Bentley The Pervert

If you read Maggie, Our Loving Mini-Goldendoodle carefully, you noticed my mention of Bentley the pervert in one of the captions.

We only had Bentley for a short time. He was big and full of mischief.

Bentley was a golden retriever-collie-Labrador-? mix. He definitely wasn’t a purebred golden. We found Bentley online and when we went to meet him we should have turned around and left. Neither of us could do it. He was big, playful and friendly and his owners were desperate to find a new family for him.

Bentley liked riding in the car. We stopped on the way home to get a large crate for him. I waited in the car with Bentley while my wife went into the store. I patted his head, looming large from the back seat. I spent as much time talking to myself as to the dog. “This is going to be okay, we’ll be fine, he’ll calm down…”. I don’t think I believed myself.

We bought a pizza for dinner and when we arrived at home Bentley quickly searched his new habitat. He trotted back in the kitchen and helped himself to the pizza we left sitting on the counter. He didn’t even have to reach. His head was level with the pizza so he knew we obviously left it there for him. The beautiful pizza was gone in seconds.

Our little Heidi was in her fourteenth year and really slowing down. Bentley didn’t understand respect for the elderly at all. He pinned Heidi to the floor with one foot and she couldn’t move. To Bentley Heidi was a living chew toy. The handwriting was beginning to take shape on the walls. All of them.

Bentley had a serious biting problem. He wasn’t biting to cause pain, he was playing. But his biting hurt!! A couple of times I grabbed him and pinned him to the floor and said, “No!” in his face. Bentley’s interpretation of that was, “This is fun! Biting means wrestle time!”

Our house had a central wall area that created an open runway from the kitchen to the dining room, through the living and laundry room and back to the kitchen. When my wife was doing laundry Bentley grabbed a sock and knew how to stay just far enough away from her to make her chase him. He went to the opposite side of the dining room table and stared. What a pill!

One redeeming quality Bentley had was he loved to walk and was terrific on a leash. He didn’t pull until he was choking like some dogs. He let us hook him up and walked a comfortable distance ahead within the length of his leash. Walks with Bentley were pleasant.

The final straw finally arrived. I was playing with Bentley in the house. He had a toy we were tossing and chasing which ultimately landed in his big crate and Bentley wouldn’t retrieve it. He was scheming and I should have recognized it. The only solution was to crawl into the crate and get the toy for him, which I did.

I was no sooner in the crate reaching for the toy when Bentley the pervert jumped on my back trying to hump me with all the gusto of a super-stud in a corral of available canines. I started screaming “Get off me you stupid dog!!” and trying to kick at him with no effect. My wife was laughing so hard all she could do was yell, “Stop! Hahahaha! Stop!”

I finally was able to back out of the crate with this beast still thrashing and when I stood up he was so tall he hung on to my shoulders! I was still hollering at him and trying to get away when I gave him an elbow in the chest. The assault was over. So was Bentley’s stay with us.

We put an ad in the paper for Bentley and within a day or two had a better home for him. He moved to a farm with sixty acres to explore and another big dog to play with.

Bentley the pervert was gone. That was ten years ago. I wonder if he’s still running on the farm.

A Walk in the Woods Will Clear Your Mind

There are a crazy number of things demanding our attention every waking moment of the day. The world is upside down. Many things we thought we could count on are gone. It is incredibly difficult to know what and who to believe. Very nice people are saying opposite things.

A simple walk in the woods always helps to clear my mind. I’m not one to go venturing in forests I’m not familiar with, but I can easily follow a path. I especially like paths that have maps on a post every quarter mile or so. That way I know exactly how to get back to my car.

We often see chipmunks and there are lots of birds. On our most recent walk we were excited to spot two deer watching us carefully. We saw each other about the same time but they stayed still until we were out of sight.

A walk in the woods does a couple of simple things. Exercise is obviously the first. We can all use it. Walking is an easy activity and who doesn’t enjoy getting out in nature?

Walking is also a great way to set your mind on something other than the chaos around us. If you pay attention to the things around you as you walk, and choose to really see everything instead of assuming you already know what you’re going to see, it sends your thoughts into a different direction than the normals paths it has been taking.

That’s the point. If we don’t choose to see, listen, watch, understand, and stay alert, our minds automatically follow the paths we’ve walked again and again.

I can choose to see and think differently. It’s up to me.

Calorie Bloated Lusciousness!

