Progress Report #9

So if you’ve been wondering where I’ve been and why I went over a week not posting… I was on vacation. Sort of. It wasn’t one of those fancy “go on a cruise” or “go to Disney” or “take out a 2nd mortgage so I can take the family to Switzerland” sort of vacations. It was a stay-cation. With two dogs and a cat to look after, traveling vacations are, for the moment, a bit of a tricky proposition.

Still, it was nice to get out of Buffalo for an afternoon on one day and overnight (we stayed at the Quality Inn in Batavia, NY overnight. It has an indoor water park attached. And it’s not that I didn’t do anything in the past week, I just decided I needed to get a break from most of the computer stuff, and it was a reasonably good thing.

Though I still didn’t want to go to work today. Not because of the job, or the company… I’ve just realized how tired I really am. 21 years I’ve been in I.T. If I count college, at least, which I do. It’s been a challenge to keep mentally positive through a bunch of it, and it has taken its toll on my mind and body. It’s hard to say which toll was more severe. I won’t get into details, because they’re rather personal, but some I had to make some serious, recent changes to my life for my own well being. The hardest one, to be perfectly frank, is giving up soft drinks. It’s the hardest, but definitely the best for me since, as things stand, I’ve already managed to drop over 24 lbs.

So let that be a warning to you people – soft drinks can be as dangerous as alcohol and other vices. Be careful about your consumption.

I have a goal weight I’m aiming for, and I’m sure I can get there, but it’ll take time and effort. My wife has been gently encouraging me to do better, and at times (most times) I haven’t listened to her as well as I should. Thankfully she still has faith in me to do right, and even if there are some other challenges to overcome, I consider myself lucky to have her support, as well as the support of my kids.

At any rate, that’s the general news. Perhaps it’ll be the start of a new segment on the site. I’ll have to give that some thought.

Additional news: Eli and I managed to get the third and (for now) final work table assembled last night. I will eventually post a project post up about the entire endeavor. There are still some odds and ends left to do, and it’s inspired me to look at a couple other projects for down the line, but for now, here’s the summary photos from constructing two mobile work tables (on-feed / off-feed / assembly) and the long work bench for my miter saw.

Anyway, that’s about all for now. I’ll probably be back to regular posting, soon. Hopefully with something more detailed about the trains, or baking, or SOMETHING.

Progress Report #8

In spite of a hectic schedule, last week was quite productive. I mean that, relative to the previous few weeks.


Eli’s softball season wrapped up. Sadly, his team didn’t make the final game, but for all that, he came away with solid hits every single game he played, and he only struck out at home once during the entire season. Every other time he either was walked or, more commonly, he got at least a single with an RBI. Several times he ended up with doubles for multiple RBIs, and made it home a number of times himself.

He’s also managed to contribute a number of plays in the field, including at least two outs at home when playing as catcher and a few nice plays in the outfield (including picking off a power hitter’s long shot to left field).

Friday we picked up some particle board for a few shop projects and then, amazingly, we got through one on Saturday. One of our work tables is now complete and hopefully I’ll get a second one done this week with Caidi’s help.

Eli’s off to camp for a week, so hopefully he has a great time with that!


Of course, you all already know about her fantastic job on the loaf of bread last week. This week will give her and Kelly a chance to work on some other baking projects and perhaps a shop project or two with me.


I’m going to try to get Kelly to sit down with me this up coming week and put some effort into getting her website up and running. It’s been a back-burner project for way to long to get her artwork out there, so I really want to stop delaying this. Frankly, I’m looking forward to her finishing her long awaited portrait of Dexter (the male Husky).

After that, she’s got a baking project lined up with Caidi and hopefully some more art, because frankly, I want to see even more of what she can do, and I’m sure everyone else does, too.

Shop Projects

As I said before, Eli and I got one of our work tables done and this week I’m going to try to get number two up with Caidi’s help. After that, it’s onto the miter saw table and then finally working on the actual tables for the model trains. Fortunately, having the first work table done is starting to make this easier, because now I have a place to actually do some of the cutting work that doesn’t involve needing to kneel on the floor (that gets old REALLY quickly).

Train Layout

I’ve lost track of the number of design revisions / changes / restarts I’ve gone through in the past week. Seriously, it’s been a bit nuts, but as I would get feedback on a design I’d work on revising my ideas to address some great advice. I’m not sure if I’m fully on the right path with it, but hey, that’s half of the fun to this – an evolution of a design for a layout.

