06 December 2013

My Freight Car Friday: mystery flat car

Above we have another mystery freight car. This one took me a while to obtain due to an Ebay seller messing up shipping for over a month. What we have here is a fenced flat car. At first glance you may think- hey this is that horse car from one the Lionel General outfit or the later Lionel Jesse James outfit. But no, this car is not from either of those.
The really strange thing about this car is that it has "fake trucks." Basically what you are seeing in the photo is a plastic mask in the shape of trucks a la Marx Trains. There are only 2 axles on this unit and if it were not for the underside Lionel stamp I would think this came from Marx.
I never thought Lionel would drop quality this far for a car- but they did and especially during the period they were owned by General Mills henceforth known as the MPC era. A sharp contrast to the ever collectible and solid Post War era.
So from what outfit did this flat car come?
The Lionel Workin' On the Railroad Logging Empire outfit from 1978 that was priced aroubnd $35 in those days
This low cost, mostly plastic set had a lot of play value but the model quality is a bit diminished. The set included 6 cars and an engine, large figure eight track, a log loader and a barrel loader.
You can see the set in action below from a vintage commercial. Seems they might have contracted with Johnny Cash for the music.


27 November 2013

Thanksgiving Eve watch and listen

It is the night before Thanksgiving and all through the house not a person was hungry- not even a mouse.
All watched the clock on the oven click down- for they knew at zero a roast turkey would be found.
And with would come mash potatoes and beans and culinary delights fit for the Queen.
Some stuffing, cranberries and a sweet potato or two- these foods would be eaten and consumed by the next day at 2.
And to top it off a pumpkin pie would be sliced then dolloped with whipped dream to top off Thanksgiving night.
But now we all wait for the turkey to arrive
And now watch and listen to what some people have contrived
To commemorate this ole holiday of thanks.

Years ago I wrote a Thanksgiving program for the college radio station in Morris, MN.
A Kumm Thankgiving Pageant

Then watch Charlie brown putter his way through Thanksgiving
I must admit this Charlie Brown special is kinda of corny in the set-up. It not the best but it certainly is not the least. And it is one of the few longstanding specials that revolve around Thanksgiving. I sort of make an allusion to this show it in the KUMM program above.

Next learn about one of favorite food for Thanksgiving- cranberries

 Finally something from way back- George Burns and Gracie Allen celebrate Thanksgiving
I have not watched this one before- but generally the setup for the show is Gracie's crazy schemes and George's commentary on the scenario.

14 November 2013

Trains and WWII

With this week starting out with Veterans' Day I think this would be an appropriate video to re-post from the Tube.

It is an informative film concerning an air attack on a military train. 2 P-51s bomb the railroad and the train crew responds albeit without eliminating the enemy aircraft. You may think it is odd that that US planes would bomb a US military plane but I doubt anyone was ready with cameras to film an actual attack. The aid response was particularly quick- but what can you show in 4 minutes. Once the trucks arrived they went right at it to restore the railbed.

02 November 2013

The remote sauna

Sunset in Voyaguer's National Park

In August the Man of 3 Name and I took a canoe trip into Voyaguer's National Park in Northern Minnesota. To our surprise we were the only canoe we saw in the park (notwithstanding the canoe party from Illinois that was leaving as we were entering the park.). Voyaguer's is a big water kind of canoe area. Most of the smaller lakes are interior to the Kabetogama Penisula. We traversed the eastern bays of Lake Kabetogma to the big waters of  Namakan Lake and base camped in Junction Bay.
The weather was pleasant but did drop in the 30s one night. We also had a spectacular show in the evening skies- meteor showers.

I digress as this post is about the sauna we found in the wilderness.
On our way to Junction Bay we passed through a narrow gap between 2 islands. As we got closer I thought I saw some type of building on one of the islands. However, we paddled on without investigating.
The Sauna
On our way out we came through the area again and this time decided  to disembark and poke around this island.
There were quite a few building on this property including a sauna just a few feet from the lakeshore.
Apparently it was an old resort for a time- I.W. Stevens Pine Cove Resort- and is on the National Register of Historic Places. Here is a write up about the place and the man, Ingvald, who lived on this island. The article does mention the sauna and that it was built in 1935 with the help of 2 Finns- Waino and Eino Lahti. Or at least I think they are Finnish- the name sounds Finnish. For its' age the sauna appeared to be in great condition. The red door was a nice touch. It just needed a sauna stove and you would be set.

The Sauna Bench

01 November 2013

End of the Harvest

It has been a full to the brim fall with lots of work to do. And now with Halloween over we are heading downhill into the new year and Christmas.
Well this year I did not make it to the Great Minnesota Get Together.  

Painting of Sky Ride at MN State Fair by my MFS
Instead my mostly Finnish spouse and I (and the Boe) went to a reunion- the West Central Minnesota Steam Thresher's reunion in Rollag, MN. Though neither of us were steam threshers, we were allowed to go if we paid the admission price (I think it was $12 but it might have been $10). Anyways this event is incredible in that it helps us revisit an older age- the age when hard work and the brawn of steam engines ruled the land.

Steam shovel at Rollag
We saw lots of steam powered agricultural equipment in operation. But that is not all. There were 2 steam powered sawmills, a parade of tractors, lots of small motors, and an authentic steam locomotive that circled the entire grounds of this event. 

