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Showing posts from 2016

Training for Christmas: Santa Train in Fergus Falls

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It was a frigid Saturday in early December, but I got the family out of the house for a little under an hour to meet Jolly St. Nick outdoors by the old Great Northern depot in Fergus Falls.

Otter Tail Valley railroad is own by short liner Genesee and Wyoming via their purchase of Rail America back in 2012. You can see the RailAmerica paint on the GP9 diesel.

Caboose was posed with the Geep for the Santa Train festivities. The caboose formerly ATSF (aka Santa Fe). The caboose is typically parked nearby the depot or further down the tracks near some maintenance facilities.  
For a cold day there were plenty of youngsters out to meet Santa. In fact there was a line.
OTVR 1483 is a GP9 originally ordered by Nickel Plate. Built in 1959 it went through a few different owners prior to coming to the Otter Tail in 1997 including Norfolk and Western and Dakota Minnesota and Eastern.

Gathered by the child of peace

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Went to the ever popular Concordia Christmas concert this weekend. Great music from choirs and orchestra, scriptures interspersed with strange liturgical tomes. I might even be on public TV for ages to come if the cameras swung past my visage.
This year is the 90th year of concerts. I have attended 2 previous to this year. These concerts have the heft of high church tradition and evoke the mystery of the Christmas season- how an Almighty God came to rescue his creation. There are a myriad of facets to that plan. Thematically this year's concert strived to look at community and peace. Very relevant topics considering the recent political cycle in the US.
According to the scriptures, the birth of Jesus brought shepherds and some type of foreign ambassadors (my take on magi) together although not at the same time.
Missing from this assembled "community"- the religious leaders and political ruler of the land. Religious leaders identified the prophecy of the Christ (Micah 5:…

Lionel Stuff: Coaling Station

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In an earlier post I wrote about the a freight platform structure that Lionel produced. Today I will look at a coaling station I re-habbed after finding it in pieces at a train show.  This coaling station comes from another structure kit that Lionel put out originally during the MPC period (1970-mid 80s.) Those who bought Lionel in 1970 appear to have been hesitant about re-issuing some of the classic coal handling accessories from the post-war period. It was probably a money thing. Plastic kits are much more inexpensive. The coaling station here is a behemoth although not as large as the grain elevator that was released during the same period. There is talk on some O gauge boards that the earliest releases of this structure also had some rudimentary manual coal loading action. Trains can pass underneath the one side of the building and perhaps simulate coal loading from a large mine operation. 

Recently Lionel has released this coaling station as a pre-built item with a light in a fe…

Classic Toys: The Adventure People

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Another entry for classic toys. This one is another Fisher Price production.

The Adventure People were a line of action figures and play sets produced by FP from the mid-70s until mid-80s. These 3 inch figures were around prior to the Kenner Star Wars line and had no built in marketing ploy to advance the line further. But that did not deter the kids who got these for birthdays or Christmas combining them into the Star Wars universe like myself. The Adventure People were pioneers in the small action figure market.  The Adventure People were cool and durable toys. Just look at that commercial. FP wanted kids,boys and GIRLS, to really play with these figures. Quite a few sets produced centered around outdoor recreation- a camping set with jeep and canoe, a van with a dirt bike, a safari set with truck and tent, a kayak set, scuba divers. Midway through their run, there were more sets and figures geared toward space or sci-fi.  My small assemblage I acquired as a child. Most were 2nd ha…

Training Elsewhere: Northern Lines Railway

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Northern Lines Railway is a little short line out of St. Cloud. While I was at the Granite City Train Show last year at the Armory, I noticed these GP7s parked in the yard out back. I was unaware of who these belonged until now. The paint schemes on 1411 and 1602 are definitely Burlington Northern and possibly the former owner of those engines. The 400 seems like a familiar paint maybe Indiana Harbor Belt or Bessemer Lake Erie. However I have found nothing exactly resembling it. This is all the power which the short line uses over its 25 miles of trackage between St. Cloud and Collegeville to the west and Rockville to the south.
There are a few videos out there of the 1511 and 400 in action.


Fargo Training: Great Northern Yard

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Fargo is a rail town. A rail town with a former commercially navigable river.
Fargo came upon the scene when the Northern Pacific sought out a place to cross that river while forging a northern transcontinental rail link.
I have said elsewhere in the blog that Fargo was served by 3 railroads- Northern Pacific, Great Northern, and Milwaukee Road. It lessened to 2 in 1970 with the merger that created the Burlington Northern. And then just 1 in the 1980s when Milwaukee Road finally gave up the ghost and the abandoned the branch line that went right by my house and workplace. Northern Pacific's and Great Northern's main lines cut through downtown on their way west. The GN's mainline veered northwest as it exited the edge of downtown. They main yard was placed out there a little south and west of NDSU. It is still in use by BNSF, although not quite as busy.
Below are some photos taken from the 12th Avenue bridge back in May as I was returning from a stint volunteering for Far…

