Posted in Model Trains

Building An HO Scale Layout

These are some track-level photos of my most recent HO scale train layout.  It was a “shelf-style” layout, which simply means the room I was using was too small to have a free standing layout supported by its own benchwork legs.  I used a model railroading magazine specifically for benchwork and just followed sketches to build the shelf supports along the wall.

My first obstacle was trying to figure out how much room I had for the loops on each end of the layout.  I didn’t want to build a “down and back” type of track plan.  I wanted to allow the trains to run continually, and wanted to be able to run two trains at the same time.  So, I ended up with a detailed two-line track plan with several sidings and a couple freight yards to choose from.  What I ended up with was a 22 inch outer line radius, and an 18 inch radius on the inner curve.  One mistake I made was not allowing enough room through the entire curve for two trains to run side-by-side.  I had to make sure the two trains did not run through the curves together.  I won’t make that mistake again.

I don’t run passenger trains, so the entire layout was built for freight operation.  Most of my buildings are manufacturing style, as a few can be seen in the photos.  Although I enjoy operating the trains, my main focus is scenery.  As you can see in the photos, the layout was not finished, as there were plenty of bare spots where there were neither roads, grass, or weeds.  But, that’s just part of the hobby.  The work is never finished.

I used “flex-track” which comes in 3′ sections.  I used code 100 rail, which has to do with the fine detail of the rails.  For my use, this code works great and it is less expensive.  I only use nickle-silver track as it does not corrode as quickly as brass.  I don’t know of anyone who uses brass track for serious layout construction.  The flex-track works great for my layouts.  I have never tried scratch-building track, either with a tie-strip and rails, or by hand laying ties.  It’s too much work.

Model railroading is a great hobby.  There is just something about trains that have captured my attention my entire life.  I take every chance I can get to watch trains. Unfortunately, I don’t live close enough to any operational lines to allow me to watch every day.  I am really looking forward to starting my next layout.

Working on trains always makes me think of coffee.  Speaking of which, it’s time for more.  Coffee, that is.

– Dale Parsons

 

Posted in Model Trains

Model Railroading

 

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Model railroading has been my main hobby since I was fifteen.  My brother and I had O scale trains when we were younger but as I got older my interests changed to HO.  HO actually stands for “Half-O”, so HO gauge is half the size of O gauge.  Lionel trains are the main brand for those who have “train sets.”  In my opinion, for those who are more serious about really doing something with the hobby, HO is the preferred scale.

The photo above is a layout I had until we moved last year.  And, by the way, those who are serious model railroaders don’t have train sets, they have layouts.  A serious layout is crafted from the bench work, which is the wooden frame that is the basis for all the railroading action, all the way up to the track work, the rolling stock, and the scenery.

For me, the railroad operation is not the most interesting part.  The scenery is definitely the most fun.  And scenery is not just trees or grass.  The scenery includes buildings, mountains, grass, weeds, junk, people, everything that is not the track and trains themselves.  The scenery work is never finished.  There is always something more to add, some new little detail, which might be as small as adding small bits of model scrap to a junkyard.

One of the most fun things to do is putting lights in the buildings.  It’s fascinating to get down on track level and watch the trains move among buildings that are casting rays of light through their tiny windows.

My uncle, who is now in his eighties, is the one really responsible for getting me into HO model trains.  In 1970, I spent spring break with him and his family.  We spent the entire week working on trains and going to hobby shops.  In the back corner of layout pictured above, there is a small cottage that we built from scratch that week.  It is a treasure of mine.

Model railroading is a terrific way to relax and forget about life for a while.  Scratch-building items for the layout, including operating signal lights (that’s for another blog session) and other little things is the best.  There is nothing like the sound of the wheels clicking over the rails.

Something that makes it even better is a cup of coffee sitting close by.

– Dale Parsons

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Living With And Beating Cancer

Unfortunately, cancer has been an unwelcome, despised guest in our home many times. My mother, a beautiful woman, tall, intelligent, begging to live, suffered extremely without mercy from the cancer that ravaged her body. She died at 49. Ten years later, my father died with cancer.

My wife’s father died of cancer at middle age in 1971. He went into the hospital at the beginning of the week not feeling well. He was gone by week’s end, leaving a grief-stricken family of eight. His oldest son, my wife’s brother, died with brain cancer at 51. Her sister had breast cancer, requiring a mastectomy.

Over several years my wife has been treated for cysts, and has been monitored carefully. Two years ago she had a lumpectomy, requiring no further treatment. Four weeks ago, she underwent another surgery, this time the results were different. The pathology report, confirmed by a leading cancer center, revealed she has triplet-negative breast cancer. This type of cancer is rare, and is not a typical breast cancer. It can occur anywhere in the body. She will undergo chemo therapy, probably beginning in a few weeks, followed by radiation. She had another surgery which confirmed the sentinel lymph-nodes are clear, and cell margins are now clean. That, obviously, does not guarantee there are no more cancer cells anywhere.

