Monday, December 18, 2023


It's an integral part of train-watching: the waiting that comes before the next train approaches.  Like any hobby 'in the wild' that depends on animals or the activities of others, waiting is part of the game.  Railroading itself is like this-there isn't a railroader alive that doesn't know how to wait.  

Us modelers also deal with 'the wait' that goes into projects.  Glue needs time to cure.  Paint must dry.  A long-awaited model comes to market.  The goal is a working scale railroad.

The 'destination' however is only worth it because the effort put into the journey. Perhaps the crown moment is just as the anticipation peaks.  We are in the holiday season now, a good part of that is preparation, and waiting.  Hobbies and life are tied together.  

 Here's an image of an approaching train, a westbound coming towards Onondaga Yard.  The first trace of dawn is in the sky beyond, and the bright headlights are reflecting off everything they can.  What is coming?

We will have to wait and see.  And that is sometimes the best part.  Join us on Facebook Live the day after Christmas - 12/26 at 8pm eastern!

Tuesday, November 28, 2023

A Second Look

Time has a way of changing one's perspectives.  It's not usually a sudden change but instead one that happens on its own schedule.  

As I have practiced Photoshop and other photo processing software, I have become more adept at creating images that more effectively communicate the feeling I had when I made the image.  That is a goal of my prototype photography, and also my modeling - to take the viewer along for  the experience.  

Here's an image from a 2014 trip to Syracuse, NY, expressly to photograph the last stand of the classic searchlight signals on the former NYC main line.  These signals worked into the Conrail era and beyond into the CSX era, and were finally replaced about a year after I made these images with modern color-light signals.  This experience was awesome - this train surprised us, following another westbound, and the sky was in the last stage of dusk.  The image was a tough one.  Last daylight with a camera of that era had a photograph with reds all washed out, muddy shadows and a bland sky.

Back in 2014, my skills weren't enough to even show this image to anyone!  Today, while I am still a long way from being an expert with this, I was able to bring the image to a spot in my mind's eye that reminded me of standing there in the cold, shivering, waiting for one more shot.  Reds were restored, the sky layered up, and color temperature adjusted.  And so here we have Q367, if I recall, the daily Selkirk-to-Chicago manifest train.  Today it is complete with Union Pacific power enroute to home rails.  

And we have an image that is worthy of the memory:  for a moment, it's like being there.

Happy Thanksgiving to you all, and best wishes into the holiday season!

Monday, November 6, 2023

State of Good Repair: Improving Signal Reliability

It is amazing to me that the signals on the Onondaga Cutoff are all approaching 10 years in operation.  The system has worked very well, overall, and I would do it again given the options back then.  The only downside to the current-based detection and the 3.6k Ohm resistors is the rate at which the rails get dirty.  A simple track cleaning ahead of each session essentially guarantees excellent detection, which is the foundation of good signal operations.  

One other intermittent issue which comes up each fall and each spring as the weather changes is the occasional dark head issues with the signals.  In nearly every case, that has turned out to be traced to loose wires in the screw terminals (Digitrax 'TSMK' boards) beneath each signal.  The searchlight heads are comprised of three LEDs in each head, one each for red, yellow, and green.  The wires that connect them to the system are tiny: 'magnet' wire, a superfine insulated 36-gauge copper wire.  

The screw terminals are better with about 24 or 26 gauge wire.  Even when I doubled up the ends of each of the magnet wire by looping it back on itself, some of the heads would work just loose enough with the change of seasons and we'd have a dark head present itself during a session.  I considered soldering under the layout to make a better connection, but the process would have been arduous at best and create a situation where removing a signal if needed would require more soldering or cutting wires.  Yuck!  

A tip from fellow signal modeler Rodney Kantorski turned me on to a tool called a ferrule, essentially a small metal tube with a plastic collar at one end.  The thin wire slides inside, and a special crimper is then used to crimp the metal ferrule tube tightly about the wire, essentially increasing the gauge with no soldering needed.  Thanks, Rodney!

This allows the wire (plus crimped ferrule) to be reinserted into the screw terminal and tightened, which results in a nice robust friction connection.  

