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!

Monday, February 27, 2023

A few new ideas...

Recently, with the rise of digital artwork and online ordering we have seen options for custom-run freight cars on the market.  Operations like Home Shops LLC in cooperation with Tangent Scale Models and ExactRail have made some beautiful and plausible freelanced road name releases.  

I am considering trying something similar with the Onondaga Cutoff, allowing our licensed use of the Conrail logo to be employed which in turn would allow that modelers could 'own' a piece of official Onondaga Cutoff rolling stock.  Here's a first stab at the logo, based on a logo the company used in the 1990's for safety awards:

 I think it would be fun to have a Conrail boxcar for its usual service but to have this logo in a large format in addition to the usual Conrail name and logo.  What do you think?

Thursday, February 16, 2023

The Value of Snapshots

 Browsing through one of the old photo albums of my early photography, back when I used my mom's point & shoot camera to shoot some print film of trains we came across, I was inspired to share one here.  This is August 1990, Dewitt, NY, an image taken by my mother as we made a quick stop at the Dewitt engine yard.

From left to right you have me, my cousin Matt, Jack in the backround and my brother Ben on the right.  Behind us is weeks-old C40-8W 6098, 13-year-old B23-7 1975, U23B 2795, and a bunch of other locomotives out of the frame.   

August 1990 would have been one of the trips to Skaneateles and Marcellus, NY, likely to see The Dean Brothers play - my uncles' rock n' roll harmony band.  These were some of the legendary trips in my mind that clearly played a foundational role in the idea of the Onondaga Cutoff.  

Jack is there with us, traveling up with us in the minivan like he did most summers in that era for long weekends.  Ben and I did nearly everything together in that era, a time I remember fondly despite the contrast of my mom's fight with cancer which had just started again, and my sister whose illness would haunt her for the rest of her time.  

I'm 13 in this photo, headed into 8th grade.  Well before thinking of college, I am already wearing a Syracuse University shirt, where I'd actually end up a student just 5 years after this photo.  The Rio Grande hat fits the mood, it's always been my favorite railroad - but Conrail is tangible, exciting, and bright, just like is seen here.  

The memories fade on their own to some degree, but the sentiment does not, and photos like this one bring it all back in full color.  So, take some snapshots!   And even if digital, get some prints made now and again of your recent favorites.  You'll come across them decades from now and they'll do their thing - take you back, in your mind, for a few moments.  The best way to appreciate the present is to be aware of the past and full of wonder about the future.  

Tuesday, January 31, 2023

Trusting Experts

 I arrived home from Springfield from the big Amherst Society meet to a surprise - longtime friend and companion J. Alex Lang had provided me with artwork for an updated banner photo for the blog!   Alex was an early inspiration for me with photography and Conrail knowledge in general, along with his sincerity and ambition.  He mentioned the last photo was getting dated, and asked that I provide a few more recent photos to which he could add some text and the Conrail logo.  

He's got a great eye for aesthetics - an expert eye - and he used one of my favorite recent images and created a new banner better than I could have on this one.  

Next time you open the blog, you'll be in for a treat.  Thanks, Alex!

Wednesday, January 25, 2023

A Weekend of Operations

Operating trains on the Onondaga Cutoff is one of the highlights of the railroad.  The weekend of January 21 and 22 2023 was one where we not only hosted a session, but I was able to attend another one, too.

The OC session modeled a period from about 3pm to about 3 am on a typical Saturday - September 17 1994.  Thanks to Mark Sullivan and Rich Wisneski, we have photos of the prep as well as some from the session.

Here we are enjoying pizza for supper and doing the safety briefing ahead of running trains.  While the safety briefing may sound heavy-handed, it's important to note emergency exits and fire extinguisher locations for people unfamiliar with the house.  It's also a time to build some of the atmosphere ahead of the session:  what was the temperature on September 17, 1994?  What current events get us in a mindset of the 90's?  What was the price of gasoline?  For our operations to work, our minds need to travel in time a bit as well.  

Rich always likes to have a photo of the participants, and this time the group included the kids as well as a number of guests.  It takes people to make a railroad work, and we are fortunate to have a number of good ones!  This session ran into the darkness with a simulated sunset, and the fun continued.  Amtrak train #276 after its run was tied down at Island Yard.

And, later, SEEL from Selkirk, NY to Elkhart, IN was working up at Onondaga Yard, highlighted by the dwarf signal at CP280.

Nighttime brings a magic to the OC, and one of the best spots is the fuel pad where locomotives are serviced through the night.  Two B23-7's idle while being fueled.

Then, Sunday, I was fortunate to be able to attend the operating session at Tony Koester's famous Nickel Plate Road layout, set in Illinois in 1954.  Tony gives his briefing before the session, with regular operator Bill Jamboor sitting behind him.  

While operations isn't the way most modelers choose to participate in the hobby, it is one of the niches that helps set our hobby apart from other modeling hobbies.  Instead of our models sitting on a shelf, in many cases our hard work can be displayed in motion, as intended.  Operations models not just equipment or structures, but the dynamic environments where the prototypes run and - most critically - the coordination with others to accomplish a task.  Operations takes us from train models to modeling railroading.  

On another positive note, see you in Springfield on Saturday and Sunday - if you're at the big Amherst Society show this year, January 28 & 29, stop over at introduce yourself at the Onondaga Cutoff table:  Better Living Center Section 4, Table L!  

Wednesday, January 11, 2023

A Table at Springfield!

Welcome to 2023, a new year full of opportunities and more than that, hope.  There is a lot swirling around in the air these days, including an increasing awareness that the most limited commodity these days really is time.  Hard work and persistence allows the ability to earn more money, but time marches on, and it is irreplaceable.  It is important to make moments count.

Last year something I wished we had done with the Onondaga Cutoff was to attend the big Amherst Model Railroad Society train show at Springfield, Massachusetts, always the last weekend of January each year.  This year, thanks to the A Modelerslife Podcast, the OC will have its OWN TABLE at the massive show - one of the former City Classics Inc tables.  

Come see us at the Better Living Center, Section 4, Table L!  Look for our flag on the wall behind the table:

It's a great show, with a full floor layout available online here:   My plan is to have the table as a home base and be there to meet and greet fans of the OC, old friends and new from 12-3p on Saturday, and from 12-2p on Sunday.  

More to come soon, but prep is underway and we are excited to see you there!