Besides being a agriculture spectator this year, I planted a garden. It it was a real good harvest. Plenty of tomatoes, broccoli, peppers, beans, squash, beets, cucumbers, lettuce and squash. Nothing beats eating food that you grew yourself. We also procured a lot of crab apples from our tree for apple butter. A lot of apples also came our way from the 2 apple trees at Lehigh.

Gardening provides many a great analogies for a life following Christ. Jesus used many agricultural examples in his teaching- recall the parable of the sower or Jesus' teaching from his "I am the vine" statement. Planting a seed requires an amount of trust that something will come of it. I know from reading and hearing from others that seeds grow and produce fruit. But it is not until I plant the seed myself that I can ever reap any of the fruit. 
Jesus said in the book of John (15:5) - I am the vine; you are the branches. If you remain in me and I in you, you will bear much fruit; apart from me you can do nothing.
That sums up how we are to depend upon the Lord; how we can do nothing without that relationship intact. In my own strength I cannot make a seed grow- only the strength of one greater than I can do that.
a portion of the harvest

02 September 2013

Labor Day and the unintentional hiatus

Finally! I can catch some rest and some fish.
Some great catches

Labor Day cometh and I can rest from my corporate labors. It has been an extremely busy time for me at the multi-national company for which I work. Fortunately I was able to add 3 more support staff this summer to help when the going gets tough.
It has been nearly 2 and a half months since the last post so and I guess it looked like an unexpected hiatus. Well, it was expected  but definitely unintentional.
Let me count all the adventures I've had since we wrapped up the Fargo Marathon.
I planted a vegetable garden and volunteered at the Growing Together Community Garden. A separate post is forthcoming about gardening.
I returned to the Back to 50s Car Show in St. Paul after missing last year due to the wedding bumper crop.
June just flew by at lightning speed.
In July I had a considerable amount of stuff. On Independence Day I visited Bonanzaville with my MFS and the Boe, a new character in the Royce Files sphere. We were well roasted after the visit. I'll probably put up a post on Bonanzaville later- they had a lot of old stuff but no Michael Landon memorabilia.
Then mid-July we vacationed up at Breezy Point again and did a myriad of things. But, I discovered a fantastic little model railroad museum in Cross Lake. There will be a future post on the museum- although I do not recall if I have photos.
A few days after our return from vacation, I assist in the construction of the 2 day shed with my mostly Finnish relatives. That was exhausting.
The following weekend I attended my 20th class reunion in the Twin Cities. I caught up with my somewhat famous classmates. The next day my MFS and I visited the MN Zoo thanks to a suggestion from one of my classmates who works for them. I must say the Russian Grizzly Coast exhibit is fantastic. I love it. The following day we biked around Hastings a bit and then watched part of a bocce ball tournament before heading out for a family BBQ.
A few days later the Man with 3 Names joins up with me and we do a canoe trip to Voyaguers National Park. We'll explore that trip in later posts.
Monroe Crossing plays on a perfect night in Fergus Falls

A week later my MFS and I took in a  Monroe Crossing concert in Fergus on a most perfect night. It was not too hot and had a little breeze. We ate some fantastic pastries too.
The next day we traverse to a town called Nimrod canoe down part of the Crow Wing River. We actually canoe from Shell City but we meet up with a guy named Bill who would drop our vehicle off where we finish. The heat was close to unbearable but the water was absolutely crystal clear. The wind did play a few tricks on us but we weathered it.
Then a few days ago my MFS and I trekked over to Rollag with the Boe and took in the Western Minnesota Steam Threshers Reunion. It was massive and once again very, very hot. There will be a future post about Rollag.
On the railroad beat, there should be some posts on Bandana Square, various train stations, the return of the Lionel 212 Super Chief, and new rolling stock.
Finally I'll leave you with a Pintrest/Tumbler worthy photo from an old school house at the Dalton Steam Threshers Reunion to remind us that in the States school has started. I particularly like the "Be a good loser" sign. It seems as if the young man must bow to some new royalty after he lost his birth right to the throne in a high stakes net ball match. Looks like she also is taking the FA cup.
Social consciousness from long ago

22 June 2013

Delivering the lumber- my freight car Friday

Lionel log dump car with the Switch Tower in background
I wanted to have some action on my railway besides just going in circles.
Lionel makes quite a few operational cars. I featured the milk reefer a few weeks. I doubt I will ever get that one to work. It is a long range plan.
So I found this Northern Pacific log dump car from 1984 on e-bay in practically new condition. Even came with the box for less than $30. I was planning on getting a version of this car at one of the local antique shops for less than $20. However, that one was broken.
The log dump car basically holds a few logs and at the desired point- notably the place where the collection tray sits and the automated track piece sits- dumps the logs.
Lionel has made these types of cars since the post-war period. Earlier versions were all metal. Its close relatives are the coal dump car and the helium tank dump car. These cars can be operated manually with the manual uncoupler thingie and automatically with an operating track section.
We don't see these type of cars out my way on prototype railways. Though I am sure they do exist, I suspect they may be in service further west where the lumber business is still in full swing.

05 June 2013

Wrap it up with neon - Fargo Marathon 2013

It seems a bit late to wrap up my Fargo Marathon coverage.
The race is long over and sort of forgotten for the year, but today I wear my "Team Fargo Rocks" shirt from a 2011 to make concluding remarks about the region's premier and largest running event.
So we know the winners but what about those who ran with style and vigour and panache? Let's meet a few memorable runners.
Neon on the rise
The trending style this year appears to be day glo neon. I saw plenty of runners apparelled in the brightest colors on the spectrum.