So far, every head so equipped has had no issues with the weather change.  Success!  State of good repair projects can really add to the satisfaction in the hobby.  

Tuesday, October 31, 2023

Back to modeling in a busy era

After a whirlwind summer and early fall, in a busy year of a busy era, the next few months offer a lot more time to get back to some of the basics.  We had an amazing number of high-impact singular events in 2023 and that time has to come from somewhere - and a good chunk of it came from modeling.

I model mostly in the evenings after the kids are in bed, or weekend mornings while everyone is getting going.  Weaving activities that require downtime - paint drying, glue curing - into active time is something I am getting better at.  

As was discussed back in the springtime, I am working with a young, small company in Garden State Modelworks and another associated company called Upstate Custom Models to help in improving the fleet on the OC.  That includes light and sound upgrades for some locomotives, along with proper paint schemes on others.  Recent fleet upgrades included Conrail GP40-2 3312, which needed new sound and lights as well as proper paint changes and detail upgrades, as well as Susquehanna SD45 3612, which got sound for the first time as well as full lights.  

When work like this is done, it makes me examine other things that I can improve.  The window glass on 3312 was fogged due to the CA I used 10 years ago when this locomotive needed windows reinstalled.  That was before I knew about canopy glue.  I made new windows from clear acrylate and replaced the old, clouded ones, securing the new parts with canopy glue for a much improved appearance. 

The 3612 got a new decoder and speaker for sound, as well as lighting.  

Part of 3312's improvements included 'Conrail-izing' the grab irons on the short hood.  Due to the cab signal box on the engineer's side, Conrail had the grabs on the fireman's side, a small but distinctive Conrail/PC/PRR feature.

New lighting installed along with a new engineer figure and the sounds, and we have a clear improvement for all to enjoy going forward.  3612 never looked or sounded so good on the OC!  

Making the most of the time available is something I consider a responsibility.  Like many notions these days it is one with a bright and positive result, and a corresponding shadow side that balances things out.  On the bright side we have a happy and satisfied family in good health, full employment, the satisfaction of the submission of a second book manuscript last week, ongoing excitement and fulfillment in the model railroad hobby - really, a very full basket of wonderful things.

The shadow side fills in the rest, always there, always helping provide contrast that shows how good the rest of life is.  Honoring that and making the most out of both bright and dark is how we can truly maximize our time in a busy era.  People often mention "I don't know where you find time for all this!" Well, when you consider the 135 minutes of commuting time each day, 95% of which is on a train, you have a big piece of the answer.  Filling most of that time with creative work on a mobile device opens all sorts of avenues to finish projects at other times.  

As we get back into the regular swing of things, I am excited about what will be possible this winter!

Sunday, October 29, 2023

Waiting on the 2102

 A unique privilege and blessing is to be able to show young people something new that you know will fill them with wonder and joy.  And so it was this past weekend with the boys and the Reading 2102, the massive 4-8-4 restored beautifully to working condition by the Reading & Northern Railroad.  2102 now runs on its home rails in glorious fashion, leading trains alone up and down the valleys and hills of central Pennsylvania.  

I believe that big mainline steam is a religious experience for those of us able to be there and experience it in 2023.  Photos and video commemorate a moment but don't convey the sheer sense of overwhelming awe of the full experience.  If you can get out and see mainline steam doing its thing, DO IT - you won't regret it!  

Saturday, October 28, 2023


When you have a chance to celebrate something, do it.

There has been a great deal to celebrate so far in 2023.   When NJ TRANSIT set up a series of events this year to celebrate the 40th anniversary of the railroad, a group of us took the opportunity to jump in with both feet.  

Many months of preparation, careful planning, and team building were required to set up the first major excursion in decades, which ran from New York Penn to Newark and down to Bay Head, and returned on the same route to Newark before going back to Hoboken Terminal.  That started us off on a series of three events that each required a lot of heavy, volunteer effort to coordinate.  

Electric to diesel: replicating the old power swap that occurred here until 1988

Hundreds and hundreds of excited onlookers - THIS is great public engagement!

