Gadsden-Pacific Division Toy Train Operating Museum Logo


Tucson, Arizona


Toy Train Museum Tunnel


Toy Train Museum Tunnel


Large Scale Railroad
Construction Progress 2015-2016

Help Wanted

Work sessions are on Saturday mornings usually around 8:00am.
Come down and help build a railroad!

The Golden Spike Ceremony was December 1st 2012

[Large Scale Railroad info...] 

Dec. 10, 2016

Last weekend was pretty incredible with respect to operations at the Open House. We had a great turnout of staff and plenty of help. The crowds were light as the 4th Avenue Street Fair was in its’ last day, but that wasn’t problematic as we got to run trains – lots of trains.

Chris Cheely had a full freight consist following the back of his newly acquired switcher from Raymond McDaniel. Raymond is reducing his inventory including two unfinished project steam locomotives (a two truck SHAY and a Prairie 2-6-2), two ready to run freight cars, an unfinished heavy gondola with 6-wheel trucks, and his home track made with steel rail in 10’ removable sections in case anyone may be interested. If you are interested, please contact Raymond via email at

Tomorrow, there is a birthday party scheduled to begin at 10 AM. If there are enough people available and it isn’t raining or too cold, we may run the train for the party if there are enough people available to operate. We never guarantee rides at these events, but if we can it’s fun to do so and builds good will.

Please consider helping out at the Open House on Sunday (last one of 2016). The next Open House won’t be for another 3 weeks (January 8th).

Planned for Oct. 1, 2016

With the 1st day of October, we’ll begin the work session 30 minutes later. At 7:30 AM, the coffee will be on and pastries of some sort available. On the work agenda is a couple of small repair/adjustments noticed by Jesse during our last Open House which won’t require a lot of work. In addition, we’ll also make another batch of concrete ties for the inventory needed to replace the ties in the station curve at the north end of the layout. We’ll begin doing that replacement at the end of October.

In case you were wondering, the Open House public rides went very well with no incidents or derailments until we gave Chris Cheely’s new two-seated flat car a test run at the end of the train. With Chris seated in the rear of the two seats, the car “wheelied” and derailed about 20’ after starting. He sat in the front seat and there was no further problem.

There will be a work session scheduled for this Saturday although most of the effort will be cosmetic with running the train making up a large part of the effort. With anticipation of running on Sunday at the Open House, we want to make sure everything is in order with the track. We’ll also make another batch of concrete ties as we begin stockpiling for the north curve replacement which will begin later this fall. We will probably re-install ballast at the caboose curve and also at the north end where the work occurred last weekend.

Hope to see you Saturday morning. The gates will be open at 7:00 AM and the weather should be awesome for working. Hope to see you there. If you can only make one of the days, please consider coming to the Open House as we really need help there.

Sept. 24, 2016

Lots to do this Saturday to get the track usable for the next Open House. Last Open House was very well attended but with the temperatures in the 90’s, it was just too hot to run the trains outside so the fact that the track had issues wasn’t the only reason we didn’t run. This weekend, at the work session, we need to address the track issues identified at the north end of the layout. I’m not entirely sure what they are or how many there may be, but there may need to be some tie replacements involved. We have plenty of wood ties that are usable that were removed from the Caboose curve that can be reused. If we have time, I’d also like to pour another 16 tie batch. We need to continue this process through the winter so as to “stockpile” ties for the next curve replacement.

At the last Open House, a gentlemen and his wife stopped in and described a small switch engine that he saw at an estate liquidation retail store located on N. Stone a couple blocks north of Grant Rd. He didn’t know anything about it other than it appeared to be the same gauge. I decided to stop at the store on Monday and there, lying on the floor under a desk was what appeared initially to be a small switch locomotive missing parts. A yellow post-up taped to the roof suggested a price of $1,000. Given the initial appearance, and the missing parts, I was suffering some sticker shock.

Further examination revealed that the engine was not homemade, but was built by a company called Real Trains our of California. There was no controller, battery, cabling, and most of the side louver pieces were missing.

So I inquired from the proprietor (Chuck Davenport) what information he could provide. He quickly stated that the price would be $350 and that he had more pieces for it. He then produced a sealed bag with the cabling, keys, extra fuses, instruction manual, and then he “threw in” a pair of 7-1/2” gauge trucks. If that weren’t enough, he also produced a box full of coupler castings for good measure – all for $350. So, I couldn’t resist it. I bought it with the added bonus of the trucks and brought it down to the Museum Wednesday night stopping at Sam’s Club to buy a deep cycle Marine/RV battery.

Short story, this engine had never been run, the packing materials were still in tack for the cabling and controller. A battery had never been installed. With battery installed, everything worked great – lights, horn, safe operation option, forward, reverse, etc. There is a lot more to this story which I’ll save the work session this Saturday – don’t miss it.

PS: I attached an order form for this locomotive in case you may be interested. They sell for $2,699 excluding tax, packing & handling, shipping, and a Group 27 battery.

See you this Saturday morning at 7:00 AM and we can discuss some ideas regarding this locomotive.

August 27, 2016

This Saturday is a scheduled work session, we are planning to work at the Museum beginning at 7:00 AM as normal.

Only three weekends left before Open Houses begin!

We should get to at least the following items,
1. pour a batch or two of ties,
2. layout possible storage shed dimensions at North yard,
3. continue tie replacement along the South curve(s).
I'd also like to get to a couple trouble spots along the station and bypass curves as derailments occur in a few places, if enough help is present.

See you this Saturday, 7:00 AM, if you can make it.

Jesse Miller
-7½" ga. chairwarmer

May 14, 2016

This Saturday should be a normal work session, but as it happens to also be National Train Day! We might stop early.
The plan was to take the S4 and stand and set up at the event like we do for our train shows, but as I have not solved any of the many logistical issues this would involve, from transportation of the equipment (large truck or trailer) to 'staffing' our little booth during the majority of the event, which is from 10am to 4:00pm.

NOTICE: If any 7½ members are capable of helping out with transportation and or 'staffing' our little display for all or part of the event please contact me asap Friday, otherwise I will probably not be able to make it happen, this year anyway.

Sometime between Wednesday & Friday, the 'billboard gnomes' re-planted one of our prototype billboards near the North-drive entrance, and one of our two donation "ads" was installed facing right when you come in, so it should get lots of notice over the next year.