Fargo Marathon 2016: A gubernatorial race for ND

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North Dakota will be electing a new governor in November and some politicking was going on at the Fargo Marathon this May. It is not all that common for candidates to use an event to elevate their exposure to the electorate. Or just to have a good time. Right now there is a race concerning who will be the Republican candidate.  Both big candidates in this race, Doug Burgum and Wayne Stenehjem, had a presence at the marathon. Presumptive Democratic candidate, Marv Nelson, has been quiet. But he has no challengers inside his party.   The Burgum for Governor organization took the big step to host an aid station on the marathon route. I think it was the one pictured below with the super hero spectators.
Burgum is a big name around Fargo although he has been behind the scenes for while after leaving Microsoft and making the foray into real estate development. So jumping out of the boardroom to the streets, Burgum made the additional effort to run in 2 events:  5K and 10K. However, it appe…

Our debt remains unpayable this Memorial Day

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Trillions of dollars of debt there but there is still a whole load owed to those who served our nation during the many conflicts of the last century. Harry Truman's sentiments sum it up:

Our debt to the heroic men and valiant women in the service of our country can never be repaid. They have earned our undying gratitude. America will never forget their sacrifices. 
The quote is inscribed at the World War II Memorial in D.C.

Fargo Marathon 2016: The beards are back in town

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I do not think I had posted bearded Fargo Marathon participants since before Duck Dynasty arrived on the scene. This year I saw much evidence of the that style of beard which Willie, Jase, Phil, and Si have upon their faces.
But for starters, it appears Hagrid of Harry Potter fame was an entrant in the half marathon.






This marathoner is putting it all on the line at mile 21. This beard resembles Jase's beard. Just put a stocking hat on this guy and some shades and you got Jason Robertson running a marathon- which he will probably never do.




This is probably the best kept beard of the bunch. It almost looks like it was just attached to his face this morning. Not sure how to categorize it. Maybe a little Grizzly Adams a la Dan Haggerty.



Our final runner knows how to wear the beard in style while running. The headband, the sunglasses, the track top- this all screams "don't mess with me, I'll run circles around you...in the desert." It also has that classic 70s joggi…

Fargo Marathon celebrity sightings

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So no Will Ferrell. And no Elvis. I think there has not been an Elvis running Fargo in half a decade.
But let me indulge my celebrity radar.
First let me get the first one off: Dick Beardsley, legendary long distance runner ( and fisherman). There he is in an orange long sleeve telling a participant to take the race by the horns. I met him once in Detroit Lakes. He was at a pasta dinner for his namesake race with Alberto Salazar.
Looking closely at the image again I also notice another celebrity of sorts which I totally missed in the foreground- worship artist Matt Maher.
On the course I was surprised to see Jim Gaffigan took time from his busy schedule and decided to run. Perhaps he was doing it to jab Ferrell. I must have missed the hash tag #runfargogaffigan.
And finally, this year I did not miss the Fargo Marathon Maniac. This guy like runs a marathon every week.
Actually he is a classmate of mine who decided to take up running a number of years ago and got hooked on doing marath…

Other stuff along the marathon route

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Watching a steady stream of runners push on through to the end of the race can be a bit monotonous. What is good is that at the heart of the Fargo Marathon route is a great big neighborhood party going on. This year those neighborhoods along 9th, 8th, and 7th St S were abuzz with activity. It is a fantastic atmosphere.  Even the dead were grateful for the good weather for watching runners.
Then there was this interesting item on the boulevard. Appears to be some representation of Dr. Who's TARDIS sending encouragement to runners.
Of course there is lots of music. I think I saw maybe 5 bands within a the mile I strolled. Another thing I should have marked as missing this year was the list of bands and music on the route. The regular reggae band on 9th near the 21st mile seemed to be missing too. However, Elvis was still on 9th south of 13th with about 4 speakers cranked.

Unusual bikes seem to crop up a lot. This one reminds me of the Surly Big Dummy, but appear to have some kind …

Fargo Marathon Superman

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I think I get shots of this guy every year. He is the Fargo Marathon's own Superman.
Patrick Millard dons the full blue suit with the 'S' on his chest with cape and runs the marathon in under 5 hours.


Were there other characters running the marathon this year? Yes. SpongeBob. But I think he was running the half.

