May has arrived and brought the warm temperatures and sunlight that we all need this year. Things are static here at the homestead. All is well. No COVID-19 here; and we are following the protocols laid out by our Governor. I am certainly glad to have a leader like Governor Pritzker in charge of Illinois…I can say that. Hopefully when May 31 rolls around; we can get back to some sort of normalcy here in Illinois.

Back to trains. The closure of IKEA put a brief hold on my layout benchwork construction. I have been using the IKEA IVAR shelving as a base for the layout section modules. I am using the track plan as designed by Bob Sprague…I decided it was too good to pass up. When space allows, I will expand the layout in length of run; but keep the same general area. West Frankfort, IL, and the surrounding communities. Johnston City; Benton Junction; and perhaps Marion. I think the furthest south the line might go at this point would be Neilson Junction. That is simply because I like and remember Neilson well…and the BN. Plus, there is a huge trestle there. In the 1980’s…it was a tall steel viaduct type….with deck bridges that made up the spans…”Saline Creek Trestle”…It stood something like 70 feet tall; and was over 900 feet long. That would be an impressive structure in HO scale.

The engine fleet is being consolidated once more. I am sticking with Athearn Genesis units at this juncture. I will sell off most Atlas units; not because of anything defective…but due to their lack of detail…and the subsequent work required to make them look good with the Genesis units. I am also going to put together my Genesis GP38-2’s…with the original equipment…including the plastic handrails. I am wanting to run trains…not rebuild everything. I am selling off a ton of motive power in the near future; as well as parts. So, check my eBay site: tad958. These will be undecorated Atlas GP38’s GP40’s; U23B’s B23-7’s; as well as several Athearn Genesis GP38-2 complete drives; along with shells and parts for them.

Athearn is busy with a bunch of new stuff for MoPac guys…so stay tuned to their website and Facebook page. They also have some pretty exciting stuff coming up with their new GP18 series. Speaking of Athearn; I am no longer going to be stripping and disassembling my genesis units. They are getting stuff so close to correct that it is no longer necessary. I will simply weather the units and put them into service. I have three of the new GP15AC’s in Jenks blue and love them. They are getting LOKSOUND and LED’s…and that’s it. They will stay in Athearn paint. There’s no need to repaint everything. It’s just too time consuming and unnecessary. I am almost now fully RTR. I’ll spend my time building Bethlehem steel 3209’s from ExactRail’s next run of undecorated 3483 hoppers…probably around 7 of them…along with my two Cannon and Company boxcars. Less is REALLY more these days.

Work has kept me from working on stuff that has been sitting on my bench…but not for long. I am finishing up the first B23-7. Like I stated already; the rest will be sold. The Arrowhead hopper fleet will also go. I don’t need all those Conrail and Penn Central hoppers with the focus being on West Frankfort. You see, I plan on running 50 car trains from West Frankfort to the mines and down to Joppa (staging)…and with the Proto Throttle’s new features…it will make the smallest layout seem so much bigger. It now allows for an air test to be conducted (simulated) with interactions from the decoder…it’s really a cool item. And, it’s based on a GP15-1 control stand…so what’s not to like?

I hired out my lawn mowing this year to ensure that I have maximum time available to build the downtown structures in West Frankfort. I will have the first part of those done soon. I’d rather spend my modeling time reminiscing about the days when Mom, Dad, & Garland were alive and all was well. Right now, there are times when I really need the diversion from reality. I am thankful for the appreciation and hobby skills that I have developed; as it keeps me happy and focused on those things when I need it most.

I am grateful for a group of people that I work closely with on a daily basis. They have no idea how much they mean to me and how they shape my approach every day that I report to work. The job is excellent and challenging…and I am grateful to have been given an opportunity to serve the State again. I am working longer hours and enjoying every minute of it…but those few persons that I work with are what really make me go sometimes…especially when I am exhausted from 60 hour work weeks.

Finally, I’ll update the site later this week with some photos of downtown West Frankfort in HO scale…I have the depot about finished (finally) and am busy designing the old freight station that stood behind it until around 1984. I will be keeping the 1982 time frame…and will get to work on the buildings that to the west of the depot/freight station next. I will use Design Preservation buildings to simulate them…as I can get pretty close. The last thing is that I plan to populate Main street in West Frankfort with some moving traffic…and perhaps State Route 37. Dad’s Ford Pinto will indeed be making that U-turn to avoid train 409 on Saturday mornings; as it regularly blocked the grade crossings while building a 50+ car empty hopper train to take to Freeman Number 4 or Zeigler 4 (I’m keeping Zeigler 4 open on the layout; as I can’t bring myself to close it) which was daily practice for so many years!!

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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