Gadsden-Pacific Division Toy Train Operating Museum Logo


Tucson, Arizona


Toy Train Museum Tunnel


Toy Train Museum Tunnel


Large Scale Railroad
Construction Progress 201
4 (Jan - June)

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Saturday (June 28, 2014):

We have a work session this Saturday morning intended to begin at 7:00 AM. Bill Kaval will be present & accounted for to continue his work on wiring up the Alco S4 locomotive. But first thing in the morning, we want to get the canopies up and the “track crew” needs to work its magic trying to resolve the reoccurring hump at the 20’ container. When it gets too hot, we’ll retire inside and begin discussions regarding several important issues including the developing a summer work session schedule, consideration of a more cost effective RR Station design, and deciding upon the paint scheme for the engine so that we can move forward with these projects. Jesse is writing an update for the Museum Newsletter and is asking for input.

The last work session (two Saturday’s ago) wasn’t particularly well attended as several of the regulars were out of town. For those brave and hearty souls who did attend, our hats are off and you deserve a lot of credit.

Bob Swanson was kind enough to donate a bunch of stackable retaining wall block to the Museum. Not only did he donate it, but he hauled it all in his car down to the Museum. I’m glad I didn’t see that process – probably scraped the chrome off his tailpipe. At any rate, the canopies went up as the wall experts worked their magic again. Great looking job which will help with the watering routines as well. Thank you guys.

At the following Wednesday night session following the Saturday work session, the work began on the S4. First order of business was to remove the top level off the rolling rack that Burt Wright brought down so that access to the Alco S4 would be easier. Since the top level of the rack wasn’t needed by Burt, removing it was relatively painless. Once the top rack was removed, we separated the engine chassis from the trucks. This enabled the trucks to be disassembled and then we were able to remove one wheel off each axle. This permitted us to install the drive sprocket onto each of the axles and then reassemble the trucks. This process proved to be rather simple due to the fine machine work by Bob Snippe (Big Joe Trains) when he built the trucks.

With the trucks reassembled, we quickly installed the motors onto the pre-drilled mountings. The chains were then cut to length, installed with master links, and the motor mountings adjusted to leave only a slight amount of slack in the chains. Bill Kaval began the process of wiring per the schematics provided although we had a lot of discussion about the function of the battery disconnect switch.
Excitement over this engine operating is growing with lots of anticipation now that progress is visible.

Hope to see everyone there at 7:00 AM on Saturday.

Saturday (June 14, 2014):

This Saturday, there will be a scheduled work session. Jesse will open the gates and the building at 7:00 AM. Tasks at hand will be the beginning stages of wiring up the Alco S4 locomotive as the welding of brackets to hold the various components is completed. Bill Kaval will be present to direct that operation. Before it gets to unbearably hot, we have to again correct the “hump” that keeps reappearing at the curb crossing next to the 20’ container. This will involve ballast removal again and potentially staking down a “hold-down” device to prevent the uplifting that we are repeatedly experiencing at this location. Ideas for accomplishing this task are welcome.

Last work session, we completed the task of cleaning, prepping, and painting the two steaming bays. The welding work done by Raymond during the previous work session was admired and prepared for painting.

While that work was going on, some of the crew attended to landscape maintenance including tree watering. With the primer coat applied to the rusting bare metal, the steaming bays were given a good coating of yellow paint.

The outcome looks great.

We then turned our attention to the beginning efforts to clean out Big Joe to prepare it for painting in a future work session.

There was enough grease & sludge to nearly fill a paint bucket. Summer heat is starting to cut the outside activity short, so the work outside was limited to what you see.

Saturday (May 24, 2014): 

Yes, it is Memorial Day weekend, this coming Monday is Memorial Day. A lot of you may be out of town, but we’re going to schedule the work session anyway. For those of you with nothing better to do, like myself, we will meet this Saturday at 7:00 AM (gates will be open and coffee / donuts ready. There are several projects that we can work on.

• We need to walk the layout and check for closed track joint gaps & open them up if necessary to assure expansion capability. While making the circuit, we will also need to check for loose or missing screws and possibly replace any ties where splitting has resulted in screws not being held tightly.

• There are a couple of transitions at track joints in curved sections that need a little bit of attention coming out of the caboose enclosure.

• Regarding the Transfer Table, we’ve just finished making huge improvements to its operation and I think it’s ready to give Big Joe a thorough cleaning and get it prepared for painting. We will try to have paint available at the work session just in case we get that far, but if not, degreasing the unit and general paint preparation will help.

• The two steaming bays could also be prepped for painting.

• There are a few places on the containers that could be touched up with paint.

• We should probably put a little water on the newly planted agaves. We may also want to water the trees on the property again.

• The 060 switcher is running again thanks to Bill Kaval. Final tuning to the rebuilt carb and installing the correct spark plug still needs to occur.

As you can see, there are a lot of things to do although I doubt we will have time to even begin doing everything.

Last weekend, we scheduled an impromptu work session preceding the Open House on Sunday morning. We needed to correct the track problems that have been plaguing the section of track leaving the station at the north end of the building. At the previous Open House, we had numerous derailments entering the turnout including derailing Brian’s engine. Thanks to some extraordinary efforts by a couple of members, the 7-1/2” gauge RR didn’t disappoint any of the 120 riders who took advantage of the opportunity to ride the train at the Open House. I want to take this opportunity to recognize the efforts of Bob Swanson, one of our special volunteer members who came in early to help out with the track repairs that needed to be made. Bob not only made himself available beginning at 8:00 AM to help with the track repairs, but he was also there all afternoon guarding the driveway crossing during the entire Open House as well. It was pretty warm during the late morning and all afternoon and Bob’s willingness to pitch in and stick with it made a huge difference, especially to those who get the smile and wave when they ride the train past the grade crossing. Bob, thank you for everything you do.

Lest we not forget, Brian Scott and his son Zach spent the entire afternoon using their engine and cars to provide the public runs. Although we had the three canopies set up at the station to provide relief from the sun and give us a shady place to park the train while unloading/loading, it was still pretty warm making the laps. Thank you Brian for being so generous with your equipment and special thanks to his son Zach who expertly operated the train during the afternoon. As a footnote, we appear to have solved the track issues in the section of track leaving the station as there were no derailments. Great work “Track Crew”!

