Wednesday, November 30, 2022

Moments of Clarity

I was going through a pile of digital images on my phone and computer recently to decide on a few that should be printed, and came across this shot of Jack and I at the end of another session on the Onondaga Cutoff back in 2021.

This was a snapshot, likely by Rich W., and I think it is symbolic of quite a bit in life these days.  This is a really fun image, lighthearted and full of joy, and yet it was in a long line other images and had faded from memory.  Jack and I of course go way back, as is known by most readers of this blog and fans of the OC, but since I am the one taking most of the photos there are not many that include both of us having a great time together.  

Finding reminders of moments like this one bring clarity to the present moment, too, in a way that only reflection can.  Everything now is a sum of all that has been, but it's also greater than that, because it's real and full of promise.  

As this year draws to its close it is important that we dig around in our collective memory for images like this.  Whether photos or videos or moments in our minds take that spot for you matters less than the fact that they exist, for all of us.  What a blessing to have such moments!  And what a privilege to be able to remember them, reflect on them, smile with them.  Enjoy your moments, and may the best be yet to come!

Friday, November 18, 2022

Travels Near and Far

 October and November are some great months to be trackside, anywhere in the United States - perhaps anywhere in the Northern Hemisphere.  While model railroading is a year-round hobby, there is something about being outdoors in the fall that really calls me - colors and light change and the images we can make are otherworldly.  

Even out in my favorite desert, that is the case.

550 automatics, west of Solitude, UT - 2022

Thanks to a generous invite from Mark Hemphill, noted photographer and author, I was again able to make plans to fly to Salt Lake City and spend time with him in the deserts where he made the images that first inspired me to learn more of western railroads in the early 1980's.  

Woodside UT with Amtrak #6, November 2022

There's just no way to make images like this in most places of the world, and in nearly all cases you can't even make similar images anywhere else.  

Sunset at Solitude, UT, November 2022

BNSF Provo-Denver manifest along Grassy Trail Creek, November 2022

Making time for travels like these is difficult, and travel is never inexpensive, but the results are singularly possible only because the trip gets made.  Sometimes against considerable odds, too, but isn't that how we grow?  Nothing gets better or is made stronger through convenience or lack of effort.  Everything is possible if we take action, mindfully, methodically, steadily.  Time for reflection is needed too but make no mistake: action speaks louder than words or thoughts.  

What an amazing year 2022 is shaping up to be!

Monday, November 7, 2022

Guest Operators - Including a Special Guest

Guest operations are a great experience for both visitors and hosts alike.  The Onondaga Cutoff hosted a session as part of a group of sessions on five railroads in one weekend here in Northwestern New Jersey in October, and it was a great honor to be able to join the fun!  We worked hard to get the railroad ready - and it was worth it.  

We hosted along with Perry Squier, Ted Pamprin, Jerry Dziedzic, and Tony Koester - four legendary layouts, and the OC.  I am still amazed at the good fortune of living in this same area as these railroads!  

The first session Saturday was at Jerry's, and here Doug Tagsold and Dustin Jeffers work the big NJ Zinc Mill in Franklin, NJ on Jerry's NYS&W/L&HR.  

Later that afternoon, the crowd came to the OC, and we got right into it.

Guest sessions work best with helpers on hand who know the railroad well, regulars that can be trusted as guides for the visiting operators.  Sometimes guests jump right in and this group not only jumped in but also caught on very quickly - it was a great session!

Mike Burgett, whose amazing C&O layout was a railroad on which I operated in the spring of 2022, sat in as the Conrail Mohawk Dispatcher on the OC.  He worked it well with guidance from Jack T, who as always puts a tremendous amount of effort into making sure the operating plan works and is robust enough to hold up through the typical ebbs and flows of a session.

An honored guest this time as well as Eric White, who attended with his wife and son.  Eric was recently promoted to be the Editor of Model Railroader magazine - a key role not just at Kalmbach but in the hobby in general - and he has now attended a session on the Onondaga Cutoff.  Awesome!

It has been a thrilling and fascinating start to the fall in 2022, and things are continuing on a rapid pace.  Maintaining balance is going to be a key not just this year but as life goes on and that is something I will explore more in future posts and creative works.  Balancing life, family, career, and an immersive hobby is a wonderful privilege and a huge responsibility at the same time.  

The best for all of these is yet to come!

Sunday, November 6, 2022

First Impressions Matter

All the new HVAC work in October created quite a mess in the layout entrance.  A whole new electrical service was needed, and the panel created an unsightly entrance to the layout.  Having seen a number of world-class railroads, I know the Onondaga Cutoff needs a nice initial impression to make visitors and regulars feel comfortable and to present a seamless introduction.  

So, I created a large new forest canopy for the cover to the new panel, which makes the view down the stairs seamless:

Once you come down off the steps to the landing, the view is just as smooth over the new panel.

All of this was hours of pondering and then hours of custom construction, with assistance from DemClams to make all the trees.  But in a push, we got there - and thankfully once again the railroad has a seamless entrance with which it has the best chance to make a great first impression.