So last Sunday was our 2nd-to-last Open-House before the Summer "break" (June-August), which means May 22nd is the LAST Open-House till Septem-beer.

The 'concrete-tie gnomes' have also been busy lately pouring ties by the sack-full (a perfect eight per bag of pre-mix can be made at once now.)
I'd like to eventually make some sort of scale cement factory-type setup when we could put the finished ties while they finish curing and await placement during our Tie-Replacement-Program over the next year(s).

May 7, 2016

Due to the Open House being this Sunday, there is no regularly scheduled work session. As usual, there will be activity at the Museum and you are very welcome to come down to help or watch. It should be nice as the temperatures are predicted to be high 70’s and the winds should be no issue.

Last weekend, during the work session, we entertained a large tour group headed by one of our GPD members (Paul Bartholomew). There to give rides were Brian Scott and son with his UP GP-40 and consist plus John Roads and Jesse Miller with the Museum Alco S4 and consist.

68 riders with 13 trips using both trains was a fun time for all. Thank you for those who came.

Rumor has it that one of the wild buffalo may have wandered off but it was finally captured and returned to the corral.
While the rides were being given, the outdoor G gauge group continued working on their layout by completing the staining on the trestle supports. These are really looking good and we look forward to seeing them installed this summer.

Wednesday night at the Museum, we disassembled the billboard structures to installed a billboard sign purchased by Chuck Cuson. The sign is cemented onto an 1/8” thick 2’x3’ piece of aluminum and installed where the thin sheeting was installed. Metal framed billboards are on our list for construction this summer to replace the wooden ones as they proved not to hold up well in the extreme weather conditions. We will be installing the bill board with Chuck Cuson’s sign this Saturday morning sometime after 7:30 when we plan to arrive.

Also on Wednesday night, Chris Cheely brought down a pair of new flat cars he obtained from the gentlemen in Sierra Vista. The cars only await trucks and couplers which have been ordered from Tom Bee. We placed them onto a top shelf in the container.

April 30, 2016:

There is a scheduled work session this Saturday as there is no Open House on Sunday.

As many of you may already be aware, fellow GPD member Paul Bartholomew is organizing a tour for this Saturday beginning around 10 AM. He asked me if we could have the railroad running outside for this tour as they are expecting possibly as many as 70 people (35 kids and 35 adults). Unfortunately, neither Glenn Ellis or myself will be in attendance as we have a trip planned to the White Mountains over the weekend. It would be great if we could honor Paul’s request and have the train out and available for rides.

Last weekend, we weren’t able to run the train at the Open House due to track conditions in the inside (station) loop immediately past the turnout. There just wasn’t time to make the repairs, so we didn’t run. As disappointing as that may have been, safety will always prevail.

On Wednesday afternoon, Glenn Ellis and Burt Wright spent several hours making repairs and adjustments to the bad section of track. After the repairs were finished, we made several hot laps to make sure everything was in good shape.

We also installed a concrete tie using Train Mountain tie plates, and plastic sheetrock mud trays for a mold. Each tie weighs in at about 10 pounds and they have tapered sides and ends. The base of the tie is significantly wider and longer than the top. Strategically placed holes were drilled through the bottom of the mud tray to allow for #4 smooth box nails to be tightly inserted into the tray. Then, #10 fluted plastic concrete inserts are slid over the nails. The tray is turned up and concrete poured into it almost filling it. A #3 x 12” rebar is pushed into the concrete and then the tray is banged onto a hard surface several times to get air bubbles out and rock away from the sides. The result the next day is a beautifully shaped tie with a very smooth surface that has the screw inserts already installed to correct gauge. Using the tie plates enables the rail to expand and contract without putting stress on the tie as the rail can move through the tie plate as the screws tighten down against the tie plate and not the rail flange. There is also consideration being given to using plastic ties but cost may become an issue. Also of consideration is the weight of the plastic tie (ounces vs. 10 pounds) thus placement of some plastic ties may need to be set into concrete to prevent lateral movement resulting from centrifugal forces from the trains on a curve. These statements are simply conjecture at the moment and we’re going to go slowly with this project so that we can get some history on performance and durability. Don’t hesitate to comment as all input is welcome (the installed tie is pictured above and below). In the next few weeks we will probably install several more concrete ties creating a meaningful section for inspection. Then the jury will begin their deliberations on using this option (concrete vs. plastic vs. wood).

Chris Cheely unloaded his new pride and joy and put it on the track.

The engine looks great and ran flawlessly, but don’t ask to hear the horn (squeak).

Chris made a purchase from a gentleman in Sierra Vista of a 2-1/2” scale, 7-1/2” gauge electric engine modeled after a Davenport switcher. Chris fitted a new coupler to replace a drawbar and then proudly made several loops around the layout while Burt & Glenn made loops with the Alco S4. Everything went well although the larger scale engine is a really tight squeeze into the container.

Hope you can make it Saturday to help out with the tour.

April 23, 2016:

First of all, it brings me great sadness to have to share the passing of Fred Wilson, one of our early members to the 7-1/2” gauge group. I received an email from his son Del who had visited the Museum a few times with Fred when he visited from back east. Fred was here during that period of time when we were installing the track work. He had already been involved in this great hobby and had a Northern (4-8-4) steam locomotive which was simply too large to run on our track. His experience gave us valuable insight and confidence with this hobby in which few of us had any experience at all. Fred hailed from Illinois where he spent his summers but in the winter when he lived in Tucson, he enjoyed helping us to the extent that he could. We’ll all miss Fred and wish his family and friends comfort and peace with his passing. Below is one of the few pictures I could find with Fred helping out in 2012.

* * * * *

Due to the Open House Sunday, there will be no work session this Saturday. Of course, there will be activity at the Museum if you care to come down. The outdoor G-gauge guys are always busy at it and seem to appreciate our help with their project.