Sunday (May 18, 2014): 

There is no Work Session scheduled for this Saturday as there is an Open House Scheduled for this Sunday. We are, however, planning to meet early on Sunday (before the Open House) to work on that section of track leaving the station at the north end of the building. That’s because we didn’t get a chance to work on it last Saturday and we may be running public trains this Sunday. So, beginning about 8:00 AM, we’ll have the gates and building open if you are interested in helping out with the track adjustments. Another project which shouldn’t take very long will be leveling the newly placed steaming bay installed last weekend.

Last Saturday was a very productive work session for the group. We were able to get all of the welding projects done thanks in large part to great preparation and the welding skills of Raymond McDaniel. The first order of the day was to build a safe & secure platform from which Raymond & assistants could be raised up on Big Joe to weld on the previously prepared channel iron pieces.

Click to enlarge Then, the pieces were clamped into place and Raymond began his work. While the welding was going on, several buckets of agave plants that were donated to the Museum were planted by those members not involved in the welding. Click to enlarge

Not only did the plants get planted, but the trees were watered and additional dirt berms built. The appearance of the grounds keeps improving because of these types of efforts.

Although we held our breath a little while watching Raymond do his artistry 4’ off the ground, the welding project went well with no problems. The electrical installation previously put in by Charlie Rigney worked perfectly and we now are starting to take all of these conveniences for granted. Thank you Charlie for the really convenient electrical outlets and lights. Thank you Raymond for all the skill you bring to the project. Once Raymond completed all the welding on Big Joe, Burt climbed up on the platform and ground the outside welds smooth so that the stabilizing wheels would roll smoothly up and down the sides of Big Joe.

Click to enlarge Raymond then turned his attention to the welding exercise on the steaming bay given to us by Don Beem, Silver City NM. Raymond made relatively short work of that project enabling the concrete mixing crews to start installing the steaming bay. Click to enlarge

The ‘J’ Bolts were installed, double nutted, and the concrete was quickly mixed and poured into the steaming bay posts that had been waiting so patiently for months. The steaming bay was then set into the wet concrete with ‘J’ Bolts pointed down into the concrete. Wood spacer blocks were installed between the top of the HDPE posts and the bottom of the steaming bay which will be removed after the concrete is set. Then we will be able to level the bay with the nuts so that there will be no slope on the bay. This will discourage heavy engines from rolling off onto the ground.

While the concrete crew was concreting the steaming bay, John Roads came up with an idea as to how to support the end of the transfer table during the off loading of engines into the container or onto a steaming bay. It was a simple solution involving materials we had on hand but it required welding. Raymond hadn’t even had time for a break and we put him back to work. Raymond welded two short pieces of 1” square tubing (cutoff remnants from the storage racks in the container) onto each side of the transfer table at the end near the container. The 24” long forming stakes that we had fit easily into these tubes and can be extended into the container adding a significant amount of support. Raymond also welded short 2” tabs using the same material off the ends of the two steaming bays to provide support for the stakes so that transfer of engines onto the steaming bays would also be well supported. This simple solution proved to work really well.

Click to enlarge As if we didn’t have enough to do, Bill Kaval came out and performed some diagnostic evaluations on the 060 switcher for us.

To demonstrate how well the newly fabricated

Click to enlarge

 transfer table support system works, we gently pulled out the front of Brian’s GP40, putting the heavy end truck onto the table with virtually no downward deflection.   I think we have the transfer table situation solved. A newly donated battery has added reliable operation to Big Joe. The support system works easily and does a great job. All that is left is to make the assembly look a little more presentable. Painting anyone???

We received an email from one of our lost for the summer souls. Can you guess who this picture is from? Think Lake Superior. I think he’s trying to make us jealous. Are you jealous yet?


Click to enlarge

Lastly, our Chairman officially is a key holder now so he is able to get into the building as well as the gates & containers. Unfortunately, it didn’t mean he’s become a better bicycle rider.

Ouch! While you’re feeling sorry for Jesse, also keep the Payne family in your prayers as their son, Joey (Jacob’s brother) who has helped us at the Museum move tables and also helped with the move & placement of the 20’ container, fell 35 feet from a cottonwood tree and has spine and pelvis fractures. Prognosis is good, but it will be a lengthy recovery.

Hope to see you Sunday morning, come whenever you can. Bring shade because it may be pretty hot.

Saturday (May 10, 2014):   7:00 AM (NEW START TIME)

This Saturday, beginning at 7:00 AM, we’ll meet at the Museum to take on several projects that have been put off or delayed due to the weird Open House Schedule. We only have two work sessions scheduled this month (10th & 24th). With sunrise now about 5:30 AM, we are also moving the start time to 7:00 AM to give us a little more time before we break for lunch.

The tasks that are planned for this Saturday include a bunch of welding. First of all, we need to weld the channel iron cross members to the recently obtained steaming bay. Once that is completed, we can install the steaming bay onto the posts that were previously cut to length. This will involve mixing concrete and placing the steaming bay with J-bolts down into the posts that will be filled with concrete. After the concrete sets, we will then level the steaming bay front to rear and side to side.

The second welding project will be more difficult. We want to extend the uprights on Big Joe about 12” with 3” channel iron to enable us to load the top racks in the 20’ container. The channel iron pieces are already obtained, cut to length, and prepared to be welding as are the top of the Big Joe uprights. We will set up a platform on the forks of Big Joe to create a stable place for the person to work from who is going to do the welding. Safety will be of paramount concern. Once the welding is completed, we will need to grind the welds to create a smooth side for the alignment wheels to ride. Ultimately, we are going to completely clean Big Joe and apply a fresh coat of paint to improve its appearance and reduce corrosion.

There is always track maintenance that needs to be done and this work session will include a complete & thorough evaluation of the track between the station location and the 1st turnout east of the station. The station is defined as the location where we have been loading passengers during Open Houses. Time permitting, we’ll drag out the hoses and put some water onto the trees on the property.

Last work session, which was nearly 3 weeks ago, we got the metal extension pieces of channel iron prepared to install onto the top of Big Joe so that it will be able to reach the top tier of the racks inside the container.

Click to enlarge While the grinding was taking place, additional landscaping work was being completed near the south drive to finish off the return from the drive to the great looking and functional tree well. Check out the wet Click to enlarge

pavement.  We were blessed with a little bit of really needed and appreciated precipitation.

