TV24 at CP 277

TV24 at CP 277
Conrail TV-24 rolls east through rural Central New York in Onondaga County, September 1994.

Wednesday, October 6, 2021

Pushing through the Fall

October was a month on paper that I knew would push the limits.  

As the world reopens from this pandemic, more opportunities to interact are available, and with the kids getting older there are more than we've handled in the past. All of these take time. So far we've been able to schedule most of it without conflict, but in doing so each weekend and most nights are occupied with some sort of planned activity.  

And the best-laid plans will change with the passing of a mentor.  Tom Davis, Proprietor and Innkeeper of The Station Inn Bed & Breakfast in Cresson, PA, passed away on October 5, 2021 at the age of 90.  His life was a full one: full of experience, of pushing limits while maintaining civility, of quiet reflection while welcoming guests.  Tom was a character - warm but wise, fun-loving yet refined, a man of intelligence with a dry, quick wit.  


In 1994, a handful of teenagers made a reservation to stay at this former railroad hotel next to the Conrail main line across Pennsylvania.  I was 17, and my brother just 15; our parents let us and three of our close friends make a 250-mile drive from New Jersey to stay at this inn and watch trains for the weekend.  Different times!  But my dad had his hands full with my sick mother and disabled sister, and in the chaos we were allowed a few days adventure.  

Well, ten years later, we were still at it, with Tom as a guide and authority figure we all respected.  

'Original Five' at the 10-year anniversary

Each year was a similar pattern.  We'd reserve 3 nights, round up a bunch of train friends, drive to Cresson and spend the whole weekend watching trains at areas near the Inn or from the porch, eat too much pizza and wings, drink too much beer, and go home mentally refreshed and physically exhausted. 

Over the years, the Inn was a constant when so much else changed.  Conrail was merged into NS and CSX, with NS taking over the operations past the Inn.  Shortline RJ Corman reopened coal branches while we watched and rode along, a handshake arrangement thanks to Tom.  Some of us went to college, all got jobs, some changed jobs.  Most are married, some with kids.  And many of us dealt with the death of parents.  Many moved, some far away.  But we all made time each year for this trip, and it had become a bit of a retreat.  


Tom's health in recent years had some slips and setbacks, but most years he would find a way to spend time with us, sharing stories and wisdom, giving us laughs.  We all knew he was strong but still, the sense of change was close.  This year, though, he was looking forward to our visit and indeed was more himself than any time in the last 4 years.  

This year, he was out with us on the porch for hours.  He ate meals with us, and talked almost like the 'same old Tom' which was a joy.  Incredibly, too, he asked to come down to the old tavern in the basement of his Inn each night with us, where we had a private party set up like usual.  For the first time in years we looked at photos and he drank beer with us late into the night.  Note the time - that's 12:21 AM, by the way!  

And on Friday night, word spread amongst the 28 attendees that Tom would be down the bar again with us and sure enough we got a photo or two with most of the crowd in the middle of the party.  

This is how I will remember Tom Davis:  with a beer in hand, smiling, enjoying life despite all the usual trials and tribulations he'd survived.  Known and respected by guests like us, as well as peers from around the world, Tom led a life full of railroading, travel, and learning.  Tom was a man of many backgrounds: an intellectual, a steam locomotive engineer and fireman, and innkeeper, and he shared all of those with whomever showed interest.  

Godspeed Tom!  Thank you, for everything.


Thursday, September 30, 2021

Building Momentum

This the time of the year that the days get a bit shorter, and a familiar and welcome chill is present in the air overnight.  I have always found autumn full of promise and splendor, a recalibration from summertime and it's interesting to see how that changes as a parent and manager at work. In the wake of the pandemic most activities have resumed and the schedule is full, very full, of nearly all good things.  Momentum is building for the month of October which is one of the busiest on the calendar in years. 

I used some of that energy to focus on smaller, achievable projects on the layout, squeezed into a few hours here and there leading up to a guest operating session back on September 17.  In contrast to the bridge deck earlier this month, these were smaller scenes but added a lot of visual improvement.  

