Der blinkenlights

It’s been a while since I’ve written anything. Progress is being made but it’s been slow. The holidays are a busy time and winters in New England are cold, which means our unheated basement is also cold. Tough to spend much time there after work when all I want to do is crash in front of the TV and a warm fire.

The Yard.

The Yard.

Building a train layout is a very linear process. You can’t build the benchwork until you’ve cleared out a space for it. You have to build the bench before you can lay the roadbed. The roadbed has to go down before the track. The wiring and switch motors have to be installed before you can make a fascia. The fascia, because it sometimes follows the contours of the hills, has to be put in before you start forming the land. And on and on and on.

Does fascia sound like FACE or FAST?

Does fascia sound like FACE or FAST?

We’re new at this and we only have Google and a few books to guide us along the way, so not all of these steps are obvious. Some are, of course. We knew we had to build a bench before anything else. Some of the steps only make themselves apparent once we’ve realized we skipped them. Oh, so we can’t put a hill here until we’ve installed the tunnel portal? And we have to buy or make a portal, prime it, paint it, weather, it and install it first? Oh. Good to know.

But first, let’s a talk about electronics.

The beginning of a rat's nest.

The beginning of a rat’s nest.

I went to school for a electronics. Analog, digital, microprocessors. I learned all about them. I used oscilloscopes and logic probes to troubleshoot 1970s-era computer trainers. I knocked myself onto the floor after I grabbed a large capacitor I forgot to discharge. I put AND and OR gates on a breadboard to build flip-flops and counters. I graduated with high honors with a certificate in computer electronics.

And I’ve forgotten it all.

I decided early on that I wanted to build a control panel. It’s true, with the right components, that all my switches could be controlled by the DCC hand controller. I didn’t want to do that, though. I wanted a panel with a track schematic, physical switches and lots and lots of blinkenlights. Old school, baby.

So I bought me a bunch of bi-color LEDs, some switches, and lots of wire. After some research and some trial and error working on a breadboard I eventually figured out how to make the lights do what I wanted them to do. The idea was that, when a switch gets flipped on the panel, the corresponding turnout on the track would switch to the new route, and the lights on the panel would turn green or red to indicate the active and non-active track.

I built a control panel cabinet out of plywood, too-small I would soon discover, and drew up a track diagram in Visio. I printed the diagram out on card stock and mounted it behind a sheet of acrylic. Using a stepped dill bit so as not to shatter the acrylic, I drilled about 36 holes for the switches and lights. I then installed all the lights and switches and soldered them together. This took several days to do and I soldered more than I’ve ever soldered in my life. It was tedious, sometimes frustrating work.

But boy was the end result awesome.

Das Blinkenlights

Das Blinkenlights

Now the green lights on the panel show the active tracks and everything can be controlled from one location. Inside the cabinet there are buses for the track power and switch power. I’m rather proud of it, if I do say so myself. It took a lot of thinking and a lot of hard work. As far as electronics go, it’s pretty basic, but it does what I wanted it to do.

Along with that I also finished the track wiring. Although the track seemed to be working fine with just a couple of feeder wires, the advice I got was to add feeder wires every few feet and make sure each section of track was soldered either to the next section of track or to a feeder wire. This is now done so I’m confident the entire track will always have power.

This is turning into a long post so I’ll just add that I built a fascia out of hardboard, using decorative washers and wood screws so it looks all fancy-like. I’ll eventually paint it once I figure out what color it should be. The fascia makes the bench look a little bit more like furniture and helps to hide the wires and other electric thingies under the track.

This week we began the landscaping. We’ve started putting a cardboard lattice where we want the hills to be. This will be covered in plaster cloth and other substances in order to look like rolling hills.

Hot gluin' check it and see. Got a fever of one hundred and three.

Hot gluin’ check it and see. Got a fever of one hundred and three.

We went to a train show a few weeks ago and I bought some plaster tunnel portals and a culvert for where the lake goes under the track. These I have to paint and weather and they will be the first “finished” items installed on the track. I’m still pretty new to airbrushing and weathering models so I hope I can do them justice. The first coat of primer and paint was applied last night.

Airbrushing!

Airbrushing!

I don’t really think anything like those portals exist in New England but I said a long time ago that realism is taking a back seat to fun in this layout. The Boy wanted a tunnel so a tunnel we shall have. I had to modify the portals a bit. They were too high for where we wanted to put them so I cut about an inch off the middle of each one and replaced the top cap. This I did on the bandsaw, which cut the plaster portals like buttah. I then glued them back together and filled in any gaps with putty.