Last Saturday, with a light showing of the group present, we tore into the station curved siding just before the turnout. There were two problems involving alignment and track joints that were identified as needing attention. Like any other job, the hard part is starting as we’ve been aware of the problem in that area for some time. The weather was perfect and with a slow & methodical effort, we re-aligned, bent & twisted, replaced numerous ties, re-gauged track, double tied the track joints with secured rail joiners, and voila’, no kinks & hopefully no more derailments in that area. Next project will be to re-gauge the rail leading into this curve from the walk crossing. We found out that we can’t back the S4 engine around this section without derailing the rear truck. In case you don’t know this, that engine is really heavy and hard to re-rail. Thanks to John Roads for taking the following pictures:

While the track work was being done, the outdoor G-group were busy pouring concrete roadway surfaces and track foundations, plus beginning the leveling process on the track loops. Trestle bridge bent placements are scheduled to begin after the last May Open House when the Museum will close for the summer.

I was wondering how they were going to stabilize this section.

Also, last Saturday, we began having some discussions about the possibility of using concrete to make replacement ties as many of our wood ties are drying out and splitting allowing screws to work loose. As it relates to this issue, Chairman Jesse was able to find some outstanding information about concrete ties from the New Unionville and Western Railroad - Southern Indiana Live Steamers. The links below should give us some great insight into how we might do concrete ties is we’re inclined. Please review these links and bring your thoughts and comments forward for discussion.
Please check the buttons at the bottom of the above referenced web page go into more detail about the tie construction and installation. We may wish to make a few prototypes and install them to get some experience. The finished ties look great.

The metal tie plates they use are available from Train Mountain.

Jesse also found an older Discover Live Steam article which was less promising but might have some helpful details and similarities.

Thank you Jesse for finding this stuff. May be a great summer project addition.

Hope to see everyone at the Open House this Sunday. The weather should be awesome (again).

April 15, 2016:

There is a scheduled work session this Saturday beginning at 7:30 AM at the Museum.

There will a several items for discussion including:

1. Membership development for 7-1/2” gauge operation:

  1. Participation in the Amtrak National Train Day event at the Southern Arizona Transportation Museum (SATM).

  2. Display of equipment during the June (3rd, 4th) Train Show.

  3. Development of a brochure describing the 7-1/2” gauge opportunities.

2. Construction Planning for the summer months:

  1. Turntable & track in/out.

  2. Engine House incorporating G-gauge storage.

  3. Landscaping opportunities.

  4. Painting of the transfer table.

3. Replacement of horn button for the Alco S4.
4. Relocation of the speed control (“grandpa”) switch on the Alco S4.
5. Scheduling another Safety Meeting to be held in the Caboose before it gets too hot!

At last Sunday’s Open House, we experienced a couple of minor derailments, both occurring at the front of the building. With no obvious causes such as track conditions/passenger loading/car conditions to blame, it will be incumbent on us to carefully check gauge and track levelness on both the inside and outside loops.

April 8, 2016:

Last Saturday’s work session... (according to Chairman Jesse)

A monstrous citrus tree (donation) was transplanted from a container Friday evening and located off the curve in the South corner along the West fence.

Once a large enough whole was pick-&-shoveled, the tree was inserted without ceremony and back-filled. A 5 gal. bucket was filled and hauled by gondola to the South corner (eight trips were made), watering the new tree as well as other trees in this general area.


April 2, 2016:

We have a regular monthly membership meeting Friday, April 1st, no foolin'!

We have a regularly scheduled work session this Saturday, there is some work that needs to be done, but we'll see who can make it.
Notice: Availability of morning donuts and coffee may be questionable.

We might try to plant a tree, as well as the regular keeping the track in working order.

So two weeks ago, the '0-6-0PM' or 'C', petrol locomotive 'switcher #5' got some light runtime after getting some engine work done.
Unfortunately the 6V battery has about reached the end of its usefulness and will need to be replaced if we decide to keep using it as-is.
We also tossed together a partially (clever) working solution to a problem we've had with the switcher's manual transmission being very out-of-reach once seated in our current engineer car arrangement, which also seems to be working out fairly well with the newly added back & foot rests. I will try to get some photos to include for next time. Jesse and Burt were both quickly reminded how much more 'exciting' it is to drive compared to the far-simpler-to-use elec. S4 #3975, which recently passed her mark of 200 hours of runtime!

I'm asking for ideas for simple layout additions we'd like to try to get setup this year, so email me thoughts you may have pertaining to making the layout more enjoyable to riders as well as members.

Also a reminder if you haven't read the most recent newsletter: Due to current insurance policy, and until further notice, All steam boilers are prohibited from operating at the museum. Hopefully we can get this changed before too many members get their own steam engine projects completed!

March 5 2016:

There will be a scheduled Work Session this Saturday beginning at 8:00 AM. We’re pretty close to moving the start time up a notch, but for another week or two, we’ll leave it at 8:00 AM.

The little black 060 switch engine returns to the Museum. It may needs to be put back together, but mechanically it has been gone through, serviced, and should be running correctly. It’ll be nice to have it back operational again.

There is a birthday party scheduled for this Saturday. At the moment, it is the only Saturday birthday party this month. It is scheduled to begin about 10:00 AM although people will begin setting up around 9:30 at the museum. There will be about 30 guests according to Jerry Baltus. We need to be out of the meeting room by 9:30 AM.

For those who may think we need a more meaningful bridge for the 7-1/2” gauge layout, did anyone other than Jesse see the world’s longest 7-1/2” gauge backyard layout bridge? Vertigo anyone? Check this video link thru Lionel:

Last weekend, the missing padded seat for the 3rd gondola got built, thanks to Jesse & Burt. Now, we have 3 seats in each of the 3 gondolas. In addition, the seat back got mounted into the engineer’s car making it much more comfortable to ride. In addition, a slanted footrest was also added increasing the comfort for the Engineer. Although some weed clearing was done, we’re a ways from being finished with that task. We’ll have the “weed train” out in the back to haul pulled weeds to the trash. Your help would be appreciated.

Hope to see you this Saturday morning.

February 27 2016:

Because there is an Open House Sunday, there will not be a regularly scheduled work session this Saturday. Of course, that doesn’t mean there will be no one there because there is stuff going on. The outdoor G group will be working as usual as they begin their work on another loop of track on the layout including installation of the big trestle bents. In addition, there is another Birthday Party scheduled for 11:00 AM and if we have enough volunteers, we’ll try to run the train.

People will begin showing up Saturday morning about 8:00 AM if you choose to come down. The only thing that has to be done is finishing the work on the Engineer’s Car (seat back).