Most of the time we eat consciously. I don’t mean there are times when we eat that we are unconscious. I mean we eat, most of the time, fully aware of the nutritional value of our food. Then there are other times when nutrition can take a hike, jump in the lake, buzz off, get out of town. This is one of those times.

We have friends who introduced us to deep fried cinnamon roll bites. Oh my gosh!! Evolutionary self-preservation has just taken a giant leap onto a higher plain. (Relax! Don’t get bent out of shape I’m just kidding). These are amazing!

I wrote a blog some time ago about the big mistake McDonald’s made by getting rid of their huge, luscious, soft, delicious, indescribable, no-price-is-too-high cinnamon rolls literally dripping with thick, amazing, beautiful icing. I have finally found the perfect replacement. Take that, McDonald’s! I don’t need your cinnamon rolls. (It’s only been almost twenty years since I had one.)

I first made these in a frying pan, but it’s very difficult to control the temperature of the oil, so I knew it was time to make in investment in lusciousness. I bought a small deep-fryer. It holds about six cups of oil and it works perfectly! Beautiful small cinnamon bites every time.

Ok, here’s how to make them. I buy three cans of Pillsbury cinnamon rolls. Why not just pop those babies into the oven and use the icing that comes in the package, you ask? How can you ask such a thing. We’re talking about lusciousness here. Get real. Take the cinnamon rolls out of the package, put them on a cutting board or a plate and cut them into pieces. I cut across the middle, then turn and slice them twice again so each roll makes six pieces.

The fryer heats the oil pretty quickly, so I don’t turn it on until I have everything else ready. Cut up enough of the cinnamon rolls to get started and set them aside.

Put 3/4 cup of soft butter, or margarine, or butter-like spread in a bowl. Add 2 cups of powdered sugar. Carefully stir until the sugar is completely mixed with the butter. Now add vanilla, a little at a time until the icing is the consistency you want. Not too runny, not too thick. You can adjust the amounts depending on how much icing you want to make.

A great variation of the icing is to use maple syrup instead of vanilla. The icing is more sticky and stringy, but it’s delicious. Another option is to use flavoring like almond or brandy extract. Yum!!

While you’re making the icing you can turn your fryer on so it’s ready to go when the icing is finished.

Put the pieces of cinnamon roll in the hot oil carefully! It works best to add only as many as you can easily turn with a fork so they are fried on all sides. Don’t let them get too brown, 4-5 minutes at most will do it.

Dump the bites into a bowl lined with paper towel and watch them disappear!

We let everyone put some icing in a small sauce bowl, take a load of hot bites, and dig in. Purely luscious!!

When everyone has had their fill, now you can go back to worrying about nutrition and calories. These are in a strictly “forget the calories and nutrition” zone. But well worth it!

Maggie, Our Loving Mini-Goldendoodle

Many months ago I began writing blog posts about the dogs we have loved. We both grew up owning dogs so our love of these precious animals began long before we knew each other.

Nine years ago after my wife suffered the terrible loss of her younger brother whom she loved dearly, this little one came to bring healing. On the way home from Indiana where she joined us, she crawled up behind my wife’s shoulders and went to sleep.

We realized Maggie was very intelligent as you can see by the “why aren’t you feeding or petting me?” look, and that she would be in charge.

We learned from our very first puppy it wasn’t a good idea to let Maggie sleep with us even if she whined. Right.

We used a small cage to train Maggie so she had her own little bedroom. Bedtime wasn’t a problem, but every morning she woke about forty-thirty or five o’clock and started whining. We kept her in a separate bedroom so I went in, laid on the floor next to her and put my fingers through the grate. She always went back to sleep.

Maggie loves to play and our house often looks like we have a toddler. Which really is true. She has a lot of toys but has a few favorites that she plays with most of the time. Just like a child.

Maggie is all grown up. She goes everywhere with us and loves to travel. We have to spell words like go, ride, her, and take. Problem is, she knows how to spell. She caught on pretty quickly.

Any actions out of the ordinary and she starts following us around the house. Her ears are up, she watches carefully and waits for key words like leash.

We had a speed boat for a few years and Maggie loved it. We bought her a life vest she wore proudly. She sat on my wife’s lap and kept her nose high in the air for all the luscious smells at the lake.

Maggie wants to go for a ride anytime, anywhere, no matter how short or long. I put her in our pickup just to move it from the driveway to the grass. She was as happy as could be just to go that far.