Train goes in here.

Train goes in here.

I’m looking forward to making the lake though that’s something I really need to research. It will need to be contoured and the various areas (lake bottom, beach, grass, rock) on the shore painted the proper colors in preparation for landscaping. Then the “water” resin poured 1/8 inch at a time until it’s filled in. A process that will take several days, if not weeks.

IMG_4338

Culverts.

 

I glued the retaining walls to the culvert portal and primed them. I’ll paint them a shade of grey that resembles concrete and get them down on the layout soon.

As I mentioned before, the hills are being formed with a cardboard lattice which will be covered with plaster cloth, painted, and then landscaped with grass, dirt, shrubbery, trees, and whatever else will make it look like a miniature world.

Embankment

This will one day be a beautiful, rolling green hill.

The cardboard is being hot glued together; I’ve burned my finger about a billion times already. Some bigger hills will be first formed with some wood contours and some flattish areas will be carved out of foam. I’ve very happy that, although this layout is somewhat small, we’re using all the techniques one might use on a larger layout.

We seem to have crossed a line between the hard skills such as carpentry and electronics and have moved into the more artsy areas. We now have to sculpt, paint, and landscape. Neither me nor The Boy are really artistic (though he is showing signs that he is) so I feel like we, or at least I, have moved out of the comfort zone into new, and frightening, territory.

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I Hear That Train A Comin’

There’s been a lot of work done the past couple of weeks and I guess the end result is that we now have a train we can run.

Comin' Atcha

Comin’ Atcha

The road bed is down, the main line and a siding are down, and we even have a couple switching yards, one permanent and one temporary.

Please don't drive off the end of the track.

Please don’t drive off the end of the track.

I’ve discovered that this seems to be the perfect hobby for my easily distracted, ADD-ish brain. If I feel like doing some rough carpentry work I can modify the bench, if I’m in the mood for electronics I wire up a switch machine or solder a switch on the control panel. I can build or paint a model if I feel like working on the details.

Wiring up the temporary control panel

Wiring up the temporary control panel

Or, if I want to just sit back and watch a train run around a track, I can do that now. The Boy and I can even do some “operations” and move box cars around the switch yard.

There’s really no shortage of tasks.

One thing I attempted to do is paint the backdrop. Sadly, my lack of artistic talent could not be disguised and the end result was a blue wall with some messy white brush strokes and a couple of laughably bad “clouds” in the sky. It’s really kind of embarrassing, actually. My wife is a bit more artistic than I am so I’ve asked her if maybe she could re-do it and I’ve even contemplated paying someone to paint me a simple backdrop. I can’t afford to hire someone to do a full-on mural, though I would really love that.

Getting the track powered up was pretty exciting. I have plans to make a nice-looking control panel but in the mean time I’ve put together a temporary one for the turnout switches and another bus for the DCC power.

DCC Power bus

DCC Power bus

The Boy and I have had great fun moving the box cars around the track, sorting them in the yard, and building a train. Our layout is rather small, the only siding isn’t even big enough for a full train, but we’ve made the most of it and have had fun trying to figure out how to place a certain car onto a certain track. Eventually we’ll have some industries we can serve.

One of the more exciting milestones was when I got the first switch machine installed under the layout. After doing some research I chose to use Tortoise machines. Getting under the layout to install them was not easy, nor was soldering the electronics to control them, but once I was able to flick a toggle switch and have the turnout switch to another track I felt like I had really accomplished something magical.

Tortoise #1 installed under Turnout #1.

Tortoise #1 installed under Turnout #1.

I have a bunch of bi-color LEDs that I will eventually wire in to the control panel as a visual indicator of which track is active but for now I’ve built a temporary panel with just the toggle switches. We first have to get all the turnouts and switch machines installed permanently so we can draw up a track schematic on the panel.

The track power is supplied via a couple 18 gauge wires under the layout. From the main bus I’ve installed track feeders every few feet. These are 22 gauge wires coming up through the plywood, soldered to the track. I still have many more to install, including several on each turnout, but in the meantime the entire track seems to have power so I’m in no rush to get them all installed.

Can you find the track feeder?

Can you find the track feeder?