Time-honored tradition of T&E communications

Thirty-six years and three weeks before these photos were taken,
Jack and I met on the first day of 5th grade....and on we go.
We used to dream about being part of things less grand than this.

The day following the excursion was a public display of most of the NJ TRANSIT Heritage Fleet along with other equipment that fit the bill. This was one that allowed family to join, and I had a great day there with my wife and kids!
The boys loved the display-with our logo at the entrance

EL U34CH 3372 and PRR E8A 5711 in afternoon sun,
while Kristen and Susie were across town at the festival

Pete & Teddy and my first choice for a true heritage unit

Teddy & Pete, this time with both of my big initiatives in the fleet

WE DID IT, guys!!!!

Finally, the following weekend was the annual Family Day celebration, again allowing me to bring family to a great event so we could all be together and enjoy the larger railroad family too.   

Abeles 'Clamily' 2023

As our world changes and as we are more and more exposed to everyone's latest buzz and every last piece of click-bait news from a commercialized media, there is more and more pressure - and temptation - to watch.  And in too many cases what we are seeing is something that is negative.  What is hard to keep in focus in that cauldron of media is that most of the negative headlines from the news or our friends is either ultra-rare, a one-off, or a pattern that we cannot affect.  How can we be more present, more positive?  How can we reduce anxiety and be more connected?

One way is to take opportunity when it comes to be part of something real.  Something tangible.  Events like this one are just that - a reason to come together for something good.  We can still do these things!

Friday, October 27, 2023

Manuscript #2 - Enroute to the publisher!

When I was in grade school, my least favorite of all assignments was a book report.  It took a lot of work, it stretched out over weeks and even months.  And so, if you'd told me back then I would be submitting an entire book manuscript I would have laughed and said NO WAY.  And if you then had replied that there would be two such submissions, I would have insisted there was a mistake and someone else must have done it.  

Well, Friday October 27 I wrapped up a fully-loaded thumb drive and sent it off to Waukesha, Wisconsin, the location of the Kalmbach offices, to the attention of the Editor.  The second book manuscript is on its way, due by contract November 4th.  It's and introduction and ten chapters, 29,970 of words, 203 photos and images by me and others.  This time the goal is to introduce modelers and hobbyists to the concept of railroad yard design and operation - a key point for nearly all model railroaders.

The book project sheds some light on the lack of posts earlier this fall, as I was putting all my available hours into that project.  I am excited about the fact that a book on this topic may reach more people than the last book on signals and interlockings, which was more focused on a smaller and more technical subject.  Only some modelers include signals.  But - nearly all have a yard.   

Somehow, I think my middle school language arts teachers are smiling, somewhere.

It's exciting, in any case!  Look for a release in the Spring of 2024!  

Tuesday, October 10, 2023

We Blink....and it's October

Another day, another commute.  It’s early, before dawn, and the grind continues. 

But at the moment the train around me slides through the chilly rain, the only noise the sound of steel wheels as they sheen along wet, curved rails, and the distant sound of the air horn from the head end over a background white noise of the conditioned air blowers inside.  I woke from an early morning nap to find nearly 80 other people in this car and none of them is making a sound.  

There’s something wonderful about riding a train as the world outside wakes under a curtain of rainfall.

Yes, it's a sort of grind working for operations on a big railroad.  But it's also a dream long chased to be working for a railroad at all, let alone in a job that allows me to create a vision and staff a department for the future.  

The long break in posts has seen a truly remarkable summer and fall.  We had visits to Central New York, Canada, and South Carolina with the kids, while hosting family from Australia for a week between those trips.  We visited Pennsylvania overnight on separate trips, hosted operating sessions and set up nights for a traveling group, hosted an 80th birthday party for my mother in law, and this was all while I was intimately involved with the NJ Transit 40th anniversary celebration and the three major weekend events that were part of it.  Oh yeah, and the book manuscript for the next Kalmbach Yard Book is due in November!