All of the electrical components arrived for our new engine and we began the process of thinking how everything would get mounted.

Click to enlarge We are really blessed to have some electronic wizardry willing to assist us in putting everything together and everyone is anxious, but cautious as we begin to move that project forward. The following day, the skies cleared and we enjoyed Click to enlarge

another Open House.  Don VanManen was gracious to allow us to use his engine again to pull the public trains. Ron McLaughlin is seen below expertly piloting Don’s speeder around the circuit with lots of happy passengers.

We did have a couple of problems occur during the public running. One derailment right at the beginning of the wooden pedestrian crossing damaged one of the redwood boards with a small chunk becoming dislodged. Not sure if the derailment caused the damage to the wood or the wood separated and caused the derailment – one of those mysteries of life. Click to enlarge

Then, later in the afternoon, about 3:30 or so, a swarm of bees decided to take a rest in one of the mesquite trees immediately next to the tracks in the back of the property. We couldn’t risk continuing to run, so we left the bees alone and they reciprocated. They were gone by the next day.

Don’t forget the Train Meet at the end of this Month. Please put Friday, May 30th @ 8:00 AM on your calendar to help load tables at the Museum. Set up at the Expo Center will begin at 9:00 AM. Saturday, May 31st will be the take down beginning after 2:00 PM. Any help will be greatly appreciated.

Congrats to our Chairman Jesse – he’s been approved to be an official Museum “key holder”.

Hope to see you all this Saturday.

Planned for Saturday (April 26, 2014):

No work session this Saturday April 26th - Open House Sunday

With the Open House scheduled for this Sunday, we will not be meeting on Saturday for a work session. The next work session will be the following Saturday, May 3rd.

A little bit of news to report however:
• Charlie Rigney has completed work installing the 220V outlet at the back of the building that will enable us to arc weld the steaming bay parts and the extensions to Big Joe plus any other welding tasks necessary.
• Burt & Glenn are traveling to Phoenix tomorrow to pick up the electrical components for the Alco S4 switcher.

Come to the Open House if you can and join in the fun.

Planned for Saturday (April 19, 2014):

NEW TIME - Work Session Saturday @ 7:30 AM.

Yeah, it’s that time of year again – sun is coming up earlier and it’s starting to get a little warmer around midday. So, we’re moving the start time up 30 minutes to begin at 7:30 AM and we may get done a little earlier as well.

This Saturday, we’ll meet at the Museum to tackle some or all of the following tasks:

  • Get the bypass mainline properly leveled and aligned so we can begin using it at our Open Houses. This will involve having to run trains through the line (loaded & unloaded).

  • We need to check and recut several track gaps as some have closed up pretty tight.

  • We need to begin preparation of the extensions for Big Joe. I’m not sure that we’ll have the welding outlet installed in time so I can’t be sure that we’ll be able to begin the welding process, but we’ll have the arc welder down there just in case. There is a lot of grinding to do on the pieces of channel to prepare them for being welded.

  • We also want to get the steaming bay mounting brackets fabricated with holes drilled etc. The materials to do that job will be at the Museum ready to be fabricated.

  • The last item on the docket is to set stone around the portion of the tree at the south side of the south drive. We should have some additional stone to work with by Saturday.

Rumor has it that we now have lighting in the 20’ container thanks to Charlie Rigney. This happened yesterday and the lights are operational and the duplex outlet is ready as well for a battery charger plug-in. Next step is the installation of the 220 outlet to enable us to use electric arc welders at the Museum. Hopefully, we’ll have it done by this weekend, but we’ll have plenty to do if it’s not finished.

Two weeks ago, our work session was really busy with the rock crew creating a “rock return” from the newly constructed tree well at the north side of the south entrance connecting to the short section of concrete curbing. Glenn Ellis was able to fork around in the rock pile to hunt for acceptable rock to meet the high standards set by Bob Rubino and his trusted side kick Hugh Madsen. Click to enlarge

They were assisted in the project by Bob Swanson and John Roads. You don’t rush craftsmen if you want great results and their finished work is really something to be proud of.

Click to enlarge While the rock hounds were doing their thing, Burt & Dave measured twice and cut once on the three steaming bay posts to prepare the setting for the 2nd steaming bay. All that remains is some simple metal fabrication and a Click to enlarge

little bit of welding, Depending on material acquisition, the final setting of the steaming bay may occur during the next work session.

We had a major problem that turned into a minor inconvenience when the oil crankcase on the 060 switcher was accidently overfilled resulting in the engine starting to smoke A LOT and then dying. We had to drain the crankcase, clean the spark plug a few times, refill the crankcase to the correct level, and then we got her running again. Lesson learned – no permanent damage.

Click to enlarge Roger Phillips took the straddle beam car and finished putting the padded seat material on it making it ready to be fitted with trucks and couplers – another future project.




The weather was wonderful and a great time was had by all.

This was the last work session for Hugh Madsen and Dave Peterson, both of whom will be returning to the Midwest to enjoy the cooler summer. We’ll miss both of these guys a lot this summer. Hurry back both of you.

Saturday (April 5, 2014):

Spring weather at its’ best will be the experience this Saturday as we will meet at 8:00 AM for one more work session before our next Open House. Work to be done will include the following tasks:

  • Our resident rock masons will be in demand as we want to create a couple of “returns” from existing curbs into the layout. One will occur just north of the south drive entrance and the other on the south side of the same drive entrance. Plenty of rock was left over from the Great Wall project and we have some mortar to make connection to the existing curb sections if needed.

  • We want to continue working on track leveling which means we want to continue running trains. The main line bypass is the next major location for this effort to occur.

  • We want to begin fabrication of the fork lift extensions by cutting the channel iron to length. We have acquired a single piece of 3” channel that matches the uprights exactly. Once we have the welding outlet installed, we’ll be able to get these extensions installed and operational.

  • We want to make a materials list for installing the 2nd steaming bay so that weld fabrication can be done at the same time we weld on the fork lift extensions. The plastic uprights for the steaming bay need to be cut to their required lengths.

  • We need to do some additional concrete grinding in a couple of places to accommodate gearing on the electric engine that Don VanManen is selling for Jim Staggs.

  • We need to do some additional raking around the north tree areas to be complete with the retaining wall construction.

