Happy New Year! We head into the new year with optimism and hope for all. We wish our new President well and success in the coming years. We wish prosperity to all those that were stricken with CV19 and other illnesses this past year. And, lastly, I will get the Buckhorn Industrial Branch up and running this year. We are moving ahead with our plans to move south of Town. However, I am going to go ahead and build part of the branch with some staging for coal trains to be switched in and out of the mines. I am leaning towards Freeman 4 at this time; and a single decked version to get trains running sooner rather than later…but am also considering Zeigler 4 as a possible target due to the coal tipple part of that complex that seems simpler to build.

I am renewing my subscription to Historic Aerials.com and would recommend this site to anyone interested viewing track arrangements from any part of the US. This has been invaluable for the placement of track and structures for the present and future layout.

The mine switcher crews out of West Frankfort had to perform a variety of switching moves to get their empty cars spotted and the loads assembled and pulled. This procedure alone at one mine would provide hours of enjoyment with the switch crew for that train. In fact, I often think that a model of West Frankfort and the ex-CEI yards with the mine branch would be enough railroad for me or anyone. Especially if made the layout closer to scale…and allowed for prototype length trains of 50+ cars…I am excited at the prospect of that alone. I can imagine using my proto throttle to complete the switching moves. It is based on a GP15-1 control stand…so why not use it with the GP15-1s assigned to Train 409?

I won’t discount all of my other research; but I look at the time it has taken just to get to where I am right now…and thought: WOW. How much railroad stuff does one really need? Sure, I’d love to have a layout that has ICG at the North End…CO&E in the middle…Neilson Jct….Vienna Jct…and Karnak/Joppa on the South end…but that would be a huge undertaking. I’m not saying that I won’t build the whole line…but without the large crews of similar layouts that we have all seen for years in the various magazines, the layout would probably end up like Rick Rideouts layout…gathering dust. Or dismantled. Tony Koester’s 3rd Subdivision of the Nickel Plate is something to be in awe of…but he wanted to model the entire subdivision and traffic patterns. He did it, too. But he had a ton of help. I’m a lone wolf. And, no matter how hard I try to conform…I’ll never go entirely R-T-R. I can’t accept the paint jobs and such on RTR engines for my entire fleet. I am still going build the GP15-1’s up from undecorated kits. And two of my GP38-2’s. That’s it.

For now, I’ll be content with the layout that I am planning and get back up to speed this week. Sometimes I find it difficult to get inspired with the amount of drama that permeates the landscape around here…and I simply need to block all of it out and get to work. But we all know that talk is cheap.

That’s the idea I am starting 2021 with…Just get going!! It’s time to get moving. Let’s get some trains running. Train 409 is ready to leave town!

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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.