More neon
I tend to wear the neon vests more than the actual shirts. It ensures that I am seen and not run over. For what appeared to be a mostly overcast day the runners in those loud colors stood out.

In typical years in my marathon coverage I provide a snippet of particular traits of runners- like costumes or mustaches or tattoos. Well, this year I was distracted and did not come up with any consistent trend to cover. But I did re-visit some combos of years past in 2013.

Trifecta spotting
Above we have the beard and tattoo combination with a side of long socks. The tattoo is on the bicep.

Lobster on board
Here we have a creative hat- a lobster. Not sure if this is in reference to Boston but I'll say yes.

Finally we don't want to forget how far recognized that the Fargo Marathon has become. A son of Krypton runs this every year.

Superman spotting
Though I bet he could have beaten everybody, I think he decided that the Fargo Marathon is a good race to enjoy the scenery on the ground and get serenaded by Elvis once or twice.
Well that's it for this year. The only thing I did not mention is that there appeared to be more youth running in the 5K and marathons. Potentially a good thing.
Next year the marathon celebrates its 10th year with the event moving to May 10.
See you in 2014.

24 May 2013

A marathon of maniacs - Fargo Marathon 2013

Let me preface this just so you don't start thinking that running a marathon in Fargo is a hazard to your life. I will first say that marathon maniacs are generally decent people and non-violent. They like the challenge of zealously running marathons. It is a club of sorts with different levels of which you can attain through running lots and lots of marathons.
Well there were plenty of them in Fargo this weekend. And investigating further I discovered that it was perhaps these runners who started their race early. Becoming a particular level of maniac has a time component in which you need to run so many marathons. So instead of perhaps bonking out in the humidity- they started earlier.
Here is a blog post about the marathon from one nicknamed T-Rex.

2010 Chris Myers ponders his  upcoming Marathons 
During my prep work for writing the post about the Fargo Marathon I check the registrants list to find people I know. I missed a few this year. I saw co-worker Kurt Fraser in the race- I think I even saw him at packet pick up. Then there was Jake who I mentioned a few posts ago. He appeared in the photo I had no clue he'd be running- but then again he does run a bit.
But then there is Chris Myers. He's been running Fargo for a few years. I checked his name in the registration DB and it does not show up. Then I saw on Facebook that he had just run Lake Wobegon Marathon ( and if I did a little more looking I could see he ran the Eau Claire Marathon on May 5th.)
I sent him a message and said we'd miss him in Fargo. To which he replied- He was running Fargo.
Huh? His name was not in the DB.
I saw him run by and just assumed I must have missed something.
Now the rest of the story or at least the middle part.
During Chris' trek up to Fargo he realized that he did not even register for the race and of course the race registration was closed. That sucks. Big time sucks, especially for a marathon maniac.
But he posted his embarassment on Facebook.
I can only postulate what might have transpired after that relevation. But somehow through the work of a benevolent fellow maniac Chris gets into the race.

Chris responded "Thank god for modern technology and the kindness of the running community! Big sigh of relief!"

Myers had a little spill at around mile 21 that skinned up his knee and hands. But he weathered onward after medical care and completed his 4th marathon in 21 days. Now that's a real marathon maniac!

The Last Few Miles - Fargo Marathon 2013

Kenyan James Kirwa has about a 2 block lead on next runner at mile 18
Although I was not anywhere near the finish, overall this was one good race. Sure the humidity was high a times and it was a bit wet in the morning but the race finished with a flourish not seen in Fargo since 2008 when Eric Sondag won. Sondag was on hand this year providing color commentary for the Forum's live blog.
Let's rewind back to the 4th mile. James Kirwa sped by followed by a bit of a space and then Chris Erichsen. And this was how it was for a majority of the race: Kirwa was holding a decent lead on Erichsen.

Chris Erichsen is steady at mile 18
Near mile 18 when I saw the leaders again Kirwa had what I would guess to be a under a quarter mile advantage over Erichsen. The rest of the elite men were further back and actually one of them, Eric Chirchir, withdrew around mile 18. He looked to be favoring his knee. He was in 3rd at the time he withdrew and got carried away in a golf cart.
By this time I was thinking that a Kenyan runner will finally win the Fargo Marathon.
I thought too soon.
What I failed to note was Kirwa had won the Pittburgh Marathon just 2 weeks prior. Could he be ready to run a such a pace?
"History repeating itself?" Sondag philosophized on the live blog.
At mile 20 it appeared Kirwa was slowing pace. He then continued to look back quite a bit according to Forum coverage. He eventually upped his pace. But then came the 23rd mile.
Erichsen had been gaining mostly because he pace was steady throughout. As Kirwa let up his pace, he cut the lead. Then somewhere between 23 and 25, Erichsen dug deep and bested the Kenyan's pace and gained the lead and never relented. Reports say Erichsen ran a 4:40 mile between mile 23 and 25. That's amazing!
Erichsen crossed the finish 2:20:42 followed by Kirwa at 2:21:32. What a finish!