Last Saturday, Don got out his little black electric engine with all the gondolas and began finding where the derailment problems were located. While that was going on, Bob Swanson, Hugh Madsen, George Rigney, Glenn Ellis and perhaps some others started working to create a retaining wall around one of the smaller trees against the fence near the south drive.

There was a rumor floating around that George had a shovel in his hand and Bob quickly got a picture of it for proof. It became quickly apparent that there were too many cooks in the kitchen with this project and several (including myself) were politely told to “get lost”. Didn’t have to read between those lines!
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge The finished work turned out better than I had hoped for, so kudos to the project foreman. A decision was then made to install a rock return from the side of the well south intersecting with a concrete curb end to give the area a finished look. Hugh Madsen quickly volunteered Bob Rubino to head up that task. Bob couldn’t turn down the challenge as he was absent. That’ll teach him.
Jesse & Burt decided to get the 0-6-0 switcher out and replace the chain using new master links supplied by Brian Scott. That chain resides in a horizontal location under the engine frame but above all the axles. It’s difficult to see where it goes and almost impossible to get your fingers in there. We decided to remove the cab, battery & other linkage and turn the engine over to be able to do the replacement from the top side. It turned out to not be too bad of a project and we also adjusted the tension on the chain and got it back into service. It was kinda nice to see it making some laps again. Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge We isolated all the track problems to the curve coming out of the station. After we had had enough practice putting cars back on the track, we got out the levels and began the tedious, but necessary process of getting a consistent amount of elevation on this section of track. Some re-gauging was also done and by the end of the morning things seemed to be moving through without incident. The same cannot be said of the bypass loop however, but we haven’t even begun to start that leveling effort.

Jesse has added another color effort to the collection which is added below for your viewing pleasure. I think we’re getting closer.

Hope to see everyone on Saturday.

Saturday (March 29, 2014):

This Saturday will be a regularly scheduled work session. We will gather at 8:00 AM as usual. For those who have engines, we want to run them if possible to find track problems and correct them where possible. We are experiencing derailment issues, mainly at the beginning of the public runs where we pull away from the start at the first turn. Some of these derailment issues seem related to weight distribution in the cars, but we know we have inconsistent L/R levelness around this turn as well. There are some identified locations where expansion gaps are not adequate and must be increased as well. The work building the tree well around the large front tree came out really well. We would like to do similar work at a couple of other locations to aid in the watering of our trees.

During the last work session, the finishing touches to the retaining wall block around the tree well out front were made. We are now able to give this tree a slow & long drink of water. The finished project looks great and using the stackable retaining wall bricks really simplified the installation and will enable us to reuse and/or reposition them if and when the outdoor G-Gauge effort comes to fruition. Click to enlarge

While this was going on, the ponding problem that was evident during the quick rainstorm of a few weeks ago was corrected by creating a shallow swale from the NE corner of the porch to the drain pipe routed under the tracks. This unfortunately required moving the concrete table and benches again – man that thing is heavy. We can hardly wait for the next rainstorm to see how well this solution will work. For that matter, we can hardly wait for the next rainstorm to help with all the stressed trees in the city.

With the loan of the brick pulling tool, we were able to quickly set a dozen more engraved bricks into the front sidewalk. They look great. Even with the relatively small number of bricks sold to date, Click to enlarge  the funds raised have already entirely paid for all of the bricks that were purchased to do all of the landscape work plus a little left over. Take a look at the bricks and remember to give thanks to those who have contributed. It means a huge amount to the improvement of the Museum as well as the continued financing of the outdoor railroad experience.

Immediately following the work session, Glenn & Burt got in Glenn’s roadster (top down) and headed for Phoenix to the Spring Meet of MLS. The intent of the trip was to meet up with Chuck Jarvi from Las Vegas who has an electric powered, Alco S4 made by Big Joe Trains. We wanted to see & photograph the electrical installation as we are going to undertake the installation of electrical into our locomotive. Below are some of the many photos taken from that visit.

Click to enlarge As you can see, Chuck had a “slug” or “calf” made to run behind the engine. The 2nd unit was unpowered but did have a compressor and air brake system installed to hold the engine stopped as the units rolled easily when sitting on a minor grade. Chuck Jarvi, pictured with Burt above & below, was very accommodating and allowed us to remove the engine body and take numerous photographs of the electrical installation.
Click to enlarge The installation of the electrical was done by Bob Snippe, Big Joe Trains using the electrical components purchased from Dan Tack, Precision Rail Products in Phoenix. It is our intent to purchase the same equipment from Dan Tack. Although it was Glenn & Burt’s opinion that the installation could have been “prettier”, the equipment worked very well and Chuck Jarvi was extremely pleased with the outcome.

The picture below shows the general arrangement of the electrical components in the engine. Starting at the front (left), there is a speaker box containing a 6-1/2” diameter speaker facing downward inside the box. On top of the box is mounted an amplifier for the sound system. Behind this (to the right) is the first of two lead acid batteries.

These batteries, provided by Big Joe Trains were deep discharge fork lift batteries. We will not be using these batteries but will be using a slightly different style provided from Dan Tack – more on that later. Between the two batteries, is the 2nd speaker box (same as the 1st) with the on-board battery charger mounted on top of it. Behind the 2nd battery is where the motor controller unit resides mounted vertically connected to a piece of plywood – more on that later. Click to enlarge

A closer look at the front end components (below).


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Click to enlarge


A closer look at the rear end components (above).

The rocker switch (black at lower right) is a “grandpa” switch which lowers the current available to the motors resulting in a top speed less than what would normally be expected. We will include a similar type of switch with our engine due to the number of “grandpas” we have. The white box next to it is a dimmer switch for the headlight. We will also incorporate a dimmer switch in our unit although it may look different from what you see here. Mounted under these switches inside a sealed box is where the sound system card resides. Somewhere in the mess of wiring is a circuit breaker switch for the system. The white & black loomed wiring extended up to the upper right corner of the photo goes to a plug where the hand held control box (pictured below) connects as well as a keyed battery disconnect switch. Both of these are similar to what we will have on our engine.

Click to enlarge The control functions for our system will be operated from a hand held control box. The larger white cord (umbilical) plugs into the rear of the engine. The large switch (on/off) on the top of the box turns the system on or off. The smaller switch next to it turns on or off the sound system. The little black button behind it is for a pre-programmed function of our choosing. On Chucks locomotive, pushing this button results in a grade crossing signal to sound (long/long/short/long horn blast). On the face of the box, an LED battery charge status indicator is included.