The first one was one the kids wanted to help with over at Island Yard - just some ballast and some foreground static grass, but a huge change to the brown paint that was there for the last few years.  


One of the best parts of this one is it's a small area, but a neat new place to take photos.


Another quick hit was needed up on the M&E at the Crucible Chemical switch.  That siding was in place for years with just a few tacks holding it down while I waited to decide how it should look.  With the deadline approaching for the session, I made a few decisions, and to my eye it came out nicely.


I even added a working derail to the siding from the Alexander Models kit, which worked better than I thought it would and adds a neat aspect to switching for the M&E jobs.  Ballast and weeds finished the job.


Also, given the remnants of Hurricane Ida as well as three other storms that in total dumped nearly a foot of rain in August and early September, I have been dealing with more water in the basement than usual.  It is designed to drain out and we had no floods per se, but three separate times I had to pull up the floor tiles and set up fans to dry things out.  


All in all, though, we are in great shape.  The layout is poised for some serious improvement over the next few months - lots as always to look forward to and be excited about.  And so the other thing that is building momentum is my gratitude for my wife and kids, whose patience allows so much of this to become reality and whose support makes it all fun!



Thursday, September 23, 2021

Finishing Touches: Woodchuck Hill Road overpass

 It's always nice to 'finish' a scene on the layout.  Any modeler will tell you that no model is ever really finished, per se; while a scene can appear complete, there is always room for more weathering whether subtle or harsh, for more detail, and for more depth.  Many scenes are good enough for now but over time may present opportunities for change.  

Still, to bring a scene to a state of completion is satisfying and compelling.  Such is the case with Woodchuck Hill Road, which was completed recently in time for a guest operating weekend on the Onondaga Cutoff.


There is nothing like a good deadline to force my hand for progress.  I learned early in life that I am not smart or driven enough to procrastinate - if I have an idea or a vision, it requires immediate action to ensure sufficient time to finish.  So, a deadline looms on my brain from its announcement until it is past, and the announcement itself is enough to keep me pushing.  

We had finished the roadway itself in the last update, now it was time to mount it on the layout!  The deck and sidewalk were glued in place with canopy glue, after a few test fits on the layout.  I used Sculptamold to fill the area below the styrene roadway on both sides of the bridge, seen above, smoothing it to shape with a putty knife and blending it into the surrounding areas.  While that cured, I went back to the workbench to finish the scratchbuilding of the New York State DOT 'box rail' guardrails that will further help tie the scene to the locale.  


Making the railings required lots of careful measuring and selecting a scale 6"x6" cross-section strip, which was available from Evergreen Styrene.


Once cured up, I painted the whole thing silver and then gave it an overcoat of dullcoat which yields a nice silver-gray look that reminds me of the galvanized finish on the railings.  

Before setting the railings, though, I had to blend in the fresh Sculptamold with the surrounding turf.  So, I painted it mud brown mixed with black, and went over the fresh wet paint immediately with a blend of static grass, which nicely blended the two together.  


I touched up the gray fascia area as well, then added the railings carefully with canopy glue - and the result really is a big upgrade.

There is a clear CNY lineage to this bridge, now, even more than before.  I am thrilled with how it turned out and excited for the upgrade.  All we need now is a few railfans on that sidewalk waiting for westbound trains - I guess a scene really never is 'finished', right? 



Friday, September 3, 2021

Highs, and Lows - All Part of the Experience

 Life in my 40's really is a remarkable collection of emotions and energy.  From amazing highs to some very challenging lows, it does swing back and forth quite a bit and offer a lot of opportunity for perspective and for contrast.  

On the heels of hosting US Secretary of Transportation Pete Buttigeig, on August 31 we were given notice that the Governor of the State of New Jersey wanted a personal tour of progress at Newark Penn Station, my most important station at my 'day job.'  A lot of prep work went in to buttoning up the construction progress there and sure enough, I would be relied upon to give a tour of the history and progress of the station to date, with others handling the larger construction plans.  