My dear wife of nearly forty-five years, has been very brave throughout this journey, so far. We have received hundreds of notes of support, positive thoughts, and prayers, for which we are incredibly thankful. Even our Twitter and Facebook friends have been amazing. People we have never met, and probably never will, have expressed kind words of support and encouragement.

We meet with the medical oncologist tomorrow to learn more about the chemo treatment and will then have a better view of what the months ahead will hold. Even though my wife is scared, she is confident. Yes, a person can be terrified and confident at the same time. It would be unnatural to not feel a sense of fear facing this kind of situation. She is confident, however, knowing that the doctors will be doing their best to reach the highest outcome possible.

We will soon see how the chemo treatments will affect her. She is determined to continue doing the things she loves, which includes drinking plenty of coffee. And, of course, I will drink lots of coffee to support her. Our mini-golden doodle, Maggie, will be in irreplaceable part of the healing process.

Speaking of coffee, I need some.

– Dale Parsons

Posted in Uncategorized

I’m Learning

Okay, I changed the title of my blog for the…I don’t remember.  Maybe the 8th time.  When I told my wife I was calling it Worded Blurb, she was confused, so I knew it was a dumb idea.  Obviously, the blog is not always going to be about coffee, but when I write, coffee is always close by, even if I’ve already had ten cups.  As is the case right now.  My mug is just to my left.

Yesterday, I was thinking about writing, which I do a lot.  It occurred to me that in order to be a good fiction writer you have to be a pretty good liar.  Honestly.  This is not a reflection on any writer, anywhere.  Only me.  Think about it!  A person has to be able to make up stories that are not true, which, in essence, makes them lies, in order to convince someone else the story is real.  Right?  If the writer can’t make the reader believe the story is true, she won’t get lost in the plot, engulfed in the scene and fall in love with or hate the characters.

When you think about it, this includes all fiction, written, filmed, portrayed, acted.  Take sitcoms for example.  Lies!  And that’s good!  Real life is funny, sad, heartbreaking, confusing, and unpredictable.  Billions of dollars proves it works.  People love to be fooled!

Commercials drive me nuts, especially the ones about drugs.  Some older, good looking guy tells us his body is not what it used to be, so he can’t run twenty mile marathons in the same time he once did.  And right about now, in very small print, the text says, “Actor Portrayal.”  That means this guy probably hasn’t run a race since he was in junior high phys-ed class!  I know it’s crazy, but that really bugs me!

So, does it bother me to read endless murder mysteries by an author with the same two main characters?  Of course not!  I love those!

So, what we end up with, is coffee.  Writing, plotting, scheming, editing, creating and wiping out characters, becoming upset when a character begins to take over even though we didn’t plan it that way.  Who does he think he is!  That’s when you sit back, and drink more coffee.  Maybe even go get your favorite barista special.

Life really is a lot of fiction.  Even the stuff that’s true, because everything is by interpretation.  I need some more coffee.

Have a great day.

-Dale Parsons

 

 

 

 

Posted in Uncategorized

Coffee Makes It Better

Coffee makes everything better.  Not feeling well?  Coffee.  Worried?  Coffee.  Need to get to work?  Coffee.  Don’t have a job?  Coffee.  Hate your job?  Coffee. The only thing that really makes coffee better is whether it’s made or purchased. 

Coffee is like salads.  Have you ever wondered why salads taste so much better when someone else makes them?  You might have all of the same ingredients at home in the fridge, but no matter what you do, it just doesn’t taste as good as when that beautiful salad is placed before you at your favorite restaurant.

Coffee works the same way.  Sure, you can make a pot at home.  You might even have one of those fancy pod coffee makers.  Pop in the pod, close the lid, push a button, and slurp, drip, sputter, spit, you’ve got hot coffee.  Sorry, it’s just not as good as when you drive up to the window after reciting your order, “Grande, decaf, nonfat, mocha, extra shot of espresso, extra hot.”  Can you really make that at home?  I don’t think so. “Would you like something to eat with that?” “Sure, I’ll take a Danish, warmed up.”  Ahh, now you’re talking.

Writing cannot be done effectively unless coffee is involved.  Honestly, if you’re seeking an agent, editor, or publisher and haven’t had much success, I would take a serious, long look at what kind of coffee you’re drinking.  If you don’t drink coffee at all…I don’t know what to tell you.

Best of luck to all you writers.  (Writers really include anyone who is living and paying attention, and in some way making a note of it.)

Enjoy your coffee.

-Dale Parsons