The knob (rheostat) controls the speed of the engine. It will be fitted with a removable spring to return the knob to “stop” position if you let go of the knob. This is a “no cost” option that is easily removed if desired. The other switches and buttons are self-explanatory.

Last Saturday, Burt Wright traveled to Scottsdale to attend the Spring Meet of the Scottsdale Live Steamers. The purpose of the trip was to meet with Dan Tack, Precision Rail Products, to discuss the purchase of the electrical motor/controller system for our engine. Dan, whose business is primarily selling & servicing electrical drive systems for ride on trains, had a demonstrator engine at the meet which he is now selling. The demonstrator was not completed although it was fully equipped and functional. All that was missing was powder coating and decoration. I was amazed at the quality of this engine, both in terms of metal fabrication and installation of electrical components. Below are some pictures taken of this unit.

Click to enlarge The photo doesn’t do this little switcher justice at all. The cab has been “roughed up” in preparation of get powder coated. Thus the blotchy appearance. The metal fabrication is awesome with great detail and finish work. Click to enlarge

With the cab removed, the real quality shines through. The components you see on this engine are identical to the components that will be used on our engine with the only exception being that this engine only has two motors rather than four. The batteries depicted are the same batteries that we will be using.

Click to enlarge Notice the centered, vertically mounted components on a piece of plate steel welded to the chassis. The steel plate gives heat sink capability for mounting the motor control unit as it does heat up and benefits from the steel mounting. The S4 owner by Chuck Jarvi had the control unit mounted to plywood which acts as an insulator rather than a heat sink. Dan tack highly recommends mounting the controller to a steel plate as he has done with this engine.
In this picture (rear of the engine), the battery charger plug in is mounted to a single plate (bottom) with an hour meter (middle) and the keyed battery disconnect switch. This was well thought out and installed beautifully. Below, you will see how the umbilical from the hand held control box plugs into the engine. The install is clean. The S4 has a vertical slot cut in the rear plate of the locomotive for this plug-in. In Chuck Jarvi’ s locomotive, Chuck moved the plug-in up into the cab area of the locomotive to make the connection easier to make. We can have a discussion about these arrangements. Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge In this picture, from left (rear of the locomotive) to right (front of the locomotive), you will see the general arrangement of the components. The vertical piece of steel at the left has the battery disconnect switch, hour meter, and charger plug-in. On top of the 1st battery is the circuit breaker. Beside this battery is the sound system amplifier. Mounted to the vertical plate between the batteries is the battery charger (left) and motor controller (right). There are a lot of other items installed to that vertical plate as well.
Dan invited me to go on a quick ride around the park – hard to turn down. Off we went. Two awesome 2-6-0’s (Moguls) were running while I was there, couldn’t help but wonder when I’d get time to finish mine. Oh well, first things first.
Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Notice the diamonds where the approach from their steaming bay area connects to their mainline track system. We will be doing the same thing.




Related to the new engine, I’ve attached a .PDF file with the Coloring Contest Blank for your use to conger up your own version of what our engine should look like. There has been a couple entries already and Jesse has created his own version reflecting the intent of one of the entries (example on left). He is also adding another version for your viewing pleasure (examples below).

That’s all for now. Hope to see you all this Saturday at the train museum.

Saturday (March 15, 2014):

Last Friday night at the General Membership Meeting, our own Raymond McDaniel brought in one of his pride & joys for a show & tell style of program. Raymond’s Shay live steam engine in 1-1/2” scale, 7-1/2” gauge was displayed and Raymond gave a very interesting talk about the Shay locomotives and how they were used in the logging industry. The loco was obviously close to being operational with Raymond optimistically suggesting that it may be running by the end of summer.

The new Alco S4 is here. It was delivered last Saturday about 4:30 PM. Brian Scott’s GP40 also arrived as well as a caboose that will round out Brian’s train nicely.

The manufacturer, Bob Snippe of Big Joe Trains, was happy to be in Tucson AZ as his home town Flint Michigan, has suffered through probably the worst winter in recent history. His friend Kathy accompanied Bob on the trip across the country to deliver these engines.

Bob spend the night in Tucson and came to the Open House the next day. He helped us with several track conditions as we began experiencing derailment issues. He also identified coupler problems with the various manufacturers used on the cars. The couplers were not entirely compatible which is causing binding and resultant derailments. Brian tested his new GP40 pulling three cars recently purchased.

We proudly displayed our new Alco S$ out front as the Open House began. We hauled a bunch of passengers using four gondolas and an engineer’s car, but we were plagued with derailment problems as the day wore on. Some of this was due to track settlement due to the weight of the new engine and some gauge issues were also identified. Mostly, the issue appeared to be related to non-compatible coupler issues.

Track and coupler issues will be discussed during future work sessions.

The next step with the new Alco S4 engine is to make an appointment with Dan Tack (Precision Rail Products) and then travel to Phoenix to pick up the motor control assemblies, sprockets, chains, wiring, control head, etc. to get the new engine on the road. Hopefully we will be doing that in the next few weeks.

With our new work session schedule now in effect, this Saturday will be a very busy work session. We’ve got a significant amount of track leveling to do. This will include the following tasks:

1. Digging a swale from the east end of the sidewalk in front of the building to the north drain pipe under the track to eliminate ponding.
2. Leveling the bypass mainline track and tamping the ballast. We then should run trains through this section repeatedly.
3. We need to re-evaluate the amount (or lack thereof) of super-elevation that we’ve been using on the curved sections of track. Up until now, it has been minimal but we’ve got recommendations to use an additional amount. If we are in agreement, we’ll need to reset super elevation in our curved sections of track around the layout.
4. There was a request to add additional retaining wall block at the ends of the newly installed retaining wall around the north tree well. Additional block will be obtained.
5. Engraved brick is ready to install at the north side walk. This will take a fairly significant amount of time.
6. Identify areas requiring general track maintenance. This will require running trains constantly around the layout.

We are also going to revisit the safety chain policy for public trains. The reason is due to the difficulty making the connections and compatibility issues with engines & other members equipment. It is generally accepted that safety chains are important and for the time being, they will remain as a requirement but we may elect to change the connection method.