Fargo Marathon 2016: Wonderfully warm

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Possibly the best weather for watching a Fargo Marathon yet although running in the warm weather may have been difficult. My volunteering marathon left me exhausted so I only posted a few things via Twitter while observing the Saturday events.
On Friday night I was tucked into the Fargo Dome helping with bib number look ups and so I missed perhaps the most competitive 5K finish for men. A just graduated Bison trackster, Brendan Skime crossed the finish line 1 second ahead of Jonathan Stoltman. You could have said it was the battle of the Falls as Skime is from Thief River Falls and Jonathan is from Little Falls. 15:31 is a pretty impressive time for a guy who did not even have the race on his radar until a few weeks ago.
In the women's division a 12 year old from Staples took the top honors. So much for experience and wisdom winning.
By the time I exited the dome on Friday most of the competitors had gone home and volunteers were readying the place for the start of the marathon t…

Fargo Marathon 2016: Things missing

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Here I am at the Fargo Dome exercising my volunteer muscle doing registrations. It has been somewhat slow but enjoyable nonetheless. It got me thinking what to blog. So I looked to see what was missing. So here is my rundown.

Swanson Health and their goodies.
Swanson is no longer a sponsor nor an exhibitor at the Expo. I think since the were sold to an outside group the marketing relationship was cut. I miss the vitamins and stuff they gave away. Essentia Health has taken their place and makes the Expo a little different although still good. They have great giveaways like water bottles. Just not gobs of vitamins, health mixes, and soaps.Pasta/lefse feed
I am not sure when this met the axe. May have been a few years ago. I guess it may have been a low income generating event. I would need to check if other races still have have a carb load meal. Research, I believe, has nullified the value so close to a race. Local establishment on 19th across from Fargo Dome- Labby's- was having th…

Fargo Marathon 2016: The improbable half from a 5K

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Interesting running related story came out the other day: 12 Year Old Girl Accidentally Runs Half-Marathon. She came ready to run a 5K but instead ran a the half. Quite an achievement for the youngster and also a scare for her parents.  The organizers of the Rochester (NY) Flower City Challenge certainly enjoyed the the free press this story generated nationwide, but for a race day consisting of a little over 3000 runners they also must be scratching their heads. Starting line and starting time confusion generated the mistake.
Perhaps it could have been prevented with better starting line discipline and communication. The half supposedly started 15 minutes prior to the 5K. I can only speculate that there must have been some congestion at the half start which may have impacted the start of the 5K. The 5K appeared to have less entrants- about 1000 for the 5K and little bit over 2000 for the half. I am surprised that the 5K did not have more runners as that has typically been the case i…

Something new and something else for Fargo Marathon

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The organizers of the Fargo Marathon as not struggling for ideas on how to expand the brand and participation.
The Furgo Dog Run has been added this year to cater to the growing number of canine runners. Well, maybe it is more for the owners of those canines who like to run with their furry friends. The 1.6 mile race is set for Tuesday of race week, which is really stretching Fargo Marathon's pawprint over the entire week. I cannot say that I know of many pet runs out there but this may definitely be a good move considering the amount of cash that Americans shell out for their pets. The event also has a mascot, MJ, who apparently is training for the event. MJ has been mum on the topic since the end of March.
The 2nd addition to the races this year is the Cyclothon. On Monday May 16 bicyclers will be able to do the marathon course and receive a shirt and medal. However, you need to finish the course in under 2.5 hours. Sounds like a strenuous bike ride. In previous years I have bi…

A railroad hero for African American History month: John W Blair

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Scanning through titles of train books for children the other day, I came across this title: John Blair and the Great Hinckley Fire by Josephine Nobisso. At first glance does not appear to have anything do with a train. But then a 2nd glace- John Blair? John Insley Blair was a railroad magnate who at one time owned the largest rail mileage in the world. Then a 3rd look and check of Wikipedia proved that this book does not tell the story of the railroad developer but of an African American Porter on the St. Paul and Duluth Railroad. Silly me.
September 1st 1894 John Blair's train came into Hinckley, MN just as a massive conflagration came busting into town. And this was no ordinary fire. Some have described it like a tornado of flames four and half miles high.
Probably over 200 passengers pressed into the train with hopes for survival in the hands of the train crew. Engineer James Root made the decision to put his engine in reverse and race the cloying inferno to a water hole he r…

Unusual Star Wars foods

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This is not about the foods we encounter in the Star Wars universe. Instead it is about Star Wars encountering food in our universe.
Hunting and gathering Star Wars material has been relatively easy these days. Since Disney swooped up the Lucas empire, Star Wars is even more embedded into American culture. I surmise Lucas did not intend to craft a story in which has a Darth Vader like force hold on the public. Turn to left or the right and some Star Wars tie in has been created. And it is now even reaching into the food we consume. Chez Its had it and now Campbell's does too. It would appear that the Empire/First Order folks have found a niche in the food market.


