22 May 2017

Fargo Marathon 2017: A well oiled machine

Marathon Expo

Corporate support, reliable volunteer pool, local enthusiasm, and a flat friendly course have been the bedrock of the Fargo Marathon's success and smooth operation. So well executed was this week of events I never even saw the race director once and I was in the midst of many of the going ons. I am sure he was there, somewhere...perhaps behind the scenes.
I continue to see corporate support not just in the marketing but also out on the route with sponsored miles with a volunteer brigade. Corporations had already been supplying groups of volunteers for a many years. This action maintains that valuable set of volunteers which help make this race function. Local enthusiasm continues to remain high. Just stroll the length of 8th and 9th Avenue South on race day morning and afternoon and you can experience the energy. Over in Moorhead, MSUM continues to make the part of the course through their campus a fiery good mile for runners. The Cobbers also took time to cheer on the runners although not with the numbers of MSUM or with 2 dragons.
All the above adds to the draw of a flat and friendly course. Not many of those courses around. But that is not to say Fargo has no challenges. It does- wind, humidity, and quite a lot of turns. Again I wonder why we have not seen more finishers under 2:40. If you want to qualify for Boston or Olympic trials, do it here. But maybe that is suggesting that runners take the easy way. Heck they trained to run 26.2 miles! Why subjugate yourself to more torture. I can see why David Tuwei opted to run despite having run Omaha a few weeks before- this course is not going to eat you.
And the Expo is quite good too. Lot's of freebies including MSUM paraphernalia, potato chips, licorice, water. I even won a pint glass at the Hog Wild Marathon booth.

So does anything need improvement?
Yes. Here are a few items.

  • Edit the Race Magazine.

    Despite this being a fine publication to communicate race information and gain some sponsorship dollars, a dedicated editorial staff would have kept a few chinks from getting published.
    For instance, there was a short blurb about NP Avenue but it appears that someone overlooked the fact that NP is short hand for Northern Pacific and not North Pacific as it was published. This could have been overcome with a little research or even asking any senior citizen of Fargo.
    North Pacific Railroad?

    The 5k map still does not get published in the magazine. We get a lot a questions concerning that course. But good news for this year, there were many dedicated posters of the route at the Expo.
  • Find improvements for packet pick up.

    Generally it is pretty good.
    One improvement was made this year- 5K pick up and registration was in the same area as the 10K, Half, and Marathon pick ups. Probably reduced excess movement by participants when they had to go to the mezzanine level and then down to the field level for the Expo. Also brought more traffic into the Expo.
    Just one item that comes up nearly every year. I estimate about a third of the registrants do not know their bib numbers despite the registration system supposedly sending out e-mail with it to the registrant. I am being a bit picky. We have workarounds for this - the bib lookup table. I may have said this in the past but packet pick up provides a good opportunity to do an 8D on the process. This could find where we can improve and certainly show we are dedicated to producing a superior experience for the participants.

20 May 2017

Fargo Marathon 2017: In the cooler

beyond 4 hours and still south of the dome 

I was beginning to dread having to stand in the rain for hours to cover this year's marathon earlier this week. However a slight shift in the weather system pushed the rains off until the afternoon. Still, it was a cooler event that mostly hovered in the mid to upper 40s.
After working 2 volunteer shifts last night I decided to ease into things Saturday morning. We did not get over to the old watching spot on 8th Ave until late in the morning. The victors (for the marathon Tuwei and Tesafaye) had sped through well before our arrival on the course. Now we were there to cheer the unsung runners bringing up the tail end of the marathon.
Fortunately the party was still going on along 8th and 9th. We saw at least 5 bands in addition to many DJs and people just pumping music from their supped up stereos. Many of the spectators were already gone or hovering near the houses and tents. Elvis was sauntering through "Kentucky Rain" as we crossed over 13th and followed runners to the 21st mile marker.
In this 13th edition of the event, the item that set this one apart from others is the women's marathon victory by Fargo South graduate Semehar Tesafaye. She defended her victory from last year and became the 1st woman to become a repeat champion in the Fargo Marathon.
Kenyans once again were at the top of finishers of the men's marathon. A former NDSU runner Greg Liebl finished 4th.
Far south curve which I had nicknamed the orange peel turn
Decent top times this year but nothing that blows your socks off although the Forum seemed to think the conditions were ideal. The mens' winner's coach even claimed that Tuwei could have run a sub 2:20 time if the runner had not competed in a marathon in Omaha a few weeks ago. Sounds familiar but 2:28 and change is good for Fargo. Will Fargo ever see a a sub 2:20 again?

27 April 2017

Found Art


This is from my very early works. It is appears to be a print of some kind. I think it was from Styrofoam etching. It is either a rainbow or a jump rope. Or it could be a representation of a Native American pictograph.

26 April 2017

Fargo Marathon 2017: Yikes, snow!

Less than 1 month until the start of the umpteenth Fargo Marathon and Fargo welcomes an early spring snow storm. I ran in it this morn. Sort of a soft and wet mix. Beats running in the rain.
Snow accumulates on April 27
Not sure of the Fargo accumulations but looks like it will melt up by the weekend as temperatures start to rise above 30s. Still this is a bit of a surprise after having some pleasant days above touching the 60s and 70s in previous weeks. Participants need not to worry about running in the snow. Only once in the history of the race has it snowed- that being the first year - and there was hardly a trace. This is not to say it will not be cool come race time. I expect starting line temperatures on May 20 to be in the low to mid 40s warming up quickly into the early afternoon.
No flood impacts this year too.
Very little to report at this time concerning the marathon and all its related events. Registrations were reportedly done a bit but that is not strange considering the market for marathons and the like in the region. And the there will also be a new 15 mile cyclothon in addition to the 26.2 mile one that premiered at last years event.  

