouts available to see, so I had to choose judiciously.

I didn't take pictures in every clinic I attended , but this is Joel Bragdon of Bragdon Enterprises

I didn’t take pictures at every clinic I attended, but this is Joel Bragdon of Bragdon Enterprises talking about his geodesic foam scenery techniques.  I have to say that with my concern about putting too much weight up in my layout loft, his materials make a whole lot more sense than plaster.  There’s a bit of a learning curve for those of us who have always used plaster in rock molds for scenery, but I think it will be worth the effort.

Another presenter I photographed was Sam Swanson who did a presentation on kit-bashing a critter, and modifying and painting figures.

Another presenter I photographed was Sam Swanson who gave a nice presentation on kit-bashing a small diesel critter, and modifying and painting figures.  You can see the substance of his talk (about the critter, at least) in the 2013 edition of the On30 Annual.

Like most national conventions, there was a contest room.

A part of most national conventions is a contest room, and for this narrow gauge group there was an interesting category called the “one square footer”.

I can't show pictures of all of the dozens

I can’t show pictures of all the dozens of contest entries (although, believe me, I took them), but this was a large HO scale diorama with a level of detail that must have taken years to achieve.

Detail can be found in small spaces, too, as we see in this nicely executed snow plow.

Detail can be found in small spaces, too, as we see in this nicely executed diminutive snow plow.

It seems that the more dilapidated, run-down and neglected something is, the better we narrow gaugers like it.

It seems that the more dilapidated, run-down and neglected something is, the better we narrow gaugers like it.  Evidence this crumbling shed with its burnt out shell of a rail car, which won several awards, including Best in Show.

There was an exhibit hall that had to be 100 yards on a side.  This plan shows the layout and location of all the vendors and modular layouts.

There was an exhibit hall that had to be 100 yards on a side. This plan shows the arrangement and location of all the vendors and modular layouts.

From the entrance door looking left.

From the entrance door looking left.

From the entrance door looking right.

From the entrance door looking right.

A restored Model T Ford that was actually used by the D&RG.

A restored Model T Ford that was actually used on the D&RGW.

The sheer quantity of things at a convention n like this defies description.  A small sample of the vendors on hand

The sheer quantity of things at a convention like this defies description. A small sample of the hundreds of vendors on hand included Wild West Scale Model Builders with their gorgeous craftsman structure kits.  I’m going to put some S-scale and HO-scale buildings in the background in Durango to force the viewing perspective.

Hunterline Products was there with their stunning bridgework in all scales.

Hunterline Products was there with their stunning bridgework in all the popular scales.

Banta Modelworks had many of their fine laser cut structure models on display.

Banta Modelworks had many of their fine laser cut structure models on display.  The nice thing about a convention like this is that you can see these products with your own eyes.  It really helps you to choose what will work best on your layout.

One company that has only been around for a short time is Clever Models.

One company that has only been around for a short time is Clever Models.  They’ve taken an old modeling technique, the use of paper or card-stock, and elevated it to new heights.  All of the models in the foreground here, and the complete layout behind are made from their paper products.

Dozens of modular layouts adorned the exhibit hall.  Although not modular, this tiny jewel of a layout has to be one of the smallest working layouts I've ever seen.

Dozens of modular layouts adorned the exhibit hall. Although not modular, this tiny jewel of a layout has to be one of the smallest working O scale narrow gauge layouts I’ve ever seen.

At the other end of the spectrum is the world-famous Sundance Central layout from Florida.

At the other end of the spectrum is the world-famous Sundance Central layout from Florida.  This giant masterpiece in 1:20.3 scale deserves several hour’s perusing.

Every time you turn around you see well known people from the model railroading community.  Here's Joe Fugate of Model Railroad Hobbysit Magazine.

Every time you turn around you see well known people from the model railroading community. Here’s Joe Fugate (in the black t-shirt) of Model Railroad Hobbyist Magazine.

My afternoons were filled with learning to navigate Kansas City, on both sides of the Kansas/Missouri border.

My afternoons were filled with learning to navigate Kansas City, on both sides of the Kansas/Missouri border.  I use a Magellan GPS, but even the most sophisticated modern technology doesn’t always get you where you want to go.  I took hundreds of layout pictures, and these are just a very small sample.  Dr. David Jacobs has a completely finished dual gauge layout featuring On30 and O scale three-rail trains.  His layout room was also the most inviting and comfortable space I saw all week.