Maggie keeps a very close eye on the neighborhood. She has a huge voice for such a little dog at just twenty-seven pounds. She’s learning, at long last, she’s not supposed to bark at everyone. She sasses instead. It’s like a talking growl. In spite of her growl, everyone is a friend she expects to pet her.

Two years ago, my wife was diagnosed with triple-negative breast cancer. She went through six months of chemo-therapy and three months of radiation. Maggie stayed very close to her, and still does. If I say, “Where’s Mama?” she immediately goes to find her.

We celebrated Maggie’s ninth birthday last April. Last night my wife asked me if I thought Maggie is starting to slow down. Sometimes she tries to jump on the bed and doesn’t quite make it. She still loves to chase a frisbee in the back yard so I don’t really think she’s slowing down. Maybe just a little.

Every night, my wife and I pray together before we go to sleep. And every night I say, “Maggie, let’s pray with Mama.” Maggie might be sound asleep on the couch but when I say it’s time to pray she comes running. She lays down between us with her head down. We didn’t teach her to do it, she just does. When we’re finished praying she goes to the end of the bed to sleep. She’s pretty special.

Of all the dogs who have loved our family, Maggie stands out. She is probably the most needy, but also the most loving furry companion we have ever had. She came just when we needed her and has been loving us ever since.

I told my wife that when it’s time to hold this one in our arms as tears stream down our cheeks, it’s going to be our last time to say goodbye to one of these precious gifts. Maggie loves so much, demands a lot, but has nothing on her mind other than wanting to be close to us. I can’t imagine that ever being repeated and it will be just too hard to let her go.

The Unknown Stories of Beach Glass

This is Cal and Elaine. They keep to themselves for the most part, but they have an incredible story.

If you were unaware that each piece of beach glass has a story, then you’ve come to the right place. These are the Unknown Stories of Beach Glass.

Cal and Elaine have been friends for a very long time. In fact, the love they share has seen them through difficulties not unlike those which many others have endured, but it’s worth noting they are still going strong.

Cal and Elaine are different. Very different. But their difference has only been noted by others. Cal and Elaine hear whispers again and again. Some are just downright rude and say they shouldn’t be together, but Cal and Elaine don’t care. Their love is not blind, but it is unconditional. Their only interest is for each other. Giving to each other is their highest goal. Need is not a word they use when communicating with each other. The two words they use most often are love and share.

Maybe no one would have expected Cal and Elaine to find each other. Elaine is very sharp, has angular and beautiful features. Many have accused her of being too transparent. She doesn’t care. Cal is round, quite overweight. He doesn’t plan and is often late for the few events he does attend. Elaine says he is her perfect soul mate as he tempers her obsessive tendencies.

Cal and Elaine were meant for each other. Perhaps not in anyone else’s eyes. But their eyes are the only ones that matter.

Bjorn, Ted, and Eric met at culinary school. Oddly enough, all three decided on a career as a chef against the wishes of their parents. Eric’s mom has worked in a restaurant most of her adult life and has never really enjoyed it. When Eric was little she used to take him to work with her. He spent his time sitting in a booth drawing pictures while his mom waited on customers. Sometimes he helped wash dishes.

Bjorn’s father patented a kitchen gadget that separates the egg from the yoke before the shell is broken. It’s the craziest thing! Use the gadget, crack the egg, the yoke is on the side of the white instead of the middle.

Bjorn’s father spends all of his time in kitchens talking chefs into buying his ingenious gadget. He can’t understand why Bjorn would want to spend a single day in a kitchen.

Ted’s parents own a pancake house franchise. They opened the first pancake house in their home town of Amshover, Missouri. No one has ever heard of Amshover and the pancake house is the busiest place in town. There isn’t even a grocery store in Amshover. There is a gas station, an urgent care center where Dr. Phillips actually delivered Ted because his mom waited too long to head for the nearest hospital forty-two miles away, a small elementary school, a bakery that closed last year, and the pancake house.

People came to the pancake house from many miles away. It wasn’t long before Ted’s parents decided to create a franchise and allow others to use their name, recipes, table linen designs, and logo for a huge franchise fee. They now have twenty-seven franchise partners. Ted’s parents were hoping he would become a doctor. Ted didn’t believe it was a wise choice because he becomes very dizzy at the sight of blood. He chose to become a chef.