In order to populate the track I’ve been buying cheap rolling stock on eBay, mostly buying cars that have some sort of nostalgia for me or that fit the theme of the layout. My latest acquisition is a Wonder Bread / Hostess car. I grew up across the lake from the bakery and the former spur line that goes past my current house would deliver an occasional car filled with Twinkie filling or bread dough or whatever.

Childhood memories

Childhood memories

I also have a couple of Conrail boxcars, a Polaroid car, and some custom Carling cars. I’ve had to replace the couplers and trucks on most of them, occasionally modifying the car body to take the new coupler gearbox. I’ve been cutting, drilling, tapping, gluing and adjusting. Lots of fun.

Wonder Bread!

Wonder Bread!

We’re still running all these trains on bare plywood so even though the track may be powered up we still have a lot of work to do. Once all the switch machines are down I’m hoping to build a fascia and then we can terraform the landscape with a cardboard lattice and some plaster cloth.

In the meantime The Boy and I are having a blast watching our train go around and carefully working the switches to operate our barren, miniature world.

The Boy takes it for a spin.

The Boy takes it for a spin.

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The First Spike

Spike #1

Spike #1

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The “Fun” Part Begins

To those of you reading this blog, both of you, you should probably not expect too many updates mid-week. We do work a bit on the layout in the evenings but it’s usually an hour here, a half hour there. Most of our real progress is on the weekends.

Not so much this weekend though. It’s late fall in New England, which means weekends are largely spent outdoors, raking leaves in 40 degree temperatures and generally thinking maybe selling the house and renting an apartment in the city might not be such a bad idea.

But where would we put our train layout?

One of the reasons this project appeals to me is that there are many different skills involved. We’ve finished the bench, which was mostly carpentry, and now we’re laying the cork roadbed. Meanwhile I’m still building the first house model out of plastic, getting ready to begin painting. I’m also getting my feet wet learning about DCC encoders and systems.

Laying the roadbed requires care as any mistakes made here will show up later, causing the train to derail, sending hundreds of little plastic people to their fiery death.

The first step is to lay the track down temporarily.

IMG_3808

Trust me, dad, it’s straight.

This we did by drilling out the holes for the track nails and using push pins to hold the track in place.

Over / Under pass.

Over / Under pass.

Once that was done we used a Sharpie and drew a series of dots down the centerline.

IMG_3843

Connecting the Dots

Now that we knew exactly where the track was going we removed the push pins and took up the track, leaving a dotted line along the route.

The roadbed we used, Midwest Products Cork Roadbed, consists of a beveled piece of cork split down the middle. After brushing down some wood glue we aligned the cork along the dotted line and held it down with push pins, staggering the pieces of cork as we went.

Essential Tools include a Jack's Abby Hoponius Union IPA.

Essential Tools include a Jack’s Abby Hoponius Union IPA.

Progress was slow so we only have about half of the roadbed down. Hopefully we’ll get to more of it this week.

Meanwhile, I’m learning a bit about Digital Command Control.

Anyone who had an electric train as a kid (as I posted before, I was not one of them) will remember the power pack that you plugged into the wall and connected to the track via a couple of screw terminals. You then had a knob that controlled the speed and direction of the train. Simple.

Well, times have changed.

Trains these days, at least the ones beyond those bought at Toys-R-Us, are controlled by something called Digital Command Control. I won’t get too into it as there are literally books written on the subject. In short, it’s a way to control multiple engines on the same layout along with their functions (lights and possibly sound) and other controllable features on the layout. Each engine has an encoder inside it that you can then control with the DCC controller.  Each engine has a unique ID assigned to it so the system can “talk” to engines via their ID.

That’s the basic “I really don’t know what the hell I’m talking about” summary of DCC.

After weighing my options, including sticking with an old-fashioned DC throttle, I opted for a basic NCE Powercab starter kit and a lower-end Digitrax DCC encoder for my engine. Once I figured out how to get the top off the DCC-ready engine I bought from eBay, installing the decoder was easy.

Naked Train.

Naked Train.

There is a standard 8-pin plug on the encoder that installs easily enough. The only issue was that the instructions didn’t say where pin-1 was on the plug and this information was surprisingly difficult to find with Google. I eventually found a forum post that gave a vague clue that the orange wire was on pin-1 so I took a chance and plugged it in, crossing my fingers that when I applied power it didn’t catch fire or open up a worm hole, destroying all life as we know it.

