Discover Prompt Day 6: Hands

I never dreamed there would be a time when playing the piano would no longer be a huge part of my life. The time is here. Essential tremors make it very difficult for me to play, especially when it involves people watching and listening.

Nervousness has always been a struggle, something to overcome every time I sat down to play. Essential tremors has nothing to do with nervousness, but any kind of adrenalin, as in playing for a crowd, makes the tremors much worse.

I sought treatment for many years, with little effect. Two neurologists prescribed medications that carry possible seizures as a side effect. Thankfully, I never suffered a seizure. The medication, however, did not bring lasting or significant results and I wasn’t willing to take more massive amounts. I decided, aided by consultation with my primary care physician, it was time to quit.

It has now been five years since I stopped taking medications. Although I can still type with no problem, I have great difficulty doing other simple things. Sometimes just putting a key in a lock is a real challenge. Model Railroading is my hobby and detail work is very important. I have had to find ways to accomplish tasks I want to complete on my railroad layout.

I flew radio-controlled model airplanes for several years and loved it. I can’t do it any longer because of inability to control my fingers on the radio posts. It’s so frustrating to have to give up flying! I’m not willing to risk destroying my planes with stubbornness.

It’s really kind of a crazy sensation. Sometimes my individual fingers shake, as in trying to fly a RC airplane. At other times it’s my entire hand shaking. Sometimes my arm.

I taught myself how to print with my right hand so I could continue to function. Although not as bad as my left, my right hand is trying to catch up.

I spent many years playing the piano, most of the time playing for others who were singing. It’s a real disappointment not being able to do it anymore. I took it for granted for so long, it’s painful not to have it.

I’ve read lots of information about various treatments for Essential Tremors. I went to a university hospital for a screening for deep-brain stimulation but was told I was not a candidate. There are other possibilities I have just begun to investigate. We’ll see.

For now, I’ll play my digital piano with my headphones on so no one can hear what’s actually happening. Sometimes it still sounds pretty good. With a little reverb it sounds like I’m playing in a huge auditorium again. Lots of great memories. I imagine the applause and it makes me feel good. I’m thankful for many good years sitting at the piano.

An Exercise in Patience

Are you tired of waiting for patience?

Model railroading is a great exercise in stretching your ability to wait for something good to happen. My current layout project began, literally, on the floor. The room I am using was a storage place for all the overflow stuff. I had to move, package, stack, sort, discard, retrieve from the discard bin, and re-stack, so that I could actually begin building a model railroad.

I’m trying things I’ve never done before. This is definitely the most pain-staking, detailed layout I have ever attempted. The bench-work is very sturdy. In fact, I have been ON TOP of the bench several times, working on the styrofoam risers, also something I have never used before.

I purchased the risers from Rider’s Hobby Shop in Flint, MI. I’ve had layouts with mountains for the trains to climb through, but the inclines were too steep, so the engines could only pull a few cars. Not this time! I’m using 2% inclines, which require 16 feet of space to lift the train four inches. Since my layout space is 21 feet long, I have plenty of room for a 2%, four inch lift! Voila!

I have two total loops, so I can continuously run two trains. The town of Maple Valley is going to be an attraction for those who climb aboard the old-fashioned passenger cars, pulled by a vintage steam engine. Beautiful!

Back to patience. It has already taken me over a year to get to this point. I still have not placed a single section of track. The bench work is incredible. The 1 1/2 inch foam underlayment is terrific. The 2% risers are all in place. The scratch-built bridges are really cool. They still have to be painted. Mountains are beginning to take shape. I have built a huge number of houses and buildings. I am scratch-building floral wire trees. Also something I’ve never done before.

If my plan was to run trains as quickly as possible, I would have quit a long time ago. Here’s the point. The process is the fun! But, the process is also the patience growth time. The secret is to be pleased, or at least “okay”, with where I am right now. If I do my best with each step of the process, then I can leave the layout at any time along the way and be satisfied.

I am not yet where I’m going. The goal line is not placing the last tree and bit of model grass. The process is the goal line. It isn’t stationary. The goal line is constantly evolving. The beautiful thing about model railroading is I can change my mind at any time, just because I decided to do something different.

Life is not fixed. It’s a process. Constantly evolving. Patience is a project of effort, trust, and satisfaction.

Coffee please.

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