All of this stuff in reality is the stuff of dreams, things I wished I could have done at different times of my life - and now they are happening.  And so 'the grind' from that perspective is a wonderful and fulfilling thing.  The Grind translates into 'Living the Dream.'  

Thanks for being along as part of it!

Thursday, August 31, 2023

Another Quiet Night

It's another quiet summer night for us here in New Jersey.  This has been a summer full of a tremendous amount of bustle, family trips and friendly gatherings, reunions and long weekends, time at the beach, lots of time working - some great and wonderful experiences, some really difficult ones.  Life is about trying to balance it all. 

There has not been sufficient time for quiet, but that is how things go when we are in our 40's, right?  Mid career, families, learning to be proficient or even beginning to master tasks in our hobbies or in our lives: finding ways to rise to the tasks at hand.  We can't choose the timing.  We can only do what we must to respond when opportunities arise.

I repaired - and replaced - some lighting tonight over on the M&E.  I saw this shot and figured I'd grab it, and then remembered a phone call from last night from a close friend about a distant but important friend who is fighting hard tonight.  Mike DelVecchio is a longtime titan in our hobby, a railroader and railfan, modeler and historian, and a good person.  He's a musician too, and an unassuming guy that has touched a lot of things that 40-something railfans would recognize.  A longtime employee of and then follower and fan of the Morristown & Erie, parent company of my modeled 'Minoa & Euclid', Mike was friendly to me from day one.  

Many wonderful tributes to Mike are out there, and I wish I could have joined the excursion in his honor last month where he was his old self:  smiling, friendly, garrulous, focused.  Family travels had me out of state while thankfully many closer friends of his attended.

Tonight, he and his family could use our thoughts and a prayer.  I made this image and immediately thought of Mike: how many nights did he push, forgoing a quiet evening for a safer move, or for one more tune at one of his gigs playing guitar?  He worked on the M&E 19, and now here it is resting quietly at Euclid, in 1:87.1 scale on the OC.  

May tonight be quiet and restful for Mike, and for all those who are fighting similar battles.  

Tuesday, August 8, 2023

Scenes from an Railroad that Operates - ''Round the Clock'

Night operations are a longtime part of the experience on the Onondaga Cutoff, and the August 2023 session was one that modeled September 30, 1994 from 6p overnight to 6a.  The railroad ran nicely and crews acted the roles really well, so I had time to make some images that came out good enough to share.  

Midnight at Onondaga Engine Terminal.  The light power from TV 550, the NYS&W interchange stack train, is tied down on the fuel rack behind a few sets of local power and the Mohawk Dispatcher has also pulled a route up on the mainline for a westbound on Track 2.

C39-8 6001 has a new crew onboard and the engineer is getting set up as the power idles at Island Yard around 0100 hours.  Auxiliary lighting and weathering are the only two things that can be done to visually improve a ScaleTrains engine!

Its work at Onondaga Yard complete, train SEEL (Selkirk, NY to Elkhart, IN manifest) builds his air at CP 280.  Lead locomotive SD40-2 6462 is on the point at 0230, the dead of night, and the crew is eager to get moving for their next crew change out in Buffalo, NY - by which time the new day will have dawned.  Once they're ready to pull they will call the Mohawk Dispatcher for permission west, and the train will get a signal to proceed. 

Speaking of the Mohawk Dispatcher, here he is!  Jack watches the display and listens to the radio as needed while Rich, who is sitting in the Trainmaster position, checks crew status ahead of upcoming departures.  

No matter how you cut it, though, it's the people that make a railroad work.  The best part of operations is the camaraderie of a group of people that make it run.  It takes a team, and that is exactly what we had.  This session included a cookout and picnic for the crew and friends, spouses, and families and we remembered to get a full group shot on the freshly finished patio area.  It was a great day. Awesome!


Friday, July 7, 2023

Organization in the Chaos

There's a lot to be said for the occasional cleanup.

Our hobby of railroading, including model railroading and rail photography, is one where we seek a break from the rest of our worlds.  When life is good, a break is a nice and relaxing thing.  When life is hard or chaotic sometimes the break is the only thing keeping us sane.  How much better are those breaks when you can jump in and get right to work?