29 March 2017

The Woodbury Train Show

As far as I know the Greater East Area Model Railroad Club (aka Newport Club) has been around since the early 1980s. I recall visiting their layout sometime in that period but do not remember much. My attempts at modeling in HO were rather clumsy, but what do you expect of a kid. I had little knowledge of the craft of modeling.  
I recently visited it a few years ago and they were beginning a new update to the layout. Quite an impressive railroad.
This entry is about the shows they put on in Woodbury. More accurately they are fleamarkets since there are no layouts on display but mostly vendors and citizens with train items to sell. 4 times a year the club sponsors the show up at Woodbury High School in the cafeteria. From some archival footage on the YouTube, it appears these fleamarkets have been going on since the late 1980s. Check this footage out.

Look at that line, this appears to be one serious fleamarket. According to the poster it was one of the largest at the time perhaps only surpassed by the Twin Cities Model Railroad Club's fleamarkets.
What variety and stock of Lionel stuff. Look at all those highway crossing signals! You would be lucky to see 1 at a show these days. Even funnier, I got my highway crossing signal in Sioux Falls for the same price I saw on one of those tags in the video- $10.
Fast forward to 2017. In January I dropped by the Woodbury fleamarket. Actually spent a lot of time there. Little has changed but much has stayed the same. For one, the entry cost did increase. But that is inflation. It still is held in the cafeteria although the it has been renovated a bit. It is still a standing room event for a few hours. I arrived after opening so I can not tell if there was a line but certainly crowded. Hard to tell if there was less Lionel. I would say it was nearly the same with plenty of HO, a smattering of N, and a handful of the unusual or rare gauges like Standard and G. I recognized vendors from my other show exploits in St. Cloud and Sioux Falls.
How about some pictures? You got it.

MPC Era on 1 table

Plenty of N scale

Familiar Accessories

Marx passenger cars
A few additional observations. Somebody really wants to offload older Atlas Ore Cars. I saw quite a few vendors with multiples. I also encountered a vendor with a whole lot of O scale 3 rail used passenger cars which had been painted. They had average paint jobs but no one was buying.
I got a few cars at the sale including a Lionel NP Piggyback car, a combo car Andrew Pickens, and a few O scale vehicles. Pretty good show. If I am in the area again I would return.

17 February 2017

Fargo Block 6

Fargo Main Ave- Block6
My mostly Finnish wife painted the above picture in oil and few years ago. It is of the eastern portion of block 6 on Main Avenue just across from the NP depot. Businesses at time of painting from left to right- Babb's Coffee, Rhombus Guys, Harvest Community Church, and Kittsona.
Today I think Kittsona has absorbed the space that was the church.

Fargo Training- tracks out of Dilworth

West of of Dilworth yard  a few miles, the BNSF mainline makes its way into Moorhead and then over the Red River into Fargo. I captured these somewhat boring shots of grain hoppers off of US 10 not far from Moorhead High School on a frigid afternoon. They were sitting still but there was an approaching train heading west on the adjacent track. 

 

Going west just about a mile you encounter a large junction referred to as Moorhead Junction. 
Dilworth was a former Northern Pacific yard on the Staples sub-division of the St Paul division. It was also the point where the Fargo division began.
I seem to recall that unit trains of coal from the Powder River basin were routed over these lines. It was in an article from an old Trains magazine I had lying around.

10 January 2017

Lionel Stuff: The Lumber Shed

Lionel produced a trio of smaller building kits in the MPC era: The Watchman's Shanty, The Barrel Platform, and the Lumber Shed. None of these structures gets much press but you see them at the shows either un-assembled in box or removed from a layout. They make for a good evening project that can be personalize with a little paint and weathering.

Lionel Lumber Shed 6-2720
There is nothing really fancy about either of these models but they have a few little intriguing details. All of them came with a figure and a handful of detail pieces such as barrels, a ladder, or hand tools. The Watchman's Shanty is probably the only Lionel branded building to include a dog. Of the three I really like the Lumber Shed best. The workbench area is especially interesting.
workbench area has some tools
The Lionel Lumber Shed first appeared sometime in the MPC era. My 1978 catalog has it as 6-2720 with a painted plastic workman. The shed shows up in later years as kit too. It was cataloged as 6-2705 and 6-12705 in those days (maybe 1986-1996?) By then the workman came just in flesh color and the walls were cast in brown rather than green. In 2016 the kit was re-released again as 6-81629. Unlike a lot of the re-releases of MPC structures, this one never was made as a pre-built model. The Watchman Shanty and the Barrel Platform both have been released as pre-built with lights in the last decade. The Barrel Platform masqueraded as a Christmas Cocoa Barrel Shed in 2015.
What amazes me is the how much either of these models now cost. You can find the newest releases of these 3 models retailing between $30 and $45 each. Even the old new stock fetches between $20 and $30. I think that is rather steep for a small plastic structure with little detail. In the March 1983 issue of Model Railroad Craftsman,  Charles Ro advertised the Lumber Shed for $3.20. Then in June issue of Model Railroader, TrainWorld had the new version 6-2705 listed for $4.50. So why now does this model outpace inflation? And let me note the newest release is no different that the 6-2705 model and it is still a kit. Somebody could scratch-build something similar for less. The price point for this kit should be around $12-$15.
I found mine on ebay for $6 already built and missing pieces. I may have gotten one cheaper at a show but still a good deal.