Tag Archives: HO model train

Rescuing Rolling Stock

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Welcome to Toonerville’s Mountain Station atop lovely, snowy Church Mountain.  The Snowball Express is just pulling out.

I believe I may have mentioned in recent posts that part of the joy of cleaning the garage after a long illness left it in a nightmare shambles of boxes and old toys and stuff we really need to throw out, is that I found the boxes with the remnants of my old HO model train layout.  Now I am busy rescuing, repairing, and photographing the pieces of Toonerville that I have dug out of the trash piles.

In the picture from Mountain Station, you see the billboard boxcar and the old caboose I managed to pluck out of one of the boxes that heavy stuff had been tossed on top of.

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Smokey Joe, the engine number 99, is pulling the 1890’s Pullman passenger car and mail car that will soon pull into Mountain Station.

The two Pullman train cars that I rescued from the same box as the billboard boxcar are both built from kits back when I was in college and had my train set in the basement at home in Iowa.

You may have noticed the mysterious mansion up the mountainside from the Methodist Church that gives the mountain its name.  No one knows for sure what the two weird, big-nosed men currently living up there are up to, but lately there has been a lot of barking filling the air.  The lights are on in the mansion currently.  Maybe someone brave should go up there and investigate.

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Here’s a better look at the side of the Pullman Passenger car as it zooms past the church.

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The Super Chief is pulling its passenger observation car and its gondola car toward the station also.  Santa Fe’s finest passenger service also goes fast.

I bought the Super Chief engine at a train show in San Antonio in the middle 90’s.  The passenger cars I have had since I was in high school, circa 1974.

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The F-9 diesel freight hauler is pulling a lumber car and the old caboose.

The blue F-9 is the same kind of engine as the Super Chief.  It was originally part of the set my father bought for himself when he retired.  He intended to build a layout in the basement at the farmhouse when he moved back to Iowa.  He finally gave it up, though, and gave it to my sons and me as a gift.  I found it in the box in the garage.  It looks like it probably still runs.  The Union Carbide lumber car was on the back porch in the mess left behind when my father-in-law’s house burned down and he piled the salvaged stuff there.  It was in a box with old salvaged kitchen goods that managed not to burn.  It still needs serious cleaning.  My caboose is missing its back wheels and the trucks the wheels ride on is broken.

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Cruella DeVille’s roadster was spotted near the mysterious old mansion.  It is very possible something bad is going on up there.  

Of all the many things I have to get done before I schlepp off this mortal coil stage right, rescuing my HO rolling stock is probably not the most important, but it is definitely one of the most satisfying.

 

 

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Return of the Train Man

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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.

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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.

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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.

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Spotted Trains

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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.

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Reverend Louis Aiken (in the cowboy hat) was a lover of HO model trains, as well as country music… and, of course, God.

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.

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When visiting Dows, we absolutely had to stop and take pictures at the train station.

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This is, by my best guess, an SD40 locomotive parked at the restored train station in Dows, Iowa.

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.

 

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Inside Toonerville

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The Toonerville Post Office and Bert Buchanan’s Toy Store.

Toonerville is not only a wonderful cartoon place created by Fontaine Fox in the 1930’s, but the name of the town that inhabited my HO Train Layout when I lived in South Texas and had the Trolley actually running nearly on time.  The train layout has not been restored to working condition for over a decade now.  The buildings which I mostly built from kits or bought as plaster or ceramic sculptures and repainted have been sitting on bookshelves in all that time.  I still have delusions of rebuilding the train set in the garage, but it is becoming increasingly less and less likely as time goes on and my working parts continue to stiffen up and stop working.  So, what will I do with Toonerville?

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Wilma Wortle waits on the station platform for her train at the Toonerville Train station. I built this kit in the 1970’s, hence the accumulations of dust bunnies.

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Loew’s Theater has been awaiting the start of The African Queen for more than twenty years.

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Main Street Toonerville at 2:25 in the afternoon. Or is it three? The courthouse clock is often slow.

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Grandma Wortle who controls all the money in the family likes to park her car near the eggplant house when she visit’s Al’s General Store.

But I may yet have found a way to put Toonerville back together through computer-assisted artsy craftsy endeavors.

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A two-shot of Bill Freen’s house and Slappy Coogan’s place on the photo set to start production.

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Bill Freen’s house lit up with newfangled electricical. (and I do believe that is the way Bill spells it all good and proper.)

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Bill Freen’s house cut out in the paint program.

So I can make composite pictures of Toonerville with realistic photo-shopped backgrounds.  Now, I know only goofy old artsy fartsy geeks like me get excited about doofy little things like this, but my flabber is completely gasted with the possibilities.

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Bill Freen’s house at sunset… (but I don’t get why there’s snow on the roof when the grass is so green?)

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Toonerville, the Current City Overview

Mm-hmm,  Toonerville is a town I founded and built.  I know that sounds strange, but I can explain.  It used to be my HO model train layout.  It used to be, when I owned a house in Cotulla, Texas, I had room for a four by twelve sheet of plywood on which to lay track, wire it up, build scenery, and run my model trains (and two different versions of the Toonerville Trolley).

Toonerville is named after Fontaine Fox’s Toonerville Folks comic strip that appeared in newspapers from 1915 until the 1950’s.  A book of Fox’s collected Toonerville cartoons became my most prized possession during my college days, the second half of the 1970’s.  More than just a favorite book, it became my religion, my Bible, influencing not only my art style and my cartoon stories, but my very perception of small town life, the only life I knew from 1956 to 1975.

When we moved from South Texas to the Dallas area in 2004, my city of Toonerville had to be torn down, boxed up, and transported.  Sadly, it never got set up as an HO train layout again.  Now it is relegated to the tops of three bookcases.  In addition to train engines that mostly still run (though I am guessing, not basing that on experiment), it includes model houses and city buildings that I put together myself and painted, plaster buildings that I have painted, and other nick-knack-shelf buildings of approximately the right size that I have re-painted (including re-painted Christmas, Easter, and Halloween ornaments, plus one house-shaped candle that my sister-in-law gave me).  Oh, yes, you can plainly see the portions of my Pez dispenser collection that sit grumpily amid the streets of Toonerville.

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