Once that was done I set up the Digitrax controller and a piece of flex track, connecting the wires up with some test leads I have. Eagerly anticipating seeing my engine run on three feet of track, I carefully placed the wheels on the track, turned up the throttle and… nothing.

I think the problem is that the train is slightly out of focus.

Using my rarely-used voltmeter and a power supply I built back when I was a student at Sylvania Technical School (“Are you ready for an EXCITING CAREER in ELECTRONICS?”) over 25 years ago, I began troubleshooting. Did I have the encoder in backwards? Was the controller working? Was the track getting any current at all? I tried everything I could think of but nothing would get this train to run. Finally, I did something I rarely do, I read the instructions.

There were two cables supplied with the controller, a coiled one and a straight one. I assumed the coiled one was the one to use because… well.. because everyone knows hand controllers have coiled cables. This was not the case.

As soon as I swapped the coiled cable for the straight one, the train moved forward. I pressed the reverse button and the train reversed. Before I knew it I was Homer Simpson, alternating between forward and reverse over and over again. “Train goes forward… train goes backwards…train goes forward… train goes backwards”

All this on three feet of track. I can’t wait until the rest is done.

In between tinkering with wiring and laying down roadbed, I’m working on the house model as time allows.

This is the side porch where we had a Garfield poster, yes, a Garfield poster, that said "Welcome to the funny farm."

This is the side porch where we had a Garfield poster, yes, a Garfield poster, that said “Welcome to the funny farm.”

I’m assembling the sides by adding bracing where needed and carefully gluing the pieces together.

Clamping and gluing the foundation to the back porch.

Clamping and gluing the foundation to the back porch.

Making sure sides are straight and true and fastened at a 90 degree angle requires care and patience that I don’t really seem to possess in great quantities.  I’m managing though, and so far I’m happy with how it’s coming out.

You see that chimney? I made that. I'm kind of proud of it.

You see that chimney? I made that. I’m kind of proud of it.

I’ve decided to assemble the main structure and paint it a single color. I’ll then continue to add the details which is mainly white-painted trim around the windows, doors and roof line. I’ll also add some black shutters in the front.

We couldn't afford a roof.

We couldn’t afford a roof.

I’m struggling with just how detailed to make it. Do I add gutters and downspouts? An electric meter? Sillcocks? The answer is I’m not sure. Of course I need to add front and side steps and storm doors. I want it to be recognizable as our house and not any old Cape Cod style structure, but I don’t want it to take forever.

I have way too much still to do.

 

 

 

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The Bench is Done!

We’ve completed what is hopefully the most physically demanding and dangerous part of the layout, the benchwork. We still have to build a facade but that will come later.

IMG_3786

Fastening down the peninsula

We must have made hundreds of cuts, drilled a thousand holes and screwed in as many deck screws. By the time we were halfway done The Boy had become an expert with the drill. There were times when I’d be upstairs working on dinner and he’d be down the basement working on things by himself, screwing in risers or fastening down the plywood.

The little boy who lives under the bench.

The little boy who lives under the bench.

I don’t think I’ve ever built anything this big out of wood. I did build a couple of rooms in our old house, my first adventures into carpentry, but I guess this is the biggest non-room thing I’ve built.

I’m happy with the way it came out. The center, where the “town” will be (“town” is in quotes because it will probably consist of only one or two buildings, is raised with the track below grade just like in the center of our town. We’ll build scale rock walls through the center and the rest will be sloped dirt and grass.

The sunken track

The sunken track

The grades are a bit steeper than I’d like but we really didn’t have much choice unless we wanted the track to be flat, with no over or underpasses, and who wants to do that?

IMG_3805

The more gentle of the two graded areas.

We’ve cut out the area that will be a little lake, with a culvert going under the tracks. We didn’t have room to build a large lake like in our town but part of the lake is on the edge of the layout, giving a feeling that it continues beyond.

The Lake

The Lake

Next comes the part The Boy is really excited about, the laying of the track. I guess once that’s done we’ll be able to run the train.

A slight diversion as The Boy uses our risers for dominoes.

A slight diversion as The Boy uses our risers for dominoes.

We’ll contour the land with cardboard and plaster, building a large hill into the corner and some more gentle hills elsewhere. We’ll have a “neighborhood” by the lake with a couple model houses, including our own and the model of my mom’s house I’m still working on. The entire thing will be covered in landscaping of some sort, with woods, grassy areas, a beach, and some roads.