During the last work session last Saturday, while Jesse created a mounting board for a recently acquired fire extinguisher (FE), the seat back construction was nearly completed with only the final mounting left to be done. The reason for mounting the FE to a board was to allow it to be slid under the engineer’s seat. The FE clamps into a mounting bracket. Releasing the bracket allows the FE to be removed by raising it. The seat blocks that process, thus the method to remove the FE involves sliding the board forward, releasing the bracket, and lifting the FE out of the bracket. It’s simple and effective.
As this picture shows, there will be enough room behind the seat for a small passenger to ride.

Built from scrap pieces of plywood found in the container and using one of the two padded seats that existing on the car before we started, the project only needed some paint to be finished. Amazingly, there was a bucket of water based enamel paint inside the Museum that had been there for (years)? When opened, it was thicker than molasses. About 2-1/2 cups of water thinned it out a bit and we were able to brush it on. It was nearly a perfect color match.

All that remains to finish this project is to build an angled footrest to make riding this car comfortable. While this work was being completed, Jesse cut out and glued foam carpet padding together to make the 9th gondola seat. All that remains with that project is to staple on the vinyl covering.
As we were finishing up, Jacob Payne brought in a second opinion for how to create a better transition piece between Big Joe and the storage racks and steam bays. Several options were discussed as the total field of options continues to be narrowed down. Hopefully, the best solution won’t be too difficult to create and we’ll be able to move engines from container to steam bays to track more safely.

Hope to see you Saturday if you come, but please consider helping on Sunday at the Open House.

February 20 2016:

Technically, it’s still winter. Really, for another month? Saturday is slated to be another day in paradise, something our friends in Flint MI pray for. This Saturday, beginning at 8:00 AM as usual, we’ll gather at the clubhouse with a couple of relatively important tasks at hand. These include:

• Upholster the new seat for one of the gondolas.
• Either build a box for a boat seat or install a fixed padded back for the engineer’s car.
• Build a foot rest for the engineer’s car.
• Mount a recently obtained fire extinguisher to the engineer’s car.
• Pull some weeds since they are growing (like weeds) along the route. Hopefully, this task will become less of a problem to us as a new landscaping contract is currently being negotiated.

We had an incredibly successful weekend at the Museum last weekend with the Open House bringing in a great cash donations and the gift shop sales were brisk to say the least. The previous day, we entertained a birthday party which proved to be very lucrative for the Museum as well. With these successes, it’s so obvious and apparent how incredibly valuable the efforts of all of our volunteers are in making these experiences so enjoyable to the public who come to the Museum to enjoy the trains. Although the ride-on train speaks for itself, the experiences of all who visit wouldn’t nearly be the same without our friendly & helpful volunteers. Thanks to all who come to help and give of themselves.

See you Saturday morning.

January 30 2016:

With no Open House this weekend, there is a scheduled work session this Saturday beginning at 8:00 AM. It is my understanding that there will be another Birthday Party beginning at 11:00 AM.

Some of the things that we need to accomplish:
1. finalize the 2016 budget request.
2. build another padded seat for one of the gondolas. We only have 8 seats – we need 9.
3. track attention is needed on the station loop as loose track was identified during the last Open House.

Other things worthy of consideration:
1. strategy discussion regarding a future tie replacement program.
2. replace the horn button on the S4 controller.
3. review safety rules for submission to BOD for approval.

January, 16 2016:

Yes, there is a work session scheduled for tomorrow (Saturday) morning beginning at 8:00 AM. It could be a little chilly early, so dress accordingly.

This work session agenda includes:
1. There are a couple of track leveling issues that were identified during the last Open House.
2. We need to consider appointing (or re-appointing) a committee chairman.
3. We need to develop the 2016 budget including a realistic schedule of intended projects to complete. The budget must be submitted to the 1st VP (Glenn Ellis) by end of month.
4. We need to update/prepare the inventory of 7-1/2” gauge committee related property. The inventory must be submitted to the Conductor (Steve Collins) by end of month.

Last weekend, I was proud and happy to see our group so active with the Train meet setup & take down again. We had a great turnout for each end of the meet and everything went well. To those who came to help, the Museum BOD wants to thank you immensely as your donation of time and effort makes so much more possible for the Museum. I want to thank Glenn Ellis & Jacob Payne for providing the truck/trailer combinations that made the movement of tables and related equipment to and from the Museum trouble free. The setup on the south ½ of the room is shown below.

The setup on the north ½ of the room is shown below.

The Lego’s folks out of Phoenix set up a wonderful RR display with several trains operating. I marveled at how reliable the track work was on this display as I never saw anything derail.

I also want to thank John Roads for taking on the task of moving our beautiful engine to and from the meet. It was a very popular display with kids and adults enjoying it equally.

After two days of enjoying the great meet, the membership of the GPD including our group deserved a break. But not until we pulled of another great Open House on Sunday.

We welcomed back from the Chicago area, Dave Peterson. We also welcomed new member, Tony Wilson who filled in to assist with the train operation outside. It’s great to have new faces involved as we move into 2016.

There is a Board Meeting tonight at the Museum. The agenda is lengthy and contains many important Museum related issues that will be discussed. As always, anyone is welcome to attend the Board meetings.

Hope to see you all this Saturday at the Museum beginning at 8:00 AM.

Planned for (December 2015):

Due to the 4 scheduled Open Houses this month, there are not going to be scheduled work sessions. The first of the four December Open Houses 12/6/2015 was a good success on an absolutely beautiful day. We had a good turnout of help making it possible to perform some needed track maintenance during the Open House. Brian Scott and his sons manned the public train operation duties with his UP GP40 for the lion’s share of the running. Jesse, running the Museum’s Alco S4, relieved Brian from time to time and also helped out with some of the track maintenance issues.

Thanks to all who came and helped out.

This Sunday, Dec 13th, the second of four Open Houses is scheduled. Please consider coming down to the Museum to help out.

(December 2015):

There will be no regularly scheduled work sessions this month since there are Open Houses scheduled for each of the Sundays (6th, 13th, 20th, & 27th). We are going to need additional help manning these Open Houses. Please see the sign-up sheet taped to the meeting room door (inside) at the Museum.

