30 November 2017

Lionel Stuff: Lumber Shed Revisited

I acquired an assembled version of the Lionel lumber shed structure last year and blogged about it here. It still ridiculous how much these are going for on the market. Do not get me wrong, it is a good model, but shelling out $20 - $30 dollars for one is extravagant. It just does not have much collectible value. Since it gets attached to the Lionel name some sellers assume it is something akin to precious metal. So it is ideal to find these outside the typical Lionel searches. I would think that if the Lionel name were not attached this would be just another mass produced plastic structure.

While at the October Fargo Toy and Train show I found the lumber shed in a modified form.

I am not entirely sure what scale the alteration was intended- I am guessing N since most of the other items around it were for N.

It certainly is a bit of a scale stretch to plausibly utilize the structure in the smaller scales. The work bench and the storage bin would have to be removed to give the structure more plausibility. And I am assuming the O scale figure is there like a kind of muffler man roadside advertisement.
The shed had no price and I do not haggle. Still, $5 or $10 and you could bring it back to O scale pretty easily. 

22 November 2017

The prairie's original alternative Thanksgiving pageant

Where So Much Magic Happened
KUMM Studio A (thanks to Cory Funk)
I was a DJ on KUMM in Morris, MN for 4 years plus a short summer gig in 2001. It is a college station that was very eclectic back in the day. I did news and hosted the Minnesota music show for number of years. It was a tremendous experience.
KUMM definitely camped around the alternative music trend of the early 90s. Still broadcasting alternative music on the prairie now at 700 watts (according to wiki) on the FM, KUMM also has extended its reach streaming on the internets. It appears they have automated a bit as I have yet to hear a live host on the stream today. Their website seems to be a bit stale. DJ list is current. Looks like preferred communications come via Facebook.
Being alternative as we were, a handful of other KUMM DJs and I decided to do a live radio drama based upon a Thanksgiving theme. Pretty alternative for 1994, huh? The details are sketchy, but I wrote up a script which seems to be a riff off the Charlie Brown specials. Then one night on somebody's time slot it was performed live in Studio A between songs. I was in my domicile listening and recording the show. To my knowledge this may be the only radio play preserved from KUMM. For all I know it might be the only one ever produced.
So here it is for your enjoyment- A KUMM Thanksgiving Pageant. (now with even less noise)

21 November 2017

Is it really Thanksgiving, Charlie Brown?

Peanuts is a popular comic strip in the states and possibly elsewhere, but I have no idea how well it is translated into other cultures. It is still syndicated in numerous newspapers although new strips have not come out since creator Charles Schulz died back in 2000. I would say most are unfamiliar with the comic strip and that seems like a contradiction of first line of this post. If you has a line up of cartoon characters, I am certain most would be able to identify Snoopy and Charlie Brown but would not be able to articulate their relationship or misadventures.
For your reference: 
  • Snoopy is a dog, but a dog with a wild imagination. Often he has imagined himself as a World War I flying ace in combat with the Red Baron. Other times he just acts more human than canine from playing baseball to riding a motorcycle.  
  • Charlie Brown is Snoopy's owner. He is a kind hearted boy who struggles with self confidence despite being called upon to lead. His most famous predicament involves attempting to kick a football but another character pulls it away every time.
In the mid 60s the comic was translated to the small screen with a television special- A Charlie Brown Christmas. It took a pretty innovative approach by casting children to do the dialogue, not having a laugh track, and utilizing jazzy music. In the ensuing years more of these specials were cranked out. In 1973 A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving debuted on CBS. Like the Christmas special, this one has aired continuously since its debut. 
There really is not much of a plot to the special. Just a lot of vignettes strung together relating to Peppermint Patty inviting herself over to Charlie Brown's home for a Thanksgiving meal. Snoopy takes the lead in creating the spread for the feast.
It turns out to be quite the unusual feast.

In later years, Schulz revisits Thanksgiving in the This is America, Charlie Brown series in the first episode- The Mayflower Voyagers. This episode recounts the historic account of the pilgrims landing at Plymouth and their struggle for survival.
Both specials are due to air in 2017 on November 22nd. 

08 November 2017

National Model Railroad Month of 2017

It being National Model Railroad Month, I am going to post some images of my O gauge 3 rail layout.
This layout  has been around for 4 years. It has been in this particular format for about 3 years. Previously I just ran trains on floor. 
I am modeling a fictional area along the Great Northern Railway in northern Minnesota. A mix of vintage and new equipment make up my collection from many companies. Structures are mostly from Lionel and Bachmann Plasticville. I have a few Post-War Lionel pieces thanks to my father and good finds at shows. I am an operator so I do not buy to keep items on the shelf or in boxes.
I have not found time to scenic the layout- but that is mostly because I do not think I have the skills. Plus, I have not come up with a track layout I like. Right now it is just track around the table.
See how many items you can recognize in the photos.