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“Because they live in 1968”

This blog was recently featured on Metafilter and in the Metafilter Podcast. Full disclosure: one of the hosts of the podcast, Jessamyn West, is a friend of mine. During the podcast, when talking about the fact that we were setting up a model train layout, Jessamyn said we were doing it “because [we] live in 1968.”

This made me laugh, but it also made me a little sad. Not because I was insulted, I actually took it as a compliment, but because there’s a lot of truth to it. Model railroading is a dying hobby. When I’ve gone to train shows or read train magazines or gone on forums it seems that most of the practitioners of this hobby are… well… let’s just say they probably shouldn’t be buying any green bananas.

This is kind of a shame.

Now, I have no real vested interest in the survival of this hobby, though I certainly don’t want it to die. At this point I’m not even sure I’d consider myself a model railroader. I think I’m mostly making a model that happens to include a train in it. I don’t know much about how railroads work, how one is supposed to run one, and I barely know my points from my frogs.

“Points” and “frogs” are railroad terms. I guess I am learning something.

What I find to be a shame is that any hobby that requires the use of your hands seems to be dying, if it’s not already dead. Kids, and many adults my age, can barely turn a screwdriver. Many people joke about setting up Ikea furniture and how difficult it is. I’ve set up plenty of Ikea stuff. Sure, it’s difficult if your only tool is that little Allen wrench they give you but if you have the proper tools and you’re good with them, Ikea furniture is a cinch.

I’m not going where you think I am. I’m not going to complain about these damn kids and their computer games.

I am mostly a fan of video games. I grew up in the 1970s and 80s and I saw the birth and evolution of video games from Space Invaders to the amazing, immersive worlds they are today. The Boy has built things in the virtual world of Minecraft that are as impressive, more impressive, even, than anything he’s ever built out of Lego. And he once built a robot that solved a Rubix’ Cube out of Lego.

Fans of Lego will be sure to note I did not refer to them as Legos.

Combining two of his favorite hobbies

Combining two of his favorite hobbies

I believe video games, in addition to being a means of escaping the real world for a bit, can teach valuable skills that will be useful in the world our kids are growing up in and the world we already live in. But they’re not going to help you when your sink backs up or you need to assemble your Ikea glübfreün before the inlaws arrive.

Using tools, building things with them, and fixing things with them are also valuable skills. I’ve been collecting tools since I was a kid and today I have a pretty impressive collection. That’ll be a whole ‘nother post one of these days. From an early age I’ve tried to instill in The Boy how important tools are and the importance of knowing how to use them. He doesn’t show it, but I think he’s getting it.

When he was five he helped me set up some Ikea furniture. After a little while he said “Dad, I can do it myself”, and he did.

After building it, the instructions make for a great külering bük.

After building it, the instructions make for a great kulering buk.

I won’t lie, when The Boy and I started talking about possibly building a train layout one of the reasons I decided to jump at it is because it’s an activity that exists in the real, as opposed to a virtual, world. We are typical parents in that we let our child use computer games and watch TV but we also try to limit that activity for reasons we cannot fully articulate, other than it must certainly be bad for some reason to spend that much time staring at a screen. Never mind that some friends that have no limits are perfectly well adjusted kids while kids who are only allowed to use Khan Academy once a month as their screen time allotment spend their free time burning ants with magnifying glasses. And those kids have a lot of free time.

Still, we limit his time. I guess it’s mostly because we want to raise a well-rounded human being. Someone who is equally at home in front of a computer, on a baseball diamond, in the kitchen, or in the shop.

There is a quote I like, in fact it’s hanging on the wall above me as I type this. It’s by Robert Heinlein:

“A human being should be able to change a diaper, plan an invasion, butcher a hog, conn a ship, design a building, write a sonnet, balance accounts, build a wall, set a bone, comfort the dying, take orders, give orders, cooperate, act alone, solve equations, analyze a new problem, pitch manure, program a computer, cook a tasty meal, fight efficiently, die gallantly. Specialization is for insects.”

It is generally the philosophy I try to live my life by. My work depends on me being a jack of all trades and at home I am constantly trying to learn new skills, never learning anything enough to master any one skill but enough to be competent.

It is also something I am trying to teach my son. Certainly if he wants to specialize in something and become, say, a chef, or a lawnmower repair person, or an ass doctor or any number of other careers that require specialization, he’s welcome to do that. But no matter what he does for a living I hope he can also cook an omelette, change the oil on his lawnmower, or treat his own hemorrhoids.