Governor Phil Murphy arrived and we gave him the full tour, captured here in photos by Gevon Servo at NJ TRANSIT.  We walked through the main concourse, after reviewing progress on the benches in the main waiting room:


The Governor was focused and interested, and gave clear direction how important this work is to his vision for Newark and for the traveling public.  Some of the press releases are https://www.nj.gov/governor/news/news/562021/20210827a.shtml as well as https://newjerseyglobe.com/section-2/first-stage-of-newark-penn-station-modernization-ready-to-go-murphy-says/

It is exciting to be part of such a high-profile initiative and I am grateful that this station is starting to get the capital attention it needs to remain so busy for so many years to come.  When the spotlight turns on, we better be dancing, and my team did a fantastic job with that at Newark Penn Station!

Tuesday, August 31, 2021

Placeholder to Permanent: Scratchbuilding a Bridge Deck

One of the side projects this summer has been building and adding a roadway deck to the overhead bridge just east of CP 280.   While this green bridge has been featured in a number of videos and photos, its high elevation creates a side view that helps hide the fact it was incomplete.  That will no longer be the case after this project!

I began by purchasing thick styrene stock from Evergreen from the local hobby shop - I used 0.080" thick stock, and could have gone more thick as well.  Still, since it would be cut with an X-acto knife, keeping it on the thin side helped in construction.  I measured the dimensions of the bridge I had kitbashed from a Walthers double-track through truss bridge (https://onondagacutoff.blogspot.com/2017/08/on-overhead-bridges.html as well as https://onondagacutoff.blogspot.com/2017/11/filling-in-blanks.html) and cutting it to fit.


Note the notches - these are needed to fit the deck around the angle braces on the bridge that help keep the prototype structure (and the model structure) square.  These needed to be carefully measured to ensure proper fit.  

I added strips of 0.080" styrene cut to a scale 18" wide as curbing to the deck with Testors Plastic Cement, and joined the additional longitudinal sections with bracing and more glue.  Panels as well as patch outlines, which on concrete decks tend to be located near joints, were scribed in by backdragging the blade with a straightedge at each floor beam per the prototype.  Several test fits also helped ensure all was lining up correctly on the layout and on the bridge itself.  


I put aside the whole deck to cure and suddenly it was three months later.  I'm finding time in my forties can get away with things.  With some time over the last few days, though, each evening I headed down for more progress.  Paint came first, and I used several different sprays with colors I had on hand.  

Aircraft gray primer from Testors was used for the worn asphalt approaches. For the deck, which is modeled to resemble poured concrete, I took a tip from the military aircraft modelers who do a wonderful job with 'marbled' weathering by layering sprayed paints, starting with dark on all the seams and overcoating with several light coats of different grays.  This way the seams have a dark depth that they don't otherwise have.  I also added a layer of Rust-Oleum textured rust paint to give the surface some grit.  I also did the same process for the sidewalks with a different seam pattern per most prototype concrete sidewalks we see.   The result was a nice varied surface that resembled old concrete.  

Another military modeling tip was to use Pledge Future Shine instead of glosscoat ahead of decals.  I gave that a shot, too.

Brushed on per the instructions, the product flattened right out and created a high-gloss finish that was nice and thick.  (Normally I'd have sprayed it through the airbrush, but given the application I wanted it thicker anyway.)  On the curved section, I left the Future coat off, since I am painting those curved lines.


I used a large aluminum 'Brooklyn Brewery' wall sign as a template for my curves - it matched perfectly and gave me a constant curve for the cuts.  Cuts were made with masking tape on glass and carefully reapplied to the road.  A quick airbrush spray with an old bottle of C&O yellow from Floquil gave me good results, and the only paint bleed over was fixed with more hand-mixed gray along the yellow line.  

The remainder of the striping is decals from Summit Custom, and they worked very well.  Over several nights I installed them, again measuring carefully to keep all in line.