If the workbench is a mess it is much harder to get right to work.  Recently I was searching and searching for detail parts I was sure I had in my inventory.  After a half hour of rooting around, I realized it was well past time to get organized.  The first step?  Laying everything out to get started.  

There's no one way to organize things like this; I organized first by manufacturer and then by category.  I decided to take the piles in the image and put like items together:  antenna, snowplows, MU hoses/MU receptacles, eye bolts/grab irons/lift bars, doors/grates/hatches, etc etc.  Not perfect, of course, but finally categorized in a way that should held avoid searching blindly.

In these humid days of summer, do yourself a favor and organize the workbench.  Your hobby breaks will benefit!

Thursday, June 15, 2023

Always Room for Improvement

The nature of things is to change.   

For me, this is in contrast to my assumptions; life while full of change is more comfortable to me when it is at least to some degree predictable.  Having lived through permanent illness in my family several times over, change isn't associated with progress in my subconscious.  

Still, taking a step back reveals that indeed most of the change in my time has been very good for me and for many others.  The haunted parts of the past tend to be more heavily weighted in my mind than the positivity that is more common.  I think this may be true for many of us. 

Given the dualism that is represented in our time, I feel it is ever more important to consciously choose things that tend towards the positive.  Negative stuff will find us, of course.  The universal balance of things demands that, and we cannot control what finds us.  However, we can indeed control our choices.  Proactive choices are important. Model railroading is not a life-or-death choice, of course, and so it is a great spot to choose to be proactively optimistic.  

This central theme above is why in a busy stretch of life I am working with others to help.  6577, pictured here, is an important locomotive on the Onondaga Cutoff.  

Ever since it was featured on the cover of Model Railroader magazine, it's been a flagship for the railroad.  Garden State Modelworks subsequently was able to install working auxiliary lighting in it, and their work made a good model great.  

Still, it was missing a detail - the handbrake chain mounted below the engineer's cab window and extending down to the front truck.   With the auxiliary lighting complete, and the engine tuned up and ready to go, it was finally time to add one more detail.  

It's just a bit of chain, secured with eye bolts and some CA glue.  But it's a visible one and adds a little fine-detail finesse to notice.  It's a detail which shows improvement, right?  And that is an important point.  Admitting that makes us able to stay grounded, to keep growing, to keep accepting change in our world - and opening the door to things getting better.

There is always room for improvement.  

Wednesday, May 31, 2023

Photos that Stir Memories

One of the fun things about viewing photos in an album is how they can trigger your memory.  Old prints in albums are always good for that, and so are images in a slideshow.  

Today, with digital photography being so common, it's even easier to see a group of photos from time past that take us for a moment to another place and time.  Especially with file sharing and 'the cloud' out there to store and backup files:  you can suddenly be submerged into a different mindset.

Here we have the daily southbound Bessemer & Lake Erie ore train enroute from Conneaut, OH to Pittsburgh where it will be unloaded at the massive J. Edgar Thompson works of US Steel.  This is spring of 2021, a few weeks before Easter and the mountains of western PA still look like winter.  CN by this date has absorbed not just B&LE but also Illinois Central, and some power desk manager decided to have a bunch of CN SD70's assigned to the former B&LE.  I miss the B&LE orange, but I have always enjoyed the look of the older EMD cab and nose design like we see here.  

This was a cold day, but one with little breeze so that the dark soil and roadbed warmed over the course of the day in the bright sun.  I love the old searchlights in this image, the train is imposing and in a hurry, and the big signal bridge and heavy roadbed belies the fact that this line sees just a few trains every 24 hours, almost entirely steel traffic.  The image is bright and dark, color yet black and white, new and old.  

This adventure was part of an 'Old Timers Weekend' trip to Cresson, PA, and it was cherished time with friends that I don't see often enough.  Life is full of opportunities and many conflict - there is rarely time to do everything we would like to do.  Balance is central in those situations, much like it is in the hobby.  

Balance - it determines how long we can stay centered.  