The last work session was two weeks ago. Seems like an eternity. A bunch of work was completed during the work session including enjoying the first rainfall of the season. With a 90% chance of rain predicted, we weren’t cheated. Shortly after we began to work on the track installation at the north end mainline bypass, the sky opened up and we got dumped on.

We all sat out on the front porch and marveled at the rainstorm until a bolt of lightning struck immediately followed with the BANG – so close, you could almost smell the ozone. We really didn’t need that excitement, so we retired into the safety of the building to wait out the storm. It quickly passed and the water immediately soaked into the thirsty ground. We took note of our drainage structures and share some pride as they are doing a great job of protecting our track work.

We identified a ponding issue at the east end of the sidewalk. Correcting this will require relocated the table & benches plus digging a slight swale to the North to connect to the drain piping under the tracks.

Once the rain quit, we were back at it. Amazingly, the ground wasn’t muddy as it soaked up the rain quickly. We quickly placed an additional piece of curved track (actually straight track that needed to be re-gauged).

The ballast crew was immediately on our heels.

While the track crews were busy out front, Bob Rubino & Hugh Madsen were busy inside giving the straddle beam car a padded seat. The track crew finished their work outside with the installation of a short fill piece of track to connect to the existing turnout at the NW corner of the building completing the mainline bypass.

The last section was ballasted and we all took a few moments to admire the work. We had no time to start leveling the new track and test runs were too risky.

Worn out, but feeling really good about all the work that was completed, we retired to our favorite watering hole.

Hope to see you all this Saturday at 8:00 AM. Coffee & donuts as usual.

Saturday (March 1, 2014):

There is a work session scheduled for this Saturday beginning at 8:00 AM at the Museum, however there is also a predicted 90% chance of rain. That high of a chance usually means that we’ll get rained on and thus outside activities will be curtailed. If it isn’t raining, there is plenty to do including continuing to install the mainline loop at the north end. There are only 1-1/2 sections of track left to set, but it appears unlikely that we’ll be able to do it. I have obtained the requested 18 additional blocks to finish the retaining wall around the tree at the north end, so that project can be completed.

If you wake up Saturday AM and you find that we’re socked in for a rainout, you might want to stay at home – your choice. The Museum will be opened however, if you want to come down and join those brave souls who may not know enough to come out of the rain or are just celebrating the fact that we’re finally getting some. If nothing else, we can admire our fine drainage work at work (hopefully).

Last weekend, we had another great day of weather as we all enjoyed working on various tasks at hand. Glenn Ellis, Bob Swanson took on the task of excavating for the retaining wall around the tree including placement of the block. Unfortunately, they came up more than “1 brick short” (for the record) and weren’t able to complete the task. But finishing will take only a few minutes once the additional blocks are obtained. Clinck to enlarge
Everyone took some time to admire the fine work done by Jacob & Jim Payne welding up the storage racks in the container. Although we aren’t yet completed installing the lower level tracks, the top two levels are now usable. Big Joe will need to have some modifications done to the vertical channels to permit the full extension of the lift to access the top levels. This shouldn’t be too difficult once we get a 220 outlet wired in on the outside of the building. Clinck to enlarge
Brian Scott was found doing some more tweaking on the 060 but more work remains to get it working properly. Hugh Madsen put another coat of bright paint on the beam car. It is now ready to have the padded seat cushion installed. While these projects were going on, the track gang including Don VanManen, Dave Petersen, Roger Phillips & Burt Wright put in another two sections of track, including placement of ballast on one section. Clinck to enlarge

As with previous sections, we had to get everything properly leveled before setting the track. Then, the track joints needed to be tweaked a bit to eliminate any signs of kinks. This two person effort with pipe wrenches is very effective to do this task. Using track gauges, we again re-gauged the straight track to be a curved section. The crew felt pretty good about getting two sections down in one work session.

Clinck to enlarge   Jesse has created a couple more color suggestions “food for thought & comment” as we are getting closer (hopefully) to that day when we need to make a decision about getting the new engine painted. Give Jesse your suggestions – he’ll be glad to work up a picture or two.

Hope to see you Saturday –
also hope it rains a lot cuz we really need it.

Saturday (February 22, 2014):

This Saturday, we will continue construction of the main line bypass at the north end of the property. We can also begin placement of the retaining wall block to create a tree well for the large tree to the north of the main line bypass. The block was obtained last week and is stacked at the north end of the building. Before we begin the tasks of the day, Jesse has requested that we discuss an important scheduling change to our work sessions. This is to “cut back” on the number of sessions by perhaps scheduling one Saturday per month as a “family day off”. With the public rides beginning, albeit somewhat irregular, and commitments of time increasing during the Open Houses, reducing the work sessions per month is probably a good idea to consider. Please give this some thought and bring your comments to the work session this Saturday.

Last Saturday, a huge amount of work was completed. The group split up into subgroups so to speak with one group heading to the north end of the building to begin the process of installing track on the finished grade prepared the preceding week and the others staying back to assist with the installation of the storage racks into the 20’ container. Jacob Payne and his father, Jim, came with the pre-fabricated rack uprights ready to install this long awaited and extremely important improvements. With the understanding that the installation would probably take longer than the planned work session, we changed our routine to include lunch being prepared at the Museum. The first order of business was to unload the container completely.

Then the work began. With the materials and labor being donated by Jacob, we marveled at the strength and quality of this installation.

Click to enlarge The notion that we would have to store engines only on the lower levels was quickly dismissed as the racks are simply rock solid and didn’t complain a bit when loads were placed on the middle levels. We didn’t try lifting to the upper level yet. Click to enlarge

While the rack installation proceeded, the track crew moved to the north. We replaced a small drain pipe with a larger one that was found under the 20’ container. We then set the first section of track onto the finished grade north of the newly placed turnout. We found that we had a “hump” in the finished grade that needed to be scraped off before we could proceed. The hump was removed and with the 12’ straight edge, we re-leveled the grade and set the track. Because the track was originally built to be a straight section, we had to re-gauge the rails as it is now being installed as a curved section.

Click to enlarge With the racks being built, Brian Scott had obtained a new governor spring for the 060 and he began installing that. Hugh Madsen and Bob Rubino began putting a first coat of color to the straddle beam car. Click to enlarge
The Museum was humming with activity.