Thank you to everyone who offered input on that.

Site Design Update

I’ll get to it. I just haven’t yet. Much like the layout plans, this is just something that takes time and requires thinking and rethinking the layout. But again, that’s part of the fun.

Eliminating the 2nd deck (for now)

Oy vey, right? I’m revised this plan at least a half dozen times over the past 48 hours. By now I imagine you’re getting sick of it. Or maybe you’re not. At any rate, I decided to adjust my usage in the basement to get a better setup. The nice thing is it’ll also drive me to re-organize how we store stuff, and maybe… JUST MAYBE…. get rid of some unnecessary garbage. How many Christmas Wreathes does one need, right? Anyway, here we go again. The red and blue segments represent reversing loops that will be handled by the Digitrax AR-1s.

Double Decker with Reversing Loop

Big thank you to Jørgen Tefke Kai from the Facebook group N Scale Model Trains World for some guidance on my idea for a double deck layout with a helix at one end and reversing loops. This gives me the ability to have continuous running trains, but still have that nice yard, industries spurs and a station for passenger service that won’t foul the mainline.

Mind you, this is only my template design and doesn’t include any of the accessory track, but after this stage, plugging in the add on segments won’t be that much of a challenge. Better, still, if I want to, I can later expand to a third deck and just tweak the Helix approach to allow for it.

Since this layout will be DCC controlled, the reversing loops can be handled by Digitrax AR-1s and nothing else needs to be a concern. Here are some quick renders for the ideas…

Left to right are the general template, lower deck and helix, and upper deck. Distance change from deck to deck is current 8 inches, which leaves a 2.25 – 2.5 % grade.

Thanks again for everyone’s feedback!

Whole New Direction

I was floored, to say the least, from the outpouring of great ideas for my new layout, but one thing that kept coming up was “racetrack layouts can get boring”. I agree with that. They really can get boring after a while. Of course, a part of the solution is to add more to do, but given where I had gotten to, that wasn’t really working.

That’s when I remembered how often I’d seen people do multi-level layouts. And so I sat down quickly now and set up the template to do just that. So I have a ways to go here, and I’m sure I’m not done, but I’ve put together templates for a two-level layout with helices to allow transition from one level to another. I still can do continuous running, but at the same time, I now have room for spurs, sidings AND a yard.

On the left is a rough-out for the lower deck, on the right is the upper deck level, where I will probably host a slightly smaller but hopefully equally effective yard, compared with the prior design.

Here is a map rough out (this has more track in it than my initial renders above). Again, not finalized, but this might be the new direction. I am also contemplating if that lower-left helix will end up being oval shaped instead of just a circular loop.

Layout Plan Tweaks

After a number of suggestions from a few people, I made some modifications to prevent… shall we say, undesirable operating conditions. Chief among the changes is a moderate sized passing track near the yard which will allow switching in the yard with fowling the main. Also, I swapped out a double crossover for a pair of individual ones, which will allow a train moving at moderate speeds to cross from any loop out to another without needing to make a “second pass”. Thanks to Chris Stilson on both of those accounts.

I looked at another suggestion made by Tremelle Sykes to move the yard inside of the outer loop. I’m still thinking that one over. On the one hand, having the mainline running closer to the edge would give a certain degree of…. asthetic? Perhaps? The downside though is that I don’t want to be reaching over a mainline with running trains to do manual uncoupling in the yard. I still have to think that part over more, so I may still try a variation on what Tremelle suggested. The other downside to doing that though is that it also means some of those yard leads would need to trim down a bit… so I’m thinking about it, but I’m not sure yet. At any rate, here’s R1 to my layout. Still a pair of 4 x 6 tables, so I think this might count as progress without a whole redesign.

Thanks to everyone who offered feedback and advice. I appreciate all of it, even if I can’t or don’t use it all in this layout.

In the shop after work

Well, after I get out of the office today (sometime between noon and 1), I will be back in my shop, finally, working on my tables again. This has been delayed so much by the hectic month-and-a-half surrounding the end of school and weather that was less than optimal.

But with all luck, I’ll have my rolling work tables completed by the end of today, and perhaps even have my miter saw stand under construction. So little-by-little I’m getting back to work on things. Here’s hoping I don’t get derailed yet again by everything under the sun… or rain… or who knows what else.