Tuesday, May 16, 2023

The Grab Shot

 Sometimes, there's just a shot that catches the eye, and it's one that can really draw a viewer in.  

One of the amazing strengths today of scenic materials and the availability of photo backdrops is the ability to create a scene that truly can 'take you there.'  Here we have a westbound manifest train climbing towards the summit of Clark Hill on the Onondaga Cutoff, in a scene about 12" deep.  

It's similar to thousands and thousands of railfan grab shots - shots of interesting cars or loads, one that the photographer didn't necessarily plan but are worthy in the photographer's collection for the content alone.  This car is indeed worthy of note for the cooperation involved in its creation ( ) and also as it was selected by Tony Koester for a recent 'Trains of Thought' column in Model Railroader magazine.

Each of those facts is itself a dream come true, and moments like these live on in memory.  The hobby these days is full of opportunity, perhaps more so than ever.  Just like a grab shot of a passing train, any moment can be worth remembering.

Sunday, April 30, 2023

Spring, and Action

 The month of April is always busy, and this year it has been that and more.  During April I have managed to visit and take photographs in 13 states on three separate trips.  Somehow since April 1 I have traveled from New Jersey and visited Pennsylvania, Maryland, West Virginia, Virginia, Tennessee, Kentucky, North Carolina, New York, Connecticut, Massachusetts, Kansas, and Missouri!  The New England states were pat of a trip including family to Massachusetts to visit a cousin and his family and watch my brother run the Boston Marathon.  It's been a month filled with wonder and with new experiences, as well as some grounding experiences with fear and with frustration - all in all, an intense and balanced experience.  

A trip with wonderful friend Jon Kayes to Kentucky, Tennessee and the Carolinas early in the month yielded some great photo opportunities.  One of them was the Canton, NC paper mill job on a picture-perfect morning.

The South is loaded with great railroad opportunities if you know where to look, and Jon does.  I am glad to travel and be part of the trip, and excited to be able to record images like this.   One of the really neat opportunities in the coal fields is that NS still uses cabooses in some operations, thanks to long shoving moves on many of the mine runs.  Here's one of the rebuilt NS cabooses with a heritage N&W decal at Frisco, VA.

At a glance both of these photos show that even in 2023 there is a lot of interesting railroading left out there - you just need to take the trip!

The month ended with lots of model railroad activity, where auxiliary light installations continued as well as operations on a variety of railroads.  Lighting installations are adding more than I expected to the atmosphere of the Onondaga Cutoff.

And thanks to good graces with my family I have also been able to attend a few operating sessions locally, including one at Tony Koester's home on his incredible Nickel Plate Road.  Jim Leighty offered to snap a photo, and got me and Tony together with Tom Schmieder and Ed Bush in the background.  Operating sessions are a time to come together and help make the owner's railroad come to life.

As time goes on, change rolls along, and it is important to document moments in photographs and in words to ensure the long journey of life is remembered and enjoyed.  We are fortunate to be able to live in a time when so much is possible.  As April comes to a close, I wish you health and the best fortunes for May and the warmer weather coming soon!

Saturday, April 29, 2023

An Opportunity to Improve

The model railroading hobby is full of twists and turns, and as the hobby improves so too do we have the opportunity to improve our modeling.  The recent push to get locomotives wired for auxiliary lighting allowed me time to consider a closer look at those that went out for upgrades, and I decided it was a good opportunity to improve the details where needed.  

A spotting feature of modern GE diesels is the handbrake chains, which are exposed and visible hanging from the frame down towards one of the trucks on the locomotive.  They are quite fragile in HO scale, and while nicely modeled by Atlas from the factory they are routinely broken - especially over decades of moves and operations.  I took the time as the paint cured on the step lights to reinstall the chains, thanks in part to chain from Tom Schmieder.  

Here's a pair of GE B40-8 locomotives that have operated for years (more than a decade!) on the Onondaga Cutoff.  Now they have proper lighting - and repaired details!

Now these locomotives will not only look sharper during the night with their step lights but also all the time, with the correct handbrake chains re-hung.  I used phosphor-brass wire eyelets to make hooks that will ensure this installation is more durable than the factory installation.  

