Well, I officially retire from work at the end of this month. I am looking forward to getting back to hobbies and pursuits that I have not been able to get to while work and COVID took precedence. I have been busy with some major upgrades in equipment over the past couple of months in preparation for my leaving working life for retirement.

We are presently in process of more renovations at the current home. My wife is finally getting a new kitchen…and the house is also getting new bathrooms and new carpet. It’s been past time for these things to occur. Likewise, I have updated my Digitrax equipment for the layout and have been working on new models again at the bench. I have also purchased a few more 1/25 scale models that I have been building again of late when I am not doing model trains.

I am almost done with the bench work around the first level of the layout and the two mine scenes will be first in line. I am also going to work on the new plan in the near future…but am wanting to get some of this existing plan in operation and scenery on it so I can at least run some trains. The bench work is great with the IKEA IVAR shelving. It really gives a professional appearance without much additional elbow grease needed. I am also ripping my own dimensional lumber from 3/4″ Cabinet grade birch. I know it’s expensive; but I get a lot of bang for the buck from a 4 x 8 sheet. Having a good carbide tip saw blade on your table saw helps as well…you get what you pay for.

I am going to start on the coal hopper fleet from ExactRail now as well. I bought a custom run of ExactRail quad hoppers that arrived late last year…100 cars. These cars will get basic weathering; with wheel faces painted; and some of them will get additional weight. I am custom painting several of them for the 1975 C&EI delivery of these cars; as well as some more 3209 hoppers. I am also doing another custom run of hoppers in AEPX livery with Bowser this year. So, if you have a need for some un-numbered AEPX stand in cars…I can spare a few. I am waiting on a few custom built curved turnouts to begin the mine trackage laying…and will start at the Freeman 4 end and work my way back. I will document these with photos and update the site as such. I will also be posting a mine run video in 4K later this summer as well…when the layout is running.

The RPM meet is again at the end of July…and I am excited to go. I am also attending the NMRA show in Collinsville in August. Looking forward to those shows. I am thinking about attending the Decatur IL Train Fair this weekend as well. It’s supposed to be warm and I might enjoy getting out and taking a drive. We’ll see. I’ll either go; or stay home and work on the bench work…but I will have plenty of time to do that after the end of April. It is nice to see a return to some normalcy for us train nerds.

I will sell off some more factory painted engines this year and settle on a fleet of about 10-12 engines total. That’s all I would really need anyway. I have updated my Digitrax system with the newer command stations; boosters; and throttles…as well as my Proto Throttle. I am set for control systems now. I decided to update the 20+ year old Digitrax stuff with new components…including a new Duplex receiver. All is working as planned now. I will now resume the GP15-1 projects; with renewed interest. I recommend Digitrax as your starter system in DCC. I passed on my legacy equipment via eBay at a reduced cost to allow the new owners to enjoy excellent equipment. I am happy to report those old boosters and such are now working for new owners and doing their thing.

The GP15’s will be a “A fleet” or “Super Fleet” units…complete with sound; and multiple lighting functions. These will get Cannon noses; and will have truck lights; class lights; step lights; ect., that are operational. The B fleet will be GP38-2’s and B23-7’s…these will be accurately detailed; but will not have all the lighting features…just front and rear headlights. They are simply used for 408 power to and from Joppa; as well as power to take loads and return empties from Salem or points north of West Frankfort. The GP15’s will get the extra features since they are going to be doing the work on the branches and handling the local duties of all trains on the layout…might as well deck them out.

See you in May!

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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.