22 December 2016

Training for Christmas: Santa Train in Fergus Falls

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 OTVR 101 with OTVR 1483
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.
GP9 in RailAmerica paint
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.

21 December 2016

Gathered by the child of peace

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 5:2-3) but did nothing, probably intending to keep the status quo between them and the government (Herod's authority.) The ruler- Herod- was pretty furious about the notion of a king who may usurp his hold on power. He then set in motion a murderous spree of children in Bethlehem. Fortunately, Jesus' parents were warned beforehand and fled south.
Some well worded context from the 1st  Chapter of the Gospel of John enlighens us:
9The true light that gives light to everyone was coming into the world. 10He was in the world, and though the world was made through him, the world did not recognize him. 11He came to that which was his own, but his own did not receive him. 12Yet to all who did receive him, to those who believed in his name, he gave the right to become children of God— 13children born not of natural descent, nor of human decision or a husband’s will, but born of God.    
This "Peace Child" grew in stature and went on to mediate the peace we all need with God through the cross. His birth was like D-Day- the initial beach head to rescue those who were his. So as you wonder about Christmas or celebrate it, may your understanding of its significance grow beyond the gifts,Santa,snowflakes, and egg nog; even beyond the rudimentary stable or shepherds.  May this season point you to Jesus' sacrifice and resurrection which crushed the head of the enemy.

13 December 2016

Lionel Stuff: Coaling Station

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. 

Car can go underneath elevated side

Some assemble required for pre-1990s releases
Recently Lionel has released this coaling station as a pre-built item with a light in a few variations most recently in 2011 catalog. However, I do note they have a newer one too which has not been cataloged as far as I know.
For a more hi-rail look this is the coaling station for you.

09 December 2016

Classic Toys: The Adventure People

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 hand. I only received the Rescue Truck and the Northwoods TrailBlazer sets as gifts. I lost most of the additional accessories over time although I think I have all of the Trailblazer items except maybe the motor for the un-pictured canoe. I remember getting the rare TV Action Team at a garage sale with quite a few other pieces from other sets. Even for a Star Wars fan the TV truck was cool. I got it with most of the accessories too- camera, tower, cables, microphone. Alas, now most of those items are lost.
My collection of FP Adventure People

TV Action Team
I was surprised to discover that the earlier sets (pre-1979) had names for the figures. So the TV crew pictured above- Carol is the lady, Kirk is the technician, and Jeff is the man with the tie. A few of the space items that came later also have names like Clawtron the robot from 1982

Northwoods Trailblazer set
Above in the Northwoods set, the figures are named Hawk (white shirt) and Brad (brown shirt on left.)
I would not hesitate to let my kids play with these toys as they are Fisher Price durable and have a somewhat timeless vibe. I can say that because I am not a collector- more of an enthusiast when it comes to these things. Even I would play with them. They also seem to be a bit more diversified than action figures of the same period- more women and minorities represented in the line and even a few children (from Safari set.)
These toys are hard to come by outside of E-Bay. They were mass produced so there are a lot of them out there. Someplace. Maybe.

05 December 2016

Training Elsewhere: Northern Lines Railway

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.


02 December 2016

Fargo Training: Great Northern Yard

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 Fargo Marathon. The bridge provides an excellent view of the yard.
I am going to guess the hoppers below are for maintenance of way work. It is pretty rare these days to see a hopper which is not part of a unit train in Fargo.
Hopper Hang Out
There was a large lash up of diesel power which is either long term storage or potentially en route to other owners. No engine maintenance facilities in Fargo. There is one up in Grand Forks. These engines have been sitting there for quite some time.

Long Line of Power
Finally a indication that there may have been some sort of maintenance in Fargo long ago. To me it appears to be a the footings for a roundhouse. More than likely for steam. I do not recall that there are many buildings around the yard. There are a few small sheds or equipment buildings on the south side.
Building Footprint
Here is a link to a map of the Fargo yard with entrances and exits as it was in 1970. The footprint above indeed is from an engine house.