28 January 2016

The red University of North Dakota slippers

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

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 truss loads and lumber loads. I think they also added a few buildings too. In 2014 they increased their line to include box cars, basic flatcars, and flat cars with military loads with actual railroad names in addition to about a half dozen bui1dings. Above is a Menard Southern Railroad boxcar I own. Then in 2015 things started to explode with more boxcars, flat cars with different loads, tubular track and more buildings. A whole section of their website is dedicated to the train items. In 2016 they continue to release new items- this month alone they put out tank cars, hoppers, and a commemorative WWII box car set.
The good news is these items are probably the least expensive O scale items around these days. Most of the cars hover around $20. The cars are rather well made with metal trucks and wheels and an air brake. There is a minimal amount of detail but do not expect these to be spot on with a prototype. On the track they run very smoothly although the boxcars do have a little sway.

Above is a comparative image of the Menards box car with a Lionel Post-War 6464 series box car. You cannot tell, but the Menards car is a little bigger than the Lionel one. It is also slightly wider but still semi-scale.
The Menards Goldline buildings are a decent value at between $30 and $100 and most include light effects and figures. I have a corner 2 story store which appears to have been manufactured by Woodland Scenics. Some other interesting ones are Harry's Saurkraut Factory and a fire damaged engine shed.
The tubular track addition was a surprise. But since it appears Lionel has stopped tubular track manufacturing, someone had to come in to fill the void. Menards track is full profile O gauge and comes in quite an assortment of sizes at reasonable prices.
New O gauge cars at Menards

With the demise of K-line and Industrial Rail in the early aughts, there has been a great price gap in the O gauge market. Lionel and MTH have pretty much been producing items for hobbyists with bigger bankrolls. Atlas, Williams by Bachmann,Weaver have been somewhere in between although I am beginning to like Williams more. RMT has done a superb job at producing some fine models at reasonable cost but will be closing soon. So Menards' train line arrives at the right time. One could only wonder if they will ever be releasing engines.

15 January 2016

GearCamp: Coleman 502 Stove

Coleman 502
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 of the flame in intensity so you need to fiddle with out to avoid scorching your food or having you pancake take like forever to cook.
502 in action
Found a scan of the manual here.

14 January 2016

Around the Sioux Hustler Trail: Into the unknown

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.

a dry Devil's Cascade
 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 Heritage Creek. It was a very pleasant place to stop and refill our water. After a short rest we get back up and hike. It is in this area where it gets a little steep and the path is just little bit harder to discern. However, we knew we were on the right track when we made it to the Pageant Lake campsite. We left our packs and hiked down the hill to admire the small campsite on this marvelously still lake.
My memories must have faded because I do not recollect much of the the next segment. All I remember is the path to the Range Lake campsite is quite long, but it is marked- but not sure if it was a cairn or some old scrap metal. I do recall that there were plenty of downed trees to navigate around or under.
Our next landmark was the 3 Sentinels- 3 enormous white pines right in the path. I kept looking and looking for tall trees because I was eager to make camp and get my pack off.  There were many imposters. However, when we do get to the Sentinels, 1 had been topped. Or at least I think it was one of the sentinels.

3 Names standing among the Sentinels
In the photo you can hardly make out 3 Names. But he is there in the bottom middle holding up the map.
The trail improved slightly through this area- or so I imagine it did because I noted nothing about it. But I can assure you there were still plenty of dead or felled trees to circumnavigate. Can't avoid those. 
We made camp on the north side of Emerald Lake and not much of importance happened. The campsite is at the bottom of a steep incline. There are a few mostly flat places to pitch a tent. Closer to the lake there are more small rock outcrops.

A Star Wars Christmas, again

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 mixed in. 
By all accounts Lucas was not pleased with this iteration of the Star Wars universe but it did start cementing Star Wars into Christmas. Just not like Charlie Brown or Ruldolph and Frosty. It was not the content of the special instead it was the underlying premise- sell more of those toys. In those ensuing years between the Christmas Special and Jedi- kids' wish lists exploded with every conceivable kind of Star Wars toy. I think I got action figures every year and then that big Darth Vader head to store them inside. My list was ignored.  Everything else was used. Sadly most items are lost and long gone including a nearly complete droid factory.
One of my friends usually got the whole caboodle- Tie-Fighters, Han Solo pistol, Millennium Falcon, AT-AT, Snow Speeders, Ewok Village, Hoth Playset, a Rancor, TanTans. He had a lot. Maybe too much. His parents probably helped fund the prequels with their purchases.  

A new item to add to your Stars Wars holiday decor collection. Might get stolen or shot at if left outside. Nice scarf.