Or build a bench out of wood on which he can lay conductive railroad track so that he can then attach wires that he can connect to a control panel filled with switches and lights that he’s soldered together himself. And he can then run model cars and an engine, based on historical research he’s done, past models of houses and buildings that he’s built out of plastic he cut himself with a hobby knife, painted and weathered with pigments and paint, brushes and an airbrush. All this will exist on land made out of foam and cardboard carved and shaped by hand, layered with plaster cloth and textured with any number of substances that will allow his world to resemble the real world. Hills and cliffs and lakes and pavement. Physical, not virtual.

Because that’s as it should be, whether it’s 1968 or 2014. Not all humans should do this, but all humans should be able to do this. We are not insects.

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Our vision

We don’t have much in the way of an actual plan, but we do have a vision.

One of the things The Boy and I were able to agree about early on is that we wanted our layout to reflect the area around us, our town and the things we’re familiar with. Things from his time as well as mine.

model_rail

I’ve already posted about the model I’m making of the house I grew up in. My parents bought the house in 1969. A few months later, in December of that year, I arrived.

My brother stands guard, some time in the early 1970s.

My brother stands guard, some time in the early 1970s.

That was the only house I knew until I moved out. Until my parent’s divorce, there were five of us. Mom, dad, and three boys. One bathroom. You do the math. My mom continued to live in that house until about a year ago when she finally moved into senior housing. I haven’t driven down the road since.

I am fortunate that today my wife, The Boy and I live in a very beautiful new house that we designed ourselves. Well, an architect designed it, but we helped. The plans I have for the house, the very same plans the builders used, are almost HO scale but not quite. If and when I get around to building a model I will have to go through the plans and convert all the dimensions to HO. That’ll be a chore.

Not shown: Moat with alligators, machine gun towers.

Not shown: Moat with alligators, machine gun towers.

When I was a kid there was a brewery in our town. Yes, an actual brewery where they brewed actual beer. In the late 1970s the brewers moved out and a series of computer companies moved in. I remember they took down the side of the building and spent many months taking out the vats.

It’s going to be a big project but I would like to make a model of that brewery, or at least one that vaguely resembles it. I’m not really sure why, the train never actually stopped there, but it was always, and still is, a landmark in the town. I still refer to it as “the brewery” though people who haven’t lived here since the 1960s have no idea what I’m talking about.

Hey Mabel, Black Label!

Hey Mabel, Black Label!

There’s a neat little diner in our town that has existed in more or less the same form since the 1920s. You better believe that’s a modelin’.

You don’t see much in the way of freight trains running through town anymore, though they occasionally still come by. I remember seeing them as a kid, hauled by the big blue Conrail engines. Back then I didn’t know what Conrail was, I just remember being disappointed that the engines didn’t resemble the red and silver Santa Fe engines that came with every single electric train set.

I found a DCC compatible Conrail engine on ebay that looks like the engines I remember. I’ve mentioned before that I know nothing about trains so I’m sure some railfan can chime in and tell me exactly what engines ran on the Conrail lines, the former Boston and Albany, from Boston back in the day. I’m sure I got the wrong engine, but it’s blue so it’s close enough.

Choo.

Choo.

As far rolling stock (that’s what they call it, though I always just called them ‘cars’), I plan on having a mish-mash of totally inaccurate cars, cars that never would have been seen running through town. Already on ebay I found a few cars dirt cheap, including a couple of Conrail boxcars and a Polaroid car exactly like the one my dad, a long time employee, brought home for my brother all those years ago. I also found a guy who puts custom decals on boxcars and he made a couple Carling cars for me.

I’d like to get a Wonder Bread car or two as we used to have a bakery in town. As a kid, if the wind was blowing the right way, we’d wake up to the smell of fresh bread. They also made Twinkies. A rite-of-passage for every kid in town was to take a field trip to the bakery where you would actually get to see how they got the cream into the Twinkies. No, I’m not going to tell you, you’ll just have to find your own bakery and take your own field trip.

Where the magic happened. Like most things, it's now a mall.

Where the magic happened. Like most things, it’s now a mall.

Along with the buildings and the train we’ll be adding appropriate landscaping, including the local woods and lake. We haven’t yet decided how detailed we want the town to be as adding buildings takes money and effort. We will have some roads, of course, and a bridge or two. The main line will include a tunnel, because tunnels are awesome.

 

 

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