Other details got a hard look, too, including the air horn o n C40-8W 6155.

The stock horns on these older Atlas models are sub-park, too small and poorly detailed.  Thankfully detail parts are available and Details West has a variety of cast-brass horns like this beautiful Leslie Inc. RS-3L - an exact scale replica of the horns favored by Conrail.  

Details matter in this hobby, and it's fun to have the ability to make improvements like this!

Thursday, April 27, 2023

Running with Teddy

 Teddy is beginning to stretch his legs with operating sessions!  In addition to running trains on the Onondaga Cutoff and also last year on Jerry Dziedzic's NYS&W, in early April we had an opportunity to run at Ted Pamprin's beautiful C&O Allegheny Division railroad in northern NJ.  Ted is always a gracious host and both Teddy and I appreciated the invitation to run trains together.

Teddy's first train on the C&O was appropriately train no. 1, running westbound across the railroad.  Teddy ran while I acted as a conductor, guiding him across the route.  He had a steady hand and a quick eye, learning the layout quickly.  We arrived at Hinton where the yard would add cars to our train, and since it's a division point we also got new orders and a new clearance card there.  

Teddy was all smiles, and eager to continue.  Rich Wisneski also helped Teddy as needed and at one point, their trains passed along the New River Gorge scene.

Sharing the hobby with Teddy, Pete and Susie is a pleasure.  Whether they enjoy trains or choose another hobby going forward, showing them that we can do these things in groups and at a high level I think will be a good memory for them - and maybe, just maybe, help bring the model railroading hobby a few new lifetime members!  

Friday, March 31, 2023

'Next Gen'

 In busy times, perspective is important.  It only takes a few seconds to step back, take a breath, and consider an idea that comes to mind.  

The Onondaga Cutoff is a dynamic and growing collection of people interested in the camaraderie of railroading, experienced by building and operating a scale model of how Conrail did things in 1994.  In that light, bringing new people in is a critical part of its long term mission, and young people add even more to the richness at hand.

From left to right, we have Pete, Christopher and Teddy, all of whom are regulars at our operations.  Each time they get better, and are more able to participate as a full member of the team.  It takes time to learn, but they're well on their way.  

The best is still yet to come!

Monday, March 20, 2023

Finding Wonder, Again

As days and years pass so does time, and our perspective on all these things changes too, as a matter of course.  We can see things differently, or sense that we are seeing things differently, and no matter what the days pass.  

This incredible hobby of ours pushes the envelope in whatever ways we allow, and one of those ways is the simple sense of wonder of it all.  A recent opportunity led me to a small company that installs custom ESU LokSound DCC decoders in locomotives, but also goes beyond that and offers all sorts of services for auxiliary lighting as well.  I took a chance and sent a few locomotives over to Garden State Modelworks LLC - and the results caught me by surprise.  I knew it would be cool, but didn't expect to be stunned!

The most recent operating session came and went, and after dark - always an enjoyable part of a session - there was a new level of magic, a new level of life to what we were seeing.  Before these new lights, there would be a lot of dark along the bottom of all these engines.   

Step lights now bring a whole new dimension not just to the locomotives so equipped but to the entire scene.  Extra marker lights, a Conrail staple through the 1990's, are now scattered through the roster instead of just on the Rapido or ScaleTrains units that came factory equipped.  Older Atlas and Athearn locomotives now jump out of the dusk or the darkness, looking the part of their prototype at night, all thanks to a beacon of attention in a tiny pair of step lights.  

March 20th would have been my dad's 84th birthday, and one of the treasures he gave freely to others was his lasting sense of wonder.  He loved a day at the beach, loved watching sports, loved a good upset, a quick basketball 'back door' play, a perfect football block or seamless pass, and above all, the integrity of the game.  I miss him, daily.  

For me, who remembers lonely nights trackside around Dewitt, NY in the 1990s, a few tiny light details have renewed a sense of wonder into the operations on the Onondaga Cutoff.  Much more to come on this!