Nicole Porath won the women's marathon in 2:50:49 without much of a story. She had lead throughout. And she is a Gustie. Not that I have any ties to the college in St. Peter but let's say I was an unofficial ambassador of goodwill for the school way back. Looks like MSUM track does not get all the spotlight. Minnesota-Moorhead may have claimed 5k gold but Gustavus Adolphus can claim the 10K and Women's Full.

22 May 2013

And the race goes on- Fargo Marathon 2013

Still dragging out this marathon. Probably because I did not get many pictures or find a theme.
No I did find a theme and I will get to those later.

Now onto to business.
After the elites then came the herds.
These are the halfies.
the masses
Apparently the man must be mistaken about this race- this is no beer run.
However, I am wrong. There was a beer garden at the finish line. Bizarre but I suppose it makes you forget all those pavement pounding miles.

Jake and the Red Beard
Looking through my pictures I then realize I had gotten a photo of a top beard a co-worker too- Jake.

Jake identified

What about the masses from the marathon?

MFS's co-worker in pink and sunglasses
My Mostly Finnish Spouse spotted a co-worker running the marathon incognito.
People ran by and by. Even Chris Myers ran by. Now he is turning into a real Marathon Maniac.
And apparently 2 members of the Emmy winning web series Intramural Glory, Mike McCue and Paul Unglaub ran by. But I must not have been paying attention. And I don't think Paul was in the series. At least on camera. I was. In fact if the guys were paying attention along the course they would have noted the Black Building on Broadway in downtown Fargo played a role in the webisode I created as an extra for the series.
I surmise they ran the marathon to get in shape for another run at Intramural Glory. Perhaps they were looking for something more fulfilling that they had more control over. In team sports  one bad apple can spoil the whole bunch. That kind of happened with the team in Intramural Glory. Really Cougar should have been running this race- to show the public he is back from his injury. Maybe that could be a kickstarter campaign- Help Cougar run Fargo.
Sad I did not get to see them. I would be great to know what life is like after Intramural Glory.
The both finished in around 4 hours 40 minutes and some change.
Oh one more thing-
there was a hot band at the end of the block.
Reggae Band

20 May 2013

A little wet and humid - Fargo Marathon 2013

The view near mile 4 just before official race time
My preparations for a morning of spectating and random coverage began at 5:30 AM. 
My crew zipped over to our race corner near mile 4 at 6:30 AM and set up the easy up tent in a light rain. Not much was happening until we started to see a few runners trickle by. And these were runners with official race bibs. No clue what they were doing. Too far from the Dome to be lost. I think about 2 dozen passed before either half or full officially started. We do know that a guy from Iowa ran the 10K by accident but eventually got on the right course for the marathon. Cris Estes would be proud. Apparently some entrants felt that because of the potential for high humidity in the later morn it would be better to start sooner than later. But perhaps they were slow runners who needed more than 6 hours to complete the course. This is the first time I ever encountered anything like that.
Let's go back in time for a moment before the race begins  to May 17th- inside the Fargo Dome.
As all the hubhub of packet pick up was going on I snapped a few celebrity shots.

Beardsley chats and challenges
Ah yes. Dick Beardsley, the trans-local guy who has ran marathons faster than anyone has run the Fargo Marathon. Still holds the Grandma's record. I think he moved to Texas recently. He was here touting some healthy recovery mix. I think I got a sample.

Coach GP texting.
An obligatory picture of Coach GP- the voice of the marathon. He's been doing stuff for the Marathon for 8 years now. He should just get a holiday home near Fargo. He's a pretty likeable fellow that has nothing but words of encouragement spurting forth from his mouth. Oh, and he's cool too!
Enough with those running celebs. Let's head back to the marathon.

The rains stopped after 7 but it still was damp and occasionally drizzling. At least there were no high winds and we had coffee and breakfast sandwhiches. As 8 o'clock approached we got out the bells and started the cheering the halfies.

 Then a bit after 8:30 Kenyan James Kirwa strides by followed at bit of a distance by some other elite runners including Twin Citian and 2010 champ Chris Erichsen. Kirwa seems to have a decent lead at mile 4 but nothing insurmountable.
Coverage continues in my next post- including the women's marathon champ- a Gustie!

18 May 2013

The race is just the beginning- Fargo Marathon 2013

I am exhausted. I think ran the marathon. However, I did not. I spectated.
However, after spectacting in the early hours of morning I mowed the lawn then tilled the garden.
And all this is after spending most of Friday up at the Fargo Dome volunteering and watching my MFS run the 5K.
Rain may have put a damper on the 1st part of the race but the sun pulled out a major comeback by mid-morning. Yeah SUN!
I am much surprised and impressed that Chris Erichsen pulled out a victory in the men's marathon. Both times I saw him he was trailing in 2nd place.
Nichole Porath took the women's title. She had a commanding lead both a mile 4 and later around 18. I also got to check her in at the elite runner check in.
And Fargo's finest Eric Loeffler won the half. He continues to stand astride the top runners in the region.
But let's begin with my extended coverage of the races- beyond the races and to the intrigue.
This post will cover the "celebrities" at the 5K.

Big hair- doesn't play sports
 For charity someone may do anything. Plenty of charity runners this year. It is almost cliche that if you are running you must be doing it for some cause or charity. Anyways, this guy got a pompedor for the race. He is almost Elvis-like but not. And I would like to make a plea - "Elvis we need you to run Fargo, again!" Not a single Elvis this year in any race- although I am not sure of the 10K.

