These images were created by me by doing a number of things I learned to do as a kid who loved model trains. Some of the buildings are made from HO railroad model kits. Some are knickknacks found at Goodwill and repaired or repainted or altered by me. Most of the people are plastic and lead figures bought unpainted and painted by me. All of it is put together by me, and it tends to take over the house to the point it makes my wife complain.
Category Archives: Trains
Toonerville is really all about creating art with my HO model railroad toys. So, here’s a picture of the newest arrangement of the downtown as it now sits in my bedroom/studio.
The buildings are a combination of models I put together and plaster buildings that I bought unpainted and then painted them.
The Ghost Busters van in front of Mike’s Farmer’s Market was recently bought for less than a dollar and added to collection. Just in time too. There is apparently a ghost in Mike’s clock tower.
The two Thomas the Tank Engine toys were recently added after they were recovered from a junk pile in the garage.
Here’s a shot of the Toonerville Trolley that was the first trolley added to my HO train layout back in the early 70’s.
So, this is a small bit of insight into the workings of a toy collector and artist with excessive amounts of hoarding disorder. And I am sharing with you the most recent pictures I have made of the things in my collection.
I still can’t believe my hockey team, the St. Louis Blues, lost to that upstart Nashville team whose logo is a cross between a cat and a beaver with really bad teeth problems. But that was the other post for today.
I am probably going to kick the bucket soon. I hate that bucket. I just don’t like it. But in spite of impending doom for me and the world in general, I am making some changes. After all, life is change. We can either change or be dead. And I am definitely not going to kick that bucket today, no matter how grumpy its existence makes me.
One change I have made is in Toonerville. I finished snowing all over Al’s General Store. I added two kids and their cat on the bench outside (in short pants during a winter scene… stupid kids) and fat old Huckleberry Wortle on the front steps looking for someone to play checkers with and tell lies to. But don’t offer to be the one playing checkers with Huck. He’s a conservative Republican with Tea Party leanings, and he will tell you things about Obama, government, and people in general that will make you so mad that you will want to go to the bench and kick the kids’ cat.
Toonerville is undergoing a winter renovation. If I ever get to rebuild the layout, it will now have snow where grass used to be the plan. It is still temporarily in storage on streets that are really book shelves. And the Trolley goes nowhere.
I have also been experimenting with shifting focus, as you can tell by the blurry trolley and track light in the foreground.
In addition to photography, I am making changes to my publishing directions. I recently bought a subscription to a video-editing program and now intend to inflict Mickey-made videos to my blog. To be completely honest, I made the purchase at the begging of my daughter who was using the free trial for a school project and ran out of free before she ran out of ideas. Sound genetic to you, does it?
I have been forced to make publishing changes. I am almost done paying the huge penance for publishing Magical Miss Morgan with Page Publishing. That is a mistake that won’t be repeated. I will self-publish from here on out. After MMM, I will attempt to publish Snow Babies via Amazon.
My current manuscript, The Baby Werewolf, is undergoing forced changes as well. The primary factor here is my unique ability to lose things all together. Two of the three parts of the original hand-written manuscript are now missing, and have been since we moved to Dallas in 2004. Bummer. Coatimundies from South Texas are probably reading it, laughing up a storm, and cursing me for not having lost part three along with the rest of it. They surely can’t wait to find out what happens. But since I have to do it all from memory, it will be different from what they read.
And even though writing a blog post every day is hard, I have decided it is worth it to continue. After posting every day for thirty consecutive months, I have learned that the practice not only sharpens my basic writing skills, but also generates more ideas than it consumes. I am a writer because I write. And continuing to write makes me even more of a writer. So the madness will continue.
I was an aficionado of HO model trains as a kid. I continued that horrendous fixation with 1/78th scale worlds long into my extended juvenile immaturity (I was an unmarried teacher of middle school students until 1995.) Even after I was married, my wife allowed me, to a very limited degree, to continue to be a train man.
I spent a good deal of time over the years building building plastic model kits of buildings, painting and repainting plaster model buildings, and collecting engines, rolling stock, and trackside details. Painting little 1/78th scale people is definitely an exercise for steady hands and a zen-like, highly focused mind.