Work proceeded painstakingly slow up front, as we carefully made the transition from straight to curved including tweaking the rails at the joints to make sure there was no sign of any kinks.

Click to enlarge

Ultimately, by noon, we had finished with two sections including the ballasting. Brian was able to get the 060 running and was test driving it as we finished the ballasting. Glenn Ellis began cooking up hamburgers on the grill that he donated to the Museum and we all retired to the meeting room for lunch. After lunch, we began the task of cleanup and put away and by 2:00 or so, we called it a day with a couple of members staying at the Museum to help Jacob and his dad with the completion of the racks. The racks were completed shortly after 5:00 PM and we replaced everything into the container and decided to retire. WOW – what a work session. It will be hard to beat that one in terms of work completed. My body tells me that we shouldn’t try. Thanks to all who helped out. This was really a milestone day for the RR.

Saturday (February15, 2014):

This Saturday @ 8:00 AM (if it isn’t too hot??), we’ll again meet at the Museum to work on two separate significant projects. The train storage rack uprights are ready to install inside the 20’ container. This is coming not a moment too soon. Jacob Payne will be delivering the pre-fabricated uprights and will begin installing them into the container. Our job is to completely empty the container and provide assistance as needed to Jacob as the welding process of the horizontal members to the uprights will begin.

Due to the fact that preparing for this project will involve a lot of front end work, we’d like to be able to complete the entire task in one work session if possible. To enhance that possibility, we are going to forego the routine “going out to lunch” that we normally do and we’re going to do lunch “in house” as a repeat of the offering that was prepared for last Friday’s General Membership Meeting.

Glenn donated the grill to the Museum and so we’re going to put it to good use. We’ll be preparing hamburgers and will also have some sort of side (chips/potato salad) for those who want to joins us for lunch. We’ll have lettuce, mayo, ketchup, mustard & pickles as well. We’ll have bottled water in the fridge as usual or you can purchase soda from the machine for 50 cents. Glenn is bringing the burgers and others are bringing buns & the sides so all you need to do is bring yourselves and possibly help out with the preparation & cleanup. Who knows, this may turn into something we do on a regular basis. If you have special dietary needs, don’t hesitate to bring something on your own to cook on the grill, microwave, or stove.

While that is going on, the track crew will begin the process to finish the leveling of the finished grade for the mainline bypass and begin installing track at the north end of the building. A “possible” third project that could also be started involves installing a stackable block retaining wall around the street side one of our trees at the north end of the site. This will enable us to water the tree occasionally to preserve its appearance during times of drought. This project will be dependent upon acquisition of the block.

Last Saturday proved to be a great work session as we accomplished pretty much everything we set out to do. Glenn maneuvered the Bobcat with ¼-minus into the ROW for the mainline bypass and began scattering it as needed to get us up to finished grade. Half the crew worked on the west side of the walkway as the spikes were already set to finished grade elevation. While this was going on, Burt quickly set the spikes on the east side of the walkway to set not only the grade, but the alignment as well. The other half of the crew began ballasting.

Click to enlarge Glenn kept bringing the ¼-minus and we kept raking & leveling it into place. Then he’d bring a load of ballast. Once we had the ¼-minus level set, we began watering it down. The break in action allowed us to re-align the curve track transition from the new turnout and begin ballasting. Rebar stakes were set to maintain the alignment while several of the crew shoveled ballast into the rail ties.
Of course, we had to begin testing the newly installed & ballasted track as there was an Open House scheduled for Sunday. Darel was nice enough to do the honors with his box cab electric. The following day at the Open House, Don VanManen brought down his fleet of engines early and gave them all some test runs before the Open House. Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Don has recently acquired a straddle beam car which he proudly displayed and made a few laps around the cycle. The very low center of gravity adds to rider stability, however we weren’t able to use the car due to the lack of compatible safety chains. Don will be remedying that issue soon.
The Open House Sunday was one of the best in Museum History. The weather was unbelievable as has become the norm. There were nothing but smiling faces and no mishaps as we successfully rode well over a hundred passengers. Thank you Don for using the speeder again. Amazing what that little Honda can do! Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge At the end of the day, the tuckered out crew put the train away and called it a day. The work from the Saturday work session passed the testing with flying colors. Click to enlarge

Hope to see everyone this Saturday @ 8:00 AM.

Saturday (February 8, 2014):

This Saturday @ 8:00 AM, we’ll continue to work at the north end of the property getting the rough & finish grading established for the main line bypass.

Last Saturday was a great work session with the new turnout getting installed and the rough grading nearly completed from the walkway to the sidewalk area. With the group split into two separate tasks, one group with Roger Phillips taking the lead, completely upholstered 8 seats for the gondolas being used to pull the public trains. His experience doing the same work on his cars paid off greatly as our seats look great. All that remains is installing the cleats on the bottom of the seats. That will get done next week.

While the upholstery bunch were doing their thing, the remainder of the group headed outside and promptly installed the new turnout. While that was happening, the grade hubs were relocated to the opposite side of the alignment to allow for the Bobcat to access the area allowing it to do the heavy lifting rather than it becoming a pick & shovel effort. Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge With the turnout installed and the connection to the existing mainline accomplished, we were close to being able to install ballast. Click to enlarge

Next week’s work session will require a small amount of tweaking to the curve track transition, but we should be able to complete that task completed this Saturday and have the layout ready for the Open House on Sunday.

Don’t forget the upcoming meeting this Friday night beginning at 7:00 PM with a hamburger dinner being served (for a $5 donation) beginning at 5:30 PM.

Saturday (February 1, 2014):

Before getting into the plans for this Saturday’s work session, I was asked by Ivan English; “What is the name of the 7-1/2” railroad”? Well, the short story is that the railroad has no “official” name yet. The BOD will need to make the final determination, but I would like to get a consensus of our group as to what we think the railroad should be called. Intuitively, one would think that the railroad would be called the Gadsden Pacific for obvious reasons. This may very well become the name, but other suggestions might warrant consideration. Think about it for the rest of the week and let’s see if we can reach a consensus by this Saturday so our recommendation can be passed onto the BOD.

This Saturday, work will continue at the north end of the layout. We’d like to get the new turnout cut in and rough grade established from that point to the center walkway area where we left off last work session. That will complete the rough grading effort only leaving the placement of the ¼ minus base material and then track laying.

