April is here. Winter is still trying to hang on. My wife and I went to the Gulf Coast the last week of March…hoping to bring the 75 degree temperatures back with us. Needless to say; it DID NOT happen. We came back to 33 degree morning temperatures for late March. Totally unacceptable. The death of my older brother will definitely take some time for me to both accept and deal with. This is a person that I spent 4-6 hours a week talking with and laughing and joking with. It’s not going to be easy; to say the least.

The carpet is finished in the train room. They did an outstanding job; and the shop and new computer station are being completed. I have been working on grit blasting a brass car for a good friend…and will get back to my stuff after completing his car. The next car in line is an old Pecos River Brass caboose that was modernized by the MP. It’s getting the buzz saw treatment and vermilion red. I’m putting ExactRail 50 ton trucks under it; and Moloco cushion draft gear as well. But that’s it.

I bought a ScaleTrains SD40T-2 with sound. I wanted a fleet of these at first; but I got cold feet and canceled them (the reserved units were non-sound). When ST announced they had the new Loksound 5 decoders; I bought a sound equipped unit from their excess stock. It has to be the most beautifully done RTR engine that I have ever seen. Based on this; I’ll abandon my plans to build some MP units and wait for ScaleTrains to do them. They continue to refine their models as they go.

The layout will be next in line after the aforementioned brass car projects. I will do a multi-level plan and will try to keep a few signature scenes intact for the move to the larger layout. But, this track has been reused three times now…and I don’t expect to pull it up a fourth time…it will go to the dumpster on moving day. But the tall steel trestles and the Cache River Bridge at Karnak will go with me.

I’m reading Pelle’ Soeberg’s book “Building a Sectional Layout” from Kalmbach Publishing. It’s a great read. Lot’s of photos of his last Midwestern layout that now resides with ExactRail in Utah. Trainmaster’s TV will soon have a video up of the layout and I am anticipating watching that while enjoying coffee. I think Pelle’ really captured the mundane beauty of the Midwestern US; and even though his scenes are “generic”; they are based on actual locations and are really well done. I highly recommend the book.

A small buying spree closed out March. I picked up some parts for my guitars and a small lot of freight cars. I plan on getting my undecorated project cars out of the way in the next month…and will be moving on to engines and loksound 5 decoders.

Lastly, I have spent a great deal of my hobby time advocating, researching, and working with manufacturers on upcoming projects. A recent encounter with one left me a bit taken aback. Are we too critical of the manufacturers? Should we accept some mediocrity in our models as prices increase? I personally think the hobby is at an all-time high; but there is always room for improvement in the quality of the products we have. And, time bears that out. I believe that we should always progress. That’s what it’s all about.

We start with a train set; and soon we are building a 4 x 8 layout; then we are cooking with gas…as they say. I remember building that first MP GP38-2 from an Athearn Blue Box engine; and adding Detail’s West Spark Arrestors; snow plow; antenna; and sunshades from Aline. I thought I had hung the moon. It was custom painted with Floquil Dark Blue-Light Blue mixed 50/50. But the engine lacked certain road specific details we enjoy today…however, I put Smokey Valley brass stanchions on her; and those are superior to what we have today. So, there is still room for improvement.

Categories: Uncategorized

Thomas Austin

I am a Southern Illinois Native. I am a fan of nostalgia, and the history of Southern Illinois. Model Railroading has been a large part of my life; and it helps serve that interest. Through this interest I have learned much about the region; the people; and the industries that gave us all hope of building a life beyond our formal education. Small Towns in the Midwest built this nation...and this site aims to share that fact with the world.


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