The dark side reigneth at the 5K. Although I see the Princess is keeping her father in check. I have not seen Star Wars characters before but say- Keep it coming. How about Chewbacca next year with a Storm Trooper.

Hey wait- is that Chewy or Swamp Thing. Whatever this was it sure got the attention of that runner on the right

What I have to say to this guy is- "Good, Jarb!" If the wind picked up I am sure he would have floated away over the Fargo Dome.
More pics at Twitter- @suspect_bill

17 May 2013

Another Freight Car Friday- It is good for you

Lionel 3264 Refrigerated Milk Car
A venerable operating reefer from early Post War Lionel. This one is in Ok shape. Doors are in bad shape and the figure who carries out the milk containers is missing.
This guy is heavy. The operating part has a lot of heft to it. I have not tested it yet because I have not set up my operating track piece yet.

15 May 2013

Highlights from last year- Fargo Marathon 2013

Last year German Oliver Hoffmann was the first to finish the Fargo Marathon. Lisa Dyer won the women's title. Not much on the victors on the net besides their Fargo victories. I think Hoffmann may be lurking in the European track and field circuit. Dyer may still aspire to qualify for the 2016 Olympic trials. And we have a blog post from just after her victory. But then the blog is silent after Thanksgiving 2012.

Despite the cool weather in 2012 there was quite a turnout and spectators once again showed their Fargo friendly spirit.
Here's some highlights from last year.

It will be a little different this year so it should be an interesting race.

The heat is on - Fargo Marathon 2013

A view from mile 8 on the half
Could be the warmest Fargo Marathon this weekend. And there is a chance of thunderstorms. So who knows what could happen. Weather does that to you. I expected it to cool off a bit by weekend but forecasts have said "no."
Last year was a bit cool and wet so with the the "flood" course in place and warmer start this could be good one. Speaking of the route- it does not visit the Moorhead side of the river. However, there are plenty of stretches of this route where you can see the river and perhaps a little bit of Minnesota.
Old Marathon marker on the Milwaukee Road Path

The Milwaukee Road path has returned to the course this time around. Marathoner will get to run on this path on the bottom of the route for miles 11, 12, and part of 13.
I hardly had time to research runners this year so I do not know any potential victors. The 'Net has been pretty mum about such things.
Casey Miller, Thomas Tisell are the only top 10 overall finishers from the marathon last year that are returning. Kyle Downs is running the half this year.
And women's 3rd place finisher Brittany Christianson is returning to run 26.2 miles again.


13 May 2013

Kicking things off with Estes- Fargo Marathon 2013

To continue to kick marathon week off let's revist that legendary interview of Cris Estes....

The legend goes that Cris ran the marathon course 3 times in one day at the 2009 event. No one is quite sure how he did it. Even he is a bit confused- mostly from runner's delerium.
In 2009 the route was re-routed into a loop- 2 loops was the marathon distance.
Perhaps we will catch up with Cris Estes this year as he plans to provide motivation to runners this years on the course.

Waiting for it to heat up - Fargo Marathon 2013

Race week is here. There is less flood than expected. But it is overcast.
Our late spring only peaks out once in a while.
Although it warmer now the temperatures will drop later this week into the weekend. But that is nothing to be concerned with the lows will be well above freezing. My only concern is potential showers on Saturday that could dampen things up a bit obviously.Still expect a cool start.
Only races still available to sign up for is the Friday Night 5K and the kids runs on Thursday.
You can sign up online for the 5K until Tuesday May 14th otherwise you can sign up in person at the Fargo Dome. The race currently has about 7000 entrants. Goal is 10000.
Fargo loves Boston is an underlying theme this year in the aftermath of the Boston Marathon bombing in April. Memorial bands are being sold and proceeds donated to One Fund Boston, a fund set up to help victims of the Boston bombings.
Media coverage should ramp up by mid-week. Most the news in the last few weeks has been about how the potential flood changed the race course and how many entrants there will be.

So who is running?
My mostly Finnish Spouse will take on the 5K on Friday.
My co-worker Trevor will attempt to do some of the half even though he has trained little since the fall because of an injury.
Another co-worker Chris, will be running the Marthon relay on a Beyond Running team.
My manager will be running the marathon.
Lauren, a NDSU Zoology major is running the half for charity- Born Free USA- to raise funds and awareness to help African lions. No word if she will run with a lion, But I bet she may wear something resembling a lions.
The blogger Glitter Girl will be running the marathon and it appears that she over came a back surgey a while ago and got into running and has not stopped yet.
A Brazilian lady, Sonia Gomes, will be running the marathon.
A friend, Tammy, will be running the 10k.
Dianne Bolton, who ran Boston this year will be running the marathon.
And a load of charity running teams.

03 May 2013

Little Green Acme Boxcar on a freight car Friday

an explosive box car
I acquired this green box car in a train lot I purchased on E-bay. It seems to be an unlisted car as I can find no information whatsoever about an Acme Explosives box car produced by Lionel. So we've got a mystery on our hands again.
Let's examine the car.
It is an all plastic affair. Kind of short and small compared to the 6400 series of boxcars from Post War. Everything barring the axel is plastic. Stickers for nameplates and graphics. No build date. No moving doors. No doubt this is a cheap car which possibly came in a set during the MPC era.
The only indication this is a Lionel product is raised stamped lettering on the coupler sider "Lionel 9000 Series."
This is our first bit of evidence to work. And nothing comes of it on the Net. However the mold of this car certainly resembles quite a few catalogued cars. The Toys R Us 9045 and the Hershey's 9041 must share the same mold. It also appears to be a close relative of the Post War era Baby Ruth x1004.
Nothing comes for Acme Explosives Company either. I surmised it may have been part of a Looney Tunes set but that search produced nothing.
So this boxcar's origins will remain a mystery.