Last Saturday, the limited crew did a huge amount of work by cutting, shoveling, raking the rough grade in on one half (west portion) of the new track alignment. This required setting alignment stakes and strings between the stakes set at markings on the stake to make sure we removed enough material to get below finished grade elevation.

Click to enlarge Although the heavy lifting was left to the Bobcat as usual, all that were present will testify to the amount of shovel work that needed to be done. Dirt that was removed was piled at the north end of the property in case it was needed as fill.
Once we removed enough dirt, Glenn Ellis brought out the plate tamper and we began the tamping process in preparation for the ¼ minus material. With the rough grade set and tamped, we then cleaned & raked the area in preparation for the Open House scheduled for the next day.   Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge Caution tape was then strung around the work area including stake to stake to discourage the public from getting into our grade stakes or messing up the finish grade blue top spikes that were also set during this work session. Tools got put away, and the group took a well-deserved break.
Ole #5 was reassembled as the motor was checked out by a local small engine repair facility and found to need a replacement module that controls spark to the engine. Apparently, the old module was failing intermittently. We didn’t have time to fully complete the job before the group retired to Grumpy’s for lunch and fellowship. Click to enlarge

Hope to see you all this Saturday at 8:00 AM. Forecast is for partly cloudy & high of 72 degrees. Can it get any better?

Saturday (January 25, 2014):

Even though several members will be absent, we are still scheduling a work session for this Saturday at 8:00 AM. On the agenda is the beginning of work to establish the rough grading for the mainline bypass at the north end of the facility. We’ll have the assistance of using the Bobcat so hopefully there won’t be a lot of pick work. We will need to leave the facility in a safe & presentable condition as there is an Open House scheduled for Sunday.

Last week, a huge amount of work was accomplish by a large turnout of members. Great weather continues to bless us making the efforts go a lot easier. The first task at hand was to relocate the golden spike track. That effort began by moving ballast on the west side exposing the ends of the ties. Spikes were removed from the ties nearest to the walkway. The spike puller out of the caboose made that possible.

Click to enlarge We removed the last section of chain link fencing adjacent to the sidewalk enabling us to bring in the Bobcat to work its’ magic. The removed ballast was then shoveled into the Bobcat bucket and replaced to the ballast pile. With our new chairman supervising the efforts, the Bobcat was able to get its forks under the west end of the ties and begin lifting the entire assembly. Members stood clear and watched as Glenn skillfully was able to get the entire thing lifted.
Once lifted, the assembly was teetering as the forks on the Bobcat were only 4’ long. Click to enlarge
Click to enlarge A few members volunteered to add their weight on top of the ties to stabilize the load.

Slowly, the assembly was moved into position between the two trees north of the existing ore car.

Click to enlarge  With the move out of the way, we focused on removing excess ballast for reuse and then backfilling the hole left with dirt from our spoils pile. Click to enlarge

Glenn & others then broke out the plate tamper, the dirt was racked, wetted and then tamped for about 30 minutes.

Click to enlarge John Roads and others then turned their focus on removing the turnout for reuse on the west side of the building. Removal proved to be rather simple and placement of a fill piece of track quickly occurred including ballasting. Click to enlarge

These guys are good – a lot got done and it was done well and safely. We then retired to our usual watering hole for lunch & a well-deserved break. It was a great day at the train museum.

Saturday (January 18, 2014):

After a long weekend at the train meet plus an Open House, we will meet this Saturday at 8:00 AM to begin work at the north end of the property by moving the golden spike track and finding a new home for it out of harm’s way. We can also begin cutting in the new turnout just north of the sidewalk crossing. Chairman Jesse also wants to begin working out some of the billboard mounting options including locations for installation, so perhaps a few members could help out with that. In addition, we want to discuss and decide upon the mounting arrangements for the new trucks onto our straddle beam ride-on car.

As of today, we’re not sure if the new engine will arrive this week or not. More on that later.

Last Friday & Saturday was the train meet. We had a great group of volunteers who helped with the table move which began promptly at 8:00 AM at the Museum and we were done with the setup at the Expo Center before 10:00 AM. The takedown on Saturday went smoothly as well and we had enough people willing to help enabling us to be done shortly after 4:00 PM. It was a very successful meet for the Museum and very enjoyable to attend.

Last Sunday during the Open House, Glenn Ellis & Burt Wright removed the gas engine from the 060 switcher to obtain dimensional specifications for a potential engine replacement.

Wednesday night, during the normal work session at the Museum, Raymond McDaniel, Glenn Ellis, Jesse Miller & Burt Wright met at the Museum and went over the information and discussed the potential engine replacement.

We drew up some diagrams with accurate dimensions so that we can compare the space limitations with potential engine replacements. More on this project later.

At our last work session, two weeks ago, we continued to fiddle with the switcher to try and get it to run reliably to little avail. It appears that 40 years of operation has taken its toll on the little engine and it probably deserves to be rebuilt and/or replaced. While this was going on, some of the group traveled to Darel Magee’s shop and helped him load his box cab electric engine chassis & batteries into Burt’s pickup truck and transport it to the Museum for test running.

Many laps later, Darel was seen with a large grin on his face.

Hope to see you all on Saturday!

Saturday (January 4, 2014):

This Saturday, we'll get back on track and meet at the Museum at 8:00 AM. Tasks for the day will include but not be limited to the following:

  1. Complete putting together the trucks for the 3rd gondola.

  2. Inspect the trucks on the newly acquired flat car with seats and possibly clean & relubricate.

  3. Cut, install padding, and upholstery on the gondola seats.

  4. Continue work on the 060 switcher to improve performance and reliability.

The following Saturday will be a day full of train meet as we will again be moving tables to and from the Expo Center beginning next Friday @ 8:00 AM.

In the meantime, there is the 1st General Membership Meeting for 2014 tomorrow night at 7:00 PM. Dinner will be served at 5:30 for those interested.

Last work session (before Christmas) was a group effort to clean, lubricate and reassemble two of the three gondolas. It was somewhat tedious with the cleaning parts being the work part of the project.

Click to enlarge It was interesting to get the trucks apart and learning the technique for reassembly. Click to enlarge

While the truck rebuilding was going on, work continues on the 060 switcher installing new cabling and trying to get the run issues taken care of. More work to be done for sure.

Click to enlarge

Hope to see everyone Friday at the meeting and Saturday at the work session.

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