Last weekend’s work session, November 28, 2015, was productive as the temporary walkway extension to get Museum visitors to the outdoor G-Gauge layout was built. Although it isn’t perfect in terms of eliminating all walkway imperfections, it does eliminate a significant amount of trip hazards. We started from scratch with 2x4’s and 1x6 cedar boards. First, all the lumber was given a coat of waterproofing light stain. Then, the lumber was hauled to the front for the installation to begin. Like most projects, a lot of time was spent getting the foundation set. That made everything else go easy.

Thanks to the efforts of Chairman Jesse, John Roads, Bob Swanson, Darel Magee and Burt Wright, we finished the project on-time to allow us to enjoy our favorite watering hole for lunch.

This walkway will ultimately give way to a permanent walking surface, probably incorporating brick pavers, once we settle on the station design.

Hope to see at least 4 of you this Sunday at the Open House (12:30 to 4:30). The more, the merrier!

Planned for Saturday (November 7, 2015):  No work session planned.

Last Saturday, Halloween, we had several people come to help with the difficult task of cleaning up the back drainage way. The effort was made a little easier by putting our train to work hauling the brush and trash to the parking lot in preparation for hauling off site.

It all began at the north end. Steadily, the group worked south with countless train loads of brush getting loaded and transported. Luckily, the weather was kind to the guys who worked relentlessly cutting overgrowth and pick up trash as well.
On behalf of the Museum’s Board, I want to personally thank Jesse Miller, Paul Kruppenbacher, John Roads, Glenn Ellis, Roger Phillips, for their hard work and service to help keep the Museum grounds attractive to all who come. Your efforts are very much appreciated.
The results of all the work on Saturday is a literal mountain of brush completely filling the parking space next to the transfer table track in front of the 20’ container. Sorry, but I don’t have a picture of that but it is impressive to say the least.
The drainage way looks so much better – great job ! ! !
This Sunday there is an Open House scheduled from 12:30 to 4:30 PM. Please consider attending to help out with the public train operation. At last Open House, the GP’s Alco S4 had no problems whatsoever hauling the trainloads of happy riders all afternoon. This Sunday should be no different although the weather is predicted to be even better with sunny weather and a high temperature of 78 with a light breeze expected. Look forward to seeing you all this weekend.


Halloween, Saturday (October 31, 2015):

This Saturday, we have a regularly scheduled work session that will begin at 8:00 AM, 30 minutes later than previous. For early arrivers, the building will be open at 7:30 and there will be coffee & donuts available.

The schedule this week will include the following tasks:

  1. As difficult as this may sound, we need to try and reduce the amount of growth occurring within the drainage channel along the back side of the Museum. Pulling some weeds may be helpful and additional pruning will be needed as well. We can put a work train together to haul the trimmings to the front of the Museum to load into a truck for disposal. This project, if delayed, will only get bigger and more difficult. Please bring heavy gloves if you can assist.

  2. There are a couple of minor tracking-leveling needs that shouldn’t be difficult to remedy.

  3. Inspect the electrical boxes and conduit runs connecting the signal block to the flashing signal at the Museum entrance. Heavy rains recently at the Museum may have contributed to the signal operating continuously at the last Open House thus necessitating it to be manually controlled. It was again checked Wednesday evening at the Museum although it appeared to be operating correctly. There have been no rains for a week and things are drying out. We need to make sure that water isn’t trapped in the electrical boxes and/or conduits.

The Open House last Sunday was successful as we again had good ridership although it didn’t start out being busy. With a full consist of cars due to Brian generously allowing us to use his two riding cars and the caboose, we were able to load a lot of passengers onto a single train. One challenge confronting us is the need for us to get some good photographs of the train carrying happy passengers. The happy passengers are easy to find, but we need to get written permission from parents of children and/or adults riding the train to use the pictures on our website. This will be a challenge for us during a future Open House. One possible solution might be to simply “stage” a train with our own members families, kids and/or grandkids to avoid any potential problems. This can be discussed this Saturday.

Last Saturday, although not an official work session, a few of us showed up at the Museum to “test drive” the recently completed Museum engine. Bob Swanson was busy again with his lopper. It’s never ending.

We went ahead and put a full consist together of the four Museum cars and Brian Scott’s two gondolas bringing up the rear and made several laps around the Museum in preparation for the Open House. Suffice it to say that everything worked as it should although the horn button is still a little bit finicky. We put square white pieces of tape onto the side front corners of each car with writing to designate the front of the car plus the intended order/placement for each car so that safety chain lengths would all be correct and we shouldn’t have issues when putting the trains together. The tape is only temporary until a more permanent making system can be employed.

Kudos to those members who put this engine back together because it worked perfectly both days. We put the full consist together and made several laps without incident. While we were at it, we used the train to haul tree trimmings, cut down by our most qualified arborist, Bob Swanson.

Saturday (October 24, 2015):

There will be no regularly scheduled work session this Saturday, but it’s a good bet that some of you will come down anyway. If you decide to come, the doors will be open by 7:30 AM with donuts and coffee available as usual. Recent rains suggest that we should check track conditions to make sure we are safe to operate at the Open House scheduled for Sunday. The great news is that we have our engine back and ready to go.

Below is what we started with last Saturday morning.

Here is another picture of just the cab – Signarama (owner: Doug Baker) did an absolutely great job taking the artwork prepared by Jesse Miller & translating it into beautiful graphics, applied flawlessly. For your information, the name “Lily” applied to the bottom of the cab under the Museum Logo is in honor of the very first passenger carried on a train pulled by this locomotive. Lily is Bill Kaval’s daughter – we miss Bill and his entire family.
Special thanks to Glenn Ellis, Jesse Miller, and Roger Phillips for the careful efforts to make this project go so incredibly well.
The installation of wiring, original run along the sides of the batteries was elevated and put into a loom to make lifting the cab on and off easier as well as prevent damage to any of the exposed wiring.

The only thing remaining to do will probably happen tonight at the Museum and that’s installation of the “gingerbread” which are the handrails and ladder rungs, etc. on the frame & body. All the pieces will be at the Museum tonight beginning about 6:00 PM.

Don’t forget our Open House on Sunday, 12:30 to 4:30 as usual. Weather should be awesome.

Hope to see some of you Saturday as well.

Planned for Saturday (October 17, 2015):

There is a scheduled work session this Saturday beginning 30 minutes later (7:30 AM) than previous work sessions. The S4 graphics are completed and the engine is ready for re-assembly which will be the order of the day. As always, donuts and coffee will be available.