But that all reached an impasse when we moved to the Dallas area. I had to tear down my train layout, box up my trains, and put everything on hold until I had another place to build and create my HO model-train world. So, while it was all boxed up and transported to first, a house that we rented from my brother-in-law, and then a house that we bought, it got shifted around and stacked inappropriately, and grandma put some really heavy items on top to crush and mangle my treasures. It also spent a night outside in the rain when my brother-in-law’s water heater had to be replaced in the garage where everything was stored. I was not a happy camper for a while.
Now, a decade later, I am still taking the tiny items and trying to glue the pieces back together. I have basically given up trying to get the trains to run again. But I can use the bits and pieces of Toonerville to make pictures like these. It makes the art-parts of my psyche and soul a little happier.
Old number 99 had to have the front part where the headlamp is located reattached and restored. It gave me something to do this weekend while I was down with a bad back and breathing difficulties. It would be neat to put the train table back together and get things set up once again, but there is no space, and no unlimited funds, and less and less time. So for now, the train man comes back to me to rebuild in photographs and in my imagination.
I had the good fortune recently to find some of my boxed-up HO train pieces that had been packed away since 2004 when we moved from South Texas to the Dallas area. Now, in these photos I took of Toonerville, not all of it was part of the uncovered treasure. But some of it most sincerely was. The people out in front of Mike Minskey’s Tavern are from a set of unpainted 1/78th scale German townfolk from the 1880’s. You see them posed here in front of the Batmobile parked in front of the Teapot Clockhouse.
Here you can see the two F-9 Diesels from the SuperChief (I have a thing for Sante Fe Railroad engines and rolling stock). I parked them next to the Snowflake Express which you may have seen before, since I bought it in a garage sale after we moved here.
The multi-colored bus that you see behind the Miss Amy Wortle Boarding House is actually the Partridge Family tour bus from the TV show my sisters loved in the 1970’s.
Here’s a view of the front of that same TV bus as it sits between Miss Wortle’s place and Eggbert Egghead’s Egg House. Dabney Egghead is the boy in the sailor suit showing off his brand new velocipede.
The old lady crossing in front of the Toonerville Trolley is Granny Wortle (who controls all the money in the family… I named a lot of the residents after people in Fontaine Fox’s comic strip of the 1930’s).
Here’s the back end of the trolley as it passes Digby Davies’ Pet Shop and the purple eggplant house where Gilbert Dornhoeffer and his seven vegetarian children live and build snowmen regularly.
On the other side of Eggbert Egghead’s Egg House you can see Butch and Marcia Niland’s VW mini-bus next to the old shoe-woman’s house which she built from a gigantic pink-and-white high-topped sneaker. Digby moved his velocipede, either to get it in the picture once again, or to get closer to the Scary Clown’s Ice Cream Truck while they’re still serving Eskimo Pies in midwinter.
So now you can plainly see that Mickey finding old boxes of toys that he thought were lost is not a good thing for Toonerville traffic in general, and definitely not good for Toonerville rush hour.
I have had a practically life-long fascination with trains. Where did that come from? It came from a Methodist minister who once upon a time saved my life.
My best friend growing up was a PK, a preacher’s kid. And as we hung out and played games and got into imaginatively horrible trouble, we invariably wound up in the basement of the parsonage where his father kept his HO train layout. I learned lessons of life in that basement in more than one way. I have to explain all of that somewhere down line. But for now, I have to limit the topic to what I learned about trains. They are a link to our past. They are everywhere. And they do far more for us than merely make us cuss while sitting and endlessly waiting at the railroad crossing.
Spotting trains to take pictures of, gawk at, and totally make cow-eyes over has become a way of life to me. When visiting Iowa, especially Mason City, Iowa, we always have to stop at the engine on display in East Park.
When I was a kid, this old iron horse was not fenced in to protect it from kids, weather, and other destructive forces. Now, however, it is fully restored and given its own roof. This is a 2-8-2 steam engine with two little wheels in front, eight big wheels in the middle, and two little wheels at the back (not counting wheels on the coal tender). I have ridden on trains pulled by such a behemoth. I love to watch the monkey gears grind on the sides of the wheels forcing steam power into the surge down the tracks. And I can’t help being a total train nut. Of course I don’t deny being more than one kind of nut. But being a mixed nut is another post for another day.