Update- May 9th 2013.
Poking around on E-bay I think I discovered where this car came from-The Black Cave Flyer set. It was a pretty cheap Lionel outfit from 1982.

23 April 2013

Mystery Train from the Old Navy Yard

Seeking out old Lionel trains (and cars) has become a habit of mine recently. I decided to get started back after Christmas when I realized that there are too few people running Lionel or Marx or other O gauge electric trains. In fact, it almost seems like the hobby has been in decline since the 1980s. So I decided to keep this tradition alive somewhat.
However, it often appears that though there is plenty of old working model trains out there- the collectors have created a somewhat inflated value of these trains and accessories. It just makes the hobby more exclusive because toy trains have become equated with gold- notwithstanding the trains and accessories made of gold, if there are any. So what I often see is anything with a Lionel on it automatically becomes something of value even if it is come or unexceptionally built.
The trains of the Post-WWII period (and those before) were exceptionally made for the most part. But there was plenty of low cost yet durable pieces produced. Are they valuable?
Perhaps. If they were not played with or taken out of the box- they have some value. What amazes me is the whole original box which drive the value up. Crazy but there is some sort of demand for this artifact.
I like to run them. Boxes don't interest me. Neither does rarity. But both play into this aspect of the hobby. Learning how to fix and refurb this things is of more value.
So we come to today's featured item- a little Lionel switcher engine. These little workhorses would be the main motive force in a rail yard- pulling and shunting freight cars and organizing train consists.
But what switcher is this? None of the catalogues have anything like this black one.

Blurry 51 Switcher Painted Black

So we do a little research and refurb.
This item came from my father's set of Lionel trains. I brought it home to see if I could get it working. The center set of wheels appeared to be seized. Typically you be able to move them.
I did a little surgery on this engine- took it apart and cleaned armature with alcohol, oiled the axles, lubed the gears. It is decent piece with a simple motor and a plastic shell. No lights. On the side below the windows I could make out "Navy Yard, New York 51." The shell was definitely repainted as I could see the original light blue color on the inside. So this must be Navy Yard Vulcan Switcher which was produced in 1956-1957. It is hiding under some paint and the side rods are missing.
My father had painted it to match the color of the switchers he saw at Chicago, St. Paul, Minneapolis, and Omaha Railway (aka The Omaha) shops near his home in St. Paul. My great grandfather worked there so there was an affinity for that railway. Lionel and most toy train manufacturers at the time did not have a massive stable of railroads for which they made their equipment. In fact, Lionel has only produced 1 uncatalogued car with the Omaha road name- LIONEL 6-52110- in 1997 for the Lionel Collectors Convention. If you want a Omaha Road train, you needed to model it yourself. Thus this is what my father did.
Underside of old 51- you can see some of the old color
After the surgery, I got 51 on the track. He hesitated a bit when the track was powered, then sputtered forward, then stopped, then forward. Eventually 51 started running with a little noise- slowly at first then faster after the second loop. The switcher has 3 settings- forward, neutral, and reverse. His top speed is not very much and I believe it is recommend that he haul only a few cars. Right now this is one of the more reliable engines in my yard. It goes through the switches and crossovers perfectly and never derails.
Lionel made a few variations of this engine- this article on E-Train shows them all and some more. In good condition these units are rather collectible and can run a little over $100. But I think that dead ones could be resurrected and made for running at less cost.

Runners starting to bloom

Tammy is cheered on while running
Still feeling chilly up here in the 'Go, yet this weekend runners started to bloom out of the ground. It seemed that everywhere I went I noticed someone running. Even I ran this weekend- which has been rare this year because I run during the week. The weather cooperated mostly this weekend. The temps touched the 40s. It rained later on Sunday.
But why all the running now. Well, here are a few of my  theories.

  1. Treadmill burnout.
    I cannot imagine day in and day out doing the treadmill all winter. Running may be about the body but there is a huge aspect of running that is mental. I often burn-out running the same routes. When I find a new one my pace is more chipper. I feel more confident.
  2. Fargo Marathon in less than a month.
    Yes, many may have realised that marathon day in Fargo is drawing near. Time to train. Time to get used to the pounding of the pavement. Although, the hardcore of those anticipating on running a PR at the Fargo Marathon will probably have been training since January. There is a formidable population of runners who do take on winter and wind chills and the dreaded ice to train. I do it myself. But I have rarely met them on my runs. I think I maybe ran past only 3 or 4 the whole of this winter. Fortunately there are a few indoor tracks in town.
  3. Getting ready for the flood.
    Sandbagging  may seem like a simple task but really it is an endurance activity. Think of it like a triathlon without the separate events. Fill. Lift. Carry. Place. Do that for six hours and you realise you need to train. It is getting to be old hat in this region- after winter, then flood. This year the flood is playing itself out long and cool.  And without a permanent solution- sandbagging and all its variations will continue to be a task each "after-Winter."