Perhaps this will finally have a top today… and maybe even it’s twin.

Playing with a layout plan

With construction starting next week on my layout table, I had to at least decide on a size for this project, and the final decision is to do two 4 x 6 tables for a total of a 4 x 12 layout. Some people over the years have said to only do 3 foot wide, but seeing as I’m 6 ft 2, I have a pretty long reach. Besides, I will be putting Plexiglas or some other form of barrier up to prevent “nose dives”.

With that in mind, here is my tentative layout plan. It gives me most of what I want in one shot:

  • 3 main lines for a fair amount of visual action
  • a nice 7 track yard with a 4 stub engine servicing area (which I may reconfigure, but we’ll see) and a caboose track.
  • a passing siding for a station, with a spur for either an REA building or just plain storage section for a not-in-service passenger car.
  • a couple of other spurs for industries, plus room to add a bit more if I want
  • room for some different types of scenery

So with all that in mind, I think this might just be it. We’ll see, right?

Progress Report #7

I think we all know the feeling – in some ways, the weeks tend to drag by… in other ways, you blink and one’s over. That’s what it feels like all the time, lately. Still, another week passes by and while I never quite feel like I got through everything I wanted to, a bit of progress is always something to feel good about.

Caidi’s Bread Project

I think, without a doubt, this was the best thing. Caidence did her first loaf of bread from scratch and it was FAN-TAS-TIC! Needless to say, I think our young lady has the skill to do a lot with this in the future, so I hope she keeps it up! Well done, Caidi.

Shop Project Update

I didn’t get to actually do any work this past week, but I will be bringing in my MDF this upcoming Friday after work so I can get the tables set up and then work on the train tables.

I was also asked to make a couple of small things for family, so the work load is increasing, meaning I have to get this stuff done. That’s OK, though – I’ve been wanting to make things for people for a while.

Model Trains

So, yeah, as I said, I get in the MDF and I get my tables build. I redesigned the stuff I’m going to put together and build the tables on 2×4 frames. It’ll increase my material cost some, but by God that’ll mean sturdy tables.

Advertising Revenue

So I had a pretty good start with the advertising on the site the first two weeks… and then, strangely, my ads disappeared. The reason is that I need to be getting more traffic to the site. That, in turn, means I need to get more content out. So As some of my projects are churning out, I’ll be posting them exclusively to here and just posting the occasional note about it on Facebook to bring that traffic over.

But please, stop by regularly for updates, either way, and please, share with friends. Additional hits to the site means a better chance for earning the ad revenue I want to see coming in!

Kitchen Activities #5 – White Bread (with Caidi)

This was less of an experiment for me and more of one for my daughter. Caidi made white bread with me today. It’s my second time with this recipe and only the 4th time ever that I’ve made a yeast recipe and not had a failure. I credit the Instant Yeast (something my mom introduced me to).

If you’ve never seen his stuff before, there is a guy named Steve who has a YouTube channel (linked below) who covers a lot on how to make no-knead bread. His recipes are very easy to follow and the results are spectacular.

So last night, Caidi approached me to follow-through on my promise that we could make a loaf this weekend. This was around 11:00 P.M. Now that may sound like a bad time to do it, but to be honest, with the recipe we followed, it’s actually not. Steve’s approach to making bread is apparently what all the good baker’s knew for years; you make the dough at night and let it proof, overnight, for at least 8 hours before you bake. More to the point, if you use the Instant Yeast instead of Active Yeast (which is a nightmare for me, most of the time), it will do a fantastic job of making your dough rise up in that 8 hour window. The outside of that window is 24 hours, but I doubt I’d ever be planning far enough in advance for something like that.

Anyway, this recipe was derived from a Betty Crocker classic, so we followed the simple recipe, and Caidi and I had the dough ready for proofing in about 10 minutes. Then we went to bed.

Dough, ready to proof.

This morning, I got up and checked the dough before I got Caidi. This batch came out just fine.

Overnight proofing, it definitely more-than-doubled in size.

So after I got the kids up, Caidi and I went to work on the final step of patting out, forming and getting the bed ready to bake. We had it sitting under a towel for it’s second rise.

Finally, the dough was ready and we got it in the oven for the duration. And the results?

I’d say Caidi’s baking skills are coming along great! We have to wait a bit before we cut this open, but I have no doubt that we’ll enjoy this. I’m attaching a direct link below for the recipe we used, in case you’d like to give it a try.