Brian Scott bailed us out last weekend as virtually the entire group were either out of town or committed to other events. Brian invited his wife & kids to help with the public train during the open house including the maiden voyage using his flat car with sides & seat installed for additional passenger capacity. The car looked great and worked better. One train hauled a total of 16 passengers (has to be a record).

Below is a picture of the entire consist including the Museum’s engineer car, 3 gondolas, Brian’s flat car converted and Brian’s gondola with his caboose bringing up the rear. It’s impressive & worked well.

Hope to see you this Saturday at 7:30 AM (new start time). Should be lots cooler.

(October 7, 2015):

The Alco S4 frame has been returned to the Museum and is ready to begin the reassembly process. The graphics applied look great!

Saturday (October 3, 2015):

This Saturday morning at 7:00 AM, there will be a scheduled work session at the Museum. Work tasks will include re-work of the siding on the back side of the building which is long overdue. It has some fairly significant humps and valleys which need to be shaved and/or filled to get that track level. Although it’s a siding and probably can function with the bad track, it looks bad and we should correct it.

We will also get an update on the progress on the S4 graphics application.

Saturday (Sept 26, 2015):

There will not be a regularly scheduled work session this Saturday at the Museum although there will be members present as usual. The building will be open at 7:00 AM as normal and donuts & coffee will be there as usual. With the Open House scheduled for Sunday (the following day), and the Alco S4 not yet completed, we won’t be able to run on Sunday. That is somewhat disappointing, but it happens. That doesn’t mean that your help wouldn’t be appreciated on either or both days. On the task list is re-assembly of the Big Joe control panel to correct the failed solenoid which occurred during the last Open House. In addition, we might want to begin prepping Big Joe for some paint work as it really could use some sprucing up. If you come Saturday AM, it will be great to see you. If you don’t, please consider coming to the Open House on Sunday to help the rest of the crew & spread some good will.

Here’s proof that the engine is painted. On the left is Gilbert Lopez, retired owner of Tucson Auto Collision Center, who took a lot of pride doing the paint work for us. If you ever have a chance to meet Gilbert, please thank him for his efforts as he gave us a pretty big break with the work he did. The engine (frame & cab) is now at the graphics shop getting the graphic design made & installed. Since that work is being donated, we really can’t dictate the schedule. We hope to have the engine back soon so we can begin the re-assembly before we forget how it goes back together.

Saturday (August 8, 2015):

Perhaps a little bit cooler (maybe even less than 100) and virtually no chance for monsoon rain, we will have another work session scheduled for this Saturday morning beginning at 7:00 AM. Donuts and coffee will be there – will you?

Sorry, no pics from last work session although there was more alignment and leveling work done at the location where the new turnout was placed. We didn’t have much time to test the area with a train, so that will need to be done this weekend. We also want to get some clear understanding of the grade work that will need to be done into and out of the turntable area so that any cut/fill work can be planned.

Hope to see you there.

Saturday (July 25, 2015):

This Saturday, there will be a regularly scheduled work session beginning at 7:00 AM. The gates will be open at 6:30 if anyone wants to arrive early. Coffee and donuts will be available as usual. Expect it to warm up fast so we will probably only work outside until we lose shade.

At the previous work session, we installed the previously removed turnout at the north end of the site that will provide access from the main line into the turntable area and eventually into the engine & train storage building that will be constructed. The hardest part of this job (like most projects) is just forcing yourself to get started. This first step was to lay the previously removed turnout on top of the existing curved section of tract that exits from the existing turnout. This allowed us to approximate where the turnout would be installed plus where to make the first “rough cuts” of rail.

With the rough cuts made, we removed the section of rail and raked out all the ballast.

We then placed the new turnout with the curved section of track overlapping the rails from the turnout. We then connected the turnout to the straight track.

We knew that re-alignment of the curved section would be required to create a smooth transition into the new turnout. Thus, we had to remove a lot of ballast from that section of curve track and begin the process of re-aligning the track to provide a smooth transition into the turnout.

A lot of “ooching” and tapping resulted in what we thought would be an acceptable transition.

Once we were relatively comfortable that we had the curve track alignment close to where it should go, we made the final cuts of the overlapping rails and made final connection between the turnout and the curved section.

A kink is quite obvious in the curve section connection to the turnout in the picture above, however the turnout needed to be straightened by aligning the straight portion with the approach rail (rotating the turnout slightly clockwise) which was helpful. We called it a day as the heat began to become too much.


Last Saturday, although not a scheduled work session, the turnout and track leading into it were leveled and ballast replaced. The track was test run and it was judged to have too much of an abrupt entrance into the turnout just north of the frog. Correcting this will be the task for this week’s work session. While we worked on the leveling, the outside G-gauge guys were busy as usual. Electrical conduit was placed under there mainline to enable them to get track power from the north end of the layout to the south end.


Under the highly qualified supervision of our new “resident electrical guru”, the effort produced the needed result on the first try. No plumbers here (no “wise” cracks – pun intended).

Those G-gauge guys had incredible foresight when they chose this location under the shade of the two largest trees on the property. When the sun is shining, it’s hot plus it’s humid. The shade provides enormous relief thus enabling us to work well into the morning hours before giving up.

The finished product appears the same as before we started but a lot of work was accomplished. While we finished cleaning up outside and putting stuff away, Glenn Ellis, our glue sniffing expert, was inside the (air conditioned) building cutting all the plastic support structures for the G-gauge track including gluing all the plugs.

The outside project is moving along at good pace. Come on down and enjoy the process.

Hope to see you this Saturday morning again.

Picture credits to John Roads and Jesse Miller.

Saturday (July 11, 2015):

There will be a regular work session scheduled for this Saturday beginning at 7:00 AM.  The outdoor G-gauge group will also be at the Museum working on their layout. 

Yes it will be hot and it will be humid, but luckily we don’t have pressing issues to contend with.  Thus we can take lots of breaks and just enjoy the camaraderie. 

Tasks at hand may include beginning grade work for the turntable and/or placement of the turnout where the spur from the turntable will connect to the mainline.  Hope to see you at the Museum.