The gloss helps you see the nice texture added by the Rust Oleum which, while the particles are a bit large for HO scale, will give a nice 'not-perfect' feel once finished.   

Once the decals cured, I sprayed the whole deck with two coats of Testors Dullcoat and one of Tamiya Flat, to ensure no shine remained.  It covered perfectly and I moved on to weathering.  Roads get most dirty not where the tires roll but where the oil drips from engines and chassis build up over time - the middle of each lane.  I also added a few patches with gray paint mixed to appear like worn asphalt.

To my eye the decals really make it pop!  The weathering helps too, and the deck is coming together well now.  Last night I used canopy glue to cover the floor beams on the truss, where I used files and heavy small objects to hold the deck flush while the glue cures.


Once this cures up, the final step on the workbench will be to scratchbuild the New York State DOT guardrails and install them behind the curbing, and then for the final install on the layout.  That's my next project for the next month!

Each structure and detail takes time and I believe it's better to install items in stages rather than have them sit on the workbench for years.  This bridge is a favorite of several OC regular operators as well as Railroad Model Craftsman editor Otto Vondrak, and has been featured in RMC and MR photographs.  That's proof positive that there are times when it's better to work in stages on big projects like this one - the permanent scenic element can be the placeholder as well!


Wednesday, August 18, 2021

The Day Job is Cool, Too

 Now and again there are snapshots in life that make you realize how cool your actual job is.  We that work for the railroad fill roles necessary to the operation of the company so that front line men and women can move trains.  My role is to set up employees with the people and resources they need to maintain stations, and so when elected or appointed officials come to see stations, my crews are front and center.

On Monday August 9, we prepared to host the US Secretary of Transportation, Pete Buttigieg, at Somerville Station on the Raritan Valley Line.  Really!  It happened.  :-)


One of the snapshots online shows the crowd with some odd duck tagging along behind.  

Joking aside, I was able to meet him, shake his hand, and thank him for all he's done to push infrastructure investment with a transportation focus.  I offered use of our office space and sure enough, after his security detail inspected it, he used it for about two hours - a bit of fame for our little group!

Here's hoping we played a role in having commuter operations be front and center in his mind.


Tuesday, August 10, 2021

Surprise! Here's your History...

There are still some wonderful surprises in life!

The summertime is usually one where family and household activities take priority over layout time, and so it is this year.  With some capital improvements around the house it's an exciting (albeit exhausting) time.   We're finally doing a patio outside and a long-overdue kitchen spruce up with painting, new lights, cabinet repairs, floor polishing etc.  

In doing some moving to accommodate the work, I found an old collage from my mom's house, dropped off when Dad's new wife was doing some archiving of old family photos.  Seeing it was a landslide of distant memories!  Christmastime 1977 was held at my grandparent's home in Marcellus, NY, close to where mom grew up and a place of powerful memories for me - after all, this was the destination of many childhood trips, and functionally too the home from which I discovered the Chicago Line for the first time.  The old photos were labeled in some cases with the date and who was whom, but memory served for the latter.  Of course December 1977 found me just week short of one year old, so these aren't my memories; instead they are those of my parents - in some ways, more valuable to me than my own.


Here's my mom, seated, pregnant with my younger sister.  Standing at left is Sally, mom's older sibling, with their mother Rosemary Grimmelsman Dean, and with sister-in-law Colleen Dean at the right.  This is the kitchen of grandma's house on South Street in Marcellus, NY, a place I stayed many times in my youth, and from this place we'd ride in the cars of my uncles to see the trains at Dewitt, NY.


Also in the basement was my grandfather Bill Dean's small Lionel setup, with which I was always fascinated.  Here a few of my older cousins watch intently as Grandpa instructs.

I was too young to remember this gathering, as this photo shows - still learning to walk and almost one year old.  And yet my heart moves with viewing these images because so much of what was to come feels in my memory like these photos of their memories.  So much of my life was looking forward to these trips.  Quite a bit of the the energy around the Onondaga Cutoff is affected by trips to Central New York to see family.  