Back in the day- the pre-re-release era - Star Wars kept to toys, T-shirts, books and trading cards.
But there was 1 anomaly- C3POs, the cereal.
I recall it murkily. We rarely had cold cereals. My childhood breakfasts included mostly Malt-O-Meal hot cereal or CoCo Wheats. But they were often eaten in an Empire Strikes Ba…

GearCamp: The Wool Shirt

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The wool shirt has been with us for a while. Wool for even longer. Back in 1924 Pendleton decided that a little more color in a woolen shirt would sell more shirts. They were right. And today they are still making the same shirts.
Woolens for as sportswear have been out of style for quite a while based on my unscientific research. They are making a comeback. I think hipsters may have increased the popularity of this type of shirt in recent years especially since Portland is in proximity to the Pendleton mill.
I had a few wool shirts growing up. I believe I wore one of them in a yearbook picture my sophomore year in high school. It was a Navy surplus shirt.  I think I borrowed the another one from my father. By college I had rid my wardrobe of these shirts, mostly because they were often scratchy and were dry clean only.
I think the woolen shirt fell out of favor due to the increased availability of tech fabrics like micro-fleece. Nevertheless, The Beach Boys probably still wear wool…

The red University of North Dakota slippers

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I know that the University of North Dakota recently approved their new mascot- although much talk surrounds that and I do not intend to enter the fray. However, I do not think that they approved of new school colors. A few weeks ago I was visiting the former coat purveyor now a bizzaro TJ Max clone Burlington and discovered these UND branded slippers in red. Red is not a official school color to my knowledge. But pink is.
So how did these get past the NCAA trademark legal eagles (or fighting hawks)?

Menards and O Scale prices

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In the Upper Midwest and a few other outlying places the mention of Menards summons up a banjo ditty with lyric: "Save big money, you save big money, when you shop Menards." The big box home improvement retailer and its spokesperson Ray are responsible for etching those words into my mind and others. Their common sales approach is giving out rebates in the form of merchandise credit checks usable only at their stores. Clever way to induce cyclic patterns of shopping at Menards. And for the last decade or so, most of their outlets have added food stuffs, clothes, books, and a few electronics. Every Christmas they would also have a some Lionel train sets including a Menard's only set.
Then, back just a few years ago (perhaps 2011 or 2012) they began to release their own exclusive line of O scale train freight cars.
First it started with a trickle of flat cars with Menard loads: a Menards trailer, a Menards truck, a Menards racecar. They followed it up with flat cars with …

GearCamp: Coleman 502 Stove

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These posts are dedicated to the hard working gear that I have utilized on my camping expeditions. Might be something simple or vintage or cool.
Our first post for GearCamp features the Coleman 502 Single Burner Camp Stove from the 1970s.
Coleman has been around for over 100 years. They have made some pretty durable camping gear especially stoves and lanterns. I acquired the 502 at thrift shop for 2 bucks and it included a square aluminum pot that doubled as a case. Unfortunately the stove did not work, so it sat around for a while before I was able to tinker around and fire it up. The pump gasket just needed to be lubricated and away it worked. Despite its bulk, this is my go to stove for trips even though I do own a few lighter weight stoves. And the good thing about these stoves is that there are still parts around to keep these guys humming for another 30 years. I think it only burns white gas (aka coleman fuel). I have never tried the gas from the pump.
You have a little control…

Around the Sioux Hustler Trail: Into the unknown

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The following is a continuation of the log from the Sioux Hustler Loop hiking trip I took in October 2012. In this entry  3 Names and I leave the Devil's Cascade campsite and head into the mostly unkept portions of the trail in the north and east of the loop. This post is long over due.

 We awoke to a much brighter day after the damp hike mostly in the dark up to the campsite above Devil's Cascade. It had quite a splendid view into the valley below. The weather appeared to be in our favor. We took breakfast and packed up and continued up the trail until the beaver ponds. That is where we lost the trail in the mishmash of tall marsh grasses. We stopped for lunch at the end of small trail that lead to another pond.
Nothing really amazing about that section. The trail was still plenty worn and looked like your typical BWCA marsh clearings with steep pine tree hills. Pleasant but nothing remarkable. A lot of the BWCA scenery just blurs together for me.
Not much later we cross …

A Star Wars Christmas, again

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Post Yuletide Greetings or if you are reading this months after it was posted- Hi.
So this year Star Wars made a major move into Christmastide vernacular- or to put it another way there was a whole lot more Merry Star Wars Christmasy stuff going on.
Big movie releases at Christmas and merch centered around kids can do that. The Star Wars space opera permeates the US culture and you do not need me to tell you that. I can count on a single hand the people who have not seen any Star Wars movie. Star Wars and Christmas- sort of an odd couple. Both have big story lines that combine family, friendship and redemption. Star Wars has lasers and light sabers but Christmas has an actual star.  Star Wars did get a late jump on Christmas merchandising from the start. Although the movie arrived in theaters in May of 1977 a campy 98 minute Christmas special landed on the small screen in November the following year. It is filled with 1970s variety show cliches with a few Star Wars related stories mi…