Saturday (June 6, 2015):

Work session Saturday beginning at 7:00 AM (new start time)  As summer approaches, we’re moving the start time up a bit. Although this Saturday won’t be too terribly hot and we might even get some welcome rain (probably wishful thinking), we’ll have the gates open early. We’d like to have some discussions about the construction/design of the turn-table as that construction needs to occur this summer. We also need to review and discuss the proposed changes to our safety & operations rules.

We’ve had our last Open House of the season and below is the last photo taken of the public runs.

Hope to see you Saturday AM.

Saturday (April 18, 2015):

7½" ga. .Work Session this Saturday at 7½'o'clock.
Also this Saturday we have a birthday party starting at 11am for 12 children (ages 4-7) plus adults.  So having a few crew members to stay (a bit later maybe) and help give those folks some rides.

CAUTION: work may spill over to 'Garden' related tasks depending on attendance. There might also be cake, ...or not.

Below are some photos from our last work session on March 28 as well as some recent Open-House shots.

As we begin to prepare the museum's Alco S4 (#3975) for it's new paint this Summer, this also comes just past the 100th hour of run-time, according to the counter.
This will serve as a good point for us to perform a periodic maintenance and check on the systems and layout for wear and any last minute improvements before getting painted.

We did it! We've finally gotten around to installing those awesome 'mile' markers created by Dale back in July of 2012 (3 years ago!, before the containers where painted, pre-big-joe, and before the brick walkway)...also the new parking lot has been completed and is very nice looking.
The markers are labeled 0-7 in ½ increments, so keep an eye out for these about ever 50 feet along the outside, about 3 feet from the track.

After the new lot work was completed, it was decided we could use some additional drainage just North of the curb our track goes over, just West of the loading area.
Installing a ~4" diameter PVC a couple feet long was fairly academic at this point for our growingly-experienced track crew.


Thanks again to Brian for 'heading-up' the Open-House rides with his Conductor and their 1.6" scale GP-40-2, #1428.

Planned for Saturday (March 14, 2015):

This Saturday, beginning at 7:30 AM (30 minutes earlier than last session), there is a scheduled work session at the Museum. The parking lot pavement has been placed, but work is continuing. At the request of the Board, the gates will remain closed and locked for at least another week as work in the parking lot is continuing. There are many things that need to be done this weekend. Of significant importance is needing to have discussion regarding the experiences from last Sunday’s Open House. The following tasks are needing to be performed:

  • We will need to remove the broken crossing signal light damaged by pavement contractor. A cast aluminum fitting was broken which may be repairable and/or replaceable but it needs to be removed.

  • We need to re-check gauge & levelness of track various track sections experiencing derailment events.

  • We need to thoroughly inspect the yellow gondola for mechanical issues.

  • We need to have discussion regarding several sections in our Operation Rules.

  • In order to better identify specific locations on our layout, we should install the mile post markers created by Dale Cover.

  • We need to come to a final decision on paint scheme for the Alco S4.

At the last work session, the Roger took on the task of painting the south gates. Now, both sets are freshly painted and looking good.





Several of the group pitched in to assist the Outside G-gauge group with some drainage ditches that were expertly dug by Jacob Payne using his walk-behind ditch witch trencher. Not an easy task, but way easier than hand digging. The pipe got installed and the ditch covered up in preparation for the up-coming Open House. Kind of looks like a County Job.


Hope to see you all this Saturday @ 7:30 AM.

Saturday (March 7, 2015):

This Saturday, beginning at 8:00 AM, we’ll meet at the Museum for two purposes:

1. The 1st and primary purpose is to make sure track conditions haven’t deteriorated due to recent rains. That shouldn’t take long as we had a successful Open House operation on February 22nd. Having said that, we are now into March Open Houses scheduled for the 2nd & 4th Sundays, the normal work session schedule will become the “in-between” weekends. There may be exceptions as we go toward the summer and into the fall (such as this weekend), but we’ll try to stay on schedule if possible to facilitate personal scheduling needs. When there are changes, and there likely will be for well-documented reasons, we will attempt to provide as much notice as possible. Therefore, besides showing up a little early on Saturday for the Rails in the Garden Tour, normal work sessions for March will occur on Saturday the 14th and 28th. April will be the 4th & 18th. May will be the 2nd, 16th & “possibly” the 30th. The Museum will be closed for 3 months this year (June, July & August) rather than two.

2. The 2nd purpose to come on Saturday is the “Rails in the Garden Tour” which is scheduled for both Saturday & Sunday. The Tour starts at 10:00 AM and ends at 4:00 PM each day. This year, unlike other years, the Tour is free to the public and it has received great publicity including a blurb in today’s AZ Star. The GPD Toy Train Museum is one of 16 locations that are identified on the Garden Tour so we should expect a lot of visitors.  Sunday is also a normal Open House for the Museum but we will need to open a couple hours early to accommodate the Tour.

We have found a possible source for “automatic switch machines”. They are produced by the Big Boots & Western Railroad ( and There is a YouTube video showing them in action:

This is what they look like not installed:

Here is what they look like installed:

The cost for one switch machine assembly is $90. Two can be purchased for $170. Shipping is $16. They run on a 6V battery pack (4 C cells) although they can also be operated manually if needed. They come with a push button control that you mount on a ¾ PVC pipe or conduit. They can also be adapted to operate from a DC power supply if needed.

Bill Kaval indicates: “They could easily be integrated wirelessly as well (RF key fob). Remote turnout signaling can be done using hall effect transistors (solid state version of a reed switch”). Someone out there may actually understand what that means. I certainly don’t.

At any rate, it appears that these may be the switching solution we’re looking for at the front of the Museum. This will get discussed & perhaps decided upon this Saturday so that we can place an order for them.

Hope to see everyone this weekend either on Saturday or Sunday or even both.

Saturday (Feb. 21, 2015):

There is a lot of track & ballast maintenance needed so this Saturday is going to be important to us. If track maintenance isn’t your cup of tea, there are other projects beckoning for attention like painting the south entrance gate to match the repainted north gate. The crossing signal pole also needs to have the painting completed. Testing the weight limits on the three gondolas also needs to be done ASAP. We figure to get a relatively accurate weight for one of our bricks and use them to load each gondola to see what these cars will be capable of safely carrying.