Ammon, Wilkey, Doug, and Earl have been singing together for thirty-nine years. Ammon plays the dobro, Wilkey plays harmonica badly, Doug plays piano and guitar, Earl plays bass and doesn’t sing very well. There were five in the group for the first seventeen years. Ammon’s younger brother Ogden played drums, which was actually just a snare and cymbal. He had to quit after he got married and they never replaced him.

The group decided early on that if they were going to be on the road constantly it wouldn’t be a good idea for them to get married. They were right. After Ogden was married he continued playing shows with the group but Sylvia, his wife, threw such a fit about him being gone for two weeks he quit.

Ammon, Wilkey, Doug, and Earl still drive the same bus they’ve been traveling in since their first year together. The bus is part of their family and they don’t feel like they can let it go. The steering wheel is about the only thing that hasn’t been replaced. They got a ticket one time because the exhaust left a huge cloud in a little town. The engine was replaced, at huge cost, not long after. The guys are inseparable.

Rita and Francine can’t stand each other. They can hardly be in the same room before one of them says something critical about the other and away they go! Yelling insults and bringing up things that happened years ago. Someone suggested counseling and the two of them joined together for once to pummel the other with a list of words a drunken sailor would have been proud of.

Francine is ill. Unfortunately, the prognosis is not good. She has been to several specialists and they all say the same thing. She would give up except Rita is constantly by her side, giving her every reason to keep fighting. Rita is unwilling to let her enemy go and is giving incredible strength to Francine for one more day.

Cal and Elaine. So different yet they don’t see it.

Bjorn, Ted, and Eric. They refused to give in to pressure and continue going the way they’ve chosen.

Ammon, Wilkey, Doug, and Earl. After thirty-nine years, still going strong and unwilling to quit even though no one remembers their names.

Rita and Francine. Enemies who would give the world for each other.

The unknown stories of beach glass. Fascinating. The stories lie on the beach, forgotten and alone until someone comes along to listen.

Copyright 2020 by Dale Parsons
Photos and Blog Post by Dale Parsons

Seriously Grateful

Blog and Photos by Dale Parsons

I followed the WordPress Discovery Prompts for 30 days. The last prompt was the word grateful. Rather than writing something serious, I chose to make it light and goofy. For example, saying I’m grateful my name isn’t Sigmund. Sigmund isn’t a bad name, I’m just grateful it’s not mine. I should have taken more time and expressed serious gratitude for so many things, and people. I’m doing that now.

Grateful means one thing to me. Family. It isn’t possible to put everything family means in a post like this. Or a book. Or a series of books. People spend lifetimes putting together scrapbooks of black and white photos, then Polaroid color photos, then color photos developed by Kodak, then printed digital photos, and now they’re viewed on a tiny screen, thousands of them, stored in a little flat box not much bigger than a business card you carry in your pocket. Not only that, but you talk to people with your camera now, and you can watch TV, listen to the radio, and look up all kinds of things. The one great thing about it is that instead of your family photos being stuffed in large books on a shelf at home, you carry everything with you all the time.

I don’t know if we ever dreamed we would have eight (at this point) grandchildren, but we do. We have reached the point where getting everyone together in one place is difficult. They’re all so busy with their families and work. Life recycles. When we were younger we had to travel to see my family and my wife’s family. Now it’s happening again. We’re the ones who often travel to see everyone. We love it.

These guys are our closest buddies, just a few miles from where we live. The photo is a few years old. The one in the middle is now taller than I am, and I’m 6’3”. At least I used to be.

This is what always happens to me at some point or other. I didn’t find out until years later the little guy on the left was copying me. He’s not really sleeping!

The little one I’m holding just celebrated her 1st birthday. Our son’s family lives in the Chicago area where he is an adjunct professor of Philosophy.

This young man will carry on the tradition of model railroading. We passed the family Lionel trains to him.

The little man in my wife’s arms is the youngest of our grandchildren. He lives with his family in the Nashville area where his mom and dad are on staff at a great church.

This is so cute!!

We are so grateful for an amazing son-in-law, and three beautiful daughters-in-law. They are all incredible, talented people. We are so blessed they are all part of our family.

Stories don’t make it. Photos only try. Just one word.

Grateful.

Foam Risers or Not? Cork Roadbed or Not?