No family Christmas Eve is complete without a whole-family photo with a timer.  And so I bring you the Dean Family Christmas Eve, 1977, from the warm old colonial home of Bill and Rosemary Dean on South Street in Marcellus, NY.   The baby (me) is asleep but the cheer is alive and cousins are electric with excitement.  All 8 Dean kids are here:  Sally, Susie, Bill, Bob, Tom, John, Peter, and Carol.  


Sort of strange on a summer evening to be reminiscing of Christmastime but in any case I wanted to share these photos as part of the discussion of the true roots of the Onondaga Cutoff.  Yes, it's all about Conrail in Central New York, but that railroad and locale for me are tied up in the wonder and camaraderie of a big family, endless nights of fun, trials and tribulations and subsequent triumphs, and also the balance of loss and darkness that gives it all such a sense of light.  

The Abeles side was more local growing up, and the photos above bring me to want to share one from that side too.  Here's my great-grandfather's butcher shop on Ferry Street in Newark, NJ, in the 'down neck' section of town close to the Ironbound.  That's him on the left; with his son Richard (my grandfather) in Sunday-best clothes for the photo and his wife Ida frowning upon the scene.  

When we say 'down neck' in Newark, this is what we are talking about; north of the CNJ tracks and up to the bank of the Passaic River.  South of the CNJ tracks seen below would be considered 'Ironbound' as it was a triangle bounded by the PRR main line to the west, the CNJ to the north, and the PRR freight main (the Passaic and Harrimus Line) to the south.  


I'm grateful for memories and a sense of place, the notion of belonging to something without conditions, and with the idea that such a series of gifts is a foundation on which to build something for others to be part of.  

Mom's birthday is August 12, and that's a day I always fondly remember each year.  This year we get to be in Skaneateles for part of that. 

Big ideas, nearly limitless thoughts and dreams about life related to a model railroad and refreshed with re-discovery of a few old photos in the attic.  

Enjoy your summertime - more great OC news coming soon!



Saturday, July 17, 2021

Remembering What Inspires Us

 Model railroading is an effort to capture in miniature the essence of what fascinates us about trains.  This can take a variety of forms: there's collectors, there's builders, there's operators, there's historians...and plenty of other approaches.  The trains are central to it all of course but railroads are part of western civilization, and so there are many ways the interest manifests itself.

A challenge for serious hobbyists, though, is to keep a vision on what we set out to accomplish in the hobby.  We can loose sight of what really inspired us to get into the hobby in the first place. That's where looking through old photos and notes can help.  

Conrail TV-13, CP 286 at East Syracuse, NY, March 1997

In researching the C30-7A kitbash article for submission, I went looking for slides in my collection of prototype C30-7A's, and found a few that fit the bill.  I scanned them and noted how the image brought me back in time - it was exciting to see the image and imagine the sound, remember the scent, see the dynamics - I could almost feel the ground shaking as the train accelerated past.  

For those of us into the operation, all the rest of what we do in the hobby is in service of operations - the vision of an operating railroad, complete with the role-playing game that is required to make it run.  Operations is fascinating for many reasons and for me, capturing the essence of what Conrail was doing on the Chicago Line in the 90's is the goal.  Many diverse people from all sorts of backgrounds came together 24-7-365 to move trains, and they did it safely, with pride.  

Conrail TV-24, East Syracuse NY, March 1997.

Take some time to look through your old books and photos, notes, and trip logs.  We can't go back in body, but we sure can go back in mind.  Bring that to an operating session featuring a railroad in the past, though, and we can for a few hours travel in body back to a miniature world gone by.  That's a joy of the hobby for me, and a goal of the Onondaga Cutoff is to share that with others.

~Dave


Wednesday, July 7, 2021

Conrail on the Onondaga Cutoff - On the Cover of Model Railroader!

There are still surprises in life.  

