Here we are in March. I know I keep saying in blogs past that I will update with photos…I will. But work this past week was very very busy; and I was unable to get ANY time in the train room. I did get over to the Home Depot and purchase a couple of new sheets of 3/4″ birch to rip into 1 x 3’s. I am also reviewing several “how to” things on painting wood structures; as I’d like to get my West Frankfort Depot finished. I have shingles and all to put on it; as well as the Depot signs. I will build a diorama to use for for outdoor photos with it; and plug it into the new large layout next year.

The branch is nearly complete with benchwork. I am taking my time to do them ‘right’ this time…as aesthetics matter. I will miss this room when we move; but I won’t miss the stairs. I also won’t miss the 50 pounds I will lose by this August!! Right now, I feel about as good as I can despite the excess weight. I am going to start biking again and get back in shape…as it will enhance my enjoyment of all things model railroading. As it is now, I have to use Saturday to rest; and I work on benchwork on Sunday…and haul it up the stairs. I won’t miss this chore…believe me.

I unpacked a few GP15AC’s for use in the meantime to switch cars when I can get some track down. I am planning some time off in the middle of March to accomplish some track work and get a few trains running…or at least be able to switch the mine tracks. I am still wanting to back date the layout to pre-1980…so I don’t know if the GP15acs will stay or be sold. Same goes for GP50’s…and the ex-ROCK GP38-2. I have some of the blue units on order with buzz saws coming in June for 408 power…and I still have two U23B’s and an Atlas GP38 to use if needed. Right now it seems impossible to be able to disconnect and get a few engines done on the weekends. The more I think about it; the more I am leaning towards just going with the fleet ‘as is’ and just acting like Zeigler 4 never closed in June 1980. Besides, I have a TON of late 70’s ExactRail hoppers that would technically be too new or out of era…and THAT’S NOT going to happen!!!

I got my first shot of the COVID vaccine on February 19. I am waiting on the second shot to be administered. I see where others have already received their second dose and frankly, I don’t understand how some of the folks can have received their second dose when others haven’t received their first. Yes, I know they prioritize; but there is no way that some I know that have received both doses needed theirs before first responders and front line staff. But, we will see an upswing here in the near future. The President’s bill has passed Congress and Illinois will get needed relief and additional monies for vaccine and distribution; as well as more relief for those who have been adversely affected. This paragraph may seem out of place on here; but I worry about our fellow Illinoisans and Americans; so the idea they are FINALLY getting relief (thanks to Democratic Legislators) helps me relax and get back to hobbies.

I will update the photos near the middle of the Month when I am off and working on getting some trains running. I am going to reach out to a few primo modelers that I know for their advice on weathering structures and such to get some neat photos of engines sitting at West Frankfort in the late 70s. I can wait to see what the photos look like on the site, personally.

I have some big stuff on the Horizon for the bigger layout. But I won’t get to that until April. I am planning on getting back on the Sedalia Caboose project in the coming months…if time allows. However, getting a few trains running is a priority to me…so I can use the proto throttle. I also vacillate between the “one town” approach; and adding the line south of Neilson. The quandary is that I will have the room to build Benton Junction; WF; and the mines close to scale; but if I want to add the Neilson-W. Vienna-Karnak-Joppa stuff; I might have to go multi-level…and I really don’t want to do that…plus the one-town approach seems more feasible; but I will wait until retirement to figure out if my thinking is skewed because of time constraints right now versus unlimited time to work on trains. Because, let me tell you; other than this blog…I will be OFF the Grid for a while.

I will put a new page on the site dedicated to Freeman 4 in the next couple of days. Eventually I’ll add track maps and HD videos of the models in action working the mines. I can hear those GP15’s winding up now!!! Until next month…

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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.