Photos and Blog by Dale Parsons


My first layout was a learning experience, as I guess they all are. There was a lot of “what not to do.” I planned carefully, and even had trains running on sub-roadbed and track that was tacked temporarily. It was not until after the track was permanent that I realized some important mistakes.

The most costly mistake I made on my first layout was that my inclines were too steep. I created them by estimating the space I had and how quickly I wanted the train to return to ground level. That’s fine if you have a ton of space, but it will mean steep inclines, as it did for me, if your space is limited. My layout was a “L” shaped reverse dog bone design. I like watching trains going over and under each other. My steep inclines meant my engines could only pull a small handful of cars.

That layout was never completed because we moved. I completely dismantled it. The only parts I kept were the track, buildings, and trees.

My second layout was single-level. No climbing or descending. No hills or tunnels. No inclines to worry about. It was basically a switching layout with a full loop so I could run trains constantly, which I prefer.

When I dismantled that layout because we were moving again, it was a much easier task. Virtually everything was salvageable. Even though I glued and nailed the track down, it came up very easily. I kept all of the pieces.

The track has been through the mill. When I took the first layout apart, we moved to a house where there was no room for any railroading. All of my track was in a box in our barn. After a few years, I took it out. Most of it was covered with everything mice leave behind. I considered tossing it, but then I thought about how much nickel-silver track costs. I bought a couple of track cleaning blocks and started scrubbing. I’m still using that same track with no problems.

We moved to the house where we presently live. Hopefully, the last time we will move. My new layout is basic, no clever design schemes, just two mainlines for simultaneous train operation and some sidings. There is a long branch line that runs from one end of the layout to the other. The destination is Maple Valley. The train running the line will be a vintage model engine like “The General” and a few cars. Passengers will board the train at “Little Town” on the opposite end of the layout for the ride to Maple Valley.

My first big decision was whether or not to use Woodland Scenics risers. As you can see, I did, and I am so happy I chose to use the 2% incline/decline. A 2% incline means I need 16 feet of space for the track to be lifted four inches. In the middle of the photo, you can see where the incline and decline comes together with about two feet to spare. It’s just enough room for turnouts from both directions so I can choose to move trains to or from the longer outside mainline.

My next question was how to attach the styrofoam risers to the extruded foam base. I chose undiluted white glue which I bought in a gallon jug. I pinned the riser where I wanted it and drew a line on either side of the riser with a black marker. I removed the pins and the riser. I brushed white glue on the foam base the length of the first riser. I then replaced the riser, pinned it in place, and weighted it down with anything I could find. I left it overnight to dry.

I have seen some videos where modelers put masking tape over the riser before installing the final roadbed. I started to do the same but removed it because I was afraid if the tape came loose the roadbed would be loose as well.

The next question was whether or not to use cork roadbed, and as you can see I chose the cork. I didn’t use it on my last shelf layout. I ballasted the track without cork and it turned out alright. I’m glad I chose to use cork this time as it looks more realistic to me.

I used undiluted white glue to attach the roadbed, using the same method I used with the foam risers. I first drew my track plan directly on the pink foam using exact radius templates for the curves, and a yard-stick for the mostly-straight areas. I lined the inside of the cork against the track line mark and made another mark on the outside of the cork, and also marked the end of the cork piece. I removed the cork and applied glue to the foam. I pinned the cork down with 1-1/2 inch “T-pins” on the bevel. Once I had both sides in place, I weighted the cork. I laid as much cork at one time as I had weights for. I then left it overnight.

I didn’t buy turnout foam, instead choosing to cut the cork to fit the turnouts. I might regret that, we’ll see.

My next task was making a curvy 4 inch riser to meet the ends of the two 2% inclines on either end of the layout. I chose to make my own rather than buy an additional package of risers from the hobby shop. It was a lot of work but I’m confident it will work fine. Since I took this photo, I have cut two tunnels through my homemade riser.

The riser is two pieces of 1-1/2 inch foam plus a 1 inch piece between. I drew the design on a large piece of paper, cut it out 2 inches wide. I placed my paper template on the foam and cut it with a razor utility knife. I then glued the three pieces of foam together with white glue, weighting them heavily.

When I was happy with the way the risers turned out, I glued them to the foam surface and pinned them in place. I weighted them and left it for a couple of days.

I have about ten or fifteen more feet of cork to apply, then I will be ready to start laying track. I have to decide where my blocks are going to be and plan my wiring lines accordingly.