C3PO expresses Christmas greetings in over 6000 languages

Cheezits have joined the 1st Order
And to celebrate these holidays let's get a package of 1st Order Cheezits. Star Wars is a powerful ally. Slap an Artoo or Storm Trooper on something and you probably will sell twice as much as without.

But back to our post-holiday antics. What if another Star Wars special was made? Well, look no further. The folks at Funny or Die have brewed up something akin to a parody of the original Christmas special. At less that 15 minutes, it won't let you down.

13 January 2016

Get on board

The Royce Files has been around since December 2003. I posted a lot that first month.
Reviewed last years posts. Smallest output ever. A miserly 23 posts! Only one less than 2014.
My aim this year is to exceed that output.
Most visitors come across the posts on The Royce Files because the Fargo Marathon or my occasional posts on model trains and Lionel. That is the bulk of the blog these days although I have blogged soccer, online advertisements, beer, holidays, my travels and a little spiritual content.

As far as I know, I am the only blogger covering the Fargo Marathon in a non-conventional way since its beginning. No media pass for me. I rarely if ever cover the winners. I kind of think I cover those who come after them. Like the guy who runs without a shirt in 40 degree temperatures,
Brave runner

Alas, the top post last year was from the marathon.
Truth, Justice, and the American Way
Nothing came close to beating the reads of that post except another marathon post about the weather.
Fargo Marathon 2016 will be later this year- May 19-21. And despite the later date and potential for more pleasant weather, start and finish will be indoors again. Why fix something that is not broken? I wonder if there will ever be a winter race in Fargo that starts and ends outdoors but is run inside the Fargo Dome.
Our previous marathon viewing position has been lost due to a friend's relocation out of Fargo. Now I am without a home base. I will need to review the route to see if there is someplace else to pitch our tent and watch.  
Next topic..
I have not met many model railroaders of my generation much less those who do 3 rail O-scale. I encounter mostly older men my father's age involved in the hobby. It is due for an infusion of youth and modernization. I think smart device apps for train control have begun to appear. But still the cost to get a layout compatible for this type of setup is still a lot of change. I wonder if there is a movement out there to be more clever with conventional control and the loads of seemingly obsolete model train stuff. I find command control pretty amazing but it has a high entry level with equipment required.  
I digress. I have been back at building my conventional 3-rail O gauge layout. Over the festive break my father helped me get the mainline loop up and running after it had been dormant for over a year. I needed to expand the bench work a wee bit to accommodate O-42 curves.
New curve with K-line 42" turn out
I utilize 0-27 profile track, which is O-Gauge but a little shorter in height. The O-27 track was the entry level track system for Lionel through the post war period up until early 2000s. It is relatively economical to acquire a lot. The early drawback to 0-27: curved track was only manufactured at a 27" radius as opposed to standard O which was 31". The smaller radius limited what could effectively be run on the track. Some of the larger engines and cars could not navigate that sharp a curve. There were workarounds like using small sections of straight track to square off turns. However, in the modern era (ie. after 1970) wider radius curves in 0-27 ended up getting manufactured. I am unsure when it started- K-Line might have originated it.  
Now I am good to go for expansion. 

new depot and water tower for a siding
The highest viewed train related post last year was the Train Day 2015 post that was sandwiched with the marathon weekend coverage.
Train Day 2015 post
I just acquired a copy of the Great Northern calendar pictured in that post.

12 January 2016

A new symbol of Christmas

It not being Christmas at the writing of this entry-- let's write about Christmas!
It seems every few years or so a new thing gets flung into the pantheon of Christmas.  A few years ago it was penguins. Nothing to do with the festive period except that for some that period happens during the beginning of the cold blustery period. Cute but hardly relate-able to the larger Christmas themes of peace, goodwill toward man, and Jesus. Penguins just happened to drop on the popular culture scene in a few movies and decided to settle in at the Christmas Inn next door to the reindeer, elves, Santa, gingerbread men, wise men, stars, poinsettias, and pickles. And yes, the pickle has official status as a Christmas symbol. Not sure why pickled herring is not.
But lest you think I will gripe about this proverbial overcrowded Inn of Christmas, I will not.
Instead I will introduce another symbol of Christmas that made its entrance this season.

The robot discovered
 While strolling through the neighborhood I came across it- the Christmas Robot.

It seemed friendly enough. In fact rather inhumanly festive. I doubt anyone is capable of cranking there Christmas spirit meter up to the max.
But does not this robot look like Bender from Futurama.Well just a little. This unit is a little less hardened to the life of a space traveling robot.