Flood or no flood, Fargo Marathon will go on according to their recent newsletter. They have 2 flood contingency routes. Which they choose I cannot tell? The last time the flood gutted parts of the route, a dual loop was utilised for the marathon. Some liked and some did not. But whatever happens I am sure Fargo will be out in force to watch and Rock On the runners.
This will be a particular poignant event since the events that transpired at the Boston Marathon. I would never have thought that such violence would collide with the sport of running. It seemed like something out a Harrison Ford film I saw in college without the part where Harrison Ford gets the perpetrators moments later.

05 April 2013

Dangers of Twin City bike commuting and the M200

Raleigh M-200
I've a little bike commuting in the Twin Cities. The vast metro area has plenty of bike lanes and routes connecting the inner core. Not so much the on the outer ring suburbs. Sure you can get around them but trying to go from one municipality to another is a trying activity because the way the highways cut everything up. However from the West and SouthWest burbs one might connect with the Cedar Lake Trail into downtown Minneapolis. Nothing that vast exists on the Eastside of the Twin Cities except perhaps the Gateway Trail and a route along Pt Douglas to Battle Creek that then follows the river.
But this post is not about routes. It is about danger and specifically this article from the Star Tribune: Bicyclist survives Molotov cocktail on Minneapolis’ Midtown Greenway.
The guy was biking through the Greenway in Minneapolis during the day and faced certain explosiveness from a bomb! Crazy! He goes on to say he has encountered other "missiles" as well. I never though that a commute in the Cities would require armour plating. I thought angry, annoyed, distracted drivers were the only threats. Apparently a group of "stealthy" bicyclist agitators has arisen in the TCs.
On other bike topices, pictured above is my transitional ride, the Raleigh M200. I found this late model mountain bike besides a dumpster one day. Nobody was taking it so I  just brought it to the garage and made some modifications and additions. It is a pretty quick bike due to its aluminum frame. It shares some similarites with the M40 that was my primary bike in the early 2000s. The M200 did not get much use but now it is getting some love.

03 April 2013

The Old Caboose- Lionel SP Caboose 6257 but illuminated

Since I've moved into a house I have been able to enjoy an old hobby-model railroad. Quite a few of my pics of trains and scenery have shown up on Instagram or Facebook.
The hobby seems like it is dying out to an extent- or has the potential to flicker out of popularity. I see fewer and fewer trains at the stores these days and much less a the hobby shops out this way. RC seems to be the hobby of choice. To find some supplies I need to head down to the Twin Cities and make a stop through Scale Model Supply to get what I need. Used to be a few stores that sold trains in the 'Go. In fact one of them used to be located where my church meets. Google pages say there is one- but on the map it is a house. There is an annual train show in October.
I digress.
Well, I had HO trains growing up. But just got into O scale this year, mostly because the size would be good for kids and my dad had a collection of Lionel trains. But before I set up to borrow my Dad's trains, I needed my own. Thanks to E-Bay I acquired some working Lionel trains and track. And that whole thing will be an entry for another time.
In the moment I have I will write about a caboose a friend of mine gave me the other day. He found it at an antique store. I tend to find vintage Lionel at antique stores. Often it is overpriced. Some Lionel stuff just is not that rare. This an example of a less rare car from the early post-war days.
Lionel 6257
It is a Southern Pacific caboose numbered 6257 which Lionel first introduced in 1947. Not sure this one is from 47 but it does have evidence (2 brake wheels) it was not made that long after. But the carriage of this caboose seemed a bit out of place for the 6257.

It seems to be a carriage made for a illumination. Plus there are the 2 boxes which do not appear on any variety of the 6257. So we have a mystery to unravel. Lionel made 2 illuminated cabooses of the same style numbered 6357 and 6457. The 6457 was the only one with the battery boxes and 2 brake wheels. So what it looks like we have a 6257 body on at 6457 carriage. When it was done, I am not sure. I doubt it was something the factory did- although Lionel did re-use its parts in unusual ways. It was probably something a previous owner did with spare parts.
I need to get this caboose a new bulb and fix a wire connection to the truck to get it illuminating again. It is a pretty sturdy caboose and certainly is better made than a few of the cabeese I have.

02 April 2013

The transitional spring

How easily we forget the tentacles of winter in this region. Last year's early spring put a spell on us. Made us think that we're not that cold.We're pleasant once February rolls past.
Not this year. The snow is still on the ground as April arrived. Its disappearing act has been hampered by the cooler temps that haunt our nights. It is that transitional season without a name. Sun, ice, and breeze.
For us ice bikers it is also the season of re-freeze. In the morn, vast sheets of ice on our paths. In the evening, a malignant transitory lake to throttle through. I have 2 of them on my route.
ice culprit
The one above knock me off my ride. It was a slippery one with no way to practically avoid it. I tried the side and it got me good.
I had changed my ride for the week. The old winter bike is not in good shape. It's pedal crank arm is falling off again. The rear gears are not working because the derailleur wire is broken. I gerryrigged it into a single speed and that worked for a while. But recently the rear derailleur arm likes to come up and get caught on the chainstay. Can't bike with the being a possibility.
So I set up the transitional secondary bike for this season, an old Raleigh Mountain bike I found in the garbage at my former apartment. It is a really great bike but I cannot ride upright enough on to make it my main ride. But it is lightweight. I left the studded tire on the Trek winter bike- but perhaps should habe swapped it out with the Raleigh. I might not have wiped out so bad.