Model railroading is a fantastic hobby. It is especially fun to take photos and videos as steps are taken so it’s easy to see how much progress is being made. I’m learning that slow and steady is best. Now that I’m retired, slow has taken on a whole new meaning.

I need more coffee.

Strong Model Railroad Benchwork – More Helpful Details

Photos and Blog by Dale Parsons

In this post I’m adding some additional details and photos that will be helpful to those who read the original post, “How to Build Strong Model Railroad Benchwork.”

This is a close-up of the braces I made for my first shelf-style layout. These are the same braces but I had to adapt them a little bit for my current layout which is quite a bit larger than my first shelf.

The leg and arm brace are both 2×2 pine. The gusset size depends on how long your arm brace is going to be. I like things flush (OCD), so the bottom of the arm is flush with the bottom angle of the gusset. There are three #8 x 1 inch screws on one side, and two screws on the opposite side of the gusset holding the arm brace. There are three screws on either side of the leg into the gusset. The bottom of the leg rests on the floor.

You can’t see them in this photo, but there are two concrete screws anchoring the leg to the wall. One is just below the gusset, and one about half way between the top of the brace and the gusset.

The concrete screws anchoring the leg to the wall are visible in this photo. Just two screws hold the leg firmly. It’s not going anywhere!

Bosch 3/16 inch concrete impact drill bits are necessary for making screw holes in the wall. I used 1/4 x 3-1/4 inch concrete anchor screws. With these screws it is NOT necessary to put anchors in the wall before placing the screws. These are fantastic for a quick, rock-solid hold on the brace leg.

I have one brace on each of the outside walls. The braces are about 50 inches from the back wall and are perpendicular to the remaining braces. I left 4 inches of overhang across the entire front of the layout. In this photo it’s clear that I used two 1×3 inch joists on either side of the arm brace. My first shelf layout was only 24 inches deep in the middle, 48 inches on the ends. To use these braces again I had to add additional pieces of 1×3.

As I said in my previous post, this layout is 54 inches deep on the ends, 36 inches across the middle. I wouldn’t recommend building a shelf layout this wide, but I’m tall so reaching across won’t be that difficult. Using a step stool to work on scenery at the ends will work fine.

My train room is 21 feet long. My layout braces are approximately 32 inches apart. The last braces on either end are just 12 inches from the outside wall. I measured the distance between each of the braces, then cut a 2×2 inch piece to length and fastened it to the wall using the same concrete screws I used on the legs. With the braces 32 inches apart, I was concerned there might be some “give” in the surface of the layout between the braces. I used 3/8 inch plywood for the bench surface, which is not super sturdy. My bracing makes up for it.

In this photo, the original 24 inch joist pieces are visible, plus the additional 1×3 pieces I added to extend the length of the joists to hold my 36 inch bench. The horizontal 2×2 pieces I attached to the wall are also visible.

After I was satisfied with the placement of the braces, I added facia across the front of the braces to make a solid foundation for the edge of the plywood surface. I will probably attach a piece of thin material across plywood edge for a finished look.

**Mistake alert! Be sure to use a square to assure a 90 degree angle at each of the braces before attaching the facia! This is experience speaking. It’s never fun to have to re-do something.

When I added the 3/8 inch plywood deck, I measured from the center of the brace to the next brace center, and cut the plywood accordingly. By doing that, the edges of the plywood came together in the middle of the joists, creating a solid connection.

When all of the plywood surface pieces were firmly in place, it was time to begin laying down the extruded foam. I almost decided against using foam. It was actually my wife who talked me into it because of the versatility it provides with scenery and track placement. I had also decided not to use elevated track, which meant no mountain areas, no trestles, no inclines and declines. Again, my wife helped me see the light.

I decided to use 1 1/2 inch foam rather than 2 inch. It was a minor cost savings, and I didn’t think the extra 1/2 inch would make that much difference. I measured and cut the foam to fit and made sure I was happy before I started applying glue. I used Liquid Nails to apply the foam, then, as you can see, I weighted the foam and left it overnight. It worked great. I’m very satisfied with my progress so far.

While I am working on my layout I always have music playing and a hot cup of coffee close by. There should be a coffee flavor called HO Railroad. Hey, wait a minute! That’s a good idea!

How to Build Strong Model Railroad Benchwork

Blog and Photos by Dale Parsons

Your dream of a beautiful model railroad will ultimately be no better than the benchwork holding it in place. Any model railroad worth building is worth the time and effort it takes to build unshakable benchwork.