We didn’t get much done two weekends ago for reasons shown below. This was an incredibly rare event for Tucson, but I didn’t hear anyone complaining about the rain – although I’ll readily admit that I can’t hear very well.

Last Saturday, we took off again in honor of our Valentines. My Valentine was happy to see me working on the house for a change. What did you get your Valentine for Valentine’s day. I got mine a new roof ! ! !

Jesse has been exercising his creative juices again and below is his latest effort. He has single-handedly taken this effort on and he is to be congratulated for all his great work. I really like his latest design as it is simple yet very creative. But I also liked his last efforts as well. Who is Lilly? I’ve attached most of his noteworthy efforts for your review. We need to make a decision soon so we can begin getting painting estimates – perhaps even donated work. The BOD approved our budget at the last BOD meeting which included $600 for paint & graphics work on the engine.

Previous efforts are shown below:

At the last work session where we actually did stuff, a huge amount of human capital was expended. Manual Labor showed up and obviously Burt got first choice of the tasks. In his defense, the gate did need to get painted.

While Burt was hard at work, the others did a little digging in the back. Jurgen didn’t seem to mind the work and he certainly knew which end of the pick to hold. Although most of the trenching was mechanically done with a gas powered walk behind Ditch Witch generously provided and operated by Jacob Payne, the stretch across the main line of the 7-1/2” track however, had to be hand dug, in fact, bored through using the Dale Cover provided invention “water-pic”. Although it got us where we needed to go, it did make a bunch of mud in the process.

Once the hand digging was done, we were able to get the 2’’ pipe donated to the Museum by Jacob Payne installed with the obligatory 18” burial depth. Once installed, we backfilled, tamped, re-ballasted, check gauge & levelness.
Then the group began chasing the trencher down to the north end of the property picking out rocks where necessary although the trencher did a great job making the trench straight & consistent.

The 2” pipe was then installed into the finished trench, terminated at the north end. The entire trench backfilled, tamped, and raked to restore the grounds for the Open House scheduled for the next day.

Hope to see everyone this Saturday morning again. Start time is 8:00 AM although the building will be open at 7:30 as usual.

Saturday (Feb. 7, 2015):

This Saturday at 8:00 AM, we’ll get together and do the stuff we couldn’t do last weekend as we got a way too much rain. With the ground totally saturated, we called off the public runs on Sunday as well. Although there were some disappointed visitors, everyone seemed to understand why. This Saturday, with temperatures in the high 70’s expected and no rain, it should be a great day to work on the railroad.

Here are some of the tasks which might be considered for this Saturday:

  1. Replace the billboard material with something that won’t warp, crack, delaminate etc. as the current ¼” plywood is doing. Suggestions offered so far include acrylic plastic, galvanized sheet metal, and tempered Masonite. Anyone else with an idea?

  2. Re-adjust the front drive gate so that the ends come together in alignment. Re-paint the front drive gates.

  3. Paint the top of the crossing signal pole.

  4. Test the gondolas with weight to determine their riding capacity.

  5. And last, but certainly not least, with 2” of rain falling on the layout, we want to make sure that the track system is safe to use.

Of course, the G-gauge group will be working outside with us during the morning. There may also be effort to begin the utility trenching under the 7-1/2” mainlines.

Saturday (Jan. 31, 2015):

Could be a little wet this Saturday, but we’re planning on trying anyway.

We do have a work session scheduled for this Saturday morning with intention to meet at 8:00 AM. While we drink some coffee and eat a few donuts, we can discuss what we’ll be able to do, weather permitting.

John Roads proposed that we should to do some load testing on our three gondolas. The purpose is to attempt to ascertain exactly how much weight will result in compressing the springs a specific distance. We currently don’t know this information and probably should.

Track maintenance is on the agenda as it always should be. In fact, an on-going track maintenance program is strongly suggested and encourage by our insurance carrier. With Open Houses planned for each of the next 4 Sundays, we want to make sure our track conditions are stable and that any changes or deterioration due to the rainy weather is corrected.

In addition, the outdoor G-gauge group may begin a trenching project to install electrical & water utilities to their layout location. Those excavations will cross our track plan in a couple of locations. We need to make sure that work is done carefully and restoration of the area is completed properly. This will involve having to compact the backfill – especially under the R.O.W. Track alignment and levelness must also be checked. If it’s raining, that work probably won’t happen this weekend. We need to cooperate and assist that group as needed as we share the north end of the property.

Jesse shared some pictures from the previous work session when the Outside G-gauge group began their work.

The property has been completely Blue Staked before any excavation work was done. Even though the only digging is to occur in the north end of the property, we had the entire site done as replacement of the parking lot is going to occur soon. With the G-gauge layout painted on the ground and the utilities all identified with paint markings on the ground and little flags pushed into the ground, Glenn was ready to begin the digging.
First task at hand was to move / relocate the Ore Car. Luckily, Glenn’s bobcat came in really helpful as he carved out a shelf in the center hill section of the property. He then quickly moved the Ore Car with track to its new home. Restoration of the landscaping made it seem as if the car had always been there.
Then, the chain link fencing material was rolled back exposing the entire front face of the property to the street. This enabled Glenn to get inside the area without having to drive over our 7-1/2” R.O.W. He then started getting the rough grade carved out in preparation of placement of retaining wall materials.

Several block have been placed along the sidewalk defining the finished grade for the lower level of G-gauge track. Backfill was placed and the ground compacted using the plate tamper. At some level, it was kind of fun to get back into doing manual labor using shovels, rakes, and picks. I can say that because the back pains have subsided somewhat.

Expect more of this project to move forward quickly.

Saturday (Jan. 17, 2015):

This Saturday, beginning promptly at 8:00 AM, we have scheduled a work session. The Work Session coincides with a Birthday Party scheduled to begin at 10:00 where we need to man a 7-1/2” gauge train for the 20-30 kids plus adults that are coming.

It’s been a few weeks since we’ve concentrated on the layout and there are some track issues, mainly on the curve track exiting the caboose enclosure. That area is begging for some attention. In addition, we need to check the track leaving the station as we’ve experience a few derailments in that area as well. We need to complete our budget request for 2015 so bring your thoughts about that to the work session. There are already ideas being presented. The inventory should be done by Saturday, so that will be off our plate.

Weather should be clear, in the low 70’s, perfect for playing with trains outside.

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