I'm thrilled to present the August 2021 cover for Model Railroader magazine, with a neat kitbashing article taking the cover - a kitbashing piece I wrote for the Conrail C30-7A!  


This blog has an entry from several years ago describing the build, and in discussing with one of the Senior Associate Editors at MR, he advised that I should pitch it to the Editor.  I did, and it was accepted; I moved ahead with the whole piece.  It was submitted in January 2021 and in just 7 months was printed - with a cover shot to boot!  

This is the second MR cover shot for the Onondaga Cutoff, but the first with Conrail locomotives front and center.  Ever since Mike Tylick's pieces on building a junction module based on the Boston Line in the late 1980's, I have hoped to get Conrail, my 'home' prototype and modeled railroad, on the cover - and here we are.  

The whole thing is surreal and too-good-to-be-true, a lifelong dream achieved at 44 years of age.   From the start of this blog through to now is quite a journey and God willing there is quite a bit more left in the tank.  In some ways I think I'm just getting going, although this one is going to be hard to top.  May the best be yet to come!  

Friday, June 11, 2021

Time and a Sense of Place: Passing of the Torch

Moments come along in life that remind us of the journey we are on.  Some of those moments are full of bright memories, and others are in the shadows of darkness.  Regret, frustration, a sense of missed opportunity: these are real, honest feelings, and deserving of our time.  Darkness is part of life, after all.  However, the bright outshines the dark.  The bright spots are the most poignant of these moments and are nearly tangible in their nostalgia and in the good energy that we carry along in life.  

On Sunday, June 8 2021, one of the influencers of the Onondaga Cutoff passed away.  At first glace, the life of Barbara 'Babby' Siegelman would have little to do with a model railroad.  She loved gardening, family, horses, and her community.  Giving and thoughtful, she had more friends than days in the year and was a wonderful person to speak with.  She spent her senior years raising her granddaughters on a horse farm built by her late husband and laughing late into the night on the phone with lifetime friends around the world.

Photo by N. Garvey

And, she inadvertently offered one of the most direct influences of my vision for my model railroad: the vast layout built by her late husband in the basement of her country home in Bedminster, NJ.   


I literally stumbled into this one out of the blue.  The layout had been years in the making by 1995, but we wouldn't know Babby for years after that.  After my mother passed away in 1995, my dad poured time into his work as a teacher and into each of his three kids: me, my sister and my brother.  He saw each of us off to college as a widower, a show of strength I will remember for the rest of my time.  He'd regularly travel to Syracuse, Ithaca, and Millersville for sporting events in support of each of us, bringing friends along for the ride, creating community wherever he went.  He didn't date until about five years later, the summer of 2000.  A blind date was set up by his cousin, where he met Babby.  He called me on his flip-phone cell, after they had enjoyed supper and were walking the gardens at her home.  "Dee - you GOTTA come see this!  What are you doing right now?"  She had been talking of her late husband and how he wasn't the gardener - his hobby was in the basement.  Needless to say I didn't go down that night - never interrupt a first date! - but did shortly thereafter, and upon seeing the sprawling 3-rail O scale setup, I called Jack in the same manner Dad called me.  "DUDE - you GOTTA see this!"


This was a huge 30' X 70' basement, and the layout was two tables: one about 20' X 30'with an operator's pit, and other about 20' X 10' that was controlled from the same pit.  Large loops allowed a few trains to move at once.  But it hadn't turned a wheel in the several years since Babby's husband passed.  

At first we were a bit reticent about running the trains - after all, Babby's late husband had built it and we were guests - but after a few visits with Dad, Babby offered that I could call and we could come by ourselves.  Jack and I worked up a plan to make a few improvements and asked permission to do so.  Babby was thrilled, "I just love to see it running again, you boys are welcome anytime.  Give me a call and come down, and you can do as you please with it - it's wonderful to see it working again!"  