My first permanent HO layout was built on open-grid, I-girder and truss benchwork. I followed Lynn Wescott’s old book detailing how to build, step-by-step, open grid benchwork. His drawings, lists of materials, measurements, and photos made the work easy. I have to admit, however, I was disappointed with the way my benchwork turned out. I found the open grid design made scenery building far more difficult.

How to Build Model Railroad Benchwork, by Lynn Westcott, who was a master in model railroading and everything that goes with it, is a terrific manual for building a great layout.

Since my plywood sub-roadbed was only about a 1/4 inch wider on either side of my cork roadbed, it didn’t leave enough room for attaching the strips of cardboard for the foundation of my ground and rock scenery. I made it work, but I wished I had built it differently. I have not used open grid since then.

In my opinion, no model railroad is ever finished. At least not for me. There is always something more to do. I find that scenery and detail is just as fun as running trains. On this my third layout, I plan to use more detail than I ever have before.

Model railroading is a great learning experience. I have already made several mistakes on my third layout, but I’m not starting over. The most important mistake I made is the narrowest part of my benchwork is 36 inches. The ends are 54 inches. My original braces weren’t long enough so I had to attach additional 1×3 pieces to both sides so the brace arms to extend them to the edge of the bench. Leveling everything was a challenge. The two sides of the arm had to be level, and the brace itself had to be level with the next brace arm, and so on.

My new train room is twenty-one feet long, and I’m using every inch of it for my layout. The room has the same shape as the train room in our last house, which is kind of cool. This room is longer, but more narrow. The opposite side of the room is lined with shelves with mostly stuff we don’t need. Just as long as I have room to get from one end of the layout to the other, it’s fine with me. One great thing about shelf layouts is the room it creates underneath. Lots more storage area.

Attaching the braces to the cement block wall was tough. But they’re not going anywhere. I used an impact driver and 1/4 inch cement screws that are 3 1/2 inches long. I went through several drill bits. I drilled through the 2×2 inch leg brace with a wood bit that made a mark on the white cement block. I then used the cement drill bit to make the hole. The impact driver fastened the legs to the wall very easily.

To accommodate my choice of 26 inch radius curves on each end of the layout, the benchwork is 54 inches deep. I am pleased with my progress so far, but the benchwork really is too deep. Reaching across to work on scenery is going to be difficult, but I will manage.

When I was satisfied with the benchwork framing, it was time to put on the plywood sub-roadbed. I had some plywood pieces from my previous layout so I used them, plus some additional new 3/8 inch plywood. I measured and cut the plywood so the ends come together between the two sides of the 1×3 inch brace arms. I then drew lines on the plywood indicating the brace arms. After drilling counter-sink pilot holes I used 1 1/2 inch screws to fasten the plywood to the brace arms.

These are photos from my first shelf layout. It was only 24 inches wide in the middle, and just wide enough on the ends to hold a 22 inch radius curve. I run parallel mainlines so I can operate two trains simultaneously.

My next post will include details about applying sheets of foam to the plywood.

Thanks for reading.

Dale

Grateful! Discovery Prompts Day 30!

Well, I’ve reached the end of the Discover Prompts provided by WordPress. They do this every April, but since I wasn’t blogging like a fiend in April, I started using the prompts thirty days ago. So, does that mean I have nothing else to write about because no one is giving me a topic? Oh, no, my friends. I have sooo much to expound upon in literary prose that I will keep busy for a very long time.

The final prompt is grateful. There are so many things for which to be grateful, it is not difficult to begin. It will actually be difficult to end. Just when I think I’ve exhausted the list, more thoughts arise. So, here goes.

I’m thankful to have a neck. If it weren’t for my neck, my head would be attached directly to my shoulders, making it very difficult to turn when someone calls my name. Obviously, I could turn my whole body around, which I would have to do if I didn’t have a neck, but then I might trip over something that was previously in front of me but is now behind me.

I’m thankful my name is not Sigmund. I have never liked the name Dale, but I dislike the name Sigmund even more. I would have grown up being called Sig, (no one would have ever called me Mund), and that would have been very annoying. I have been called all kinds of things, many of which can’t be listed here. But I would prefer being called Dork, or almost anything else to being called Sigmund.