Another layout which is finished to a large degree is Steve McKee's RGS & D&RGW RR.

Another layout which is finished to a large degree is Steve McKee’s RGS & D&RGW RR.  This On3 pike fills a 2200 square foot basement.  Again, comfortable surroundings provide operating crews with an inviting atmosphere in which to work.

The Stockton & Copperopolis of Don Ball featured the most authentic late 19th century dispatcher's desk on display this week.

The Stockton & Copperopolis of Don Ball had the most authentic late 19th century dispatcher’s desk on display this week.  Even the telephones along his main line featured the early scissors-mount apparatus.

I saved the outdoor layouts for Saturday, and was blessed with wonderful 70 degree, sunny, weather.

I saved the outdoor layouts for Saturday, and was blessed with wonderful 70 degree, sunny, weather.  The Rock Creek Railway of Doug and Nancy De Berg features this full size railway station.  That’s right, that’s not their house, it’s their railway station!

Their track plan is only about 50% complete, but what is there meanders through some

Their track plan is only about 50% complete, but what is there meanders through some appealingly manicured scenes.

Their 7.5 inch gauge layout hosts both live steam and gasoline powered diesels.

Their 7.5 inch gauge layout hosts both live steam and gasoline powered diesels.

The club-size private layout of Gail Gish, called the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad

The club-size private layout of Gail Gish is called the Rio Grande Scenic Railroad.

1/8" scale live steamers abound on this wonderful pike.

1/8″ scale live steamers abound on this wonderful pike.

Dual gauge

Gail’s railroad features over 5,000 feet of dual gauge track.

The Big Creek & Southern RR of Pat McCarthy is truly of amusement park scale.  This layout occupies 13.5 acres, that's right acres!

The Big Creek & Southern RR of Pat McCarthy is truly of amusement park scale. This layout occupies 13.5 acres; that’s right I said acres!

The track is all complete, and much of it sports CTC control with signal bridges and lights.  He runs both live steam and diesel powered locomotives.

The track is all complete, and much of it sports CTC control with signal bridges and lights. He runs both live steam and diesel powered locomotives.

There are also full size railroadianna like this

There are also full-size railroad pieces like this mast and signal light.

Much of this layout is four track main line, as you can see from my passenger's seat on this train.

Much of this layout is four track main line, as you can see from my passenger’s seat on this train.

A transfer table allows visiting engines and rolling stock access to the railroad.

A transfer table allows visiting engines and rolling stock access to the railroad.

Although many modelers and vendors had left by Saturday night, the closing ceremonies wwere well attended by a good representation of the over 1,500 who attended this year's convention.

Although many modelers and vendors had left by Saturday night, the closing ceremonies were well attended by a good representation of the over 1,500 narrow gauge modelers who took part in this year’s convention.  A great speech was given by Charlie Getz of the Narrow Gauge & Short Line Gazette.  Bob Brown, long time editor of the Gazette was also present.