15 March 2013

Pugsley kind of day

I was on my 2 wheels most of last weekend spinning around town. Occasionally I needed to lift and carry my wheels through the banks of impassable snow which keepers of the sidewalks failed to clear enough. This time of year the snow rots- meaning it does not stick together and melts. Rotting snow is hard to ride on with 2 inch tires. But not 4 inch tires.  
The Pugsley
I stopped at the local mall and lo and behold, I see a Pug out at the rack locked securely. This ride not only had the big tires but it had big spiky tires. The Pug would ride well in this weather but I'd be a bit cautious of the random ice slick.

Another disdain I did not add to the winter biking post a few weeks ago is the snow piles at the corners. If you are riding the streets this stuff is piled up so high you need to literally be in the intersection to see cross traffic. These piles also make the rideable road space much smaller at that point. For those who utilize the sidewalks in winter these banked corners require you to lift and carry. God bless those home owners who shovel out the corners.

28 February 2013

The disdain of winter biking

This is one of those things I don't look forward to in the winter.
Snow banks.
For the ice biker this means one thing- portage.
My workplace is hemmed in by snowbanks which requires me to carry my bike from the closest access- in this case a sidewalk- across the parking lot and them up on a mount of snow lock up the bike. The irritating thing is the public sidewalk that leads to the sidewalk over the freeway- has not r weeks. If it was then my portaging would be lessened.

Another note the sidewalk thing, In winter the roads lose about 3 feet of width on both sides. Sure I can ride in the road but my reasons are for sanity-sake- what good does a biker do when you are in essence creating a bottleneck since there is limited room for cars to pass. It does little to bring goodwill to icebikers. I just avoid the busiest streets in winter. But this sidewalk/street debate will rage on.

I have been thinking about those Surly pugsley bikes that are catching on for winter biking. Really fat tires Probably very stable. But that also means really big rims. So I suspect they are bit tough to start pedaling. If the region was noted for just  a bit of snow I'd say the are ideal. But because of the snow banks-man those ride will be hard to pedal.   

19 February 2013

Stormy Weather

So many great gobs of snow fell last week- they closed highways and schools and work and even my neighborhood BBQ succumbed to the flurries. We knew it was coming. In fact I did some pre-shoveling to keep up with all the snow that piled up. Our driveway was clear but the street we lived on was full of about 2 feet of unplowed snow. Unless we had some kind of truck we could not get out. The plows came in the afternoon.
However, I walked to work that day. It was a streneous trek through snowclad streets and sidewalks. What I needed was snowshoes.
Typically it takes the city about 4 days to fully pull itself out of the snow. The sidewalks near work were cleared 3 days later. But I still biked most of week. But I disdain having to get off my bike and walk it across the 94 bridge through 3 foot snowdrifts. All my time in Fargo this bridge's walkway is usually never cleared until the 3rd or 4th day after the storm. It is a vital link to North/South ped traffic. Again, I should get a pair of snow shoes.

tunnel from Echo Base
Then this week the wind picked up, churning a blizzard and then it threw us back into the icebox. My normal thought is that after mid-Feburary winter calms down and we get some more pleasant temps. But not this year. This year I needed to travel through the Hoth tunnel to get to work with nary a tauntaun to help.

31 January 2013

An Obligatory January Skiing Post

Just came back from a place where you find a lot of these:

Depot Signs
Maplelag Resort is a literal repository of  railroad depot signs and a bunch of other railroad signage.  In fact 2 of the lodges are named for former lines that served most of the region- Great Northern and Northern Pacific. From what I can discern, most of the signs are from towns in western Minnesota, North Dakota, and the prairie provinces of Canada. However, I do know there is a depot sign for my hometown which is just south of the Twin Cities. I have yet to discover its hanging place at the resort.
My MFS (mostly Finnish spouse) and I enjoyed a few days respite by skiing 80 km at the resort. Yes, this was a vacation but we enjoy being outdoors even when it is 8 below. Plus you really need to ski with all the delicious food that the Maplelag kitchen cooks up for us not to mention the bottomless cookie jar of 5 flavors. The skiing was fantastic- especially after the large snowfall we received on Monday night.
Maplelag trailhead
In fact my skiing improve twofold this year thanks to the discovery that I owned skis that required wax. For the last decade I had been skiing without waxing my skis and never knew it. Well, I know the difference now. It was not until after our trip to Maplelag last year. I looked at my bases on my skis and behold they were not scaled like the skis of my MFS. Over the last year I acquired the appropriate waxes (and waxing wisdom) and they were tested on this trip.
The week started out warm- very warm. I needed to use a soft wax. It worked until the weather changed mid-way through a long trek on Roy's Run. It started to rain and sleet and I was getting hardly any grip in my kick. I should have tried klisters, but I had none. I just persevered.
The next day we received a bunch of new snow so I put on sound harder wax. Then the next day it was frigid and I applied the green wax. So there's your waxing lesson. No problems. It is just those warming temps that can be trouble and call for klister. Klister is like a glue and can be really messy to apply.
Maplelag is a top-notch ski resort. They do a phenomenal job grooming the trails and provide an excellent lodging and dining experience to boot.