Small station and saw mill

Town area with larger station and yard.

Another angle of the small station and saw mill
Model railroading is not difficult to get involved. All you need is some imagination. You can add the trains later. It helps considerably if you have some friends and maybe a club nearby. There are numerous resources online from website to message boards that provide a wealth of information. There are also a few model railroading magazines you can find at local libraries. In particular I enjoy Classic Toy Trains as it has superb photos of 3-rail layouts and practical information concerning toy train maintenance and all aspects of layout creation.  

26 May 2017

Fargo Training: Coming out of the Fargo Great Northern Yard

I passed through the old Fargo Great Northern yard en route to marathon activities and noticed a blue big nosed diesel with Santa Fe markings intact and a patched number 1885. According to online sources the 1885 is a SD40-2.

2 different SD40-2s

It is working in with another SD40-2 in the H3 paint without a long nose. 1788 had been in the Burlington Northern colors up to around 2016 when it got new paint.

 Both these engines have seen local service in the Fargo region going back and forth from the Fargo Yard to Dilworth and occasionally out to Jamestown on the former Northern Pacific line.

Previously, both saw time around of the Twin Cities area. 

23 May 2017

Fargo Marathon 2017: The (not so) Bad

The old watching corner now devoid of activity
Nothing but praises for the 2017 edition of Fargo Marathon. There are two items which could be taken as indirectly bad. Once is rather subjective.
First, our old marathon viewing area on the corner of 9th St and 8th Ave now fully devoid of spectators. In years past half the block was out on near the curbs watching and cheering. I guess that is what happens as the neighborhood changes.
Second, a few blocks north of the spot above a robbery took place in the hours prior to the start of the marathon. High end audio equipment was pilfered from the yard in the early morning of May 20th. The owner traditionally has piped out tunes to runners since the inaugural marathon year. This perhaps the first crime with some relationship to the marathon. I suppose most may ask why the owner had the equipment in his yard overnight. Not sure, but he does has video surveillance. I think the culprits may be on the lam for a while lest their mugs be seen by the citizenry of the town. These pillagers must have some knowledge of what the owner does so I suspect they live within the vicinity and are only hacks. Nothing like Oceans 11. I doubt they are going to be able to unload the goods locally as the items are certainly a rarity in our parts.
You know there could be decent heist movie made centered around a marathon. Hmm.
No wait. Monk already did that in a way- Mr Monk and the Marathon Man. It was a murder instead but did involve a marathon. 

Fargo Marathon 2017: Celebrity watching and some results

Once of the stunts I think the marathon could pull off would be to have a celebrity run the race. And I don't mean Dom Izzo or Doug Burgum. The closest we get to this in Fargo is celebrity lookalikes as I noted in a post last year in addition to the guy who runs dressed as Superman and that Elvis impersonator just south of the 13th. Also concerning the Governor (aka Doug Burgum), he did run both the 5K and 10K instead of stroll this year. Dom also kept decent pace in 5K.
One can always depend on Coach GP being in Fargo for the race.
Coach GP
Just learned that GP Pearlberg was the voice of the marathon. I knew he had something to do in Fargo besides coach runners. I think a local guy named Guy shared the voice responsibility in the past. Not sure that is still the case although I did see Guy at the Fargo Dome. Anyways, Coach GP does lend his renowned in the running world to our event and has a great story. I need to go to one of his talks in the future. 
Speaking of voices, they kept announcing that the voice of Iron Man was going to do a talk. I wonder how many people were thinking "Oh, I did not know Robert Downey Jr. was going to be here?" They were probably just as surprised to learn Mike Reilly was the guy who can claim to be the voice of Iron Man yet never appear in any of the movies. Then they realized that Iron Man is also a triathlon. And concerning triathlons, all the Fargo marathon needs to add to its list of events is a swim and you have an unusual segmented triathlon. However in the juggling half marathon event, Ivan Schleppenbach still retains his Fargo title. The juggling runner has yet to face any competition in the event.  He ran it in 1:39. No word if any Kenyans are already training for this running discipline. However, freshly unemployed Ringling Brothers Barnum and Baily Circus jugglers may be in a hunt to gain fame in such races.
A few elite runners standing around
These days there are usually around 3 or 4 Kenyans running in the Fargo Marathon and 0 circus clowns. Winning one of the long races is a decent payout- $1500. Nothing incredible but pretty decent. Winner David Tuwei deserves a rest after winning the Lincoln Marathon and the Fargo Marathon in the same month. Paul Getembe cruised to victory in the half and despite the "ideal" conditions only ran 1:07.58- not even a top ten record time. Regional elite runner, Dan Greeno took 2nd after keeping up with Getembe most of the race.
Jaclyn Adamson astounded herself by running to victory in only her 2nd attempt at the half.

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.