I’m grateful for knees. Stick figures illustrate how important it is to have knees. We should all be thankful. If it weren’t for knees, our walking would be stilted. Falling would be particularly dangerous and landing on our faces would be more frequent.

I’m thankful for tortilla chips. They are the perfect snack when I want something but I don’t know what. Chocolate? No. Milk? No. Spaghetti? No. Egg Plant? No. Tortilla chips are the go-to every time I just need something to chew. Crunchy.

I’m grateful for doorknobs. I’ve have been locked out of the house, by my own doing, and getting back into the house would be far more difficult if there were no doorknobs.

I’m grateful for paint stir sticks. When I forget to have paint stirred at the store, I have to mix it myself. I would have to use my hand if there were no stir sticks. I take so many things for granted, it’s good to remind myself about all the things I am grateful for.

I’m grate for toothbrush handles. If it weren’t for the handles, I would have to hold the bristles between my fingers. It would be so much more tedious to brush my teeth without a toothbrush handle.

I’m grateful for spoons. I do occasionally eat ice cream with a fork if I’m eating it right out of the carton. My wife prefers that I not do this, but when she’s not around, she doesn’t know. I get our ice cream at night when we’re watching our new Netflix or Amazon Prime series, so she doesn’t see the little fork marks in the ice cream. Ice cream inevitably melts as you’re eating it. So eating it with a fork would be difficult. It would also be hard to put a bite of ice cream in your mouth and take it out while smoothing the top, like everyone does, with a fork. I’m grateful ice cream is the only food we put into our mouths and then take it out.

I’m grateful for plastic milk bottles. Drinking out of a carton with the triangle opening at the top is difficult. Most often the milk pours out the sides and runs down my cheeks and onto my shirt. Drinking out of a plastic milk bottle is much easier. Not that I actually do that anymore.

I’m grateful for toast and frosted mini-wheats. One piece of toast and about ten frosted mini-wheats with a cup of hot tea is an incredible snack late at night while we’re watching TV. Of course I have to give at least one to Maggie as she loves mini-wheats. I usually take out a few extra to share because I’m not will to have less than ten. I try to chew them quietly. They can be noisy if I’m not careful.

Extension cords deserve more gratitude. If it weren’t for extension cords, our walls would be far more crowded with things that have to be plugged in. All of our furniture would have to be the height that anything electric placed on top would have a cord long enough to reach the plug. Electric items would have to take turns because there probably wouldn’t be enough wall plugs for everything.

I’m grateful for radio stations. When I’m turning the dial on the radio trying to find something to listen to, its gratifying to hear plenty of choices vying for attention before I finally decide to listen to Pandora.

I’m definitely grateful for bubble wrap. The joy of sitting and popping the bubbles in bubble wrap is hard to beat.

I’m grateful my childhood dentist was wrong. He said I wouldn’t have any teeth by the time I was sixty. I’m way over sixty and I still have my own teeth. Most of them have been repaired, capped, crowned, drilled, filled, ground and polished, but they’re mine and I’m proud to have them.

I’m grateful for taste, smells, food, drinks, coffee, mochas, water, tea, jokes, tears, yawns, sneezes, kleenex, napkins, egg cartons, Tupperware, refrigerators, ice cream, bread, butter, jam, cheese, frying pans, cinnamon rolls, deep-fried pieces of cinnamon rolls with powdered sugar icing on them, extra powdered sugar icing, sidewalks, tires, trees, flowers, ants, bees, (not wasps), wood, grass, lawnmowers, birds, squirrels, dogs, movies, music, Netflix, computers, iPads, tin cans and string, sticks, dirt, stones, asphalt, highways, dirt roads, pathways, wooden docks, donuts, candy, M&Ms, almonds, Oreos, chocolate chips, Oatmeal, Cocoa-Puffs, gum, turn signals, stop signs, “Signs” the movie, instruments, those who play instruments, teachers, doctors, nurses, neighbors, friends, police officers, store owners, gas stations, jobs, paychecks, careers, laughter, hunger, thirst, fishing poles, bobbers, empty fields, tractors, hay, tomatoes, lettuce, bacon, pepper, avocado, plastic, rubber, glass, blankets, t-shirts, dishwashers, clothes dryers, two-by-fours, nails, glasses, suspenders, pants, hats, and pancakes.

It’s impossible to list all we are grateful for. When we try, it is a powerful reminder.

There is nothing for which I am
more grateful than our family.



Dale Parsons