That was all the invite we needed.  Over the next few weeks we adopted the 'orphaned' layout.  We moved all of Jack's 3-rail stuff down there, and also boxes of all my HO stuff which at the time was in storage at my apartment in Westfield.  And from the fall of the year 2000 right through the start of the Onondaga Cutoff, Jack and I went to Babby's on hundreds of evenings, and put thousands of hours and dollars into the layout.  We were young, fully employed, and without many commitments, and the layout blossomed.  

Jack came up with a name:  Claremont & Saucon Valley.  It represented generic northeastern territory allowing us to run different sets of power on different nights with the same operating plan. Jack developed a system of train symbols and a car-forwarding plan to fit the infrastructure. And we got to work.

We rewired the whole thing to be run by three Lionel ZW transformers. We changed the routes, smoothed joints, added interlockings, added sidings.  I painted the walls, added backdrops, and added another interchange track to the two that were there already.  Jack slowly but steadily came up with a whole new design for the tracks and switches in the middle of the larger layout, and we separated wiring for the smaller layout where I would now be the operator.  


We developed a system to operate it by 'running time' instead of laps or distance.  This kept trains moving while we switched, classified or worked other trains.  Quickly the size disparity made operations tough, so with Babby's permission we reorganized the basement and added an extension to create an 80-car, stub-end classification yard.  

 

It was 3-rail, yes - but with mostly scale equipment thanks to Jack, and I began to contribute too.  After all, I had no home layout at the time, and this was the bird in hand.  Jack and I would bring beers and a pizza to the layout, eat it down, and get to work.  We installed large amounts of new Atlas O track and switches for reliability and appearance. The operation grew.  Big-time, main line action, with yard and switching to support it.  

  
Babby began to have parties when we would operate so that others could come see the layout in action.  By 2003 friends started to bring their kids, and relatives made time to see it work.  We hung red curtains made from old tablecloths as layout skirting, and added scenery to improve the appearance.   







We turned the lights off and had 'nighttime' sessions too.



We continued with the layout through ups and downs in life. Jack traveled to Europe, and I traveled the American west with Heath. The night after 9/11, I was in the basement at Babby's painting the wall blue, full of sorrow and despair in the state of the world.  A few nights after my sister died in 2003, dad was with his cousin, Ben with his friends, and so I was in the basement at Babby's drinking beers with Jack.  A day after each of us graduated with master's degrees, we were down at Babby's. As the decade passed we discussed our families, hopes and fears in that basement.  Babby was a confidant as we searched our lives for women to fall in love with, a friend and a wise mentor.  We'd visit with her for a while during our visits and share the goings on. 

The camaraderie grew to include regular attendees.  Scottie S. and Rick S. were both present quite a few times, sharing laughs, trains, and beers, and the fun continued.



Most of all, it was FUN.  Trains moved and we had FUN.  And so many of the lessons we learned at Babby's are part of the foundational fabric of the Onondaga Cutoff:  camaraderie, fun, multiple-track mainline action, interchange, a car-forwarding plan, night operations, open houses, regular sessions for both readying the layout for running and for operations themselves.  The Onondaga Cutoff has roots in the energy of the Claremont & Saucon Valley.  

And when Jack and I each got married, each of our wives met Babby and enjoyed the camaraderie, too.  Even as each family began to have children, we still made time for the layout and to keep Babby appraised of the journey.  And time goes on.  Shadows pass: Babby was in a terrible car accident around 2010, and was ill for months after.  We checked in, but visitors were restricted.  Once she felt better we returned, and the layout was off and running again.  By this time the vision that was so tangible to me was starting to be realized in the Onondaga Cutoff, construction of which began in 2008 and operations in 2011.  We split time between layouts but more children arrived in each family and time began to shrink.  We stayed in touch with occasional visits and calls, but time goes quickly, and for the first few months of 2021 I could tell things were different.  Reading of the news of her death was a breathtaking pause, a twinge in my mind and body in realizing in a moment the weight of the loss.  

And so, Godspeed Babby.  Thank you, for everything.