I'm going to close with a topic that has often been discussed in our hobby, and although I probably can't shed any new light on the subject, I thought I'd air my thoughts. Looking around at this convention I didn't see too many people who looked younger than 50 years of age, and the majority probably topped 60.  One railroad owner on the layout tour was 91 years old.  I'm happy to say he was spry and in complete possession of his faculties.  He was a delight to talk to. So, the topic of the aging model railroad community comes up often.  Charlie Getz mentioned it in his closing speech.  Maybe the hobby has always been dominated by retirees.  Certainly most of us of a certain age have more time and wherewithal to engage in something like this, and that might explain the average age of the serious model railroader. But can we depend on a continuous flow of senior citizens to sustain the hobby?  Is it really true that fewer and fewer young people are coming into model railroading? We need to examine how we first got interested in modeling to see if today's youth are exposed to the same things that led us to enjoy playing with small trains.  Let's face it; that's what we do! Back in the 1950s, when I grew up, we often considered rail passenger service as a viable option when we wanted to take a trip.  I even took my first train trip in the late 1940s.  I think it was on the New York Central from Cleveland to Chicago.  I was only about three, but I remember the grey-green color and the fuzzy texture of the passenger car seats.  I even remember a stranger offering me a stick of Spearmint gum.  I often traveled by train in the late 1950s and early 60s before I could afford a car.  Rail passenger service in this country today can hardly be considered a mass transportation option. What did we see around us?  I frequently saw steam locomotives and interurban electric "doodlebugs" between Peoria and Bloomington, Illinois when we made our weekly Sunday car trips to visit my mother's sisters.  Trains were a part of our lives in a way that just isn't the case for today's youth.  All of us in the hobby, almost without exception, credit our first Christmas train set for jump-starting our interest in model railroading.  My first set was a Marx wind-up train.  What percentage of today's kids dream of that Christmas train, as opposed to the newest computer game or action figure? So what's the answer?  That, as they used to say, is the $64,000 question.   I do have to say that when I go to model railroading shows representing the Minnesota Transportation Museum or Yard Goat Images, I see a lot more young people and families with small children at those events than I did at this convention, so I hope that bodes well for some level of regeneration for our hobby. And, although "Thomas" is the little train we all love to hate, I think he has done yeoman service for the future of our hobby, because he introduces kids to the steam trains they will rarely be able to see in the real world.   Here in the Twin Cities, we have a program on Public Television called "The Choo-Choo Bob Show".  It is sponsored by a hobby shop of the same name, and the show won three Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Awards in 2013.  This is just the kind of programming that will help develop future model railroad enthusiasts. We know that our love of trains started at an early age, and was due to our exposure, in one way or another to trains in the real or fictional world.  We need to do everything we can to help see that today's young people have that same opportunity.

I’m going to close with a topic that has often been discussed in our hobby, and although I probably can’t shed any new light on the subject, I thought I’d air my thoughts.
Looking around at this convention I didn’t see too many people who looked younger than 50 years of age, and the majority probably topped 60. One railroad owner on the layout tour was 91 years old. I’m happy to say he was spry and in complete possession of his faculties. He was a delight to talk to.
So, the topic of the aging model railroad community comes up often. Charlie Getz mentioned it in his closing speech. Maybe the hobby has always been dominated by retirees. Certainly most of us of a certain age have more time and wherewithal to engage in something like this, and that might explain the average age of the serious model railroader.
But can we depend on a continuous flow of senior citizens to sustain the hobby? Is it really true that fewer and fewer young people are coming into model railroading?
We need to examine how we first got interested in modeling to see if today’s youth are exposed to the same things that led us to enjoy playing with small trains. Let’s face it; that’s what we do!
Back in the 1950s, when I grew up, we often considered rail passenger service as a viable option when we wanted to take a trip. I even took my first train trip in the late 1940s. I think it was on the New York Central from Cleveland to Chicago. I was only about three, but I remember the grey-green color and the fuzzy texture of the passenger car seats. I even remember a stranger offering me a stick of Spearmint gum. I often traveled by train in the late 1950s and early 60s before I could afford a car. Rail passenger service in this country today can hardly be considered a common mass transit option.
What did we see around us? I frequently saw steam locomotives and interurban electric “doodlebugs” between Peoria and Bloomington, Illinois when we made our weekly Sunday car trips to visit my mother’s sisters. Trains were a part of our lives in a way that just isn’t the case for today’s youth. All of us in the hobby, almost without exception, credit our first Christmas train set for jump-starting our interest in model railroading. My first set was a Marx wind-up train. What percentage of today’s kids dream of that Christmas train, as opposed to the newest computer game or action figure?
So what’s the answer? That, as they used to say, is the $64,000 question.
I do have to say that when I go to model railroading shows representing the Minnesota Transportation Museum or Yard Goat Images, I see a lot more young people and families with small children at those events than I did at this convention, so I hope that bodes well for some level of regeneration for our hobby.
And, although “Thomas” is the little train we all love to hate, I think he has done yeoman service for the future of our hobby, because he introduces kids to the steam trains they will rarely be able to see in the real world.
Here in the Twin Cities, we have a program on Public Television called “The Choo-Choo Bob Show”. It is sponsored by a hobby shop of the same name, and the show won three Upper Midwest Regional Emmy Awards in 2013. This is just the kind of programming that will help develop future model railroad enthusiasts.
We know that our love of trains started at an early age, and was due to our exposure, in one way or another, to trains in the real or fictional world. We need to do everything we can to help see that today’s young people have that same opportunity.

 

 

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